Thursday, January 13, 2011

IPL Auction 2011

The IPL Auction 2011 just wrapped itself up a few days ago, and there's still a lot of buzz revolving around it. I thought I'd write down my thoughts about the IPL and the auction.

Unsold Players
If you haven't read Sharda Ugra's cricinfo post titled "The Joke Was On Cricket", do so now. It's a very well thought out article and brings up some interesting points. Did you finish reading it? Awesome. Ugra talks about how the auction was insulting to players and their families in a way, and I agree with those views to an extent. However, the IPL is after all a business and you expect that there will be winners and losers. Not every player is wanted. I'll take the example of Sourav Ganguly. The guy is really old. He hasn't played competitive cricket in a while. He's also been extremely shoddy the past 3 years playing for his IPL team. If you buy him now, you have to pay him for 3 years. His base price was $400,000. That's $1.2 million right there. If he's barely fit to play now, he sure as hell won't be a player worth keeping for 3 years. It's just common sense that nobody wanted him. What he should have done was not be in the auction at all. Instead, he doubled his base price a week before the auction. Now take a look at another great Indian player Anil Kumble. Anil Kumble has been by far the best bowler this last IPL, has led his team to an IPL final and semi-final, a Champions League victory and semi-final. I would say he was amongst the best captains and IPL players to have played the IPL. However, he understood the situation, and decided to pull himself out of the auction and instead be a mentor to his team (and my team) RCB. I think this was a brilliant move. This way he gets to stay on and help his team (instead of being transferred to another team), he gets a paycheck (although maybe not as big as before), and he gets to influence young players to do better in their lives.

Now, obviously Mr. Ganguly is a far more accomplished and intelligent man than I am, so surely he had thought about this. Why did he go through with it anyway? Answer: Money. $1.2 million is a lot of money. The kind of money that Mr. Ganguly did not see for most of his career. I completely understand why he would go after it. Now consider the case of a foreign great. Brian Lara. Easily amongst the very best batsmen to have walked the planet. Now why would he get himself into this auction when he at 41 years old hasn't played competitive cricket for a while? Again, money. Mr. Lara is from the West Indies, where there is absolutely no money. Having himself been from an era of cricket where cricket did not pay as much as it does now, I can understand why he stood in the auction. If by some stroke of luck he got bought, that would be a big pay day for him. Why not take a chance? What's to lose? I don't blame these players for wanting to be in the auction. However, playing cricket is not the only way to make money, as Mr. Kumble so clearly demonstrated. I think they would do better in coaching/advisory roles for teams.

NFL Draft
Having talked about unsold players in the auction, I want to talk about the auction itself. Sharda Ugra brings up the NFL draft in her article. If you're unfamiliar with the NFL draft system, look it up. Being a big fan of the NFL, I see how the IPL derives some of it's structure from the NFL. I am of the opinion that the NFL is probably the best run professional sports league (except perhaps for the NBA) in the world. I firmly believe that the IPL should not in fact run an auction every 3 years (or ever). Instead, a NFL draft like system would work much better. This way you have teams on an even footing unlike the EPL where the richest team has the best players (like Manchester City). You also get rid of this cattle sale type thing. My one biggest problem with the NFL draft is that Sam Bradford gets paid 5 times as much as Peyton Manning. Now that's complete hogwash. Now this is already somewhat true in the IPL. Think of it like this: Irfan Pathan gets paid twice as much as Zaheer Khan. Seriously? This needs to be fixed, and I'm not sure how this can be done properly.

Team Identity
If you auction off your players every 3 years, the team has no identity. Case in point: look at my team RCB. No Kallis, Dravid, Steyn, Uthappa, Taylor, White, Pietersen, Praveen Kumar, Vinay Kumar, etc. These were players that made RCB. This was RCB's identity. One of the primary reasons I was such an ardent fan of RCB was that a lot of our players were local Karnataka boys. When you said RCB, you meant the B. Now, the RCB team just looks like team RC. There is no B in there. If the rumors I'm reading that Manish Pandey will be going to Pune are true, that would mean that we only have 2 old RCB players in Kohli and Mithun. Mithun barely played any games for RCB. He'd also be the only Karnataka boy in the team. Our new team looks more like the Delhi Daredevils. Nannes, Vettori, Dilshan and AB.

