iRead, iLearn, iWrite. Hence, iBlog.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Submit blogs and sites to multiple Web directories and bookmarking sites for free

Submitting your blog/ site to web directories and social bookmarking sites is generally a good way of attracting interested people to your blog. You also get backlinks to your blog, that would play a role in increasing your pagerank. However, signing up at each and every directory and bookmarking site before you can submit your blog can be a boring and tedious process. I recently found this site that does away with the task of signing up with each directory before submission – all for Free.

20080727submitterbot01

Submitterbot is an online service that allow you to submit your sites/blogs to multiple Web directories and Social bookmarking sites without having to sign up on each and every one of them. It claims to be able to submit to more than 400 directories and an equally large number of bookmarking site.

The site has got a clean, uncluttered layout – a definite good first impression. Signing up was simple. You have to put in some relevant information about your site. Once done, you can start submitting your site to the different directories it supports. All you have to do is select the relevant category under which you want it submitted and, if asked, fill up the captcha. Once done, it will open the page to the next directory your blog can be submitted to. Submitting your site to bookmarking sites is done the same way. You submit articles to multiple article directories in a similar manner. Multiple sites can be submitted  through it, though at a given time you can submit only one site.

I normally wouldn’t have bothered submitting my blog to directories and bookmarking sites. But the sheer ease with which one can do so prompted me to sign up with the service. Submitting to each directory/ bookmarking site took no more than a couple of seconds. I must add, though, that the directories and bookmarking sites it submits to are all relatively new and quite unknown [to me at least]. But hey! it is quick and more importantly it is Free! [though it does some paid features, something that I couldn’t be bothered with]. It is a win-win situation for you [it is wise, however, to use an email id that that you do not use for important correspondences].

I Googled [not very hard ;)] for similar services and found that most of them are either paid or submit to a relatively less sites.

Your site being approved for listing on the respective directories is subject to approval of the directory owners you are submitting to [something that I just learned he he!!].

Submitterbot, in my opinion, is  a very useful service they have developed and could be used to good use by those wanting to increase their sites visibility. Give it a try – you might benefit from it.

Godspeed


Friday, July 11, 2008

How to use a custom domain name with Tumblr?

I recently started Tumblogging. Quite enjoy it too. I use it to share interesting News that I come across while going through the RSS feeds/ Google Alerts I have subscribed to. Tumblr is a relatively new blogging platform that has combined in its service aspects of micro-* along with the traditional blogging in a seamless manner. It also allows the user a high degree of customization of his/her blog. One of them is the ability to use your own custom domain name with your blog - Free of cost, quite like Blogger.

In order to use out very own custom domain name with our Tumblr blog, we would be using 3 free services.

1.) CO.CC [Domain registrar/ custom domain name provider]

2.) EveryDNS [Nameserver providers]

3.) Tumblr [Blogging service]

 

1.) CO.CC [Domain registrar/ custom domain name provider]

co.cc is one of the two free domain name registrars that allows the use of DNS for your domain name. The other such service that allows the use of DNS is uni.cc [example.uni.cc]. But IMO co.cc sounds better and most importantly sounds quite like a paid domain name too ;). So your custom domain name will read example.co.cc, where you replace example with the name of your choice.

Register yourself for an account with co.cc. Once registered, on its home page, type in the your desired domain name in the box provided.

co.cc domain name

If it is available [and for Free], you will be greeted with a message that looks like this.

20080711tumblr04

Click on continue to registration. It will then ask you to setup the domain within 48 hours.

registered domain

Click on the Set up button. In the page that opens up, select the first option – Manage DNS. Add the following information the space provided for Name Server [will be discussed later]

ns1.everydns.net

ns2.everydns.net

ns3.everydns.net

ns4.everydns.net

co.cc Name Servers

Click on the link [+ Add more name Servers] if enough boxes are not provided to enter all the Name Servers shown. Then click on the Set up button, which will take you to the page telling you that your change have been submitted – click on OK. You may now log out of your co.cc account; your work here is over.

You could use any domain name – paid or free.

2.) EveryDNS [Name Server provider]

We will be using the free Name Servers provided by EveryDNS for our blog. Register yourself with EveryDNS for an account. Once registered, log into your account. On the left, you shall see a section marked Webhop Domains. Type in the domain name you had registered with co.cc earlier and click on the button marked >>(basic).

20080711tumblr06

Once done that domain name will now appear on the left column in the section marked Primary Domains.

EveryDNS domain

Clicking on it will open up a page showing you dummy entries for that domain – one A-record and one CNAME entry. Delete the A-record entry from there. Then got down to the section marked Add a record and enter the 2 A-records as shown. Click the Add Record button after each addition.

(click on the image to see a larger image)

 A-records

Once the record is successfully added, delete the CNAME record entry. Your records in EveryDNS control panel will look like this.

EveryDNS records

Delete any records other than these two. Your work in EveryDNS is over, you may now safely log out of the account.

 3.) Tumblr [Blogging service]

Signing up for Tumblr is a quickie quickie no-brainer – just do it. The first time you login, you will be given a guided tour of sorts.

Tumblr customize

On the dashboard, click on the customize link. The page will automatically open up in the desired tab. Check the box and type in the registered domain name.

