Kuselan: $20 per ticket!

Kuselan

There is little doubt that the overseas market for Indian films is huge and is constantly growing. Over the years a number of films have had simultaneous releases in India and overseas. These days this has almost become the norm especially for films featuring top stars. In fact, the percentage of revenue generated from the overseas market has been rapidly increasing. With the Indian diaspora ready to "lap it up," Indian movie makers have slowly started to hike up the price of the ticket. Thus far, Bollywood films have been released in the US at a price per ticket hovering around $10-12. After the initial few weeks the price drops to about $8. which is more or less on par with Hollywood films. In the recent past, Indian film makers have started to "up the ante" so to speak. The price of tickets has been hiked even further! Dasvatharam opened at $15 a ticket! The first reaction of anyone who didn’t like the film was one of "Gosh! I want my money back !"

And now Superstar Rajnikath’s Kuselan tickets open at $20!

As far as I know even the biggest budget Hollywood films have never sold tickets at such outrageous prices.

Ultimately, film-making is a business. So it is understandable that those in the business want to make a profit. Products are often priced at what the market is willing to bare. But when you price a product so high that buyers start to feel that they are being fleeced, particularly when the same product was hardly a price sensitive one, you begin to wonder if the businessmen have gone too far. Besides, the viewer backlash caused by the hike in ticket prices, there could be other unintended consequences like for instance, an increase in piracy .

Are Indian film makers stretching their luck? Will the next Bollywood film starring Aamir Khan or Sharukh Khan be priced similarly at ridiculous prices? Maybe the price will have to go even higher before reality strikes and good sense prevails?

US vs. China, Sean Tevis, Professor Randy Pausch

Should America be worried about China?

JOHN POMFRET former Beijing bureau chief for the Washington Post and the author of “Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China.” argues convincingly that China is being overestimated by the US.

So often, our perceptions of the place have more to do with how we look at ourselves than with what’s actually happening over there…..

Too many constraints are built into the country’s social, economic and political systems. For four big reasons – dire demographics, an overrated economy, an environment under siege and an ideology that doesn’t travel well – China is more likely to remain the muscle-bound adolescent of the international system than to become the master of the world.

Kansas Techie leverages the Internet to raise money for Kansas State Legislature campaign

This is an interesting story that I first read in the WSJ . Sean Tevis, 39-year old, decided to use the internet to raise money for his campaign. Impressive story. Check out his site .

Running to represent a mostly lower-middle-class district with just 11,000 registered voters, Mr. Tevis has raised more than $95,000. The astounding sum hasn’t come from his neighbors, but from kindred spirits nationwide. Systems analysts, programmers and Web designers have showered him with donations in appreciation of his offbeat online fund-raising plea, which consists of a stick-figure comic strip “Running for Office:

Professor Randy Pausch

If you haven’t heard of him, a good place to start is here.

He died on July 25, 2008 of cancer.

Recent Bomb Blasts in India, Online Reading Habits

Recent Bomb Blasts in India

Interesting article in the WSJ, saying that the Government of India needs to get its act together to handle terrorism, while the Muslim community needs to be forward-looking….

Will the community be forward-looking, eager to seize new economic opportunities, and at peace with a rapidly changing world? Or will it forsake the future for an idealized past, foster a culture of grievance that condones violence, and view globalization as a mortal threat? Depending on the answer, the Bangalore and Ahmedabad bombings are either a passing event or a dark harbinger of things to come.

The more immediate challenge (IMHO), and the biggest fear at this point is retaliation and hence out break of large scale communal violence.

New Reading Habits — Online

I had posted earlier about Internet overdose. Here is an interesting article in the NY Times about how the younger generation of kids is spending a lort of time online but not reading books. Some argue that this is also a form of reading. Interesting pros and cons. The jury is still out on this issue.

“Learning is not to be found on a printout,” David McCullough , the Pulitzer Prize -winning biographer, said in a commencement address at Boston College in May. “It’s not on call at the touch of the finger. Learning is acquired mainly from books, and most readily from great books.”

Young people “aren’t as troubled as some of us older folks are by reading that doesn’t go in a line,” said Rand J. Spiro, a professor of educational psychology at Michigan State University who is studying reading practices on the Internet. “That’s a good thing because the world doesn’t go in a line, and the world isn’t organized into separate compartments or chapters.”