I grew up watching Robin Uthappa come in to my school and annihilate our cricket team. I hated his guts as a kid. Damn Josephites. When he played for RCB however, there was a genuine bond there. It was someone you associated with, and identified as a "fellow Bangalorean".  Someone who understood your city, and someone who grew up like you did. You saw Kumble, and you thought about him and Srinath being the last men in a test innings yelling at each other "Odu Odu Odu!", just like you did playing cricket on the street.  I simply don't see how I could ever have this sort of support for Saurabh Tiwary (not to pick on him alone, just someone like him). Yes there were non Bangalorean players for RCB who were extremely popular. Whether it was due to yelling "Uthappa! Tathappa!" when Uthappa and Kallis were batting, or yelling "Ross the Boss!", these players very quickly became adopted Bangaloreans. Speaking of adopted Bangaloreans, I think Virat Kohli is a prime example. He hails from Delhi, but when he played in Delhi, the spectators booed him. When he plays in Bangalore, everybody loves him. I don't even know why he plays Ranji for Delhi anymore. He should just move to Bangalore and play Ranji for Karnataka. But I digress. These players were the first on scene for RCB and we identified with them quickly. Now they're part of the RCB image. Watching Kallis, Steyn and Taylor play for other teams simply doesn't "feel" right. For me it was Uthappa, for someone else it was Dravid, for someone else it was Manish Pandey, or Vinay Kumar.

I'm the first to acknowledge that player transfers happen in all sporting leagues. Brett Favre went to the Vikes, Cristiano Ronaldo went to Madrid, Thierry Henry went to Barcelona, etc. However, this is one player moving out. What if Giggs, Scholes, Fletcher, Nani and Ronaldo all went to different clubs in the same season? Now obviously there are clubs like Real Madrid who make these sort of sweeping changes every other year because they think they have money, but that's not the norm, it's the exception. Now remind yourself that Manchester United has existed forever. People love Ferguson and he has built a reputation of always doing the right thing for the team. It so happens I hate the guy and his stupid club, but that's irrelevant. RCB has been in existence for three years. Man U has it's identity written in stone. RCB is still building it's identity. And you can't trash it up every three years.

This is yet another digression, but I seem to love doing that so I'll go with it. Recently, Dr. Mallya posted an entry on the RCB fan site (or so I believe). Essentially he says that he went for a young team, and the goal was to win. Here's a bit of a newsflash. Nobody went into that auction thinking, "oh, I want to pick a team that will lose". I also don't buy the whole "young" thing. Look at our players: Dilshan, Vettori, Nannes, Zaheer, Kaif. Young? Methinks not. I'm a huge admirer of Dr. Mallya and I do believe that he has acted in the best interests of the team. I don't blame him for completely destroying the identity of the team. I place the blame on the IPL auction itself. He acted reasonably well given the framework of the IPL auction. I do not understand why more players were not retained, specifically Steyn, Kallis and Uthappa. I'm sure there was good reason at the time, I'm just not aware of it. For what it's worth, I think the  Chennai Super Kings and to an extent the Mumbai Indians did a decent job of preserving their team's identity. I also can't find fault with KKR for thrashing their old team entirely (except for Tiwary) given that they were absolutely horrible the last three years.

