Flash memories are useful–but they’re not magic

When flash memories burst on the scene about three years ago, industry pundits proclaimed them to be as revolutionary as UV EPROMs (ultraviolet-erasable programmable read-only memories) were almost two decades before. Proponents assert that those devices make suitable replacements for battery-backed RAMs and floppy disks, can obsolete field ROM replacements and might even supplant hard disks in some applications. But are these extraordinary devices really the sure-all cure for embedded systems’ ills or just another useful tool? To answer that question, let’s discuss how to design flash memories into an embedded system and how an application might use them.

What’s flash memory?

First, though, some background is appropriate. In this world of acronyms it’s hard to believe but the word “flash” refers to how fast you erase and reprogram these devices, not some esoteric combinations of words. Flash memories are similar to UV EPROMs in that you erase and reprogram them many times. In addition, they offer comparable data retention times, their die’s cell structure are approximately the same size and complexity, and their manufacturing costs are roughly equal. The devices are also similar in that you can perform random-access writes but must erase the entire device at once, and that a blank device holds all Ones, and you program it by writing Zeros.

Despite these similarities, major difference exist between these two types of memories. First concerns erasures. To erase a UV EPROM you either provide a high-intensity ultraviolet light source in the design or replace the chips. In contrast, flash memories only require a suitable voltage source making in situ reprogramming a snap. In fact, the critical requirement for programming or erasing these chips is time—and plenty of it. For example, before you can program a flash memory you must first set all memory locations to 00H and then erase. If working with a 1M-bit device, you must program 131,072 bytes to erase it completely. Under worst-case conditions this process can take almost 1.5 min!

In addition, each manufacturer has its own programming algorithm you must follow explicitly to realize device longevity and data retention capabilities. As shown in the programming flowchart for a typical device (Fig 1), some timing requirements are extremely short and difficult to implement using hardware timers. Although some older flash memories required careful coding to protect them from damage resulting from excessive programming times, the current crop of devices incorporates on-chip timers to prevent such destruction.

Writing to flash memories

The second major difference is tat a state machine controls a flash memory’s internal operation. Hence, prior to programming or erasing a flash device you must write a series of commands to the chip to place it in the proper mode. For instance, the programming algorithm specifies a pulsed technique similar to UV EPROMS, but you apply the programming pulse to a memory location by writing commands instead of applying physical pulses to one of the chip’s pins. After pulsing the location, you use more commands to read the location back and verify its contents. If the two values match, the byte is programmed correctly; if not, you continue applying pulses to a vendor-defined maximum. New devices typically program with only one pulse, but as devices age they need more pulses.

The programming algorithm also includes two delays that, taken together, produce a minimum programming time of 2.1 sec for a typical 1M-bit device—and without any software overhead! In addition, the datasheet for this device (Intel 28F010) states that if the chip requires all 25 loops specified in Fig 1, programming the device can take as long as 52 sec. In come applications this time differential is insignificant, but in others the difference between 2 sec and 52 seconds can mean the difference between market acceptance and rejection.

Command execution times also vary significantly during erase cycles. To erase cycles. To erase flash memories you must first program all locations to 00H, which can take as much as 52 sec. Afterwards the erasing algorithm in Fig 2 sets the memory to all Ones. As with programming, erasure is a pulsed algorithm that executes repeatedly until the entire device compares to 0FFH. In my experience it takes roughly 50 erase pulses before any byte appears erased and at least 200 pulses to erase an entire 1M-bit device. According to Fig 2, you can issue as many as 3000 erase pulses before the algorithm fails the device. On older devices this limit was only 1000, so I assume Intel bumped it up because some parts actually took more pulses. However, when using 200 pulses to erase a device, a rate of 10 msec/pulse yields an erase time of 2 sec, whereas the 3000-pulse maximum takes 30 sec. Adding this worst-case erase time to the worst-case programming time for a complete erase cycle of 82 sec.

Note that program and erase cycles both require a programming voltage(Vpp). Most flash memories use 12V +5% with maximum power-on overshoot of 5%. International Power Sources Inc. (Ashland, MA (508) 881-7434) sells a Vpp generator that runs from 5V and costs approximately $20 (qty 100). If your system has access to a higher-level source, a switchable regulator such as the LM2931CT from National Semiconductor (Santa Clara, CA (408) 721-5000) works nicely and costs about $2 (qty 100). Remember, because you must switch Vpp On for programming/erasing and Off again for normal operation, you must leave enough delay in program code for the voltage’s rise and fall times. The delay is typically a few milliseconds but might be as much as 50 msec, so use a scope to check the times.

Good for storing code…

From the foregoing discussion of the methods required to read/write a flash memory it’s obvious that they aren’t suited for all applications. For example, speed limitations eliminate them from time-critical applications such as replacing floppies disks. Further, because you can’t erase single bytes, flash memories aren’t suitable for holding values that the target software must update frequently.

A good application for these devices, on the other hand, is as UV EPROM replacements for program storage. The only trick is determining how the program gets into flash memory in the first place. One way is to program the flash memories using a ROM programmer before you solder them into the board. Loading devices in this manner, though, makes them no different that UV EPROMs because you can’t reprogram them in the board. About now you might ask yourself, “Why can’t I reprogram a flash device while it’s soldered on a board?” The answer is the chicken-and-egg paradox: How can the target system store program code in flash memory if the code to control the device’s programming isn’t already in the chip? Luckily, some tricks allow you to put the initial program into flash memories. For example, a target system based on the 68HC16 can take advantage of a CPU mode whereby the processor can automatically download a program through its serial port and store the code in RAM. Hence you first download the flash programming code and the target’s operational program. Next, run the program in RAM, which writes the operational program to the flash memories.

