Saturday, April 14, 2012

These days I either tweet at!/vinodgkulkarni or post at Google+ on

Do connect to me if you have interests in information management, wikis, next generation email and search. I believe that best is yet to come, and my brain does cache a lot of things in this space.

Monday, February 18, 2008

How will mashups evolve?

Betamax 2.0: Future of mashups:
"Unlike traditional integration, the suppliers of the source data that's mashed up are often not involved in the project, and may never have designed their data to be used in that way. This will create problems as systems do not automatically collaborate with each other."
An introspective look at issues that business mashups will increasingly face; for e.g. lack of single standard, near-impossibility of being able to achieve uniform semantic meanings for the data and other issues such as data quality, reliabilities of data sources and so on.

The problem is of governance doesn't exist when you consider public data sources such as Google maps or credit ratings.  Within an enterprise, this is akin to SOA standardization and governance, but you now have new variable that the data sources should be acceptably integrated with Mashup solution chosen by enterprise. IT departments can standardize the solutions while still allowing managers to dynamically create and manage their business processes or create situational mashups.

However, a more realistic assumption should be that users will select their own platforms (like they selected their own wiki systems). So the issue of how datasources can publish their schemas and services in standardized manner will become all the more important. ATOM is clearly a likely winner for transport. And hopefully, more generic schema management tools should be integrated.   Business mashup solutions will likely evolve to intelligently meet these type of needs.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rediff has just the right UI for flights and train booking

I just happened to experience's travel section after long time, and really liked its interface: Just the right interface, right clues at right time. For e.g. all airline fares in visible area (i.e. no big graphics there),  quick access to prev/next day's fare scenario, access to lowest fares in next 3 months in simple calendar interface. It also gave alternate option of traveling by train and quickly gave list of trains. Usability is serious: It is knack of weaving the features into right navigation and clues, and can only be done by very talented people in the field. It is often be a secret sauce for making a site wildly popular.  One wonders why rediff is not considered to be in race along with yatra, makemytrip,  cleartrip and travelguru!

It is too late for them to create a new brand now in this crowded space. Industry trend is pointing to  heavy funding in this space, and usually that means winning eyeballs through adverts. Rediff should, assuming they have money, should focus on simplicity for their adverts.

The user remembers specific sites for their contexts -
for e.g. "I need to urgently get any flight in next few hours", "Any cheap flight next week", "A group of us have to travel for attending marriage", "We are trying to book route for holiday".  And each of those contexts is a business opportunity, and given the Indian market, we should hope to see more activity in this space.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Not route to google

Am I the only one finding google inaccessible this morning in Pune, India today? I can't ping Other sites are accessible. Pings to are fine, but http redirects to, which is not accessible. Traceroute reveals that there is no route beyond, and this seems to belong to google (from whois). Friends from elsewhere in world say they can access google fine.

A friend first reported this yesterday night - he couldn't access gmail - it would hang after authentication phase, and at that time things were fine.

I should say I had to switch to alternate search engines for first time in last few years for standard searches.

In increased globalization, I guess one has to cope with a minor problem in a big infrastructure affecting minority set of people while rest of the world goes humming as usual.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Future of publically available scalable infrastructure

2007 saw a lot of action in standardized front-ends (i.e. Flex and Silverlight), and 2008 could as well see emergence of standardization for backend: publically available internet infrastructures.

If I am a startup, what do I really need to make my next social internet idea implemented quickly? Infrastructure elements such as Thrudb, Solr and Apache Hadoop integrated with services such as EC2. Some folks are now providing end-to-end stacks so you have full data management. We should expect the evolution of these stacks to standardize scalable service APIs for information store, search, user management, OpenID and so on.

For architects, the two pain-points will be addressed:
  • During development cycle, it will be nice to first use local infrastructure and then shift to public infrastructure.
  • Freedom to match and mix public infrastructures - not getting tied to one vendor. Multiple images, but same interfaces.
Let us wish that these services will be available through all major hosting vendors soon, and prove . Even major players are likely to jump into cloud computing. Let us hope that talk of few players dominating the cloud will prove to be wrong.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Mind hacks - 2: Dreams and reality

I had an interesting dream couple of days back. There was a sort of discussion with a technical person and the person asked me what was "squip". I said he probably meant squid a proxy/caching solution for web servers. The person insisted that he is asking about "squip" only. I gave up, and eventually came out of dream. Luckily for me, the question persisted after the dream, and the first thing I did after getting up from sleep was to google it.

