Showing posts from 2016

Time behind the wheel

Yesterday I got a notification on my phone that my car is due for service. I checked the odometer and few other bits of information available on the digital console of my car. These days the on-board computers in cars capture useful data about the vehicle. My car has done about 70,000 km in last about 42 months, and I have been the sole driver on this one. What struck me more than the kilometres run was the time I have spent behind the wheel. Following are few other bits of information captured by car's system: Distance run is 69227 km at an average speed of 38.8 km/hour. Fuel economy has been 20 km/litre. This means that during last 42 months: I have burnt 69227÷20 = 3461.35 litres of diesel and burnt about 3461.35×50 = 173067.5 Rs. (Assuming average fuel cost to be 50/litre.) on fuel cost alone. I have been sitting behind the wheel for 69227÷38.8 = 1784.20 hours of my life with my attention intensely riveted on the road looking at tar and the poetry written

TexMaker quirks on Linux

I'm noting here for myself a solution to an error which I have faced repeatedly when setting up a new machine for my work. These error messages occur when compiling the .tex files in a fresh installation of TexMaker. The error messages often go like: Error : could not start the command : latex --output-directory=build -interaction=nonstopmode ... or it could also be something like: Error : Log file not found! These errors arise despite a properly working texlive installation being available on my machine. What I have found is that for some strange reason TexMaker, when launched from a shortcut , is not able to see the latex binaries. Solution that has worked is: Launch the TexMaker from a terminal once and build a .tex file. It should work fine if latex binaries are in path. In all subsequent launches of TexMaker, regardless of whether from a shortcut or otherwise, it should be able to find the latex binaries.

About timelines and estimates in construction projects

"Managers" connected with a mega construction project for my university are targeting a timeline of less than 3 years for move-in to the facilities of about 1.5M gross square feet (gsf) area which is a large mix of buildings of engineering and science departments, offices, classrooms and housing etc. Their optimism defies the past experience on the same project where for about 0.9M gsf area of similar nature the project has taken more than 5 years, and yet the move-in date is (hopefully) one year from now. I have been sceptical about such optimistic estimates, and have been researching about the timelines and completion data about similar projects. In fact, in one of my earlier posts I tried to highlight some statistics about project failures and some of the key reasons for such slippages as observed by many project managers and organisations across the globe. Unrealistic estimates about complexity and real quantum of work is one of the major reasons for failure. Cons

Experience with two tablets

Recently I started using an iPad Pro 12.9 inch device and before that I tried using Microsoft Surface Pro 4 device (which I wouldn't call a 'tablet'; it is nothing less than an ultrabook). Some of my primary requirements from these devices were: a) mobility without sacrificing the compute power b) precise and responsive pencil/stylus for scribbling on presentations and annotating other documents. Particularly for Surface, I was looking at it as a replacement for my ultrabook which ran Ubuntu in dual boot with Windows 8. Surface is a great device for running Windows. However, running Ubuntu native is not as good on Surface. The deal-breaker for me was its Type Cover keyboard and unpredictable WiFi. Since I was not able to use Ubuntu on Surface properly, and just for the mobility part Surface Pro 4 was an overkill, so I decided to exchange the device with an iPad Pro 12.9. So far the iPad has been serving me well. However, here too I think the Smart Keyboard that Apple sup

Notes about slippages in institute infrastructure building project

Analysis of past projects data by various leading research organisations reveal that in general less than 35% projects are able to meet their stated goals [1 - 5]. For instance, data from Standish CHAOS reports (see table below) indicated that less than 30% projects are delivered with required features, on time and on budget. Apparently, failures and underperformance is quite common in large projects.  (Image source: InfoQ -- Standish Chaos Report 2015 ) The project for developing a new campus of my university was no different -- it also faced significant challenges. Extremely slow progress of this project, among other repercussions, lead MHRD to bring a change in leadership at the university last year. After the leadership change several necessary steps were taken by us so as to bring the project on track and streamline how things were managed in the project. Let me also mention that the new leadership inherited (in May 2015) a very very difficult scenario to hand