A less elegant technique for solving the chicken-and-egg problem involves building into the target system a boot ROM containing a simple monitor program that allows you to either download new code for flash memories or execute a program in flash memory. Done properly, this technique uses a small, inexpensive UV EPROM for the bootstrap code while the main program resides in the larger flash array. Remember, however, to keep the bootstrap code short and simple. You should never need to change a good boot ROM—no matter how many changes you make to the actual program code.

. . . or holding parameters

Another good application for flash memories is storing operational parameters. Although a serial EEPROM is more economical for designs requiring less that 512 bytes of storage, a target system that needs several kilobytes of parameters is an ideal candidate for flash memories. In one design I needed to save and modify 20k bytes of information. Because a flash memory can’t erase and reprogram single bytes I simulated the operation of a normal RAM by appending the updated information to the end of the flash’s current contents. The problem is that after a while the flash memory filled with updated data. What could I do? If the program temporarily stored the newest information for the flash memory in RAM while it erased the chip, an inopportune power outage would destroy the data and force the operator to re-enter as many as 5000 numbers. To solve the problem, I designed in two flash memories such that when Memory A is full, the program copies up-to-date information to Memory B and then performs an erase cycle on Memory A. Likewise, when Memory B fills up, the program performs the same process in reverse. To make this operation invisible to the instrument operator, the program does all erasing and reprogramming in the background.

To prevent a program’s data storage from occupying all the microprocessor’s address space, use a windowing or paging scheme to access the entire flash device. The technique in Fig 3 uses two latched output ports from the microprocessor to hold address bits A8-17 for the 1M-bit flash memories while A0-7 go directly to the flash memory. To access the flash memory, you simply write to the latches the correct bit combination for selecting any 256-byte page or window in memory. This method requires only 256 bytes of the microprocessor’s address space yet still gives full access to whatever size flash memory you install. You adjust page size up or down by varying the number of address bits held in latches. For example, on 8-bit latch holding address bits A10-17 results in a 1024-byte page size.

This paging technique also makes it easy to simulate flash memory on a host without the target hardware. You merely create N files on the disk (where N equals the number of pages of flash memory available in the target) and store them in separate subdirectories for each flash chip in the system. Instead of your program selecting the proper page through latches, it selects the page by choosing which file to access. In addition, the files are small enough to allow you to easily analyze their contents for program verification and yet are close enough to the operation of the flash memory to serve as a suitable model.

Source: www.sltf.com

Gender diversity: Headhunters get more for hiring women

It’s a trend that augurs well for womenin the corporate world. Organizations, in a bid to improve their gender diversity ratio, are pulling out all the stops to recruit female employees, beginning with higher fees for head hunters.

While Deutsche Bank offers a 2% additional fee to a recruiter for bringing women candidates to the bank, Executive Access, an executive search firm, says it earns an additional 10% fee payable if a female candidate is hired by an organization. There have also been cases where clients have demanded that only female candidates be placed with them.

Hiring managers at Sodexo have been told not to accept candidates brought by a recruiter unless a few of them are women. Others like Kotak Mahindra Bank gives preference to women employees applying for internal job postings in hitherto male-dominated frontline sales and collection jobs.

“Generally, the candidates that are presented to the hiring manager by the recruiter may not be women. Now we are asking the hiring manager not to accept what is given. You should let them know that we need some women on the slate. In other words, if you have four interviews that you are setting up, at least two should be women. That puts pressure on the recruiter to bring women candidates,” said Cecy Kuruvilla, global director (leadership development/diversity), Sodexo Remote Sites and Asia-Australia.

Deutsche Bank, which has formed a diversity council that focuses on such issues, has exclusive agreements with head hunters to attract women candidates.

“We incentivize them with an additional 2% fee if they get us a woman candidate,” said the bank’s managing director and head, HR, Makarand Khatavkar.

“If there is a position and if we’re paying others 15%, and if a particular head hunter gives us a woman manager, we pay him or her 17%. We want to make progress on the gender ratio of the organization. It’s a journey, and we are on the right track,” he said.

The effort comes even as the percentage of women employees at vice-president level at the bank is comparatively high at around 35%. However, most banks find it difficult to attract female talent in areas like frontline sales and collection. Kotak Mahindra Bank, where the female-to-male ratio is at 1:18, has even engaged with certain agencies to attract women who have taken a break from their careers. Those who manage to bring such talent to the bank in turn get a higher fee. “We have seen women employees in sales do very well. But getting a female frontline salesperson is very rare. Through our call centre, we encourage women who would like to move into sales, where we can build a career path for them. If a woman employee applies for any of these internal job postings, we usually give her preference,” said Subhro Bhaduri, executive vice-president, HR, Kotak Mahindra Bank.

Organizations today are keen on improving gender diversity at senior management level, as this adds depth and a wider perspective to key decision-making. “Let’s face facts: women are wired differently and have a better intuitive ability. In today’s hyper-competitive environment, when a number of decisions are taken on gut instinct because of a variety of reasons, organizations benefit from having better gender diversity,” said Ronesh Puri, managing director, Executive Access (India).

Source: The Times of India

How to ace a Group Discussion

A group discussion that is conducted with the purpose of selecting a candidate for a job, course, etc, is precisely a friendly conversation that proceeds in an informal manner, but within the bounds of decency and decorum and, of course, time limit, if any. It takes place with the participation of each and every member comprising the group.

Group discussion is not manipulating or managing others with words. If you impose your ideas on others, people may think that you cannot excel in a team and do not have team spirit. You have to listen to others with all the patience required. You have to give lot of examples while convincing others to understand your point of view. Group discussion plays vital role during job interviews. Success in group discussions will help you build rapport with others as well as paves way to grab a job of your choice.

Below Q & A session was answered by Amit Bansal, CEO – PurpleLeap

enter asked, What is the kind of language that we need to use..?? is it good to use sophisticated vocabulary..