Tumblr domain name  

Once done, click on the Save changes box and log off. Wait for 48 hours [safe estimate] and you will find your Tumblr blog accessible with your own custom domain name.

Your Tumblog alongside your existing blog/site.

If you wish to maintain your existing site/blog along with your tumblog, then you could create a sub-domain pointing to your tumblog. This blog also has a tumblog as a subdomain – tumblr.shubhspace.co.cc. Choose any word that you wish – I chose tumblr. Go to your Tumblr control panel and in the very same place mentioned earlier type the appropriate subdomain.

20080711tumblr11

In your EveryDNS control panel [assuming you using EveryDNS ;)], add an A-record pointing the subdomain to Tumblr.

Tumblr A-record

Once successfully added your Tumblr blog will now be accessible with the address which is a subdomain of our existing blog.

Happy tumblogging!!

Godspeed


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Update and backup your drivers with DriverMax

Just finished formatting and re-installing on my Windows partition. Of all the steps involved, installing the device drivers usually  takes the longest, not least because each of them need to be installed one by one, meaning multiple mouse clicks and is accompanied by a need to restart the computer after each driver installation [restart every time can be avoided, but it is preferable]. Not quite the case since the last couple of installs though ;).

Drivermax

Using DriverMax, you can back up all the drivers from your previous installation and install them all together in your new Windows install with a single click and needing just a single re-start.

Once installed, it also searches for updates for your installed drivers and informs you when available, thus helping you keep your installed drivers up-to-date. You can use it to generate a detailed report identifying each and every hardware present in your computer. This can then be shared with friends or your tech support guy. Very useful in case your computer starts acting up and you need someone to help you fix it without much trouble.

Best of all it is a freeware, though it requires you to register on their website for free before you can start using this useful windows-based software.

Godspeed


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Windows Live Writer supports Windows Server OS and 64-bit OS

Windows Live Writer Technical preview Windows Live Writer (WLW)  has finally started supporting the Server variants of the Windows Operating Systems – Windows Server 2003 and 2008 and also its 64-bit versions of the Operating Systems. The latest Technical preview of WLW installs out of the box in both these variants of Operating Systems. So no need to go about installing it the old way.

The noticeable difference this time is that the technical preview was released as a *.msi file as opposed to the *.exe file they have been releasing so far. It means easy mass deployments of the software and creating unattended installations.

Having said this, what needs to be seen is how will WLW be updated on these OSes. Till now it has been updated through Windows Live installer – a software that is still does not support the above mentioned OSes. So does it mean the WLW’s updates will now be provided with Automatic Updates or is it that just the Technical preview is being made available to these OSes incompatible with Windows Live Installer while the final product will not. Hoping that it is the former.

Thanks Tony for informing me of this.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Muxtape.com : phun music thingy

20080622muxtape01 Okay....since the service's USP is its simplistic minimalism, this post too will be a quickie - the broom closet kind ;).

Remember the days of yore when you painstakingly created tapes containing all your favorite songs in a single tape. Those tapes, to create which, you raided, scrounged all around to find that one song which transported you to a magical world every time you heard it and had to have in your collection. The tapes which you guarded more zealously than a Bedouin guarding his water. Well tapes are no more and so is the need to hunt heaven and earth to find the songs, what with Google becoming a verb and a given part of our lives.

But the sheer joy and fun of creating mixtapes can now be re-created on the Internet with the help of Muxtapes. Muxtape.com is a free online service that was launched a few months back to do just that - create digital mixtapes.

Simplicity is its USP and it starts right from registration - a quickie signup procedure and you are on your way to creating mixtapes muxtapes. You are allowed to upload 12 songs in each muxtape, around the number of songs that would fit in a tape and can create only 1 muxtape per account, though you can edit your compilation to include other songs. A sore point - I was unable to remove a song I had accidentally added till I had added all the 12 allowable songs. Once done, you can shared the URL with everyone to hear your compilation. The page listing your play list is a plain, uncomplicated white page, where you click on the name of the song to play it [flash needed]. It has also been RSS-ified so that anybody who liked your mux can subscribe to it for any future changes you make to the muxtape. The homepage randomly lists out muxes created by other members which you can listen to and if you like it, add them to your favorite. You can add up to 12 muxes in your favorite list. Each song in the muxtape has a Buy this MP3 link by its side, clicking on which will take you to the corresponding page on Amazon.

Though other online playlist services are available, which can be used for uploading larger number of songs and offers more features, think of Muxtapes as that One mixtape containing your all-time favorite collection of songs, or as someone pointed out, your favoritest songs - it has to be kept separate from your general collection of tapes.

It is a great service for all upcoming, unsigned bands to upload their demos and pass the word around about it. The plain, stark interface of this site might actually help them more instead of the garish, ugly pages they've set up on that Social Networking site.

On a side note, I realized that Muxtape is one among the new wave of micro* services being launched - services where you provide quick, sharp, focused content in miniscule quantity - an attribute that fits this site perfectly. In keeping with the spirit of micro, their blog too is hosted on Tumblr, as opposed to your traditional blogging platforms. Besides the mandatory announcements, it also lists out interesting muxes uploaded by members and interesting things that people are doing with their service.