Cost of planning failure in mega projects

Recently the Union Cabinet, Govt. of India has approved a revised cost estimate  (see Table-1 below) for all eight new IITs which were setup in the academic years 2008-2009. Originally projected/planned cost of setting up these 8 institutes of national importance was Rs. 6080 Cr. It was expected that these institutes would be fully functional from their respective independent campuses within about five years from starting. None of these newly setup eight IITs has been able to meet the originally planned cost and timelines for setting up needed infrastructure and start operating from the new campuses. Almost eight years into their inception, there are still some who are yet to move to their new campuses. Meanwhile, the cost of completing the work has risen by Rs. 7910 Cr to Rs. 13990 Cr as you can see from MHRD's press release ! One could have done a lot of public good with this amount of taxpayer's money . Table-1 (Revised estimated cost of IITs setup in 2008-09)  Sou

Educating citizens about healthcare to reduce spending on healthcare services

Implications of such rising healthcare costs are serious for families who bear entire costs of healthcare from their own pocket. According to a WHO report , in India citizens pay more than 80% of their healthcare costs "out-of-pocket". In a country like ours where most of the population do not have any safety net for covering their emergency healthcare expenditures, large payouts on such situations affects other aspects of citizens' lives, often driving them into huge debts. Particularly, the number of visits to emergency healthcare providers has increased worldwide over the past several years (see Fig. 1). Fig. 1 (source In fact, very recently few of my own close relatives have ended up incurring big expenses for handling medical emergencies. In one of these cases the situation, I believe, could have been avoided had my relatives been more diligent and more aware about managing their healthcare issues. I know several su

University infrastructure building | Some experiences part 1

For past more than one year I have been associated with my university's infrastructure building project. Over that period I have got opportunities to observe and interact with variety of agencies both private and government run. My university is funded by MHRD . Almost all the work that has been carried out for us has been through CPWD .  Though the following may be quite "common-sense" kind of points, sometimes we pay the price of having overlooked them in our planning and execution. These points are mainly concerning physical infrastructure creation. About project initiation There is no "standard template" which you can use to start a greenfield project for creating infrastructure of a university. I believe that each university/institution has a character unique to itself and also has a unique vision based on its strengths which at the beginning might be few in number. That said, from planning and implementation standpoint, there will always be some

About corrupted partition table and data recovery

Recently I ended up corrupting the partition table of one of the external USB disks that I have. This happened when I was creating a backup image of a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 device running Windows 10. I was trying to make the Surface device dual-boot with Ubuntu. My external USB disk (WD Passport 2.5'', USB 3.0, 500GB) which I was using for putting the backup image on had three partitions: one encrypted ext4, two regular NTFS partitions. When creating the backup image of surface from within Windows 10, I selected one of the NTFS volumes of my external USB disk as destination. The backup image was created. However, my other partitions of the USB disk vanished - only the newly created backup partition would show up and rest of the disk would show as "unallocated space". It was obvious that the backup image creation tool in Windows 10 had messed up the partition table of my USB disk. I had not expected this to happen. Needless to say, I was nervous about losing all th

Role of space management policies in campus planning

Suppose you are to plan for the building infrastructure of a university. It is likely that you may be given something like the following as broad inputs to start the planning: We are going to have so and so five engineering departments each running UG and PG programs with total students population of 5000.  Main "business" of the university will be to impart teaching instructions and conduct research/consultancy projects. As such, facilities needs to be created to accommodate these needs.  University is a residential one, i.e., students and staff live on campus. As part of this exercise you are expected to determine what buildings should be created and of what dimensions and specs. You will be required to work out the detailed specs/requirements which will go as inputs to the architecture consultants working for you. The architects will then produce some master plan and further fine grained blueprints of the buildings to be constructed. In this entire exercis