What’s bigger than everything we know? Space!

There’s a lot of space out there in space, for us to explore. As humans, we must be fascinated about the things we do not know, rather than those we already know about. That’s relative, of course.

Curiosity has always been our greatest strength. Vaccinations or for that matter, air travel, would not have been possible without curious minds. Talking about vaccinations, have we found a way around HIV/AIDS yet? No! Then why space?

I would like to quote Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) from the movie “The Matrix”, here:

“I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure.” – Credits: IMDB.

So as you see, it is in our nature to “spread”. And logic dictates that it will not be long before we exhaust every single resource on this planet. But then again, we might transition into a world sustained by renewable energy. So, the future doesn’t look so grim after all!

What do you think is the best source of energy for us? Wind? Water? It’s the Sun! A young (relatively) star bubbling with fusion energy. I’ll spare you the facts here. Now, where is the sun? 1.5 billion kilometers away, out there in SPACE!

I’ve recently read articles about astro-engineering and other stuff on similar lines, which talk about building giant structures that harvest energy from stars to sustain the ever increasing sapient population.

You might also be very familiar with movies like Armageddon, The Oblivion, Independence Day, and Transformers, to name a few. Do you think that in this massive universe, whose limits have not yet been observed, there is no possibility of another sentient population existing? The odds, the probabilities! People said there was no water on the moon. They said Mars cannot harbor life. Now, everybody knows there’s water on Moon, and also the water on Earth and the Moon share a common ancestry (If you do not know, you might want to do some catching up a.k.a googling). Curiosity, the rover, discovered possible evidence (very solid, in fact!) of water once flowing on Mars.

What do all these have to do with our paying attention to space, you may ask. You remember that “Russian meteorite explosion”? Yes. What would have happened if that bloody piece of rock hit land? What would happen if a 10 mile wide rock that wouldn’t burn up on entry in our atmosphere makes landfall? Why don’t you spend some time on this website:

http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov

I’m not being paranoid here, I’m just being realistic. One cannot rule out an invasion or an impact just as one cannot confirm them! Let’s just consider the “Near-Earth Objects” part here: Our space defense sucks. We do not have a working system in place that can can deter a potentially catastrophic impact. We can’t just rely on Jupiter to save our asses, all the time (again, google)!

Having said all this, I’d like to have a go at the benefits space exploration holds for us. Knowledge. Intel. Information. Whatever you call it, we get it. Imagine the prospects of building colonies on other planets and moons and harvesting energy and resources. Imagine the very idea of putting in place a system that fries anything that dares come near our home. We are the most intelligent beings ever known. The responsibility of the survival of this planet rests on us. As we look beyond everything that is earthly, we realize that “Space, is the final frontier”.

I’d suggest that you go out, one cloud-less night, and lie down on your rooftops or lawns and look at the sky. Stop thinking about all the things bothering you and craving for your attention. Just stop thinking, and look for a while. Tell me what you see.

Why don’t smartphone manufacturers prefer ‘Vanilla Android’?

The recent announcement of the ‘Pure Android’ Samsung Galaxy S4 during Google I/O brings to fore some of the most asked, and yet not properly answered, questions: Why don’t all the manufacturers ship the default (and of course, the latest) ‘vanilla’ Android? Why don’t they leave the software (and the updates) part to Google, sit back and relax? Why do they contribute to the ever notorious ‘Android Fragmentation’?

These questions may seem simple to be answered and almost every android enthusiast expects the manufacturers address this problem as soon as possible. I’m referring to the “fragmentation” problem here. Here’s the catch. Imagine Samsung and HTC decide to launch a new smartphone each. They choose the Snapdragon 600 SoC, a 4 inch AMOLED/LCD HD display, 3 GB of RAM and a 13 megapixel camera with a best-in-class CMOS sensor. Hardware is not a significant differentiating factor these days as is evident by the sales of Galaxy S3 and similar Nexus, LG or HTC devices. All major manufacturers have access to the best components these days (The Snapdragon SOCs, for example). Then what is the differentiating factor? Marketing? Yes, but let’s leave that for another day. Software? YES and NO!

Android is growing exponentially and it being open-source offers an unmatched degree of freedom to the manufacturers. Read what Microsoft has done to Nokia. So let’s take for granted both our companies choose Android. 4.2.2, to be precise. Now they have a top class Android phone assembled and ready to ship. They have loaded all their marketing cannons and are ready to fire. The pricing has been tight. Now, which one would you buy? Both the phones have almost exactly the same hardware, software and are from well established companies. Which one?

Now, let’s bring Sammy’s ‘Touchwiz’ and HTC’s ‘Sense’ UIs into the fray. Well o’ well, there comes a differentiating factor. I like Touchwiz while you loathe it. So you buy the HTC. Now wait! I don’t loathe HTC’s Sense (UI)! I think it is cool as well! Now what do I do? Then comes ‘UX’ into the picture. User eXperience. Sammy’s mobile got a ‘photo with audio’ feature,  a ‘multi-window’ feature and some ‘mood recognition’ technology. HTC only has the ‘Sense’ but it cannot recognize my mood! Okay, that was a bad pun. So, I buy the Samsung. It may even make you consider Samsung even though you hate the UI! There are millions of people around the world who buy phones for the UX they provide by default! We, the mighty ‘rooters’ and ‘flashers’ are outnumbered, unfortunately. And most of the business guys don’t have the time to fiddle with their phones. They want it to ‘do the thing’, whatever it maybe.

So the bottom line is, manufacturers take software seriously and think it definitely is a differentiating factor. You may not agree with me, but it is true. They love to add ‘their’ touch to it before they ship it out. They want users to feel the difference and know that the company has put in a lot of effort for them. They want to build and strengthen their brand by differentiating their product from the competition, as much as possible. Why would they let Google eat the entire cake? They want a piece too (Some are even working on their own Linux-based Operating Systems)! Having said that, Android fragmentation is really a serious problem. But one cannot expect everybody to come to a consensus about shipping vanilla Android. They’ll, however, have to find a way to address this issue. They’ll have to find a way to synchronize their development with that of Android and build infrastructure that will push the customized, latest versions of the software soon after it’s released. More on that soon, hopefully.

Till then, may the force be with you.

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