కొత్త కథ 2017

Kotta Katha 2017

అక్కిరాజు భట్టిప్రోలు – తొంభయ్యవ దశకంలో సెంట్రల్ యూనివర్సిటీ రోజుల్నుండీ పరిచయం, అటుతర్వాతి అమెరికా రోజుల్లో తనతో మంచి స్నేహం. తను కుప్పిలి పద్మ గారితో కలిసి సంకలనం చేసిన “కొత్త కథ 2017” చదివాను. చదివాను అనడం కంటే, ఏకబిగిన చదివాను అనడం కరెక్టు. కొత్త కథ 2017 లోని కథల గురించి, నా అభిప్రాయం:

బ్రదర్ ఆఫ్ బంగారి – అక్కిరాజు భట్టిప్రోలు: సమకాలీన యువతుల ఆలోచనారీతిని కళ్ళకు కట్టినట్టుగా చూపించే కథ. లక్ష్మి పాత్ర ద్వారా Good Decision, Bad Execution అన్నదాన్ని సోదాహరణంగా చెప్పినట్లుగా నాకనిపించింది.

మెలకువ ముందు కల – అరిపిరాల సత్య ప్రసాద్: రియలిజానికీ, సర్రియలిజానికీ మధ్యగా నడుస్తూ పోయిన కథ. ఎర్రదనం, మట్టి సింబాలిగ్గా కలసిన కలలాంటి కథ.

ఒక జీవితం… రెండు కలలు… – ఆకునూరి హాసన్: ప్రేమంటే సున్నితత్వమా లేదా భయపెట్టేంతలా వెల్లువెత్తే భావావేశమా అని ఆలోచింపచేసే కథ. రూప నుండి రజనీగంధ వరకూ వ్యర్ధమయిన రెండు దశాబ్దాల్లో అతను సున్నితత్వమంటే ఏమిటో తెలుసుకున్నాడని నాకనిపించింది – అతను పాప పక్కన కూర్చున్నప్పుడు.

నల్లగాలి – భగవంతం: ఒక మామూలు దినచర్య సందర్భానుసారంగా ఎలాంటి అనుభూతుల్ని కలిగిస్తుందో చెప్పే కథ. కథ ఆఖర్లో అతడు బైక్ మీద కాక ఆటోలోనో కాబ్‌లోనో వెళ్ళుంటే ఇంకా బాగుండుననిపించింది.

ఇద్దరు మంచివాళ్ళ అడల్ట్ కథ – జి. ఎస్. రామ్మోహన్: పాతికేళ్ళనుండి సాఫ్ట్‌వేర్ ఫీల్డులో ఉన్నా కొంచెం మింగుడుపడని (read మోడర్న్) సందర్భాల కథ. సుధాకర్ని చూసి గొంగళిలో అన్నం తింటూ వెంట్రుకలేరుతున్నాడేమిటిరా అనిపించిన కథ.

ఛోటి – హనీఫ్: చూపుడు వేలుకింద బొటనవేలుని పెట్టి బొటనవేలుని పైకెగరేసిన అమ్మని అర్ధం చేసుకోలేని అమ్మ కథ మనసుని కొంచెం మెలిపెట్టింది.

ఫ్రెనర్ లా విదా – కొల్లూరి సోమశేఖర్: మెటీరియలిస్టిక్ పనుల మొగుడికి, ఈస్థటిక్ భావాల పెళ్ళానికీ మధ్య నిలిచిన సాక్షి చెప్పిన మనసు కథ.

వాటర్ ఫ్రంట్ – కుప్పిలి పద్మ: ఐడియాలజీయా, ప్రాక్టికాలిటీయా అన్న ప్రశ్న వచ్చినప్పుడు? మనం ఏది ఫాలో అవుదాం, మన పక్కోడు ఏది ఫాలో అయితే బాగుంటుంది అన్న మీమాంస వచ్చినప్పుడు? పొలిటికల్ కరెక్ట్‌నెస్ ప్రాముఖ్యతను గురించి ఆలోచింపచేసిన కథ.

వెలుతురు నీడలు – కాకుమాని శ్రీనివాసరావు: హిస్టరీ రిపీట్స్ అనిపించిన కథ. ఆతడి ఫాసినేషన్ కేవలం ఆ వస్త్రధారణ పైనేనా అనికూడా అనిపించింది.

క్రీ.పూ-క్రీ.శ. – కోడూరి విజయ కుమార్: రాచరికపుకాలంనాటి కథతో వర్తమానకాలంలోని పరిస్థితులపై సునిశిత వ్యంగ్యాస్త్రం. కాకుల సంభాషణ పెదాలపై చిరునవ్వు తెప్పించింది.

తోలుబొమ్మలాట – కూనపరాజు కుమార్: మారుతున్న సామాజిక అలవాట్ల నైపధ్యంలో అంతరించిపోతున్న కళల, అలమటించిపోతున్న కళాకారుల కథ. మనలోని నిస్సహాయతను నిశ్శబ్దంగా నిలదీసే కథ.

