Simplicity is the best policy

Few days ago I came across a story here. In this story, an assembly line worker suggests a simple, low-cost but highly effective solution to the problem for which engineers had developed a complex and expensive solution. Why am I referring to this story today? Because, I notice lot of people having a misconception that you need to have a complex system to solve a complex problem.

People innovate and develop solutions or machines to reduce human efforts. In other words, machines or solutions are developed to simply our day-to-day activities. By developing complex systems, most of us don’t realize that:

  • Instead of simplifying something, we have actually transferred the problem to another new system: Complex solutions give us an impression that it solves the problem completely. But in reality, it might end up creating new problems for you. This new problem could be in the form of maintenance or in the form of some hidden cost.
  • Complex solutions are often too costly: This means that only few rich people will be able to use the solution.

I am sure that most of us would have heard about interactive whiteboards (also known as smart boards). These boards are quite costly as they would cost you at least few hundred thousand rupees. Due to this high cost, lot of schools and colleges cannot enjoy the benefits of such iterative systems. Now, is there a cheaper and simpler solution to this problem?

Of course there is!!! Johnny Chung Lee, who works as a researcher at Microsoft – Applied sciences, has developed a simple systems that achieves most of the functionality provided by commercial smart boards at fraction of their cost. His project makes use of an IR pen, Nintendo Wii remote and a small software application. You can watch the following video to know how this system works:

Next time, before developing any solutions or systems, try to ask yourself a question: “Is this the only way of doing this? Can there be simple way to do it?”

I am sure you will definitely find an answer :)

Manthan is back…..

Finally, Manthan is back. Manthan is an interstate technical event held in our college and organized by Department of Computer and IT. This year, its back again as Manthan 2006, with many events renamed, with some new and exciting events and new organizing group.

Last year, it was organized under great guidance of our lecturer Miss Rina Dalvi, me, Alan Lobo as Chief organizers and Ralston Da Silva as Chief Coordinator. We started working on Manthan 2005 soon after our tour. We had got official permission to bunk lectures (not all lecture). I know it sounds exciting but soon we found that attending lectures is lot better than managing or organizing an interstate event. It was a challenge for us and we were trying our best to make it a successful event in our college.

We decided events, created logo and animations in blender 3d, designed rules for each event and also designed certificates and posters and brochures. Thanks to all the volunteers who went to different places and got sponsors for Manthan 2005. Now we had everything : event plans and timetable and money and ofcourse, participants.

Than the day arrived. We had also done what we called a ‘dress rehearsal’ to find faults present if any a day before. None of us will ever forget those two days. Everything went properly as expected. I wanted to participate in it, but couldn’t as I was a part of organizing group.

So, now I was eagerly waiting for next Manthan organized by our juniors. That doesn’t mean I didn’t participate in any competitions. I participated in other events like Avishkar (PCCE), Kalp (GEC) and Speak-out (PCCE). I wanted to participate in events organized in other states but couldn’t. Why? Well, that’s a different story.

Now finally, Manthan is back. Last time me and Alan were organizers, now we are participants. In some events we are participating as a team and against each other in some other events. We learnt a lot while organizing this event last year and it was a great experience. This is our final semester in college. We are trying to participate in every event possible.

I hope that Manthan 2006 will be more successful event than Manthan 2005 (hope that prizes will be more attractive too). Anyway, time will tell. What we can do is, prepare for every event and try our best to win.

Solving puzzles!

Solving puzzles could be an interesting hobby. Its not my hobby as such, but still I like to solve puzzles. It makes you think differently and helps you to develop certain skills that could be useful in problem solving. Maybe that is the reason why some companies ask puzzles during their interviews.

Solving puzzles teach you how to think differently. Normally in our day today life (a students life that is), we don’t need to think differently. You can easily score well just by remembering everything (definitions, examples, algorithms, programs etc) word by word. I don’t say that trying to remember everything from textbook word by word is bad. In one way it also shows how good your concentration is. But the disadvantage here is that creative thinking is not developed.

Most people blame our education system for not encouraging creative thinking among students. Well, they may be correct too. Some feel that those who score well in exams, can’t think differently. However, I know many people who do score well in their exams and still have what is known as ‘Creative Thinking’.

So, what skills should be developed? Memory skills or thinking skills? My opinion here is that both skills should be developed. Some students say that if they develop creative thinking, they won’t be able to score in exams. Well, I don’t agree. What I feel is, if you develop creative thinking, it helps you to develop good memory and vice versa. How? Many complex things could be remembers easily by imagining a weird picture of story relating to that thing. Seven layers of OSI model (Physical, Data link, Network, Transport, Session, Presentation and Application) can be remembers with a sentence ‘Please Don’t Touch Steve’s Pet Alligator’. But for this you need power to imagine weird and different things.

Though its not my hobby, I have developed interest in solving puzzles these days. Also I will be posting some puzzles on this blog. And for those who have this hobby ‘Mujhse Dosti Karoge?’.