Amit Bansal answers, Language should suit the group. If you want to show off a new difficult word, use it but also in the same breath explain what it means while speaking… for example: “things are incorrigible, I mean things are hopeless”


nelson asked, How to overcome nervousness during GD ,, while everybody besides me are trying to give their best shot ?
Amit Bansal answers, Additionally write down questions which you want to ask the group…


nelson asked, How to overcome nervousness during GD ,, while everybody besides me are trying to give their best shot ?
Amit Bansal answers, Some ways: Prepare well, Observe your own breathing, make brief notes,


Vivana asked, Hi Amit, What kind of topics should one be prepared for in a GD? I’m somebody who is normally shy and don’t come out well in these rounds and most companies have now made it almost mandatory to have GD’s. How can I do well? Even though I have a point to say, I usually end up being the spectator in the group.
Amit Bansal answers, More than thinking about speaking, if you can focus adding value to the discussion. This focus will decrease the pressure to interrupt and increase your chanes to make a valid observation. So to sum up observe what people are speakign about and then make a point…


mayor asked, Hi Amit what should i do in a GD if i am not getting a chance to express myself ?
Amit Bansal answers, You can create oppurtunities: Here is one of many: Nod and make eye contact of the person who is speakign at the moment and use gestures to create urgency, usually this will give you chance to make a re-entry…


Deepak asked, What kind of preparation is required for attending a group discussion.
Amit Bansal answers, Know the Dos and Donts. Prepare points on the Freq GD topics. Prepare a fact sheet which might get used to support your points…


enter asked, is it good to make notes of ones comment when in a GD.. just to show our keeness in the entire event..
Amit Bansal answers, Brief. Your head should be down longer than a few secs or else you will not get a chance to connect with your group


Sommu asked, Hi Amit how to clear group discussions?
Amit Bansal answers, Prepare by reading about it and rehearse.


VIKASH asked, IF ALLOWED TO START A GD THEN ONE SHOULD FIRST START OF BY DESCRIBING THE TOPIC OR START BY ARTICULATING HIS VIEWS WITHOUT SAYING ANYTHING ABOUT THE TOPIC
Amit Bansal answers, Do both: describe the topic by articulating your views about and end with a question to define the scope of the GD


nelson asked, What does a GD prove ,, how does it help the company to get a right employee ?
Amit Bansal answers, Simple, whether you are tolerant to other people’s views, whether you can perform well in team, whether you can comm well within a team and whether you can handle your ideas getting rejected.


aanand asked, What to do if you feel sidelined?
Amit Bansal answers, It can happen quite often as a GD from a job point of view is very competitive…you will have to ask yourself “what value can I add at this point of the conversation?” then adopt the various GD strategies being discussed


doctorbunty asked, if there is a disconnect then the guy would follow right practices and techniques and still wont get noticed or picked up?
Amit Bansal answers, I would say that your line of inquiry is correct, the candidate also has to play the balancing act between getting noticed and getting the group to a solution,


VIKASH asked, SOMETIMES IN A GD A PERSON MAY BE LOUD AND WOULD NOT ALLOW ANYBODY ELSE TO TAKEOVER.SHOULD ONE BE MORE LOUDER OR TO LISTEN PATIENTLY AND WAIT FOR HIM TO FINISH. IF ONE WAITS THEN THE PROCESS MIGHT JUST END WITH THAT PERSON ONLY SPEAKING AFTER HAVING HIS OPPURTUNITY
Amit Bansal answers, Try different methods. For example: Write down on a sheet your main point in a large font and stand up show it around…worth trying if you are getting the behavior you are describing…


doctorbunty asked, Hi Amit, tell me to what extend are you sure that the interviewer and the guy in GD are on the same level of understanding the nittygritty of GD right practices?
Amit Bansal answers, Having said that it also becomes important that the candidate assumes the interviewer is aware of the best practices…”better safe than sorry”


doctorbunty asked, Hi Amit, tell me to what extend are you sure that the interviewer and the guy in GD are on the same level of understanding the nittygritty of GD right practices?
Amit Bansal answers, May not be on the same plane…if you are asking from the content angle then the interviewer may not be on the same plane…the interviewer is probably looking for behavioral clues along with subject knowledge…


Atif asked, Is it important to maintain Eye contact while explaining the scenario??
Amit Bansal answers, yes, vital point…


devesh asked, Hi Amit, In the last three GD’s that I have been to for interviews, I have observed that once the GD on the way, there will be three or four people in the group who will be on top of their voices screaming to each other like there is no tomorrow. This sometimes puts me off and I don’t even feel like participating in the discussion post that. Is there any way to contribute positively to a group discussion without being loud?
Amit Bansal answers, Try different methods. For example: Write down on a sheet your main point in a large font and stand up show it around…worth trying if you are getting the behavior you are describing…


Atkin asked, Amit, Can you explain how they can judge your leadership and decision makings skills in a GD?
Amit Bansal answers, Leadership and Decision Making can be looked together. No need to separate them. It will be through: 1) initiative, 2) Listening skills, 3) whether you are taking the group along with you, 4) the way you articulate 5) Getting to group come to common plane, 6) Arriving at a consensus, 7) deciding on action points…


Harshad asked, Hi Amit How to prepare for any topic in gd in the given 2 minutes before the gd starts?
Amit Bansal answers, On spot preparation is like Impromptu speaking…Here you have to ask yourself the following questions: “What do I think?” “Why do I think that”? “What evidence do I have”, then you can start your answer with the evidence. That is the way to go about doing on-spot answering in a GD…


Spurthi asked, My career center lecturer asked me to be assertive but not aggressive in GD round. But how can you be assertive, if you are not aggressive? Any tips?
Amit Bansal answers, You need to be assertive in your tone, ideas, and not aggressive with people. If you are aggressive with people they may take it personally and will stop listening to you during the GD. In addition the group will also isolate you because of your behavior. That is if you are aggressive.