I am currently in the process of compiling my muxtape - pretty much none of my songs have either been tagged or properly renamed in a long long time and so hunting for that song is turning out to be a b1tch.

Here is Mike Shinoda's muxtape - if you are a fan of hip-hop, then you would enjoy it. If you created a muxtape of your own, do share it here; would love to hear it :-)

Do drop in a comment with your views, suggestions and criticisms; would love to hear from you.

Godspeed

Sheeshh!! will I never be able to write a small post


Friday, June 20, 2008

Thursday, June 19, 2008

MozBackup : Create backup of your Mozilla-based software [Firefox, Thunderbird, Flock etc]

20080619mozbackup01

MozBackup is a useful Windows-based freeware tool that can be used for backing up the settings and add-ons installed in Firefox, Thunderbird, Flock etc with just a few mouse clicks. It currently supports backing up of Firefox, Thunderbird, Sunbird, Flock, SeaMonkey, Mozilla suite, Spicebird and Netscape settings and profiles.

On being launched it automatically detects the presence of all the supporting softwares and lists it for you to select. On selecting the software, you can either choose to backup a profile or even restore a previously backed profile. If you have multiple profiles, then you can select the profiles to backup and also what components of the profile to backup. I used it to backup my settings in Firefox and Thunderbird and it worked like a charm. All my addons, settings RSS feeds, accounts were backed up and was perfectly restored when I did so on my newly installed Operating System. I use IMAP in Thunderbird and faced no problems in restoration. However a friend, who uses POP3 said that his mails weren't restored automatically in the new install, even though he had selected that component to be backed up. Looks like the latest version MozBackup does have issues with restoring backed up POP3 mails.

You can also automate the backing up process by creating a scheduled task for it.

An important point is that you can restore the profiles in the same version you have backed up from. Trying to restore profiles in a version higher than that from which you backed up from may not work [did not work for me].

If POP3 mails not restored

If you do face such a problem then you could rename the *.pcv extension of the backup file to *.zip and extract the content to a suitable location. Then locating the mail folder, open it and copy all the folders inside it.

 backup mail folder

 

Then go to the location where the new installation of thunderbird has created the same folder - mail and replace its content with the backed up content.

20080619mozbackup03

 

Voila!!! all your POP3 mails have also been restored now. There you go - all settings and mails restored.

Try it out and send your feeback to the developer so that it can be improved upon.

Do drop me a line giving me feedbacks, brickbats wombats and anything else that could help improve my blog - would love to hear from you :-).

Godspeed.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Gmail Labs: New features for your Gmail / Google Apps account

While tinkering with my Gmail account I found a new link in the Settings section - Labs. Clicking on it revealed a host of new features (12) including a Game that the Google guys had introduced in Gmail/ Google Apps account. They are deactivated by default and you need to activate them to use these features.

These features are currently experimental and released as part of Gmail Labs that they launched last week.

The 12 features currently part of Labs are

1. Quick links

Gmail Lab Quick Link You can include links to commonly accessed features and bookmarks here for easy access

 

2. Superstars

Superstars Mails can be tagged with different colored star icons according to their importance or categories for easy visual reference. Google has provided 12 icons of different colours to tag your mails with [12 features, 12 stars????] . A useful feature IMO.

 

 

 3. Picture in chat

20080617gmaillab03 Enabling this features will show you the pictures of anybody with whom you are chatting with them on Gtalk, provided they've uploaded a picture themselves [duhh!!]. Not too sure about its usefulness.

4. Fixed width font

Fixed width font Allows you to view the message in Fixed width font. Useful if viewing ASCII arts and such.

 

5. Mouse Gestures

Mouse gestures Invokes mouse gestures to perform tasks like moving through messages and going back to inbox. The perfect tool encouraging laziness, IMO. Will definitely find it useful.

6. Signature Tweak

Signature tweak Again a useful feature that allows you to place your digital signature above the quoted text to which you are replying.

7.Random signature

Random signature It will take the feed from a quotes website and included it as a digital signature for your messages. By default, if enabled, it would receive feeds from brainyquote.com and use it as your signature. A fun feature to have, though no useful purpose served.

8. Custom date format

Custom date time You can choose the format in which the dates are shown in the messages received. Convenient feature to have.

9. Muzzle (????)

Muzzle Will hide your friends status indicator in Gtalk. Save screen space.

10. Old snakey

Old snakey They have included the all time classic game Snake. You need to enable mouse gestures to play this. Fun thing to include.

 

 

11. Email addict

Email addict In my opinion, the most innovative feature. When enabled, it will show a link on the top right corner of your screen - Take a break. Clicking on it will make the window inactive, thereby preventing you from using your email account in any way for 15 minutes

12. Hide unread counts

Hide unread counts Will hide the number telling how many unread message you got in the inbox. Probably a space saving move, not sure about its utility.

 

 

For some reason I was able to get the Labs option only when my account was opened in Firefox. Opera and Internet Explorer did not show me this option for some unfathomable reasons. Labs is currently available only for users who have selected the English version.

As these features are currently experimental, there are chances of they withdrawing some/all features. They have even provided a undo link on the Labs page itself incase you are unable to.

http://mail.google.com/mail/?labs=0

Clicking on this link would disable Labs in your account.  Note it down. Try them out and send them feedbacks if you got any.