Team India
One thing I noticed yesterday was a tweet from @RCBTweets which was cheering on AB deVilliers when he was playing very well for RSA against India in the recently concluded ODI. The tweet was published while RSA was still batting. Now I'm all for applauding good performances, irrespective of which team the player is on. This is good sportsman spirit. However, you don't do it when he's your opponent, and you're still in the game. When you're playing the game, you acknowledge that your opponent has played well, but you compete, and play to win. As an Indian cricket fan, you don't go around saying "Yay deVilliers, keep hitting em". It doesn't matter that deVilliers is an RCBian. He's not playing for RCB at the moment, he's playing against India. I think that India comes first. Always. When he's playing for RCB, by all means cheer him on. This is something that never happened until the IPL came into the picture.

This is a digression, but I think it's one worth pointing out. I've been to a few college football games at Michigan. I've also seen a few cricket matches at the Chinnaswamy stadium. I've also watched a lot of FIFA world cup matches on TV. Have you noticed that at every college football game, and at the FIFA world cup games, they always sing the national anthem(s)? Have you noticed the same at a cricket match? I haven't. This is not just in India, but is true across the world (or so I believe). I think we should be singing the national anthem at the start of every IPL game, and national anthems of both teams at the start of an international game.

Bottom Line
I know I said a lot about team identity and fan following and what not. However, what really matters is winning. If the new RCB team wins, people will support them. If they lose they'll trash them. Unfortunately it seems like this is the case with two of my highest priority sports teams. Same thing seems to be happening with the Michigan football team. One thing's for sure though. No matter what, come game day, I'll be singing The Victors at the top of my voice and  yelling "RCB! RCB! RCB!".

Forever, Go Blue! Go RCB!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Resuming Once Again

Once again I've decided to resume blogging. I'm no longer a college kid living crazy hours, so I hope that my far more regular lifestyle will let me do this far more often. A lot of things have changed in my life since I last wrote. Here's some of the stuff that I think are important to me at this time, and some goals I want myself to achieve in the short term.


Everybody around me seems to be focussed on getting healthier, so I figure it's time for me to jump in. I've spent the past four years living a horribly unhealthy lifestyle which has led me to gain around 55 pounds. Now it's time for me to get rid of it and get more active. I found this great book online and I've begun following what the guy has to say: The Hackers Diet. I'm about a week in, and it's had good results thus far. I'm going to keep at it and see where it leads me.

I also want to resume playing golf. My goal is to start playing at the driving ranges in a couple of weeks, and progress to weekend games on the local courses in about 2 months.

I've already started playing cricket here, but don't find it to be much fun. I'm horribly out of form, and am simply not seeing the ball. The only way I can get better is to have a few net sessions, but all I seem to get to play around here is a match. With the constant fear of getting out, I'm unable to score runs which isn't helping. I also find that it's not at all much of a workout. I barely break a sweat the whole game. Maybe I should start bowling again.

I also want to start playing squash, but I don't think that will happen. There aren't any courts nearby and I don't really have anyone to play with.

I think it would help if I hit the gym every so often, but knowing myself, that probably won't happen much.

All in all, stay active, get healthy.


Work is going alright. Could be better. I definitely miss the college environment. There are days when I'm doing stuff that I really don't want to be doing. And there're others when I enjoy what I do. All in all, I want to ensure that I perform well at work and try and have fun doing it.

Outside of work

I want to stay active and be social. This is really out of my comfort zone, but I gotta make it happen.

I also want to get good at video games. I've never really been good at any video game, but I think I'm slowly getting there. I can hold my own at Madden/NCAA Football. I'm not always the worst player in CoD online, and I'm slowly picking up Fifa.

I'm not learning very much from work, so I want to make myself progress outside of work. To this end, I'm working on some Android/iOS/Web stuff (hush-hush for now) in my free time.

All in all, stay social, get better at video games, and get some coding done!

So these are my goals for the near future. Let's see when and how well I go about reaching them...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Amazon Kindle DX

I'm sure you've all heard of Amazon's new Kindle DX. If you haven't google around, it's been in the news quite a bit lately. A lot of blogs have been talking about the new Kindle and it's potential (or lack thereof) to replace textbooks at colleges. One of them in particular caught my attention: I strongly recommend you give that a quick read if you haven't already. But in case you're feeling lazy, let me summarize it really quick.