చున్నీ – కె. వి. కరుణకుమార్: మనచుట్టూ జరుగుతున్న సంఘటనలతో మనసును మెలితిప్పిన కథ. అవును కదూ అనిపిస్తుంది.

పెన్సిల్ బాక్స్ – మహమ్మద్ ఖదీర్ బాబు: ఒక చిన్న సంఘటన కొన్ని జీవితాల్ని ఇంతలా మార్చేస్తుందా అనిపించే కథ. విశ్వనాథ్ గారు తీసిన ఆపద్భాంధవుడు గుర్తొచ్చింది.

కృష్ణ శోధ – మోహిత: భావుకత ఎక్కువగా ఉన్న చక్కని పద్యకావ్యంలో కథ ఆ వృక్షాల్లోనూ, పొదల్లోనూ, లతల్లోనూ గిరికీలు కొడుతూ ఉండిపోయింది. వారాలపై ప్రయోగాలు బావున్నాయి – శనివారాలకే ఏదో తేడాకొట్టింది రెండుసార్లూ.

ద డెడ్ మాన్ ఈజ్ గోయింగ్ టు సింగ్ – మహి బెజవాడ: ముగ్గురి జీవితాల్లోని నాలుగో మనిషి జీవితపు కాలిన కలలు. ముగ్గురికీ మూడు రకాలుగా కనిపించిన మనిషిలోని అంతర్గత శూన్యపు ఆఖరి అడుగు ఈ కథ.

సున్నాలు – మెర్సీ మార్గరెట్: కహానీ-2 సినిమా చూడకపోవటం వల్లనేమో, ఆ వెన్నాడుతున్న సున్నాల గురించి అర్ధం కాలేదు. చైల్ద్ అబ్యూస్ పైన ఒక నిజాయితీ అయిన కథ.

మట్టి గోడలు – నాగేంద్ర కాశీ: భూసేకరణ బాధితుల జీవితాల్లోని చీకటి కోణాల కథ. మట్టిని ప్రేమించేవాడి మనస్తత్వాని గురించి బాగా రాసారు.

శ్రీమతి సర్టిఫికేట్ – పూడూరి రాజిరెడ్డి: కామాలే తప్ప ఫుల్లుస్టాపుల్లేని ఒకానొక ఉదయపు బిజీ జీవితంలోంచి ఊడిపడ్డ చురుక్కు హాస్యం. గది ఎంత పెద్దదో ఊడ్చినప్పుడే తెలుస్తుందనేలా…

వికృతి – రాధిక: అడాలిసెంట్ వయసులోని మనసు పోకడల చిత్రీకరణ. బాహ్య సౌందర్యానికీ అంతర్గత సౌందర్యానికీ సంబంధం లేదని తెలుసుకున్న మనిషి మనసు కథ యిది.

UNKNOWN – సురేష్: భయానక, భీభత్స రసప్రధానంగా సాగిన థ్రిల్లర్. పాత్రలన్నీ మనకు తెలిసిన unknown లే అవటంవల్ల సంభాషణలు ఫాలో అవడానికి కొంచెం కష్టపడాలి.

కొన్న తల్లి – సింహాద్రి నాగశిరీష: చీకటి బతుకుల్లోని గొలుసుకట్టును ఎవరో ఒకరు తెంపినప్పుడు వచ్చిన వెలుగు రేఖ.

స్కూపీ – శాంతిశ్రీ: భావోద్వేగాలను శోషించే దారులు మూసుకుపోయిన చిన్నారి ఆక్రోశానికి ముగింపు ఏమిటి. చిన్ని కుటుంబాల్లోని మానసిక కల్లోలాలని చూపించిన కథ.

ఓ హెన్రీ స్టోరీ – వెంకట్ సిద్దార్థ: మన కళ్ళెదురుగా మూగప్రేమలను చూడటం ఆ ప్రేమించడం కన్నా కష్టమేమో అనిపించే కథ.

చివరాఖరి ముచ్చట్లు – కొత్తకథ 2017 లో నాకు నచ్చిన వాక్యాలలో కొన్ని:

  • బ్రదర్ ఆఫ్ బంగారి – “రాత్రి సంసారానికి ఆనవాళ్ళు లేవని నమ్మకం కలిగాక”
  • ఒక జీవితం… రెండు కలలు… – “కళ్ళతో నవ్విన రజనీగంధని పెదవులతో నవ్వి పలకరించి”
  • చున్నీ – “శరీరానికి ముఖం ఉంటేనే మచ్చ”, “అందుకే ఆమె చున్నీని రీఇన్వెంట్ చేసింది”
  • కృష్ణ శోధ – “ఆలస్యమయితేనేం, అమృతం అయినప్పుడు”
  • మట్టి గోడలు – “ఓ పక్షం రోజులు అల్లరైనా గానీ ప్రజాస్వామ్యమే గెలిచింది. ప్రజలు ఓడిపోయారు”

మొత్తమ్మీద కొత్తకథ – 2017 ఒక మంచి కథాసంకలనం. మనం కొనడానికి వెచ్చించిన మూల్యానికీ, చదవడానికి వెచ్చించిన సమయానికీ కూడా న్యాయం జరుగుతుంది.

