Technology is really coming of age. Gone are the days when programming and gadgetry were confined to geeks, nerds and their ilk. What often differentiates an expert from an amateur is merely access to information and the ability to find it and understand it. Access to information is fast improving, and so is the ability to find information. As the worldwide web increases in its depth and coverage, the only barrier to learning seems to be disinterest.

That fascinating, yet false theory of  ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny in the animal world, is wonderfully represented in the 80’s Indian child’s introduction to

The original Prince of Persia. What a shapeless, formless blob that prince was!

technology. The scientific calculator fiercely used to be guarded as precious gadgets that may be “spoilt” by us kids when I was in primary school; the ZX spectrum when it made its entry into computer labs was fastened to a television and a tape-recorder. It was only when I was well into high school that the computer started looking serious (and personal!) with the IBM PCs running 8086 processors. As far as I can remember, the evolution of computing could be judged by the last 3 digits – the 286, 386 and the 486 with this SXs and the DX models. Friends with computers in those days were quite precious – you never messed with them. What started with Nibbles or Digger in Babu’s house in 7th grade progressed to learning games such as Where in the world is Carmen SanDiego and that favorite of ours, Prince of Persia in Shrenik’s house in later years and finally to Dave in Juggy’s house as the computers evolved. Strategy games and shooting games were to still come. Until the playstations of our days came, evolution of computing often could be easily understood through the games that the computers could support. What needed the best 386 machine in those days can be played on a browser even as I run my analysis on Excel these days – here is a site where it can still be played!

Anyway, the 80s child grew up watching the computing and the telecom revolution progressing by leaps and bounds through every single birthday of his. And I cannot help but think of technology as a lifestyle rather than a profession or a discipline. Even as I went through medical school, I kept the spirit alive doing my bits of web-design in html and that (then) awful Dreamweaver and that still awful Frontpage – those days of “Welcome to my homepage” websites with shadows and bevelled buttons!

2010’s is another story. Online learning has come of age and in spite of HPs claims that the computer is personal again, it is clearly the tablet that has become personal. And in spite of years and years of talk on eLearning, the movement towards good quality online education remained limited to videos of lectures and free courseware; there was not much teaching, but merely passive learning by interested students. That is all slowly changing. And one such is of course the University of the People – the tuition-free online University, where I registered for my Bachelors degree in computer science. And after all these years of being a doctor, never did I think I can also register for an engineering course. The course is built on the open-source learning management system, Moodle and is quite well thought through pedagogically. And whether a doctor can engineer? – time will tell. Earlier last year, the official Moodle app for mobile was released – here’s a review of that and it has been piloted too by some friends at ITM, Antwerp.

All said and done, these high funda technologies are only for the few who could afford. Contrast India, where education is yet to be realized as a birth right, leave alone health with some other parts of the world where access to the internet is already a birth right, global inequities will continue to restrict the gains from technology to most people at the global level. Even as I am fascinated by information technology, I am mindful of its limited access. But, perhaps will there be a day when this ‘tech-stuff’ will help improve health care, education and such? My interest in “tech stuff” continues – in hope that it may also help and contribute to public health. And hence this collection of tech-talks on




Accounting DIY

Posted by on Oct 6, 2013 in Tech-talk | 1 comment

I have always found accountants and in general these “cash guys” quite like doctors. They seem to have their own lingo and jargon that at the same time amazes you and makes you feel left out; as if it is something you, a “normal” guy who just wants to know how much cash is coming and how much is going and how much is left, basically. They have this thing about tallying the accounts and the talk about cash flow and the so-called balance sheet which somehow is sacrosanct. I have of course been personally grappling with...

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Google reader: Moving on

Posted by on Apr 1, 2013 in Tech-talk | 5 comments

So, Google reader is officially closing and it joins Google Code and several other Google products at the Google cemetery as a part of Google’s second spring cleaning exercise.  The RSS feed reader was by no means poorly used; over 140,000 users and counting are petitioning Google “Don’t kill Google Reader“. It had its heydays of course. It was the first Google application that allowed “Read Offline” using Google Gears, those two wonderful interlocking wheels that were later enabled for email as well....