In his post, Jason Kincaid of TC, says that the Kindle DX will sell in colleges because of textbook piracy. You can read PDFs on the Kindle, and if you happened to have a copy of a PDF of a textbook, there's no reason why you won't just put it on your Kindle and save yourself hundreds of dollars. I think that's a very interesting argument. I personally shell out roughly $500 to $600 per semester on textbooks. And this is just on prescribed textbooks. Most students also buy solutions manuals etc to accompany the textbooks. I've also found that several times prescribed textbooks are boring, not a whole lot of fun to read, and therefore I end up not reading very much of them. Bottom line, if you find yourself a PDF for all your textbooks, you aren't going to buy textbooks. You would even shell out $500 or so for a Kindle once, so you can get free textbooks for the rest of your college life. And at college, if there's enough demand for something, it gets satisfied. If 10 people want a PDF of a given book, rest assured "the nerd down the hall" will find it.

As soon as I read this, safaribooksonline came to my mind. UMich gives us free access to that resource via Mirlyn. Until about a year ago, I didn't know that. Once I did find out about it, I've spent more time reading books on there than I have on reading "required" textbooks. Reason: required textbooks are usually boring. Now I'm a Computer Science Engineer in training, and deem myself to be somewhat of a nerd, so I spend most of my day in front of a screen anyway. Reading books in a browser is completely acceptable to me. I actually prefer it because I don't have to turn every time I want to switch attention from a physical book to my laptop. In his post, Kincaid says people don't like reading on a computer screen. Printing PDFs of large textbooks is sort of a stupid idea anyway. What he's saying the Kindle DX can solve a major problem that prevents people from reading e-books. And I think he's got it right. If the Kindle provides a legal, low cost way of reading books, I think it would sell like hot fire. The problem of course, is that the publishers aren't going to sell textbooks cheap. They make a living by ripping students off. If not for that they'd be dead meat. Now I'm sure they have their justifications for the ridiculous prices and I don't really understand how their industry works.
But, I think the Kindle brings with it a ray of hope. And here's why.

Before the Kindle, if you wrote a book, you needed a publisher to publish it, or you'd basically be the only person reading it. Now that you have the Kindle that's gone. You can write a book, format it into a PDF, and you're done. You don't need anyone else to invest in you and take a huge risk publishing your book (except for yourself of course) etc. You publish it yourself. And people read it on their Kindles. If the book becomes popular, you charge some small amount for it. Like I said before, I don't know how the publishing industry works, and how much money the authors make, but I'd be willing to bet that the authors get a very small percentage of the profits anyway. As Kincaid points out, if it costs $10 you're not going to bother pirating it. I think that if people start doing this instead, it will change the face of the textbook industry altogether.

Here are two examples of how the Kindle could be used to change the way people look at textbooks. The first, is what is called (or used to be called) "Daida Book". Back in Fall 2006, I took Engin 101 with Prof. Daida. The class was an intro to programming in MATLAB and C++. For the MATLAB component, Prof. Daida had written his own textbook (it was a series of Mathematica notebook files). While every other section of Engin 101 had to shell out $100-ish for textbooks, we got em free. And I'm fairly sure that no one felt that they were suffering due to lack of a "published" textbook. Personally I think Prof. Daida's book was a far better read than the "prescribed" textbooks. Bottom line, students were happier and less poor. Now you can say that Prof. Daida gave the book away for free, so what's in it for him? Well, I'll let you ask him what's in it for him, but if he wanted to make money off of it, he could've put a small price tag on it, and I'd be willing to bet that students would buy it and still be very happy about it. I'd also be willing to bet that it wouldn't be such a bad deal for him either. The Kindle lets you do this. Back in Fall 2006 adding a price tag would've been a little messy. Not anymore.