కొసమెరుపు: కొత్తకథ-2017 లోని కుప్పిలి పద్మగారి వాటర్ ఫ్రంట్ కథకు ఒకటో అధ్యాయమే ఉంది, రెండవది లేదు. అప్పటికే పదిహేడు పేజీల కథ అయింది. బాహుబలి సినిమాను విభజించిన ప్రేరణతో రెండో అధ్యాయం కొత్తకథ-2018 లో రాస్తారేమో.

Bahubali and The Lion King Resemblance

Pride Ride

There are very few stories. It is the storytelling that counts.

The above statement is very true for movies. I have been a big fan of Disney’s The Lion King. The storyline of Bahubali has a strong resemblance to that of The Lion King, even though the storytelling takes a completely different route and takes gigantic proportions.

Storyline
Bahubali
Lion King
The Good KingAmarendra Bahubali is the good king that is refused the throne and eventually gets killedKing Mufasa is the good king that gets killed
The Bad BrotherIt is the King’s antagonist brother Bhallaladeva that masterminds the killing of Amarendra BahubaliIt is the King’s antagonist brother Scar that plans the killing of Mufasa
The Captive QueenDevasena is held captive in Maahishmati by BhallaladevaSarabi is forced to hunt for Scar and the hyenas, resembling slavery
The KingdomMaahishmati: People are sick and tired of Bhallaladeva’s cruel ruleThe Pride Lands: The herds and packs are starving and shrinking under Scar’s inept and cruel rule
The Far Away PrinceMahendra Bahubali grows up in a remote place without realizing that he is the prince of Maahishmati KingdomSimba runs away and grows up in a remote place without acknowledging his princehood
Prince Returns for Love InterestMahendra Bahubali searches for his eventual love interest Avanthika and returns to Maahishmati to fulfill her task of freeing DevasenaSimba meets his friend and eventual love interest Nala and that leads to his return to the Pride Lands and freeing of Sarabi
The LookalikesMahendra Bahubali’s resemblance to Amarendra Bahubali is the key factor in the story that leads to many scenes with Bhallaladeva, Devasena and Kattappa (in the first part itself.) His resemblance brings cheers to many in the kingdom and fear to the antagonistsSimba’s resemblance to Mufasa and the former’s realization of the same is the key turning point of the story. His resemblance scares Scar and brings joy to Sarabi and rest of the pride rock
The ExploringMahendra Bahubali, as a kid, wants to explore what is on the other side of the high mountains. He does several unsuccessful attempts as a kid to explore beyond the mountains. Once he becomes successful doing so as an adult, the story takes a new turnSimba’s exploratory interests are the key part of the story and his attempts end him up in big trouble. That forms the crux of the storyline and his run away from the kingdom
The TrustworthyKattappa, the trustworthy general and trainer that has bald head and large white beard. Discloses the identity of Mahendra Bahubali to the later and gives him an account of his own past.Rafiki, the trustworthy shaman and advisor who has bald head and large white beard. Makes Simba realize who he really is and what his responsibilities are.
The Pride
Pride Ride
Pride Ride
Pride Rock
Pride Rock
Announcing the Prince
Announce Bahubali
Mahendra Bahubali
Announce Simba
Simba

Does that make you think that the storyline of Bahubali is lifted from The Lion King? You are very much wrong if you do so. There are several Telugu movies that follow similar lines (Jayam Manadera to Aadi to Indra) where the protagonist lives elsewhere without taking up his true identity and eventually comes back to claim his throne or leadership position. In fact, the faction movie series of Telugu Film Industry have considerable resemblances to The Lion King at some point or other. So are some of the early folk movies of Indian Film Industry. For that matter, all these movies have some resemblance to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet in which Prince Hamlet is true heir of King Hamlet but King Claudius takes the throne.

Then why this post? I strongly believe that the storyline of the movie is of lesser importance when there is good storytelling. On the eve of the release of Bahubali – The Conclusion, I am looking forward to watch a very good storytelling. I care less for the story that I already know of from several other movies.

IPv6 on AWS

IPv6 is finally gaining some momentum, thanks to support from several public cloud vendors and data center players in the recent months. Beyond the infrastructure players, the slow migration of several ISPs and corporations towards IPv6 is evident in Google’s IPv6 traffic statistics:

Raju Alluri: IPv6 adoption over years, courtesy Google

Hovering around 13%, the adoption rate is impressive in the recent months and support from players like AWS is going to improve this metric over the next few months.

It is also interesting to see that India is reasonably ahead in this initiative, as seen in Google’s stats:

Raju Alluri: IPv6 adoption by country, courtesy Google

AWS published its support for IPv6 in EC2 around 1st December 2016 and by January this year, the support is extended to 15 of its global regions. During those weeks, the dual-stack support is also extended to ELBs (load balancing), Route 53 (DNS), public VIFs, S3, IoT and individual CloundFront distributions.

One key thing to note is that the IPv6 addresses assigned are internet-routable and it needs an Egress-only Internet Gateway if any if the VIFs don’t need to get exposed to internet and have to remain in a private network.