Spurthi asked, My career center lecturer asked me to be assertive but not aggressive in GD round. But how can you be assertive, if you are not aggressive? Any tips?
Amit Bansal answers, You need to be assertive in your tone, ideas, and not aggressive with people. If you are aggressive with people they may take it personally and will stop listening to you during the GD. In addition the group will also isolate you because of your behavior. That is if you are aggressive.


Anand asked, If you don’t have anything to contribute on the topic, or if someone else has already told your point, then what do you do? Is repeating the same point ok?
Amit Bansal answers, Repeating the same point is not advisable. you will need to perspective to your points. In fact the way to look at GDs is that you should be making not more than 3 main points, but you should be giving many perspectives to the 3 points so that people can understand and remember your points…


nelson asked, Hi Amit , my question is how to prepare for a topic just on the spot, can we have a alternative of speaking about a topic of our choice in GD ?
Amit Bansal answers, On spot preparation is like Impromptu speaking…Here you have to ask yourself the following questions: “What do I think?” “Why do I think that”? “What evidence do I have”, then you can start your answer with the evidence. That is the way to go about doing on-spot answering in a GD…


Amit Bansal says, Here is what you can do if you think you are unsure of how much you know about a topic: Ask relevant questions to the group/individual. For example: if the topic is India’s poulation, then you could ask: “Do we believe that India’s poulation would stabilise or would it keep growing?” or “What are the key things responsible for India’s large population?”


enter asked, Hi Amit.. what if one is not aware of the subject of GD. I mean it is not necessary that one knows about everything that is happening around… Should we just keep quite or inform about ones limited knowledge base…
Amit Bansal answers, Well that depends on how much you know or rather you do not know about the topic. For example if you are clueless about the topic then it is good to listen and note the points. But if you know and you are not feeling confident then you can always participate in the GD by asking relevant questions to the group/individual. The objective of the question is to help the group think better and go forward…


richard asked, is it good to start GD?
Amit Bansal answers, Yes, see my previous reply to the start question


Venky asked, Hi Amit, do they give marks for speaking first in a GD?
Amit Bansal answers, Yes. More than first it is for taking initiative. Additionally it becomes important to make a good start. Here I mean to try and define the ‘scope’ of the GD.


richard asked, in either cases…what to say if some one starts giving a speech adn u awnt to speak for urself or the team ?
Amit Bansal answers, If the speech is too long, you may want to intervene, but not abruptly, instead use a question or a summary of his/her speech and you can continue. But remember you should a solid point to make after you intervene or else there is a good chance that some one will continue with the speech


Amit Bansal says, One common misconception is that students think that GD is a debate. GD and debate are not one and the same thing


Ruth asked, Hi Amit, What is it that people look for in the GD round? Do they look at how aggressive you are? is it about how long you can hold the conversation? what is it that recruiters judge you on in the GD round?
Amit Bansal answers, More than agression it is passion, subject knowledge, comm, skills, ability to work with the group… see some more points which I have posted.


Ruth asked, Hi Amit, What is it that people look for in the GD round? Do they look at how aggressive you are? is it about how long you can hold the conversation? what is it that recruiters judge you on in the GD round?
Amit Bansal answers, More on the second point of yours, but you have to keep in mind the way you are holding on to your conversation. If you are doing it but putting others down then you will not score points. In fact you may lose some points.


amuda asked, HI Amit, what are the key points one should keep in mind while going for the GD round?
Amit Bansal answers, have just posted some points


Amit Bansal says, Top GD Skills and Approaches 1. Your analysis skill and subject knowledge. 2. Your open mindedness 3. Your communication with others. 4. How you behave & interact with the group. 5. Your listening abilities 6. The way you put forward your views. 7. Your leadership & decision making skills. 8. Problem solving and critical thinking skill.


Diana asked, In case i was criticized for my opinion, how do i comment back coz i do not want to criticize back or be rude while in a group discussion?
Amit Bansal answers, Your principles are right, it is not right to comment back or criticize, the best way to gain your hold back on the discussion is to counter the point with an example. Giving evidence in a GD is one of the best ways to stay on top.


richard asked, what exactly to say when u want to cut some ones’s point?
Amit Bansal answers, The important thing to ask yourself here is that why are you cutting someone off. Is it because you want to make yourself heard? Or is it because you feel you are helping the group to move forward?


mamu asked, dear amit, please enlighten me about six basic rules to follow during a job GD interview
Amit Bansal answers, The first rule is that GD is not a debate, once you keep that in mind then the other principles will come into play…So it is better to think in terms of principles than rules…


Divya asked, Hi Amit, I wanted to know how do i speak in case i have a disagreement with someones statement during the discussion
Amit Bansal answers, First step is to try and understand the root cause…i mean you have to understand why the disagreement is taking place…

Chat Date: July 25, 2012

Source: http://www.rediff.com

Situation wanted … in SAIL, SBI, Facebook, Google

Public sector is where most new job seekers want to work. According to a recent study, this is mainly to do with the security that PSUs offer. Then, in the pecking order of preference is the private sector with multinationals bringing up the rear.

For fresh management, engineering and software professionals, the top workplace choices are SAIL, State Bank of India, Facebook and Google, says the study by job portal FlikJobs.com and MyHiringClub.com.

Among those already working in the government sector, 67 per cent said they were happy and wanted to continue and only 33 per cent said they were keen to work with the private sector.

“Job security is a big factor… Working in the PSUs and government organisations is stable and permanent… In the current scenario, the salary is also almost at par,” said Mr Rajesh Kumar, Chief Executive Officer, FlikJobs.com & MyHiringClub.com.

Of the respondents working in the private sector, 63 per cent said they were “desperately keen to work with PSUs or the government” and only 37 per cent said they were interested in continuing in the private sector.