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Online learning 2.0

Posted by on Jan 27, 2013 in Tech-talk | 0 comments

The days of online learning continue. In May last year, I had blogged about learning online, especially about how a self-learner (an autodidact it seems) has amazing opportunities thanks to the slew of tablets and the huge number of online courses coming up. Those were still days of MIT’s OCW or Carnegie Mellon’s OLI and a few others. But online learning is also coming of age. No more are the sites just about free videos that one can listen to or presentations to be downloaded and viewed offline. These are full courses that are...

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Refly speaking

Posted by on Sep 6, 2012 in Biology, Reviews, Tech-talk | 4 comments

If I have seen further, it is by using a good reference manager… Well, Newton certainly did not have a great reference manager, nor did he perhaps need one. Those were days (at least in the Western world) when the best way to “catch up” on emerging research was to attend one of the society meetings, where papers would be read out. For example, most of the present-day understanding of Mendelian Genetics comes from the work on pea plants by  the Gregor Johann Mendel, a German-speaking Silesian (in present day Poland) Priest....

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Learning online

Posted by on May 15, 2011 in Tech-talk | 3 comments

It is indeed great days for learners, especially for those who are self-directed, auto-didactic as they are apparently called. With the explosion of those delectable tablets made by that company Lieutenant Dan invested in and the claim that many other products are what evoulutionary biologists would call Batesian mimics, the access and availability to information has multiplied much more than one can manage. In the 3 hours per day that I often spend in my car, Maher pokes fun on hypocrisy of hyper-religious groups in celebrating the killing...

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Canned corn at Google’s cost

Posted by on Jun 28, 2010 in Tech-talk | 1 comment

Bessie Braddock (to Winston Churchill): Winston, you’re drunk. Churchill: Bessie, you’re ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober.   This exchange (perhaps apocryphal like any other exchange attributed to Churchill) is up there for no particular reason. I find it funny and that quite suits. Well, here’s another poem and like my previous poem blogs, again not by me, but in reaction to email dissemination of my attempts at serious rhyme through poem. In response to fierce criticism through email that in the real world could...

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A recipe for free lunch

Posted by on Mar 3, 2010 in Tech-talk | 2 comments

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch –Milton Friedman, Nobel-prize winning free market economist Haroon, a colleague from Panacea asked about FOSS, “Who is marketing it, if it is really so good?”. It is an interesting question with the implication that it may not really be so good, otherwise, why aren’t so many of us already using it! I strongly feel that FOSS is the next in technology. There was a time when innovation was driven by funding and money. You launch a company, make lots of money and hire the...

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Kindling myself

Posted by on Jan 10, 2010 in Tech-talk | 0 comments

Ahem….before the naughty ones go overboard on this one, I am talking about my new gadget acquisition. Well, not yet really an acquisition, but, my new Amazon Kindle, an addition to the assortment of extensions to my phenotype, is soon going to be shipped to India. After much ado on “to buy or not to buy”, against all reason, economics and rationality, I placed my order online for the Kindle. What is Kindle? Kindle is Amazon’s gadget for reading ebooks. It does a bunch of things. Among many great features it has, is the...

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Aint no pedia like Wikipedia

Posted by on Nov 11, 2009 in Birds, Reviews, Tech-talk | 1 comment

Gracula religiosa is the latin name of the Hill Myna, a beautiful bird seen along the Western Ghats and associated South Indian hills. It is one of the endemic birds here and has recently been elevated to a full species, and rechristened Southern Hill Myna. Not getting into the boring details of why this was done, and how this is relevant to anybody, the above image introduces you to the similar looking forms of this bird, found across several areas and islands in South and Southeast Asia. Now, whether these other forms are actually the...

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Ping is my birthright and I shall have it…

Posted by on Oct 19, 2009 in Public Health, Tech-talk | 8 comments

I have a dream…. If Martin Luther King were born in the forests of BR Hills in Southern Karnataka during the nineties, apart from perhaps running into Veerappan, he could’nt have expected more adventure. Nonetheless, I am sure he would still have had a dream. His dream would have to do much more with owning a television and watching an action film. It may have been about having a bulb at home and a tap with water. It may have been about seeing the insides of a car or wearing colourful clothes. These are some dreams that a ML King...

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