Simple yet strong steps towards IPv6 adoption!

Reading between the lines: PM’s speech on New Year’s Eve

Notes 2017

People all over India and abroad expected surprise announcements in PM’s speech on New Year’s Eve. They glued to the seats in front of their TV screens like never before. But the speech, surprised many by not having any surprise announcements. Or is it so? Here is my take on what to read between the lines from PM’s speech.

According to PM’s speech, three crore Kisan Credit Cards are going to be converted to RuPay debit cards by end of the quarter. These cards are traditionally used to withdraw money from banks and now will be evolved as debit cards. This means

  • Farmers would be made to purchase essentials like seeds and fertilizers using trackable transactions on these cards. The cash withdrawal nature of the schemes and cards would slowly cease to exist.
  • So the expenses of farmers (more importantly, the income of vendors) would go both cashless and trackable.

PM announced interest subvention of 4 percent and 3 percent for housing loans taken in 2017 upto 9 lakhs and 12 lakhs respectively.

  • This will help banks push their cash and deposits surplus to loans that are large in volumes and small in magnitude. That means more and more middle class and lower middle class people are going to opt for housing loans.
  • If and when these loans and subventions are linked to tax filing, more and more people come under tax net.
  • This also has potential to create more business in the housing market (in the short run, i.e. 2017) for middle class and lower middle class. It offsets any potential shortfall in the real estate market (specifically housing market) post notes ban. Given PM’s public statements earlier this month regarding Benami lands, I think there might be some hard decisions that give setbacks in agricultural land markets and the government is trying to offset that in housing market.

PM’s speech almost conceded that there are going to be simultaneous elections in the country. Assuming that there would be a push towards Parliament and Assembly elections in the country to be held simultaneously, it needs significant changes in constitution and the role of Election Commission. I think the PM started his pre-work (of getting people mentally ready for simultaneous elections) with this speech. Rest of the work is purely procedural.

PM’s speech also gives a hint towards “holier than thou” approach needed by political parties.

  • That seems like a hint towards an inevitable curb or restrictions on cash based donations accepted by political parties.

Income from turnover of businesses (with upto 2 crores of turnover) will be calculated as 6% as opposed to earlier 8%, provided the transactions are digital. Effectively, that means a potential 25% tax reduction if the businesses are doing their transactions in digital mode. This is one more push to go digital in their transactions.

The underwriting for small businesses is increased from one crore to two crores, while extending the coverage to loans given by NBFCs also. Not sure how much impact it would immediately have, but I think it might attract small businesses to go for higher loans, garner higher revenues and pay higher taxes. However, the discretion used by NBFCs might not match what the normal banks would do while evaluating a businesses loan potential. So we may have interesting scenarios unfolding in this sector.

Increase in working capital loans from 20% to 30% is another way to push the surplus cash and deposits with banks back into the market.

In a nutshell, here are the key points I do read from the speech.

  • Create more avenues to push surplus cash with banks back into the market.
  • While doing so, ensure that the cash is pushed to trackable investments disburses like loans and agricultural spending.
  • Push for more and more digital payments at all levels. “You get more sops if your transactions are more digital.”
  • Bring more people into tax net, by encouraging them to do businesses at a larger scale with an increase in their capital and loans.
  • Start measures to offset the impact of future hard decisions in real estate markets
  • Give a hint about potential axe on the current leeway enjoyed by political parties
  • Give a hint about election reforms on the horizon

So, no surprises? That is a platform being set for future surprises.

 

 

 

 

 

High Denomination Notes Cease To Be Legal Tender

RBI 2000 High Denomination Note

In a very bold move by PM Narendra Modi, India’s Ministry of Finance cancels the legal tender nature of India’s High Denomination notes of Rs. 500 and 1000 issued earlier by RBI. The move appears sudden, harsh and makes the entire country take a few hardships in the next few days, but it is a much needed and welcome move though. My personal opinions and account of what what to expect soon and how to handle the transition phase.

Baseless Criticism

  • Some people (especially politicians) call this anywhere from anti-nation to draconian. In My Opinion, this is just a harsh and bold move that hurts a bit. Just like you take a shot of injection when you are ill. The move is far less draconian and anti-nation when compared to the inconveniences we common people face when you politicians and employee associations of banks and governments announce sudden strikes/bandhs for some stupid reasons known only to you.
  • Some people criticize the timing of the decision, but I admire this timing for the following reasons.
    1. A big festival season is just over, so common man would have relatively less cash transaction needs
    2. The first week of this month just passed, so majority of monthly cash needs of middle class and upper middle class Indians, like rents and monthly groceries, would be taken care of by now. However, people who do daily and weekly grocery purchases would have a couple of weeks of inconvenience.
    3. This action immediately follows the tax declaration scheme, so people with large sums of undisclosed income did get a chance to get clean. If they haven’t, then they are the most hit.
  • Some people suggest phased withdrawal of notes. However, that would have lesser impact on black money and would lead to long term cash flow issues in the market if big guys cease flow of new currency notes during that phased withdrawal. In my opinion, the cash flow issues with the current approach of PMO and Ministry of Finance would last about a week or two at the most, provided banks and RBI are ready to handle the volumes.