My second example is a "required" textbook: That was the required reading for my Algorithms and Data Structures class. The entire book is online, with source code for free in html format. Now I was an idiot and bought a physical copy before I realized that, but that's irrelevant. Someone in the class realized that the book was available online for free and once the word spread, quite a few people in the class never bought the book. For me, it was great because I didn't have to carry it around. Plus I get to use google search on it, so even better. I have the physical copy lying around somewhere, but even when I was in the course, I never used it. Once again, with the Kindle, this becomes so much easier.

Bottom line: I think the Kindle presents a superb opportunity to take the publisher out of the equation. After all, it's the content and not the medium of communicating the content that matters. Take the publisher out, you get a lot happier students, and equally happy authors.

- Sir Lapog Kahn.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Android 1.5 First Look

I just got the official release of Android 1.5 onto my ADP. And I'm loving it. I think it's a phenomenal upgrade, and here's a few features that really caught my eye.

Video camera - hell yes! It's been less than a year since the G1 release, and cupcake has video recording on it (iPhone 3.0 - still don't know if it has video recording). The quality isn't half bad either. Best part is, they've made it really easy to take a video, and instantly share it. You can either email it through gmail, the mail application, send it via mms, or upload it to YouTube.

Virtual keyboard - awesome! This really should have been in there a long time ago, but at least it's here now. I actually prefer the Android virtual keyboard to the iPhone's because it vibrates very subtly when you tap keys. I also prefer the suggestive text to the iPhone's auto correct. Another win for Android here.

Automatic screen orientation switching. Again, this probably should have been in to begin with. It works great, just as you'd expect. I never really liked this feature on the iPhone though - it never changes when I want it to, but quite often changes when I don't want it to. From my brief toying around with the feature, the Android does it slightly better, but still not good enough for me to have it turned on.

They've also made a few changes to the default UI for Android. There's some texturing going on now. Looks nicer. Nothing major though.

From a developer's perspective, this update introduces several new features to the SDK. I personally haven't tried and tested any of them yet, but will do so in the near future. When I get on it, I'll be sure to write about it.

If you're a 1.1 or earlier developer, you may be made a little unhappy by this update. They've changed the minimum size for some UI elements (Buttons for instance). So if you were relying on "wrap_content" to make your UI look just right, you may have to redo it. Not really sure why they did that.

All in all, I think this is a pretty phenomenal update. If you haven't already gotten it, get it now and you won't regret it.

-Sir Lapog Kahn.

Upgrading ADP to Android 1.5

If you don't already know, Android 1.5 is now officially released. The "official" way to get it onto your ADP is written about here. However, there seems to be an error with the javascript on that webpage and therefore, you can't download any of the images (until they fix it - if they fix it and I don't update this post, please let me know via comments/email). This got me really pissed off and took me to #android-dev to ask for help. And I did get help. I'd imagine that there are quite a few people who are frustrated by this, so I figured I'd write about how to get your hands on the updates.

Update: The page appears to have been fixed. I had emailed HTC support reporting the error, and they replied to me within 24 hours saying the page had been fixed. I am very impressed with their efficiency. Hats off to you HTC.

It's pretty simple really. You use wget to get the files directly, setting the referer to the link itself. Here is the exact command. Wait for the files to download. To ensure that the files are the right ones, you may want to do a checksum.

Once you get the files, go ahead and follow the instructions on the page mentioned above. They worked fine for me. However, I have read about a few people having problems with adb not recognizing the device. Keep in mind that you don't have to go through adb as mentioned on the HTC page. You just need to get the relevant updates onto the SD card with the name of - you can do this with Windows Explorer, Finder, Nautilus (or whatever it is you use) if you prefer doing it that way.
If you're having trouble with adb, try this instead:

Mount the phone's SD card onto your computer somehow (either through the USB cable, or by plugging it in directly). Once you've done that, copy the updates (one by one, as mentioned in the tutorial) on to the SD card, and rename it to (irrespective of what update it is). Then follow the instructions on the HTC page. This hopefully should circumvent any adb problems.