Not surprisingly, for women job-seekers, banks were top on the list.

Among management and engineering students, SAIL and SBI were the first choice to work, among PSUs, and Facebook and Google topped the MNCs’ list.

As for relocating, the US was the preferred destination, with 51 per cent preferring it, followed by the UAE, the UK and the Philippines. Only 39 per cent preferred their home country as a job destination.

The study, “Preferred Employer 2012” covered 1,86,745 registered job-seekers of FlikJobs.com, a release by MyHiringClub.com said.

Source: Business Line

Hiring picks up this quarter at senior level

Executive level hiring in the country has exhibited an uptrend during the current quarter, especially in the infrastructure and retail sectors, and going forward, this trend will continue in the next quarter as well, say experts.

“The fragile economic scenario is not affecting on hiring of senior level in current quarter. Employers wish to generate more business and revenue in coming quarter and trying hard to come out from current stagnant situation.

“Now companies have started hiring more senior level professional and we are experiencing almost 15-20% increase from last two months hiring activities,” Duke Management Services Director Amin Sirodkar said.

Echoing a similar view, MyHiringClub.Com CEO Rajesh Kumar said, “We have seen senior professional’s hiring in the incremental mode in second quarter of current fiscal year. It shows a healthy hiring atmosphere for senior executive level in current fiscal year. All industries are experiencing changes in senior and top management level.”

Elaborating on the reasons for robust recruitment of executives, Kumar said, “This activity is happening with view on revenue and business growth in third and fourth quarter.”

In this regard, Kumar cited a MyHiringClub.Com study, conducted among a total of 450 employers and over 220 recruitment consultants, that said the senior executive level hiring outlook expected at 32% in Q2, FY’13 compared to 23% in the year-ago period.

Another HR consultant Manik Shah of TooStep Recruitment Services said,” Overall, hiring activity is not good. Every where people are waiting for improvement in market condition. This month recruitment market is witnessing some gain compared to last few months, especially for the professionals having more than 10 years of experience.”

“It’s a good sign for recruitment industry. After long time senior level professional are able to get more jobs. Indian companies don’t want to loose business in this financial year due to some uncertain economical conditions,” he added.

In terms of sectors, infrastructure and retail witnessed the maximum hiring at senior levels during the period under review.

“We have seen retail sector leading in top brass hiring followed by infrastructure, hospitality, FMCG and IT and ITeS sectors,” Kumar added.

City-wise, Delhi/NCR, Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad were the major locations where the maximum executive-level hiring was done.

Looking ahead, “We are expecting the same pace will be continuing or it would increase in this quarter,” Sirodkar added.

Source: www.businessstandard.in

Temps, 60% replacements… retailers wary of hiring

As recently as 2011, large-format retailers would typically hire 200-300 people a month. Now, their hiring level has plunged to 80-100.

A senior executive from a leading retail chain said the overall workforce base in the sector is 40% lower than the pre-2008 levels. The retail industry, which used to require 3-4 lakh new skilled personnel annually, is not desperate to hire any more.

Macroeconomic woes, coupled with climatic vagaries, have taken a heavy toll of expansion plans of retailers, slowing hiring significantly, said Sangeeta Lala, co-founder and vice president of TeamLease Services, a staffing firm.

To be sure, attrition rate stands at the usual 30-40%, especially in front-end roles. But employers are not actively seeking replacements, said Lala. Thus, for every ten people who quit, only six or seven replacements are made.

That is not all. To keep manpower costs low, retail firms are hiring temps “for roles like store promoters, supervisors and front-line jobs”, said Lala. Typically, temps are not taken on payrolls.

The hiring squeeze is a direct consequence of restructuring of many retail businesses that have been shutting 5-10% of their stores that proved unprofitable.

This is in stark contrast to the recent past when large-format retailers sought to open at least 70 stores annually. Now, retailers sustain a store for up to eight months within which it is expected to break even and turn profitable. Else, it’s curtains. End of story.

“Everyone is focused on profitability and no one is willing to keep a store which is not making money beyond a certain point,” said a senior executive at a retail chain.

Unlike in the past, retailers are not desperate to expand these days. Hence there are no pressing manpower requirements either, experts said.

Harminder Sahni, MD of Wazir Advisors, a retail consultancy, said though the investor sentiment is positive, caution characterises the retail industry these days.

“No money is coming from private equity players, nor are there any IPOs (initial public offerings) in the offing. Space is also an issue. All this is impacting retail expansion.”

“Impact” manifests in the form of bits-and-pieces expansion of retailers. Boldly going to newer cities where no retailer has gone before – well, that sort of sentiment is reined in for now.

For instance, Croma retail chain of Tata is looking to add 14 stores by March 2013, but without venturing to additional cities, said Ajit Joshi, MD and CEO, Infiniti Retail, operator of the chain. “Our 78 Croma stores are present in 15 cities. We will look at expanding only in existing cities.”

Other chains, too, have firmed up expansion-with-minimal-hiring plans.

The 185-outlet Spencer’s Retail will add about 25% additional trading space to its stores, putting the shop floor area in the range of 20,000-50,000 square feet. But it plans to have only 75-120 new hires per store, much lower than the earlier levels.

“Five years ago, we used to grow by 100-150% each year but now we’re selective,” said Nihar Ranjan Ghosh, executive director of HR, Spencer’s Retail.

Despite the turmoil, experts feel consumer sentiment remains strong, so future growth should be a certainty. Croma’s Joshi said Infiniti is witnessing double-digit growth as there has not been any decline in the buying pattern.

Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO of the Retailers Association of India, confirms the optimism. The retail industry, he said, is expected to grow at 20% and will need some 2.5 lakh trained people each year going forward.

In other words, the current hiring crunch may not be a permanent feature of the retail industry.