Personal Inconveniences And How To Overcome

I think an average Indian has a short phase of going very conservative. Here is my way to cope up with this critical juncture after assessing the PM’s announcement and its impact on myself. After the announcement, I quickly counted my left over high denomination notes that can be legally tendered. Specifically Rs. 100 and 50. They totaled to Rs. 3850 and here is what I would do with that money.

  • I resolved not to withdraw any cash from an ATM or Bank at least until Friday evening. Preferably until Monday evening. By that time, I presume the rush at these places would ease up and people with more immediate needs can use this time rather.
  • I am going conservative for a few weeks and keeping my cash in bank as contingency for any emergencies including medical emergencies. This would continue even if I am able to withdraw a few high denomination notes in a week or two.
  • I may do some shopping of basic needs using my credit card and limit my purchases to essential food items. That may include biscuit and snack packs for my upcoming travel.
  • I have set aside Rs 1300 towards fuel. My two wheeler needs a refill of about 300 and my car can live with Rs 1000 worth of fuel in the next one week, provided I use my two wheeler more often than my car.
  • I have a weekend travel coming up that involves three overnight travels of 7-13 hours each. I am planning to use biscuit and snack packs as travel food as opposed to meals that I usually buy for anywhere between Rs 80 to 200. With all my tickets purchased earlier, I may be able to manage my travel with about Rs. 1000 of that left over money.
  • I am planning to use public transportation during my weekend travel, so that I would spend less cash than usual for taxis and local transportation.
  • That leaves me with about Rs 1500 to meet any immediate cash needs. Hopefully we can manage with that money and feel proud next week that our nation has done the right thing.

The key thing here is to go conservative and minimize the spending rather than trying to amass large amounts of cash or goods.

Tougher scenarios

I see a few tougher scenarios like these that have no easy way out.

  • My son is going for a few days of international travel representing his college this weekend. The tickets are taken care of by funds from college, but he needs foreign exchange before Friday for food and incidental expenses. Given that he doesn’t have a credit card and we need to arrange forex cash for him before he leaves for the trip, we are not sure how we can manage that. This is a very special case, but a tough scenario for me as an individual.
  • The next few days are auspicious days as per our calendar and lot of my friends and relatives have weddings and functions lined up. Conducting those functions is going to be tough for them (for example, how can one buy Rs. 15,000 worth of vegetables in a farmers market for a wedding dinner tomorrow?) until the banks and ATMs ease up to let them use their cash in banks or exchange already withdrawn legitimate money in high denomination notes.

Barring the impact of tougher scenarios like these, I see that we as a nation can easily wade through the short periods of lesser cash flow. The key is not to panic. Don’t try to get more cash, just conserve the cash you have.

The nation needs support from all of us for this bold and game changing decision. Let us join hands with PM Modi and his administration to make this a smooth phase.

Jai Hind.

IT, Android One and BYOD

Carrier-Vendor-Android-IT-Stack

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is now a paradigm that is tightly integrated into IT spectrum. IMO, Android One helps simplify the life of IT staff while handling user owned devices that operate on data that is owned by the organizations.

The IT staff’s ownership over the client devices/end points is reducing very fast in recent years. This is due to the use cases that focus on end users,  service providers, partners and internal employees that are continuously contributing to the data of an organization. Despite reducing level of ownership of these devices, the IT staff continue to have a responsibility to prove that they have adequate controls over these devices and their data.

For example, signatures of customers and delivery details on delivery personnel’s client devices should be ascertained with to all the integrity and confidentiality controls by IT staff of any shopping website and its delivery partners. There were times when the client devices are custom made solutions for the delivery companies, but smart phones are rapidly replacing these legacy client devices. More often than not, these smart phones are owned and updated by individuals rather than organizations. Hence these BYOD devices pose a challenge to the IT staff and increase threat to the data confidentiality and integrity.

The major challenge for IT staff is to ensure that all the nomadic client devices are running approved, stable and latest stack. In olden days (say about 10 years ago), the client devices are mostly laptops that need to be patched and upgraded regularly, along with appropriate user access controls on these devices. With the proliferation of smart phones as client devices, the challenge goes multi-fold. Wearing an IT Professional’s hat, I do see every smart phone like this:

Android One: Carrier-Ventor-Android-Stack

The moment I think about manageability of that smart phone (not ownership of the smart phone, which is never going to happen), I see the smart phone as

Android One: Carrier-Vendor-Android-IT-Stack

The IT stack in the above picture is a combination of various off-the-shelf and home grown applications, together with well tested configurations of these applications. More often than not, the IT stack applications and configurations heavily depend on the underlying Android Stack. That means it pays to support these applications and configurations on a limited set of latest versions of Android.

When it comes to the upgrades (read patching) of the Android stack, both the carrier and vendor have long release cycles in place for stack upgrades on target devices. As a result, most smart phones that are more than a year old end up running Android versions that are old and probably not patched fast enough. This is true with any mobile OS though, not just with Android.