Godspeed


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Blogger Backup utility: Create offline backup copy of your Blogspot-hosted blog

20080617bloggerbackup01 Blogger Backup Utility is a nifty tool that I have started using to create and offline backup copies of this blog hosted on Blogspot on to my hard disk. Although I had created a backup earlier the old way, I found it extremely cumbersome to say the least. Using this tool, creating backup of your blog can be achieved with just a few mouse clicks.

The software automatically detects all your blog - just enter your Google username and password and it will retrieve the list of blogs in the account.

(Click on the image to view a larger sized image)

20080617bloggerbackup02

Once done, from the Available blogs section, select the blog whose backup you wish to take. You can even choose to take a backup copy of the comments in the posts. The backup can be saved either as a single file containing all the posts or discrete files for each post made on the blog. Once done, clicking on the Backup posts button will start saving the posts in its specified location. The backups are saved as *.xml files, meaning it is essentially backing up using the the feeds of your blog. You may also perform incremental backup of your blog by choosing to backup only those posts/comments made after a certain date; you can specify the date from when to back up.

The software does not backup any images I may add to the posts. But that is not a problem as such. Any image I use in my blog is automatically uploaded by Blogspot into a Picasa Web album folder [FTP publishing of images to a different host is a different thing and not being considered here]. The whole album folder can be easily downloaded on to your hard disk using Picasa, thus creating a backup of your images too.

The software can also be used to restore any backed up post that you may have deleted from your blog account online. However it still does not allow you to restore comments of the deleted posts.

Please note that for this software to work, you must have feeds for your blog enabled and must set it to full Feed.

Enable Feed for your Blog

To do so, click on the Settings link on your dashboard. Then click on the Site Feed link and select the Full option in the Allow Blog Feeds section.

Enable full Feed

Thus this software simplifies backing up your Blogspot-hosted blog [like mine] to mere mouse clicks. The software is currently in Beta version and it is expected that future versions will have more features like downloading images, saving posts in PDF format etc

You can also create online backups of your blog by automatically emailing the posts to a email address of your choice. You can use up to 10 email ids for this.

Do let me know if you have any queries, criticisms or suggestions.

Godspeed.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Write and edit any PDF files for free

Writing on to any PDF file is not possible unless the original file creator allows writing on it (forms and such stuff). However, there are various software's available that allow you to do write on them even without the permission. Unfortunately all Windows-based software's are being sold commercially and not available for free use. I often have to write in PDF files and I refuse to pay anything to do so.

Foxit Reader is PDF reader whose reader feature is available for free use, ie, you can read any PDF files using Foxit for free. It also has a editor feature in the software itself called Typewriter. However for unrestricted use of the software you need to purchase a license from the developers. If you try to edit and save a PDF file using the free version, it will add an ugly watermark to the saved document.

However even the free version allows you to take a printout of the modified document without any watermarks added in it as long as you don't save the changes.

PDF reDirect [free version] is a software that is used to create PDF files from any document whose printout can be taken. Once installed, PDF reDirect appears as a virtual printer in your list of installed printers.

So next time you make any changes to the PDF file using Foxit Reader, instead of saving it, take a printout of it selecting PDF reDirect as the printer from the list. Foxit is foxed into thinking that you are taking a printout on a sheet of paper and so does not add any watermark, whereas you are creating a brand new PDF file with all the changes and editing you did using Foxit.

In fact you can use all of Foxit Reader's paid features in the free version in this way - just create a new PDF file containing the changes made in Foxit.

If you are using Linux, you may try out PDFedit for the same.

If you wish to rearrange the pages or delete pages in a PDf file, then you may try out a free online service - PDF Hammer to do so.

Do let me know if you have any doubts, queries, suggestions or criticisms about this post.

Godspeed


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Update : Make site accessible without the www

When I had posted about making your site accessible without the www, I had added an A-record pointing my domain name shubhspace.co.cc to a host that allows 301 re-directs. I had added the A-record in my EveryDNS account by using the IP address I had been assigned by axspace - 66.49.222.169. This IP address points to their server my site had been assigned for hosting. Since a hosting service provider is expected to have multiple servers for this purpose, one is likely to be assigned to a different server, meaning, a different IP address when you sign up. So when you follow the method that I had listed out, it is expected that you use the appropriate IP address; that you have been allotted, when you add the A-record entry. Unless you do so and instead add a different A-record [which also belongs to axspace], you shall be greeted with a message that would say



Great Success !
Apache is working on your cPanel® and WHM™ Server......


The exact meaning of this message is not relevant, but if you get this message when you follow my instructions, it means only 1 thing - you screwed up!!


So find out the correct IP address and make the change accordingly.


How to find out what IP address your site has been allotted?


1.) E-mail sent by them


This is the easiest way to know your IP address. After registering with their site, you would have received a mail with the subject line : Axspace.com Account Information. The IP address can be found here immediately after the statement ’Your new account information is:’.


The information IP Address: xx.xx.xxx.xxx (shared) is what you should look for.


2.) cPanel account interface


If you have deleted that mail [bad idea], then you may also find out your assigned shared IP address by logging into your cPanel account interface and look at the left column. Here you will find the IP address information under the section Shared Ip Address.


Shared IP Address


Note it down and then go to your EveryDNS account and make the necessary changes to your A-record for this site.