Source: DNA

Hiring set to pick up pace, say head hunters

The depressing sentiment across many sectors in India may be taking its toll on the hiring scenario, but, leading headhunters and recruitment firms expect that there can be an upswing in the near future if the government is able to push through some pending reforms.

The Naukri Job Speak Index for June, 2012, released on Tuesday shows that hiring activity in the country has been a mixed bag with sectors such as construction, insurance, oil and gas, and information technology-enabled services (ITeS) going slow on their hiring plans, but, others like automobiles and pharmaceuticals continuing to hire fresh talent. The IT sector, which is the largest employer of skilled workforce, has also slowed down a bit.

Hitesh Oberoi, managing director and CEO, Info Edge (India), whose flagship brand is Nau­kri.com, said, “It is not that hiring has come to a halt. Selective hiring is happening across most sectors now. However, the next few months will be extremely challenging for the overall recruitment market in India.”

The hiring market is not just sector specific, but it is also sentiment-driven, feels Ronesh Puri, managing director, Executive Access, another leading executive search firm. “There is no doubt that the recruitment environment in the country is very challenging at present because most of the companies are focused on cost cutting rather than on hiring or expanding. But, hiring depends on sentiment and the mood can change very fast. There are actually a lot of expectations and optimism after prime minister Manmohan Singh assumed charge of the finance ministry in the hopes that he would be able to push through some of the unfinished reforms agenda, particularly FDI in retail and insurance. If that happens, then the recruitment market will rebound immediately,” Puri said.

Vinay Grover, CEO, Symbiosis Management Consultants, echoed Puri’s sentiment. “Although, the current hiring scenario is pretty bad with industrial production on a downslide for consecutive quarters, there is a silver lining. The prime minister has given some positive signals after taking up the reins of the finance ministry. I expect the recruitment market to rebound in the next quarter if the government fulfils its promises on economic reforms,” he said.

Despite the general negative sentiments, a lot of hiring is taking place in education, healthcare, lifesciences, pharmaceuticals and diagnostic fields. Sectors like fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) are neutral, while the hiring scenario in sectors like telecom and sections of financial services is really down, Puri said.

Shruti Guleri, director of operations of Kelly Services India, agreed and said that the traditional slowdown-proof sectors such as healthcare, pharmaceuticals and education continue to do well. Most other sectors seem to have slowed down in terms of hiring. However, this downturn is different from the previous one that came as an unexpected jolt to industries. This was rather a gradual decrease in performance and companies seem to be prepared and cautious. They are staffing smartly, she added.

“At least so far, Indian companies have not resorted to layoffs. We have only heard from some European companies talking about layoffs till now. Indian companies, however, have pruned salary increases to the 9 per cent to 11 per cent range,” Guleri said.

The Naukri study said that most industries have started feeling the brunt of the slowdown with sectors like construction, ITeS, oil and gas and insurance witnessing a 17 per cent, 10 per cent, 8 per cent and 6 per cent dip in hiring levels in June, when compared with the year-ago period. Software services, banking and the pharmaceuticals sectors however have seen their hiring levels pick up by 9 per cent, 16 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively in June year-on-year. Auto and the heavy machinery sectors have seen hiring numbers similar to what it was last year.

Source: mydigitalfc.com

Laptop Networking Buyer’s Guide

Being able to connect to the Internet no matter where you are is an important aspect of portable computers. As a result, networking interfaces are a standard item found on all laptop computers today. Some of them are so standardized that comparing products is difficult but some may have slight variations that can make a difference in network performance. This guide will help to sort out what they are and how they compare.

Modems

Once the most dominate form of networking, modems are found on fewer and fewer laptops. Dial-up networking is one of the oldest forms of networking for PC computers. While broadband connections are more common in the home, when on the road in remote locations this can often be the only method for connecting. A simple phone cable plugged between the laptop and a phone jack allows the user to connect via a dial-up account. There are fewer laptops that now feature this in order to use the space for other interface ports.

Due to the limitations of audio data transmissions over phone lines, the maximum speed of 56Kbps has been reached for some time. Any laptop that has a modem will be 56Kbps compatible. The only difference is it being listed as a v.90 or v.92 type. These are two forms of data connection methods and are pretty much interchangeable when it comes to an actual dial-up connection.

Ethernet

Until wireless networking became so prevalent, high-speed network connections required the use of an Ethernet cable connected from the laptop to a network device. Ethernet has been a standard network PC cable design that has been used for many years that it is found in almost all computers today. Only the extremely thin ultraportables lack the space necessary for the cable. The only real difference comes with what speed of Ethernet network the laptop supports.

There are two standard types of Ethernet speeds currently. The most common up until recently was the Fast Ethernet or 10/100 Ethernet. This has a maximum data rate of 100Mbps and is backwards compatible with the older 10Mbps Ethernet standard. This is what is found on most consumer networking gear such as cable and DSL modems. The more recent standard is Gigabit Ethernet. This allows support of connections of up to 1000Mbps on compatible networking gear. Like Fast Ethernet, it is backwards compatible with the slower network types.

The speed of the Ethernet interface will only really matter when connecting between devices on a local area network. Most broadband connections are slower than even the original 10Mbps Ethernet standard.

Wireless

Wireless networking through the Wi-Fi standards has exploded over the past couple years making it a common feature in laptop computers. There are a number of acronyms for the various standards and speeds of Wi-Fi networking that you will need when shopping for a laptop computer to let you know how it can be used.

There are currently four Wi-Fi standards that can be found on laptop computers. 802.11b is the oldest running at 11Mbps in the 2.4GHz radio spectrum. This is the most common type of Wi-Fi used. 802.11g uses the same 2.4GHz radio spectrum but can transmit up to 54Mbps in speeds. It is backward compatible with the 802.11b standard. 802.11a uses the 5GHz radio spectrum for improved range and similar 54Mbps speeds. It is not backwards compatible due to the different radio frequencies used.

