05 Jun

Remembering M Henri Day & Google Apps forum

Blog post dedicated to my friend M Henri Day from Stockholm, Sweden. Today I learnt that he’s no more and passed away in the first week of December last year. He one of my few good friends from college days. We both were so called “power posters or top contributors” as Google named us in their different forums. I was one of top contributors in Google Apps (Gsuite / Google Workplace) and he was …..well to be honest I don’t even recall that now after 11 years about which specific Google product he was active on. I think it was Google bookmarks, Picasa and few other things. We were super active in those forums for no specific reason but because it was just fun helping people around. Plus that was the time I learnt how DNS works and was very excited to talk about it with everyone. I was out of school and didn’t perform well & got into a college which was ok. To be true college was less fun and life in Radaur was harsh but somehow I developed the taste of the life there. I documented part of that life in some old posts here and here.

So in a way these groups were a good exit from harsh life back then. It become more fun in 2011 when Google announced Top Contributor summit & invited top contributors from all these forums to their HQ in Mountain View. That was fun and must say a trip I still remember in great detail. We had a direct channel with Google on testing products, passing feedback etc. Henri did not travel there as he was old plus he travelled very extensively before 1990s. He once told how he travelled from Iran, Pakistan and entered India by foot decades ago. So I missed opportunity of meeting him there. As time proceeded, I got opportunities first as consultant on projects here & there and later as full time job. Things moved on. While both of us were less active on the forums after that, we stayed in regular touch.

Henri was a retired psychiatrist and was great at discussing things. We communicated often via Gtalk/Gmail chat / Google hangouts and emails running via 2G tethering from my cell phone back then (his end was Bahnhof running on Stokab fiber on 250Mbps! 🙂 ). I would often tell him about challenges at college, excitement of possible developments in terms of internships, projects & jobs and he used to encourage me in trying various things. His help was immense by keeping up the excitement levels around the “possibilities” at that time. In hindsight now I think that is what is most one needs when at smaller college with low exposure to the world and a overall sad ecosystem. Once in a class in first semester a lecturer told us on how he went to Bangalore in hope of job, couldn’t get it and was “kicked back”. I remember asking Henri “If he cannot get a job, what’s the point of me being here” and his long reply explaining “who knows what the hell lecturer did and if he actually was at right place or not“. The variety of our discussion was endless.

He would often mention about challenges he was having with Linux as he used to promote Linux on low end re-cycled desktops for old age people around Stockholm. As time proceeded, so did our discussions. He was getting old, I was getting busy with my job. I recently sent him multiple emails and chat messages. After not hearing back, today I called his landline number & his partner told that he passed away. It feels bad and a huge loss of a great friend who helped a lot. I hope he rests in peace. 🙁

28 Jul

Travel and some thoughts on expenses

Over the last few years, I have been travelling quite a bit as part of my job at Hurricane Electric. One of the discussions which come up regularly is “When did you arrive?” or “Where are you staying?” or “How many connections you had in your flight?” and whenever I answer such questions to my friends, I get a surprising look. I personally never understand the surprise about it but somehow it comes so often that I decided to blog and document my reply here so I can pass the link next time instead of explaining. 🙂

So typically for flights, I take whatever is cheaper and I just go for cheaper with a certain minor exception like avoid using Air India. Even if the flight has one or two connections, I do not go for direct flight unless the difference is less than 2000 INR / $30. This strategy works fine almost all the time. Sometimes flight can be rather quite long like e.g earlier this year I attended NANOG in San Francisco and from there went to Daejeon, South Korea for APRICOT 2019 and this route was via Hong Kong just because it was cheaper that way even though geographically, not the “best path”. A direct flight in such case was more than $200 additional and I just can’t justify that cost.

One argument which often comes for flying direct, expensive is to “save time” and I don’t get it. For super busy people it might make sense who don’t have enough time to fit it meetings in their busy schedule and try best to squeeze time. I have respect for those people with genuine-time concern but that is the case for a very small % of people, at least not for me. Mr Narayan Murthy (founder of Infosys) who has a net worth of $2.4 billion flies in economy class (source here). Plus the extra time one travels is not exactly all “wasted time”. I often just catch up on emails when travelling, catch up on various reading material, catch up some of the amazing talks from various NOGs (which I keep offline) etc.