Searching for Google Killers: Cuil, Yandex, Guruji…

There is little doubt that Google has a virtual monopoly over search and search based advertising. Even the mighty Microsoft is running helter-skelter trying to mount at least a challenge to Google.

The WSJ reported today about a bay area startup – Cuil, Inc.

Cuil said it won’t collect personal information about its users, such as the addresses of their computers and their individual search histories — although it does track the terms people search for overall. While all major search engines have taken steps to cut back on the time they store data related to individual searchers and to make the data more anonymous, Ms. Patterson said Cuil can stop collecting information about individuals’ behavior altogether because its algorithms rely more heavily on analyzing the content of a particular Web page than on the popularity of the page.

This is a refreshing change from the privacy concerns that hound Google from time to time.  One can finally search without being watched! Secondly, there is something really nice about the way Cuil displays its results. There are no ads, plus the display is a welcome change from the long boring list the Google and other conventional search engines offer.

There was a report in the Businessweek a few weeks back about a Russian search engine named Yandex ,  that was giving Google a run for its money in Russia.

Yandex handles 55% of local language search queries in Russia. Its closest rival is Rambler , another Russian company, with a 17% share, followed by Google with 15%, according to research site LiveInternet.ru.

Surely, there has to be some inherent advantages for search engines that factor local, cultural and other behavioral aspects to develop custom search engines targeted for specific countries around the world (especially non-English speaking).

Another search engine based out of India, named, Guruji recently announced music specific search . In a country like India where films and music are a huge industry this makes a lot of sense.

In general, its great to see more activity in the search space. Whether its Microsoft at the high end with the deep pockets or start-ups, its about time Google had some credible competitors at least at the local level if not on a global scale.

Linux Mint: With Freedom Came Elegance, and Some Pain

I had read and heard so much about how Linux has improved over the years. I have also been endlessly postponing my plan  to take Linux on a test drive with no help whatsoever. Recently, I came across Linux Mint and decided I was going to take the plunge.

Installation

I downloaded Linux Mint , then I "burnt" it on a CD (not copy it on to a CD) and went through the installation process on a regular Windows PC. The CD took me through the steps of partitioning my hard drive (so I could still maintain my Windows installation) . The User Interface during the partition process was a little tricky. It was not obvious how to allocate the size of the partition. After a while I figured out that the sizing is done by a simple drag operation using the mouse.

The claim is that you can run Linux Mint from the CD to get a feel for it before installing it. But I found this to be unacceptably slow on most machines (especially older PCs).

Applications

Linux Mint comes with all the basic programs Firefox 3 , Open Office , Thunderbird for email etc. already pre-installed. Open Office fires up really fast unlike on a PC where I find it "dog slow".

Installing new programs is not the easiest. I for one struggled to install flash! I downloaded and assumed that a simple double click would do it. But it wasn’t as straight forward. I had to eventually save flash in the ~/mozilla/plugins directory (try figuring that one out on your own!).

Taking screen shots is done using the pre-installed GIMP Image Editor. I got to this program fairly easily but figuring out how to take a screen shot using it wasn’t as easy as Ctrl-Alt-Print screen in the Windows environment.

The software named Wine helps you run Windows applications on a PC. It does not work with Office 2007. Besides, I found configuring it to be not so straightforward.

You don’t need to install PDF. There is a pre-installed Document Viewer that opens up PDF documents. Open Office lets you write out PDF documents but I wouldn’t risk that for "official" documents, especially those with serious formatting (like Table of Contents etc.).

User Interface

The UI is pretty and pleasing. If you are a long time Windows XP user (like most people on this planet), getting used to the UI should be fairly easy though it could take some time, especially if you don’t posses  "nerd-like" tendencies somewhere deep inside of you. The ability to access remote servers via the Internet, mount and unmount them and access the files and folders is really easy (most average users don’t need this).

A Few Suggestions

  • The Filter feature should be made a little smarter. When you search for something that’s not obvious it opens up a dumb blank screen instead of something like "Were you looking for ….?" At a minimum it should display the Help files instead of a lame blank screen. Even typing in "Help" returns the same blank screen!
  • I have never been able to find the "Help" files. This should not be a big secret!
  • When I go into Hibernate mode it displays a message about not having enough "swap space" and that I should look into the Help files (which I can’t seem to find). I am sure I can figure this out with some effort. The reality is that most average users won’t have the time or the patience for this.
  • The audio stops working every time I return from suspend mode. I realized later that it was a known problem with a crazy hack available. This is an essential feature and should not be a "known problem".