The most recent version of Wi-Fi is the 802.11n standard. This standard is a bit more confusing as a device can be made to use it in the 2.4GHz or 5GHz radio spectrums. The main way to tell is if the laptop lists 802.11a/g/n or 802.11b/g/n. Those that list a/g/n in the Wi-Fi standards will have the ability to use either radio spectrum while b/g/n will only use the 2.4GHz spectrum. Note that some listed as 802.11b/g/n will use the 5GHz spectrum. Those listing a dual antennae have capabilities to use both 2.4 and 5GHz. This only really matters for those that wish to use the 5GHz radio spectrum.

Recently, some new 5G Wi-Fi networking products have started to be released. These are based on the 802.11ac standards. These products claim to be able to achived up transfer rates of up to 1.3Gbps which is three times the maximum that 802.11n and similar to that of gigabit ethernet. Like the 802.11a standard, it uses the 5GHz frequency but it is dual-band meaning it is also supports 802.11n on the 2.4GHz frequency. While this is available in router products, it has not made it into any laptops to date.

Often users will see multiple standards listed on a laptop computer, such as 802.11b/g. This means that the laptop computer can be used with all of the Wi-Fi standards listed. So, if you want to have the widest range of wireless network connectivity, look for a laptop computer listed as having 802.11a/g/n wireless networking.

Here is a listing of some of the Wi-Fi standards:

  • 802.11a – 54Mbps, 5GHz Band, Used Mainly By Corporations
  • 802.11b – 11Mpbs, 2.4GHz Band, Most Widely Used Wi-Fi
  • 802.11g – 54Mbps, 2.4GHz Band, Most Common High-Speed Wi-Fi
  • 802.11n – Up To 450Mbps Standard, 2.4 or 5GHz Band, Fastest Wi-Fi Standard
  • 802.11ac – Up to 1.2Gbps, 5GHz Band, Still In Draft Stages

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is technically a wireless networking standard that uses the same 2.4GHz spectrum as the Wi-Fi. It is primarily used for wireless peripheral connections rather than actual networking. There is one aspect that it can be used and that is tethering to a cell phone. This allows a laptop to use a cellphones data link to a cellular carrier. Unfortunately, many cellular phone carriers in the United States do not allow tethering. Check with your cellular carrier if this is a feature you might be interested in.

Cellular/3G/4G (WWAN)

The inclusion of built-in cellular modems or 3G/4G networking adapters is a fairly recent addition to laptop computers. Manufacturer’s often refer to this as wireless wide area networking or WWAN. This can allow a laptop computer to connect to the Internet through a high-speed cellular phone network when no other access is possible. This can be very useful, but it is also quite expensive as it requires cellular phone data contracts. In addition, the cellular modems built into laptops are typically locked into a specific cellular provider or class of network. As a result, I don’t recommend users look for these features and to purchase an external cellular modem that uses PC Card, ExpressCard or USB if you really do need such service. Another option is a mobile hotspot that essentially combines a Wi-Fi router to a cellular modem. They still require data contracts but have the ability to be ued with just about any Wi-Fi capable device.

WiMAX

WiMAX is a relatively new long distance wireless networking system. It differs from Wi-Fi because it essentially is a replacement for DSL or Cable networking by providing long range high speed network connections without cabling. This is really just another WWAN technology but has a specific name and technology behind it. Subscriptions with a provider are also required just like cellular. This is still a fairly new standard that is not very common in laptops but is becoming more common when laptops are bundles with cellular modems. WiMAX is being sold as a 4G wireless technology.

Source: http://compreviews.about.com

Train longer pay lesser

This year will have a different training procedure for mid-sized IT companies, courtesy the talent crunch and shrinking margins in their balance sheets. Every mid cap has a new strategy to train the fresh engineering graduates. Bangalore-based MphasiS, a unit of Hewlett-Packard, plans to almost double its training duration from three months to six months. Hexaware Technologies has divided its training batch into four groups for each quarter, and each will have a different joining date. NIIT Technologies has an extra effort on non-technical and soft skills this time. To maintain costs while grooming these freshers, these firms have started offering a lower salary package during the training period to young engineers that join not from the best of engineering colleges. The stipend paid during this period is approximately 30% lower than the actual salary package.

 

In the current scenario, the tier I college engineering talent goes to the top IT companies and mid caps are left with engineers who need to be trained longer to be made employable. A look at the statistics: In 2012 batch, 8,00,000 engineers are expected to pass out. The broad requirement of the IT industry is 2,50,000-3,00,000 engineers a year. Out of these, about 1,50,000 are from 300 top colleges. There are 3,500 engineering colleges in the country. In sum total, there is huge talent shortage in the market.

On top of this, the situation of mid-sized companies is not improving. Margins are shrinking, deals are going to bigger competitors and slowdown is affecting smaller IT players the most. Human resource cost is fairly significant for the mid-market in the $70 billion IT industry as they get engineers from tier II-III colleges.

Take the case of MphasiS which started training its batch last week. Says Usha Subramanian, vice-president and head—technical and domain learning, MphasiS, “Starting this year, we have extended our training period by a few weeks. It will now be five and a half to six months. Earlier, we used to train for 14-16 weeks at the upper limit and 12 weeks was the average. We want to bring in competent hands on experience during training this year.” In this extended period, MphasiS will include a training module called info tech infra library (ITIL) this year in fresher training. “We will include the concept of blended learning right at the beginning as we want to bring in the aspect of domain training at the entry level,” she adds.

Usha divides the freshers that join MphasiS into two groups—core and non-core engineers. Almost 70% of the talent that comes to the company is non-core and 30% is core. Core comprises those students who have computer science and IT as their background at the undergraduate level. The fundamental training is more for the non-core group.