Next, for hotels – I usually stay in “decent” hotels in the developing the world and hostels/Airbnb/cheap hotels in the developed world. Most of the conferences in our industry often happen in big, fancy hotels where a night stay would be $150-$200 or usually more. Again, one “saves” time by staying in a conference hotel but for 70% of my travel, I am able to get a hotel within 300-400m of walkable distance for 20% – 25% of the price of an expensive hotel.

Plus cheap hotels have their own advantages like:

  1. Less boring stay compared to fancy hotels. In fact, hostels are actually more fun.
  2. Usually would have a Wifi WPA2-PSK password with no irritating captive portal. Wifi just works and no capping!
  3. One can find kitchen area/microwave etc to make ready-to-eat food which becomes important for me as a vegetarian.

In Hong Kong, I mostly stay at the hostel which is quite good. In South Asian countries the culture of the hostel isn’t very well developed and for that reason I avoid them.

So why I do “business travel” on low-cost? I have never been specifically told to do that but I strongly prefer that for three reasons:

Reason 1 – Old discussion with a friend…

When I was spending time at Zoho as an intern in 2010, I got a chance to share the apartment with Rodrigo Vaca who used to be the director of marketing at Zoho back then and was visiting India. Once during the dinner, I asked him on how he’s able to leave Google’s job with all the fun of Google plex for a job at Zoho which was relatively small back then.
He gave a wonderful reply – “There are few things in life which matter and few things which do not matter. They may look cool and attractive but do not matter in the long term”.

Reason 2 – You are too young to become a dinosaur

Another thing which struck me over time was from the movie “Up in the air” where when George Clooney is told by his boss – “Blame the high fuel cost, insurance premiums, blame technology. Watch yourself – “You are too young to become a dinosaur“. I always fear that. I have seen a number of good people turning into dinosaurs over time that I am honestly scared of that path. I want to make sure I add maximum possible value from my work to my employer as well as our community.

Reason 3 – It’s my money

I treat my employer’s money as my own money and do the exact same due diligence when spending it as I would do to my personal expenses. A large part of luxury travel many times comes because of the fact that we treat employer’s money as “company’s money” and don’t care about it. I personally do not follow that.

So that’s all about why travel for a low cost. 🙂

Obvious disclaimer: Purely writing this my personal capacity and going to pass this link next time instead of a long reply!

18 May

Joining the board of E2E

This week I worked on the paperwork to get on the board of E2E Networks Ltd as one of the Independent Director. It was quite an interesting process as this is the first time I am joining the board of directors of an organisation.

About E2E

Not to be confused by the “Networks” in the name, E2E is in the business of selling high powered, low cost compute (Virtual machines) hosted in India targeted towards Indian organisations. It’s one of the very few organisations of its kind which is listed at the National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) since 15th May 2018. E2E was started by Tarun Dua and Mohammed Imran. I know Tarun since a really long time (if I remember correctly, probably since 2010). It has been good to see the organisation grow from a very small team to where it stands now. While AWS, Azure and now Google Cloud are helping to grow the market of Cloud Computing, there’s still a gap of providers who can offer much more competitive pricing for the monster machines for lesser overbuild which large cloud providers do.

Quick links about E2E

  • List of other board members here
  • List of E2E’s team members here
  • E2E has its own ASN but relies on Netmagic’s AS17439 for originating pools. HE’s BGP toolkit for E2E’s prefixes here
  • News on listing here

Thoughts on DSC, DIN and OS X!

Director of an organisation (private or listed) have to maintain a DIN i.e Director Identification Number in India. Now to get a DIN, one needs a DSC which is Digital Signing Certificate. DSC uses RSA keys and Government of India has recognised around 9 Certifying authorities for it (listed here). So one gets key loaded in a physical device. As soon as you have a physical device in the picture and Mac OS X cannot recognise it, it’s a problem. Most of the driver packages offered by the vendors are unsigned and I personally don’t like installing those packages on the base machine I use. Besides those drivers, one also needs the emsigner package to associated DSC with DIN which again happens to be another package to make the whole stack work.
Thus to make it all work securely, I ended up in putting a Windows VM on Virtualbox locally, thus in an isolated instance for such tasks only.

My involvement…

I will be on the board to contribute as an independent director. It’s a non-executive role and thus I won’t have any involvement in the day to day things but just macro level picture of the things and involvement in board meetings. I continue with my full-time job at Hurricane Electric. It would be great to learn corporate governance by looking at how things work at the board of a company.

Well, so that’s all for now. Time to get back to work! 🙂