That should be all you need to get Android 1.5 onto your ADP. Have fun with it!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Background processes on Android

I’ve been working on an android application for a Special Topics class here at UMich. I chose the android platform for the app, because it offered me one great asset: background processes. I had to give up the much larger user base of the iPhone just for this. (Well, there’s also the fact that android is open, java based etc etc etc).

It’s now coming to that time of the semester when I’ve got to stop procrastinating and get started on the app. I now also have an Android Dev 1 device to play around with. So with all of that in mind, I decided to do get to work. First, I wanted to see how well background processes integrate into the android framework, so I downloaded a few generally useful applications to test this. I tried: meebo (for IM), and twidroid (for twitter). I very quickly found that these apps integrate into the android system beautifully. They use the notifications area to display alerts and also use the phone’s vibrate/LED/ring tone features to alert me. I was very encouraged by this. That’s when I hit the snag.

Most of my testing was being done at home and on campus (which is where I spend all of my time). Both places have access to Wifi networks, and therefore I was using those instead of the much slower EDGE network (no T-Mobile 3G in Ann Arbor yet). The result was that the first time I pulled the phone out of my pocket to make a phone call, the battery level was critically low. I was pretty shocked by this considering that I’d charged the phone overnight, and it had been on for barely 2 hours. Initially I thought this was a one off thing, maybe the charger had been unplugged accidentally or something. But, turned out that was not the case since it happened 3-4 times repeatedly. That’s when I thought it was because I was using Wifi all the time. So, I turned off the Wifi and started using EDGE instead. This helped significantly. The battery life went up to roughly 4-6 hours (keep in mind that I’m not much of a cell phone user – I made/received approximately 1-2 calls in each period). Still, this was really no good (who charges their phone every 4-6 hours).

Having seen this I started playing around with the apps themselves. Meebo pretty much has to run continuously and use the network. I thought this might be the root cause of the problem and turned meebo off. I also set twidroid to look for updates every 1 hours instead of every 5 minutes. And voila! I haven’t charged my phone for over a day, and the battery level indicator is still showing well above 50%.

This led me to the following belief: running background processes on a cell phone is simply *not* a good idea. The drain on battery life that it poses is absurd.

As if to prove me right, Apple said the very same thing at the preview of iPhone OS 3.0. They said that background processes reduced battery life by roughly 80% even if the phone was not being used. They cite this as their reason for using push notifications instead. I think they’ve got it absolutely right on this one. While it’d be amazing to have background processes, as things stand, they’re of no real value. I’d much rather have push notifications.


1. It’s pretty obvious that push notifications are a better way of doing things (given current technology). But, there are some uses of background processes that push notifications can’t handle. It turns out the app that I’m building is one such use. What if you need to constantly receive the phone’s location (via GPS, say)? There’s no way you can do that with push notifications. If you know a good solution to this problem, please let me know :)

2. I didn’t mention earlier that the android system keeps your contacts, gmail and google calendar in sync (almost instantaneously). I also have the phone set up to receive my UMich email via IMAP (also almost instantaneously0. Somehow, this doesn’t seem to drain battery life at all. Is it just the case that the applications I chose are badly written?


- Sir Lapog Kahn.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


I’m sure most of you have heard of, or use it actively. If not, check it out now! We all know how awesome Meebo is. What may not be all that well known, is that there’s an Android application by Meebo. And it’s awesome!

It works the same way as does, except, since it’s a native application, it integrates really well with the Android OS. It runs as a background process when you close it, so you can receive IMs even if the meebo application is not open. This is really cool, because now I can stay signed in on my phone all the time. Not something I can do on my iPod Touch.

The app has support for everything that’s supported on You can still login with your meebo id. The app’s well built (has yet to crash on me), and like I said before, integrates really well into the phone. Plus, it’s free.

Bottom line: if you’re an android user, you should get Meebo yesterday.

- Sir Lapog Kahn.