For the sake of record, you may also get to know your IP address while logging in [if you haven’t installed their security certificate]. If you are using Firefox, you will be shown a window similar to this.


20080601makepostsaccessible02


You can also check it out if you have logged out and don’t want to log back in to see your IP address. It is shown in the address bar.


20080601makepostsaccessible03


Now that you have seen all the ways of knowing your assigned IP address, there should be no more problems.


Monday, May 19, 2008

A beautiful quote


I believe in love at first sight. Because I loved my mother ever since I opened my eyes.


- Anonymous


I just read it in yesterdays Newspaper and thought of sharing it with you all. Beautiful.


Rule 49-O: Vote for NO ONE!! (India)

Rule 49 OI am a member of a Tech-oriented discussion forum, whose members have clear and quite often strong opinion about issues. So naturally when the Supreme Court upheld the Indian Government’s decision to introduce 27% reservation for members of the Other Backward Class (OBC) category in Educational Institutions, with riders, it was natural that a heated discussion would ensue on this issue. During the course of the discussion, quite naturally, members started bemoaning about the absence of a deserving, credible candidates who could be voted to the Parliament and how we were being forced to elect the best among the worst who later go on to mess things up at a National level. If only we had a say in the kind of candidates being nominated to contest the election by their respective parties, things would have been so much better. Well believe it or not, you actually can!


I had first read about the Rule 49(O) some months [years??] back while going through an issue of JAM.


Rule 49O of the THE CONDUCT OF ELECTIONS RULES, 1961 states that,



49-O. Elector deciding not to vote.-If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark.


Rule 49 O has also been mentioned on the Election Commission of India’s website.


This means that you go to your polling station, sign on the relevant documents that state you had visited your polling station for exercising your right to franchise and then vote for no one. This might appear strange - the act of going to the polling station and then voting for no one. One may argue that if you are not planning to vote anyone to power, why waste a perfectly fine holiday (on the day of polling, a public holiday is declared by the government in the region to enable people to caste their votes) to visit the polling station at all.


Haaaah! here lies the beauty of this Rule. Unlike not turning up to cast your vote, where some candidate will invariably win, even if (s)he gets 1 vote, by exercising your right to invoke Rule 49O, you can actually reject all the contesting candidates. For this to happen, the number of voters invoking Rule 49-O must exceed the number of votes cast. Once rejected, they can not be re-nominated by their parties to contest the by-elections (re-election) that would be held in that region. Thus the political parties will have to nominate new candidates to contest election in that region and for the fear of being rejected again, they might decide to give the party ticket to a genuine, credible candidate this time around.


How does one do it?


In the earlier setup, where votes were cast into ballot boxes, it was extremely simple to do it. All one had to do was take the ballot paper issued to you and drop it in the box without putting the stamp on any candidate. This, when counting the ballot papers, would be taken as an indication of Rule 49-O being invoked by the voter.


However, with the introduction of Electronic Voting Machines [EVM] in all forms of Elections [or at least in the Municipal Corporation, Assembly and General elections that I have voted in], one has to approach the presiding officer from the Election Commission and ask for the relevant form and once filled, the voters choice is noted.


Critics, quite rightly, argue that this is in complete violation of one of our rights as an Indian citizen - secrecy of the ballot. The choice exercised by a voter is to remain a secret and no one has the right to know the choices we make. By approaching the officer and requesting for the form we give up this right as everyone would come to know about the choice you make - that of not choosing anybody. A ’None of the above’ button could easily have been added to the E.V.M for voters to exercise this right, but strangely enough the Election Commission has so far refrained from doing so.


However, Proposed Electoral Reforms [PDF, 164 KB] have recommended the addition of such a button in the E.V.M. Till such time this button is added, we will have to approach the presiding officer in person, thereby waiving our right to secrecy of ballot.


This rule, in my opinion, is a serious weapons in our arsenal to bring about improvements in our society and must not hesitate to invoke it whenever required for the greater good.


Strangely and quite pleasantly surprising enough, the first result that Google throws up when you go looking for information about Rule49O is that of a Belgian National’s blog who, from what I gathered from her blogs, is some sort of an Indophile.


References: -















Sunday, May 11, 2008

To a higher Degree : M.S./M.Tech or M.B.A.?

Many of us who are pursuing a degree in Engineering are often faced with the dilemma of choosing an appropriate Postgraduate degree to pursue. This is especially true for those of us who are on the verge of graduating. One may either choose to pursue a M.Tech/M.S. or acquire a M.B.A. degree. I too was in a similar quandary. The following article that I have reproduced here addresses these very issues and could help us make the correct choice.

The article has been written by Dr. Kevin D. Kuznia (Ph.D), who besides being associated with John Deere (Deere & Company) is also the principal of his career consultation firm drcareeradvisor.com.

The article had originally appeared in the March 2008 edition of the Mechanical Engineering Magazine, a periodical that I read with avid interest. The magazine is brought out by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). On reading the article I found it very relevant and informative. Wanting to share the article with my friends and classmates [terms not really mutually exclusive :)], I sought the permission of Dr. Kuznia, who very graciously gave his consent for me to republish his article on my blog. I hope you find this article just as helpful as I have.