Supporting the IT Stack in the above picture is a nightmare for IT staff if they are to support this on multiple and older versions of mobile operating systems. Due to this, the IT staff may want the mobile phones to run with the latest OS. But the large release cycles of phone vendors and carriers often become a hurdle to accomplish this.

Android One (https://www.android.com/one/) is the best solution out of that version control mess. I have been using a cost effective and reasonably powered Android One phone since 2014. Over the last year and half, this phone has become my device of choice for use cases that strictly require latest versions of Android Platform and its eco system. The use cases include IT tools like VPN connectivity apps, single sign-on solutions, device control/erase solutions, messaging solutions and sharing solutions. This $100 unlocked dual SIM phone is a very reasonable investment for accomplishing adherence to stringent IT policies.

Android One is supported by phones that are very high end (e.g. the Nexus series sold directly by Google) all the way to cost effective phones in emerging economies. In almost all cases, the phones come with unlocked versions, leaving a wider choice of carriers to customers.

Updates to my Android One smartphone have been regular and painless in the last year and half. The ability to grab the latest update of Android within a few hours makes Android One my preferred choice.

In any BYOD centered IT infrastructure, Android One is the best way to go for IT staff to enforce tighter IT policies on smart phones while ensuring that the user devices are running with latest version of the mobile stack. That in turn ensures that the IT stack on the smartphone is current and easy to manage.

Identity as the Perimeter

The perimeter of an enterprise has been its LAN and WAN for quite a number of years. The popularity of VPN based remote access did extend the definition of an enterprise’s perimeter to the remote presence of its employees, albeit for short bursts of time more often than not.

As trends like Cloud based services and BYOD emerged, enterprises have this daunting challenge of protecting their data. In the new age network, data gets hosted (e.g. public cloud services) and accessed (e.g. laptops and phones) on devices that are beyond the firewalls of an enterprise. Moreover, employees want more and more flexibility towards accessing data – at wherever they are and on whatever they carry.

RSA‘s Jason wrote this blog post in which he describes the (potentially outdated) strategy of one of the Information Security persons he met – take out access to anything that has a hint of risk. Jason identifies the problem as well as side effects of that approach.

Here are the key assumptions enterprises need to make regarding their data:

  • Data takes multiple forms: e.g. Email, documents, code, tools, configurations and employee personal data
  • Each form of data might need different levels of access in terms of confidentiality and integrity: e.g. read-only, read-write for owner, write-once, privileged read-only and limited access
  • Data gets hosted at multiple locations (often beyond the firewalls of the enterprise): e.g. E-mail service provider, private data centers, private clouds, shared public clouds
  • Data gets accessed from multiple locations (often beyond the firewalls of the enterprise): e.g. desktops, laptops, phones, and to take it a step forward, TVs and car infotainment systems capable of reading your email.

Centrify‘s Tom Kemp shares his thoughts on making identity as the new perimeter. Making identity as the new perimeter has potential to provide solutions to many of the challenges arising out of the assumptions we listed above for the enterprise.

  • Identity controlled by an enterprise can be made to control access to data that takes different forms.
  • Enterprises can use single sign on (SSO) solutions that go beyond two factor authentication to provide on-demand access to data using identity as the primary factor
  • SSO solutions make it easy for the enterprises to control identity driven access consistently across multiple service providers like public clouds, internal data centers, private clouds.
  • SSO solutions, combined with device remote access/control solutions make it easy for enterprises to control the life of data persisted on nomadic devices like phones. This helps when a device is no longer tied to the same identity.

There is lot of mindshare building around managing identity and making it as a primary factor in access management. As Jason observes in his article, identity should be managed well beyond making it a two factor authentication. Context should be clubbed with identity to make more meaningful decisions for giving access to privileged information. That requires wiring several identity management and analytics products together for dynamically determining access levels.

Google already does this for its own services. If you login from a unusual location, device and application, it has the ability to enforce additional steps in determining the identity. I am really impressed (but not at all surprised) by Google’s ability to take it to not just the location and device level, but also application level. For example, Google maintains analytics data about your favorite browser on your desktop for accessing drive and if you change it, it notifies (and often counters you with additional checks, depending on context) you about that change.

I take Google’s approach as an exemplary first step in driving the identity with augmented data around context. As identity management solutions evolve, enterprises can bank on independent and collaborating solutions that determine identity. The collaboration among these solutions would be around determining the context of the user and making decisions around whether the identity can be determined unambiguously within that context. As the definition of perimeter evolves to center more around identity, these emerging trends in identity management are both welcome and necessary.

 

 

 

Driverless Cars: Moral and Legal Considerations

Driverless cars are no longer a fantasy. Despite being far from general purpose use, this technology is evolving leaps and bounds, thanks to players like Google and Tesla making steady progress on this technology. As the technology evolves and enters into public life, several legal and moral issues are going to crop up.