Who is Linux Mint most suited to?

If you are a developer (developing web applications on non-MS platform) you could very easily survive with a PC running Linux Mint. In other words, a Windows PC would be a complete waste for a developer. Employers can save the extra investment in Windows when buying a PC for a developer. It gives users the pleasure of a terminal and command line interface along with a nice UI if they ever care for one. Installing the latest versions of PHP, PERL, MySQL and the like is a breeze.

On the other hand, if you are a sales, administrative and marketing type, you most likely live and breath MS Office. For such users it is a little too scary to abandon MS Office for Open Office or run MS Office on Linux using Wine . For example, if you are sending a proposal in MS-Word to a customer, most people I suspect wouldn’t want to risk writing it in Open Office, Google Docs or the like.

If you are one of those users who has multiple computers, and are open to a little experimentation, then Linux Mint can be a good addition to the mix.

In short, the Linux Mint is still very much a developers’ system first. Considering that it’s development is an entirely voluntary effort, this observation should not be a surprise. I am not sure if Linux Mint is tested with non-techies (at least non-developers) before it is released. If not, this would be a worthwhile step towards improving its overall usability.

Summary

My personal experience tells me that with some pain, pretty much anything that you can do on a Windows PC can be done today on a machine running Linux Mint (minus MS Office and not counting Open Office). For instance, I was able to get my printer, scanner and audio working on Linux Mint. I was also able to print using a wireless connection from a Windows PC onto the printer connected to the machine running Linux Mint, among other things.

Every time you run into a problem, it takes time to figure things out. In fact, it often requires serious patience and perseverance. The good news is that there is plenty of information available around the web. The bad news is that the average user is not ready for this kind of torture, though, after the initial "getting used to" phase things should be pretty smooth sailing especially if you are open to running web applications and need the machine mostly to send and receive email, browse etc.

The tag line for Linux Mint is "From Freedom Came Elegance". While it is certainly elegant it does carry with it some pain (some might say severe pain or other might even call it misery!) in the form of a learning curve, and problems  while installing basic applications as I experienced. On the other hand, a few years back I could not have imagined being able to install Linux and use it on a day to day basis without external help. Today, I am able to do it and I believe so can many other users. At a minimum, Linux Mint in its current form is a definite sign of progress for the open source movement but it still has ways to go before it can attract the average user. Further improving the ease of use (I don’ mean making it prettier), and being able to easily run Windows applications would certainly help this cause (Wine or its equivalent must be easier to configure at a minimum).

Trivia : Try playing Stick cricket (an online cricket game in flash) on Linux Mint and then on a Windows PC. The speed on Linux Mint is simply blazing in comparison!

Disclaimer : My adventures with Linux Mint is purely a personal endeavor. Any problem outlined here might be a personal limitation and not necessarily that of Linux Mint.

Bumbling McCain, UPA Trust Vote, India-SL first Test, B&B in Delhi

Bumbling McCain?

If you are one of those who thinks that McCain is better prepared to be President to deal with the Iraq war, think again. The other day he referred to an Pakistan Iraq border! This article in the Huffington post rips into McCain big time. Its not surprising that he is backing off from the National media .

Test Cricket? What’s that?

After all the excitement of the T20, the 50-over ODI hardly attracted any crowds in Pakistan. Now Test cricket returns to the scene with an India-Sri-Lanka clash . After the first day the score is at 85 for 2. Gosh, what a contrast. Weather permitting hopefully the remaining days will have something exciting to offer.

UPA Government Survives Trust Vote

The Trust vote in the Indian Parliament was far better than a T20 and a Bollywood thriller combined. The man who stole the show was undoubtedly Lalu Yadav . Interestingly enough there is a Hindi film titled Singh is King due to be released shortly (it has nothing to do with Manmohan’s battles!)

Desi Bread & Breakfast

Interesting article on the rise of B&B in Delhi. According to the article there are 200 of them. The Government is providing tax incentives to cope with the growing demand of visitors to the country.