 

 

To a higher Degree

How do you decide which advanced course of study is the best option for your career?

 

The phone rings once again. On the other end is an engineer confused about continuing his formal education. He has been in engineering for a few years. He sees his colleagues pursuing either an M.B.A. or an M.S. in engineering.

While both are noble pursuits, each is a distinct path to follow, with different expectations and outcomes. Theoretically the option exists to pursue both paths. However, such an endeavour is rarely practical, partly because of the expense involved and even more so because of the daunting prospect of spending six years or more juggling graduate study and full-time engineering employment. So how does anyone decide which road to take?

which direction to head

In my endeavours as a career consultant, I work with a steady progression of engineering professionals. These individuals, who thrive on data and analysis, seem to become paralyzed when deciding whether or not to pursue advanced education. To add to the confusion, I often hear, "Well, my boss said…" or, "This guy just got his degree and he got promoted."

But is an advanced education the answer? Frankly, not for everyone. But if it is something you choose to undertake, which degree should you pursue?

Yesterday's engineering careers were a little simpler than today's. Then, you went to college for four years, graduated, and took a job as a junior engineer until you earned the title of advanced or senior engineer. Through organizational tenure, you moved up in the engineering world until perhaps one day you became engineering manager. There was less need to consider advancing your formal education, because nearly everything you needed to know was gained through on-the-job experience, and a few hard knocks. And those M.B.A.'s? They were locked in the business office trying to figure out how to take the company to "the next level."

Today's engineering careers have changed. Not only must you keep up with emerging technologies, but you also have to understand the financial and strategic ramifications of your decisions. When designing parts or systems, you may be peppered with questions from marketing, accounting, and other engineering groups. It would appear that gaining an advanced education may put you on equal footing with these individuals. Having that degree can, and does, level the playing field-as long as you choose the right degree and apply your newly gained knowledge in the correct fashion.

So, let's look at each of these degrees to determine the prerequisites, effort for completion, and potential impact on your career.

What Is an M.B.A.?

The M.B.A., or Master of Business Administration degree, has been around since the beginning of the 20th century. It is a very popular degree program, attracting people from a wide range of academic disciplines outside of business.

Prerequisites for M.B.A. programs vary. Some programs have very liberal admission requirements. Some require no previous business courses. However, nearly all applicants to M.B.A. programs are required to take the Graduate Management Admission Test. The GMAT is designed to assess quantitative reasoning and verbal skills. Depending upon the university, work experience, academic transcripts, essays, references or letters of recommendation, and personal interviews may be considered for admission to a program. In addition, competitive schools also may be interested in extracurricular activities, community service, and how the applicant can improve the program's diversity and contribute to the student body as a whole.

Full-time M.B.A. programs are the most common, normally lasting two years. Students may or may not enter the program with real-world work experience. The classes are typically conducted during weekdays, like undergraduate university classes. Most students are in their early 20s with few over 30.

Part-time M.B.A. programs are geared toward older working adults. Universities typically hold classes on weekday evenings, after normal working hours. The students in these programs typically consist of working professionals, who take a lighter course load for a longer period of time. These programs generally last three years or more.

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Executive M.B.A. (or E.M.B.A.) programs were developed to meet the educational needs of managers and executives, allowing students to earn a degree in two years or less while working full-time. E.M.B.A. students generally have a higher level of work experience, often 10 years or more, than other M.B.A. students. Classes are typically a mix of weekend courses combined with electronic correspondence.

Upon starting an M.B.A. program, a student can expect to take classes in a variety of areas. Core subjects typically include economics, organizational behavior, marketing, accounting, finance, strategy, operations management, and information technology management. Some students may then seek to specialize in an area such as international business, supply chain management, or project management.

An engineer who pursued a management degree is someone I'll call Steve. He was a very successful mechanical engineer for a Fortune 500 manufacturing company and had always had ambitions to become an engineering manager like his college intern mentor. He asked his former mentor what skills would be necessary to move into a management position. He learned that, although technical skills were necessary, business skills also play a big part in management, and so he decided to pursue a master's degree in business administration.

Through his M.B.A. program, Steve learned how to effectively manage people, how various aspects of corporate finance worked, and how the contributions of his department supported the overall strategy of the company. According to Steve, these were all important aspects to a successful engineering management career. Steve is now the vice president of engineering for his company, and suggests that the keys to his success were a solid technical background in engineering combined with business acumen gained from earning his M.B.A.

Upon completing an M.B.A. program, you should be well versed in the language of business. You should have a clearer appreciation of how your actions affect the business bottom line. You should also have acquired a skill set that is applicable to many different types of organizations. In addition, you'll have developed a broad-based network of professionals employed in a variety of industries.

On the negative side, many individuals are pursuing an M.B.A. Differentiation among M.B.A.'s in organizations is becoming increasingly difficult. It will be up to you to apply your newly gained knowledge to stand out among the ever-increasing M.B.A. crowd.

The Other Path

By contrast, then, what is an M.S. in Engineering? A Master of Science in Engineering takes your undergraduate engineering education to a more advanced level. In the undergraduate program, you became well versed in the foundation of knowledge necessary to be an engineer. You gained the vocabulary, the analytical reasoning, concepts, and principles that engineers must have to be successful in the field.