The recent issue of Communications of the ACM carries a nice article describing the moral challenges of driverless cars. In this thought provoking article, the author brings up scenarios that bring up ethical and moral questions. To quote from the article,

However, should an unavoidable crash situation arise, a driverless car’s method of seeing and identifying potential objects or hazards is different and less precise than the human eye-brain connection, which likely will introduce moral dilemmas with respect to how an autonomous vehicle should react …

Driverless cars have potential to fare better than humans in 90% (or better) of the times. But the other small percentage of times usually bring in more ethical and legal dilemmas where humans would fare vast better than the technologies used in driverless cars. In these situations, human drivers are usually faced with multiple choices that vary in terms of amount of impact or destruction to property or humans. The senors and algorithms used in driverless cars (as they stand for the next few years) may have limitations in identifying the course that leads to least impact or least destruction. When the system operating a driverless car takes a non-optimum decision, there could be several legal and ethical ramifications.

As discussed in the above mentioned article, handing over control to a human driver in emergency situations is far from reality, given the response times needed by a disengaged human. Even the automation around a fully engaged driver’s action is being subjected to several legal questions around responsibility. For example, this article on WSJ discusses how Tesla’s autonomous car-passing feature intends to pass on the responsibility to the driver, by making it a driver initiated (e.g. turn on the signal) automation. Given that the same action of the driver in a car with and without these autonomous features results in drastically different ramifications, states like CA, NV and FL are mandating special registrations for drivers of autonomous vehicles. The registration is based on the level of autonomous features of the vehicle.

Beyond the responsibility question that touches the legal aspects, driverless cars technology needs to continually improve upon the ethical questions that come up during an emergency situation. For example, is it okay to crash the car in the next line to avoid a bicyclist who is jumping a pedestrian signal?

Then comes the integrity question around the autonomous features. What is the possibility of these features getting tampered or outdated? Is Tesla’s Over-the-air update going to be a typical standard for automakers across the globe?

In a nutshell, the legal aspects of driverless cars can be best handled by training the drivers for those specific features. However, the ethical aspects require more maturity of the technology. Add the complexity of changes in driving rules across multiple geographic regions (states, countries) and we are going to see a lot of technology evolution in this space.

Here are a few lingering thoughts that I have regarding driverless cars. I am more anxious to find the answers sooner.

  • What happens if the road sign standards change across borders? E.g. colors and sizes of signs across states, speed limits posted in miles vs. kms across countries. We may soon see a few settings on your dashboard to let the car know (or confirm) that you are driving in New Jersey or Maine or Canada.
  • Cars may be certified to run autonomously in certain areas only. Like “This car can use the autonomous features in CA and NV only, but not in AZ.”
  • Cars would be able to identify the speed limit on a signpost and ignore a similar looking sign on a billboard next to a freeway. Do they do it by improving their sensors or depend on a networked repository (say Google Maps) of speed limits in that area.
  • Visual congestion identification and taking alternate routes. Pretty simple given the current advances in maps technology.
  • In situations where disengaged drivers don’t have awareness of circumstances that led to an accident, cars may require legally acceptable sensor information logs. In other words, the cars would have scaled down versions of blackboxes like in aircrafts.
  • What if someone hacks the “car stack”? How does one get to know? Do we get to do a periodic (smog-check like) stack-check and certification? If this looks like a fantasy, please checkout the Tesla hack and fix a couple of days ago.

And here is an extreme one:

  • If it turns out that the damages caused in an accident by an autonomous car with a disengaged driver are much higher than the damages if an engaged driver were operating the car without autonomous features, what are the insurance ramifications? Would insurance companies track maturity levels of the autonomous features and charge accordingly for insurance?

I do live in interesting times.

Availability is a fundamental requirement of Security

When people talk about security, they often picture confidentiality and integrity in their mind. However, the role of availability is equally important while defining the security. In fact, the term security is defined as a combination of confidentiality, integrity and availability by major standards and certifications.

There is a quote on a lighter tone in security community: The most secure computer may be the one that is not connected to any network. But such systems hardly play any major role in providing meaningful services to customers and consumers. The goal of a security expert is to ensure that the system (and its services) are available to all the intended users, while preserving the confidentiality and integrity of the data, system and its services.

For an end user facing service (say, a shopping site or a cloud service) to operate as expected, it requires several internal or public facing infrastructure services to operate in tandem. A shopping site might require its DNS service (public), CDN service (public) payment exchange (public) and private cloud service (internal) to function properly for delivering its online services to end customers. As the comprehensiveness of online services increase, there are more and more micro-services, infrastructure services and housekeeping services that play a major role in determining the health and availability of the overarching (end user facing) service.

As big companies increasingly  outsource their IT infrastructure to cloud service vendors (DNS, mail, compute infrastructure, to name a few), they increasingly depend on availability of each of these infrastructure components. As cloud service providers mature their infrastructure services, they become more and more alluring to small enterprises and startup companies, given the lower entry cost and least effort to scale up. In a nutshell, the availability of services outside the perimeter of a company, irrespective of its size, becomes essential element in offering secure services to the employees and customers of that company. On a side node, the definition of the perimeter of a company is fast diluting with more and more cloud service providers offering infrastructure services.