On the salary front, MphasiS will have a separate salary during training period because the training will be longer. “A separate salary will be given during training and once they join the job- they will be paid higher,” she says. Though companies deny to share the salary difference, they agree that they are paying lower during the training period.

Amit Bansal, CEO at PurpleLeap, an Educomp and Pearson joint venture, clarifies that ideally a mid-sized IT company would pay R25,000 per month as actual salary and R15,000 as stipend, but this could vary from company to company. Starting salary at top IT companies is R3,00,000-plus. Whereas mid-sized companies usually pay between R2,00,000-3,00,000.

Likewise, Hexaware Technologies has adopted a new technique this year by dividing the training batch into four groups. HR experts feel that by this method, companies can get students trained as per their capacity and if businesses are not in a position to absorb these engineers at the same time, this is a good strategy. Deependra Chumble, chief people officer, Hexaware Technologies says, “We train approximately 600-700 freshers a year. We used to train them together earlier, but now we are dividing it into four batches. Once they are ready, they can join immediately. It is giving us good time to train and even the infrastructure is utilised in a better way. There are quarterly batches now, which have different joining dates.” While the company’s training period is one year, it has increased its classroom training to two months now, from one and a half months earlier. “Salary for one year which includes training is different. And after a year, they are given an appraisal. Most of our students are from tier II and tier III colleges,” he adds.

Mid-sized IT companies are realising that these engineers need to be trained on skills other than technical as well. Rosita, chief people officer, NIIT Technologies feels that non technical and soft skill training is becoming very important for engineering graduates. “Our training period has gone up by 20% since last year. We now train for 2-3 months. We have included non-technical issues and soft skills.” Agreeing with the peers, she adds, “We do have a different stipend during training which is R5,000-6,000 lesser. Training is a huge investment for the company as we also hire external training institutes.”

On the other hand, big companies like HCL Technologies want to reduce their training period and want employees to be billable as soon as possible. Naveen Narayanan, global head, talent acquisition, HCL Technologies says, “We currently have a six month training period once the engineer joins us. But we want to decrease the training period and want to bring employees closer to deployment. We want to get them to do live projects quickly. We are attempting to go back to a three month training period.”

HCL Technologies has students joining from tier II-III colleges and has customised training programmes for them which are longer. “One shoe does not fit all, when it comes to training of engineers. Engineers hired from tier II colleges need extra certifications and more soft skills training which we pay attention to,” feels Narayanan.

Bansal from PurpleLeap scans the scenario that the IT industry has faced over the years, “In the last five to six years, the billable stage of the mid-sized IT companies has gone upto nine months for fresh engineering graduates. In the last 10 years, the training period has increased by four times. As a result, companies have differentiated salary and do not give the usual corporate salary during the training period. They usually do not have a competitive training environment,” he concludes aptly.

http://www.financialexpress.com

The Automotive Black Box Data Dilemma

After a car crash—, which was staged by engineers at Toyota Motor Company’s Kaikan Museum and exhibition hall in Toyota, Japan—data stored in the module that controls the deployment of the airbags reveals how fast the vehicles were traveling as well as other details about how they were being driven before impact.

Built into the framework of U.S. citizens’ civil liberties is the right to privacy. Though not specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, privacy is cherished as a catchall concept that limits government intrusion into people’s lives and establishes boundaries meant to protect one citizen from another. But the framers of the Constitution could not have foreseen the electronic systems that now threaten to modify the definition of privacy or abolish it entirely.

Automobile safety systems, which are networked throughout the body of your car, generate a blizzard of data (likely without your knowledge) and store it in a nondescript box the size of a deck of cards. The gadget, called an event data recorder (EDR), is a less-refined version of the so-called black box carried by aircraft. Initially, EDRs were supposed to help researchers and automakers make refinements to the systems intended to keep cars from crashing and people from dying. But it wasn’t long before these devices were eyed as tools to help authorities figure out what a driver was doing in the moments before a crash—be it eating, shaving, or gargling with vodka. (Before EDRs, drawing such conclusions required autopsies and a series of educated guesses based on things like skid marks.)

What’s more, new standards regarding the performance of automotive black boxes and guidelines for retrieving data after a crash  are set to go into effect in the next several months, raising privacy issues and setting up a clash between law enforcement and privacy advocates that could be fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court is already grappling with unprecedented cases involving the freedom from search and seizure provided by the Fourth Amendment and the privilege against self-incrimination provided by the Fifth Amendment.

In January, the Supreme Court ruled in a similar case— United States v. Jones —which involved digital monitoring of a driver’s behavior. In that case, police secretly planted a GPS tracking device on a suspected drug dealer’s car and monitored his whereabouts for 28 days. The high court ruled that the evidence obtained using the device could not be used against the suspect because the police failed to obtain a warrant. At a minimum, the court ruled, placing the tracker represented an illegal trespass.

Technology is sure to play an ever greater role in courtroom drama, especially as it relates to the sharing of digital data. But in contrast to the United States v. Jonescase, the focus will be on electronic devices that are already in place when you drive your car off the dealer’s lot.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 85 percent of new vehicles come equipped with black boxes. Still, the average driver has no idea that in the event of a crash, data stored in the box details how the car was being driven in the moments before impact.

Although black boxes are not mandatory by NHTSA rules, starting with 2013 models, EDRs must keep a record of 15 discrete variables in the seconds before a crash. Among them are the car’s speed, how far the accelerator was pressed, the engine revolutions per minute, whether the driver hit the brakes, whether the driver was wearing a safety belt, and how long it took for the airbags to deploy. A black box must also stand up to the initial impact so that it can capture data for at least two more hits in a multievent crash, such as when two moving vehicles collide and one bounces off, sideswipes a parked car, and then slams into a tree.

Source: http://spectrum.ieee.org