Students completing the master's degree in engineering typically acquire a greater depth and breadth of engineering analysis skills, enabling them to better understand and predict the performance of engineered systems and components. They should be able to more effectively understand and utilize research on engineered systems and on phenomena integral to their performance. As a result, graduates should be in a position to better contribute to the body of knowledge available to business and industry, and to more effectively solve complex engineering problems affecting their respective organization.

To apply to a master's program in engineering, applicants typically must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited university with a suitable engineering background for the selected area of study, and a minimum 3.0 grade point average in their undergraduate program. Some universities may grant latitude in the requirements if the applicant can demonstrate extenuating circumstances.

In terms of course structure, master's degree in engineering programs usually follow a pattern similar to bachelor's degrees with lectures, laboratory work, course work, and exams. Many universities require the completion of a substantial project in the final year.

Upon completing a master's degree in engineering, you should possess a much deeper knowledge of a specific engineering discipline. You should also have gained new perspectives on emerging trends in engineering, and have developed network contacts who share your passion for engineering.

Consider, for example, someone I'll call Chad. He truly enjoyed his job as an engineer for a large automotive manufacturer. As engineers often are, he was inquisitive, and would often be found reading about the latest advancements in his field of expertise. With encouragement from one of his peers, Chad enrolled in a Master of Science in Engineering program offered by a local university.

Although it took Chad three years to complete the program, he said that it was time well spent. He met several individuals who shared his passion for engineering, and co-authored a technical paper with one of his professors. Chad said that through the pursuit of the master's degree, he is now even more confident in his abilities as an engineer, and finds himself more marketable to other companies.

Unlike the latitude offered M.B.A. students, you will not find the same variety of programs in engineering. There are very few accelerated master level engineering programs, but you typically will have the advantage of not having to take prerequisites in order to start the program. However, unlike an M.B.A., which may require engineers to take prerequisite business classes before they start the actual degree program, in a master's program in engineering you'll typically be allowed to take master's level classes immediately.

Which Way to Go?

Neither degree is inherently better than the other. That would be like comparing business to engineering. Each discipline supports the organization in its own way. Each has distinct advantages and disadvantages, and it is up to you to decide which one supports your career objectives more appropriately.

The M.S.E. is marketable, but in a different way from an M.B.A. However, many individuals outside the engineering discipline will have scant knowledge of just how your degree contributes to the organization. The M.B.A., on the other hand, is a widely recognized degree, and many people within and outside of engineering understand how an M.B.A. contributes to an organization's success. Both degrees can contribute to career advancement. It is important to let others know how your advanced education contributes to the goals of the organization.

Deciding to obtain an advanced degree, whether it is in engineering or business, requires a commitment of time, effort, and expense. But more important, the right degree can make a huge difference in career opportunities. I often counsel individuals by saying that investments in yourself pay the highest dividends. It's up to you to decide where the biggest payoff is.

what about distance learning?

Whether you are considering an M.B.A. or M.S. in Engineering, distance learning has recently received increased attention in education as more universities are holding classes off-campus.

Distance learning programs are available in a number of formats: offline or online computer courses, correspondence courses that utilize e-mail, prerecorded video, and live teleconferences.

Many traditional schools offer these programs, but so do diploma mills. If you're considering this option, be sure to check the school's accreditation before undertaking distance learning coursework.

Kevin Kuznia obtained his doctorate in business administration from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, and is the principal of DrCareerAdvisor.com, a career consultation firm that provides career insights and support to engineering professionals. He is the diagnostic supervisor at Deere & Co. in Waterloo, Iowa, where he also counsels colleagues on career choices. He can be reached at KuzniaKevinD[at]JohnDeere[dot]com.


The original article can be read here


Friday, May 09, 2008

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program: An overview 04

Read the previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

A comparison between the F-35B and Harrier w.r.t. STOVL

 

F-35B JSF

Harrier

Role

true multi-role capability

specialised role

Speed

supersonic

subsonic

Afterburner

yes

no

Stealthy

yes

no

Pilot workload

low

high

Cockpit

single seat only

single seat

(twin seat trainer)

Engine

single F135/136

(40000lb thrust class)

single Pegasus

(23000lb thrust class)

Weapons carriage

internal and external carriage

external carriage only

Lethality

all weather precision capability

weather restricts operations

Ability to fly intensive operations

yes, for a sustained period

yes, for short periods

Maintenance

more reliable and ability to predict failures

no ability to predict failures

 

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be:

  • Four times more effective than legacy fighters in air-to-air engagements

  • Eight times more effective than legacy fighters in prosecuting missions against fixed and mobile targets

  • Three times more effective than legacy fighters in non-traditional Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) and Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses and Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD/DEAD) missions

  • About the same in procurement cost as legacy fighters, but requires significantly less tanker/transport and less infrastructure with a smaller basing footprint

Affordability

In spite of being far more technically superior than any legacy fighter aircraft, the production cost of the F-35 JSF would be about the same as that of legacy fighter aircraft, making it highly affordable aircraft and offering great value for money to the purchaser. It is able to achieve this by introducing an unprecedented level of commonality between the three variant of aircrafts. The JSF concept is building these three highly common variants on the same production line using flexible manufacturing technology. Cost benefits result from using a flexible manufacturing approach and common subsystems to gain economies of scale. Cost commonality is projected in the range of 70-90 percent; parts commonality will be lower, but emphasis is on commonality in the higher-priced parts. Early interaction between the end-user and developer ensures cost / performance trades are made early, when they can most influence weapon system cost. By adhering to their objective of “Get it right the first time”, they are able to avoid a lot of wasteful expenditure and thus save a lot of resources.