Even for companies that internally host their infrastructure services, the availability of these services is the most critical component in providing secure services to their end customers or employees.

Lack of availability of contributing components severely impacts security of an online service. Lets take a look at a simple example. When an authentication and authorization component operates at lesser availability levels, users of that component (developers, IT admins) make amends to lessen the impact of non-availability. For example, they may want to cache a few things for a longer amount of time. That makes any online service that depends on that authentication and authorization mechanism more vulnerable than a service that operates on top of a highly available authentication and authorization service. As more and more amends are made to reduce the impact of availability of internal components, the online service gets more holes in its security.

Every developer and IT engineer should work towards providing hooks for availability metrics and augmenting them with actionable operating procedures when availability gets impacted. These hooks and procedures should be fine-tuned as time goes on and as new factors influence the availability.

Every security expert should look at availability of an online service and that of its internal components as fundamental requirement for ensuring security of such service. Ample bells and whistles (in the form of monitoring and management infrastructure) should be setup to catch availability issues within an online service’s eco-system. Trends related to lesser availability of a component and service need to be detected and acted up on.

 

 

చికెను వింగ్సూ, అల్లప్పచ్చడి

అల్లప్పచ్చడి (అల్లం పచ్చడి) వాడకంలో నేను అసలు సిసలు తెలుగు వాడిని. అల్లప్పచ్చడి అంటే హోటళ్ళలొ తెల్ల చట్నీతో పాటు ఇచ్చే ఎర్ర చట్నీ అనుకునేరు. నేను చెప్పేది మామూలుగా మనం సంవత్సరానికోసారి పట్టుకునే అల్లప్పచ్చడి గురించి. ఆ గట్టి అల్లప్పచ్చడిలో కొద్దిగా మంచినీళ్ళు గానీ, పెరుగు గానీ కలిపి ఎలాంటి ఫలహారాల్లోనయినా నంజుకుని తినే విషయంలో నేను అసలు సిసలు తెలుగువాడినన్నమాట. మనలో మనమాట, ఇడ్లీల్లోనూ దోశల్లోనూ అల్లప్పచ్చడి భేషుగ్గా ఉంటుంది. పెసరట్టు ఉప్మాలో అయితే మరీ భేషుగ్గా ఉంటుంది. శ్రీకృష్ణదేవరాయల పక్కన తెనాలి రామలింగడు ఉన్నప్పటి మజానే పెసరట్టు ఉప్మా పక్కన అల్లప్పచ్చడి ఉన్నప్పుడు వస్తుందన్నది నా ప్రగాఢ విశ్వాసం.

గతవారంలో ఒకరోజు సాయంత్రం అత్యవసర పనులన్నీ చక్కబెట్టుకుని (ఆఫీసు మెయిల్సు, స్వంత మెయిల్సు, ఫేసుబుక్కూ, ట్విట్టరూ వగయిరాలు చక్కబెట్టుకుని అన్నమాట) కొంచెం ఫలహారం తినే పనిలో పడ్డాను. ఎదురుగా మాంచి పసందుగా క్రిస్పీ చికెను వింగ్సు కనిపించాయి. వాటితోపాటు నంజుకోవటానికి సహజ సిద్దమయిన బార్బీక్యూ సాసు కూడా ఉంది. కానీ తిండి విషయంలో ప్రయోగాలు చెయ్యకపోతే మనం మనమెందుకవుతాము. అటూ ఇటూ చూసి ఎదురుగా కనపడ్డ అల్లప్పచ్చడిని మనదయిన రీతిలో పలచగా (ఇంచుమించుగా బార్బీక్యూ సాసులా కనపడేలా) కలిపాను. సోఫాలో చేరగిలబడి కాళ్ళు టేబులుపై పెట్టుకుని టీవీ చూస్తూ ఫలహారానికి ఉపక్రమించాను. అల్లప్పచ్చడిలో ఒక చికెను వింగుని బాగా తిప్పి నోట్లో పెట్టుకోగానే అప్రయత్నంగా “మహాప్రభో” అనిపించింది.

ఈ “మహాప్రభో” వెనుక ఒక విషయం ఉంది. శుభసంకల్పం సినిమాలో రాయుడు పాత్ర వేసిన కళాతపస్వి విశ్వనాధ్ గారు ఒక సన్నివేశంలో దాసు (కమల హాసన్) చేసిన చేపల పులుసు రుచి గురించి చెబుతూ “మహాప్రభో” అంటాడు. ఆ సినిమా చూసినప్పటినుండీ ఏ తిండి పదార్ధం చాలా బాగున్నా నాకు మహాప్రభో అనిపిస్తుంది.

అలా మహాప్రభో అనిపింపచేసిన చికెను వింగ్సూ అల్లప్పచ్చడి కాంబినేషను ఫలహారం క్షణాల్లో ఖాళీ అయిపోయిందని వేరే చెప్పక్కర్లేదనుకుంటాను. మీకుగనక ఇలాంటి ప్రయోగాలు ఇష్టమయితే మీరు కూడా ప్రయత్నించండి.