 

Manufacturing

The JSF team would employ advanced assembly methods and highly accurate manufacturing machines to help the F-35 achieve its goals of affordability, quality and assembly speed. The concept of Lean Manufacturing is a key feature in the whole JSF manufacturing program. In fact their objective is to achieve what they term as Leaner-than-Lean Manufacturing.

The F-35 is the first aircraft to be designed entirely using a Solid Modelling Package – CATIA. Three-dimensional solid models provide an exact representation of each part, thus forming the foundation of any subsequent operations. Everybody involved would use the same digitally generated product data to perform their tasks like assembly, supply, CAM programming, and laser-tracking. This paperless method of functioning is expected to save millions of dollars. The product data obtained from the digital model would be used in simulation, tooling, fabrication, assembly and mating. New milling machines accurate to less than the width of a human hair ensure that the F-35’s outer shape is exact and meets its low-observability (stealth) requirements. Assembly time for an F-35 is planned to be less than half that of current-generation fighters. The F-35 JSF production line would be the state-of-the-art model for high-quality, affordable combat aircraft in the 21st century.

The assembly line of the F-35 would make use of industrial Laser Trackers to obtain proper mating of the different modules. The Laser Tracker is a state-of-the-art precision instrument to precisely align the mate components to an extremely close tolerance. The laser tracking technology is used to set up, measure and inspect assembly-tooling details based on CAD models. The 3-D laser interferometer and angular encoders deliver a high-speed measuring rate of 1,000 points per second, and a measurement volume of 70m diameter.

Advanced production processes, including integration of the digital, paperless factory, are being implemented into F-35 production plans. Lean manufacturing principles, incorporation of shortened flow spans, use of a single, flexible production line for all three variants, use of best-value sourcing within a commercial framework — all these steps would yield measurable results in the production phase.

Commonality

Commonality is the key to affordability – on the assembly line; in common systems that enhance maintenance, field support and service interoperability; and in almost 100 percent commonality of the avionics suite. Component commonality across all three variants reduces unique spares requirements and the logistics footprint. In addition to reduced flyaway costs, the F-35 is designed to affordably integrate new technology during its entire life cycle. While each of the three models looks very similar externally, subtle differences accommodate a relatively wide range of operational needs. All of the three variants fly at supersonic speeds and shoot air-to-air missiles and drop bombs on a target. But they all have vastly different operational suitability requirements. Simply put, the F-35A variant must be affordable, stealthy and match or better the performance characteristics of an F-16. F-35B adds to these characteristics a short-takeoff/vertical landing capability. The F-35C variant must be suitable for carrier operations and must complement the F/A-18E/F.

All models of the Lockheed Martin design look essentially alike, with common outer mold lines across the fuselage and wingbox. They have common structural geometries, share identical wing sweeps and similar tail shapes, and carry weapons in two parallel bays located in front of the main landing gear. Major portions of the fuselage contain common or closely related parts, referred to as cousin parts. The canopy, radar, ejection system, subsystems and most of the avionics are currently common.

The Lockheed Martin design also uses unitized structures to simplify manufacturing and reduce cost. Unitized structures are portions of the aircraft that can be produced as single parts instead of being assembled by hand from a multitude of pieces and hundreds of fasteners. The canopy frame, for example, is fabricated from a single aluminum casting with no fasteners. By comparison, the F-16 canopy frame has 48 parts, 70 shims, and about 500 fasteners.

The JSF's inlet duct is another example. It consists of only three parts fabricated from composite fibers. Each piece of the duct, itself a complex shape, is created by a computer-controlled machine that accurately places composite fibers on a mandrel that then goes into an autoclave for curing. The process, called fiber placement, reduces the time and material associated with laying up complex composite shapes by hand. The company will apply other composite experience gained through its work on the F-22 program and the Japan FS-X program.

The fighter's forward fuselage is another assembly that uses unitized structures. It consists of a unitized aluminium canopy sill, a one-piece cast titanium nose landing gear bay, two resin transfer-molded cockpit side panels, and several large fiberplaced skins and panels. This design approach reduces parts by more than 30 percent and fasteners by about a quarter compared with the F-16 forward fuselage.

Bulkheads provide a good example of manufacturing commonality. Slight variations in thickness or shape, possibly a different material, might be needed to handle different load conditions for each service variant. These variations can be accommodated through common locating points and surfaces, tooling accessories and spacers, and visual work instructions. Moreover, numerically controlled machining can efficiently incorporate these slight variations with very little additional machine programming.

Conclusions

Once the Transfer of Technology [TOT] issues are sorted out, the JSF program would be the finest example of large scale International collaboration undertaken to achieve a common objective.

The F-35 Lightning II, that is being developed as part of the Joint Strike Fighter [JSF] program ushers in a new era in the field of Aircraft design and development and will completely change the face of any future conflict.

Godspeed