So I find this interesting meme of a fictional pill containing a supercomputer and helping you make decisions, giving advance information and so on. This was part of marketing campaign of a book called "Be more chill" targeted at high-school teens. As part of viral campaign, the author setup a host of websites centered around squip culture, and pretty successful at that. I can't relate to this at all. I find nothing in my experience which would warrant awareness of this, except may be a remote connection that I am writing on mind hacks.

So one explanation is that mind keeps tapping the unmanist, which is part of collective conscious. I keep hearing of things are revealed in dreams, or in a specific moments of flash in certain mental states. Take for example, this article. (Disclaimer: I read it in web, and so no recommendations of authenticity. I have little idea about that organization.) People talk about things "flowing" just like that without having planned for it. More so with creative people in music and arts.

There is one correlation with "Squip" in spiritual themes: To let go of personal "self" or "mind" to your Guru or God, and let him drive it. It needn't be a real person, doesn't have to have association with a spiritual organization or culture. You can just feel you are part of totality - as if everything is one big organism, which has responsibility to sustain everything, and so you can be driven by it. In the process, the relaxed mind would surely allow more of the unmanifest, and hence a kind of ease of flow with life. Most so-called enlightened people claim this state of mind.

Universe acting as totality is an extension to the model we discussed in mind hacks blog post. This also throws up interesting questions (theme of my next post in series): Is there such a thing as ultimate boss in universe called God? What do we really mean when we say we experience something? What is the role of experience in understanding of reality?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mind Hacks - 1: Realms of Unmanifest

The trigger for this longish article came through National Geographic's TV serial - "My brilliant brain" The first episode was telecast today here in India. (Catch it at 10.00pm everyday for next week or so.) The first one covered case study of women chess world champion Susan Polgar - who was taught to become a chess genius by her father in a very systematic manner. "Geniuses are made, not born," was László Polgar - her father's thesis, and he groomed from the very beginning as child.

One of the points the episode made was that playing chess is essentially a pattern matching problem, like face recognition problem. And the theory was tested using MRI scan of brain taken during the process.

A normal person can remember approximately 7 units of information in "temporary memory" i.e. something that we will be recalling almost immediately. Some people who seem to remember a lot of things quickly. A person in a restaurant was studied - who could remember about 20-22 orders without having to write them down. This was pinned down to the fact that we organize information in connected bundles so that we don't have to remember individual details, and upto 7 such bundles can be stored. In the episode, Susan couldn't remember the chess board done in somewhat random manner.

Now some personal experiences. My residential high-school teacher Mr. G.D.Kale remembers all the people of all batches with their names, roll numbers, houses where we stayed etc. and tracks and remembers them. Each of us stayed there for 7 years. He is probably remembering some 4000 of us spread over about 40-50 batches (i.e. till he retired in mid 90's).

Our laundry person in IIT's dormitory would just accept all our clothes (for ironing), and one look was sufficient to remember all our clothes, and return them as single bundle. He was accepting at least few hundred clothes everyday, and they would typically be all mixed up.

So, what really is a genius? Is it state of deeply developed brain? Is it part of mind? Is mind different from brain?

Reality as depicted in Indian Philosophy

Interestingly, Indian philosophy has a 5-layered Kosas as model of reality, and it is an interesting study in itself - all the more so because you can actually experiment with it. (My interpretations are however weighed down by my background in computer science.)

These 5 different layers allow the unmanifest to manifest into reality, mind being 3rd, and the observable reality as 1st (with energy layer called Prana in between). Like a computer program which is not yet written, unmanifest represents that asects of reality which is not in human consciousness as yet. A high level idea at conceptual level then manifests at physical level. For example, a mass of wood becomes cognized as a table. Which comes first? Concept of table or concept of wood? What allows you to create a table using myriads of physical entities - be it wood or steel? It is similar to first creating a computer program in your head, and then finally instantiating into a physical computer to see the results.

So we say that reality flows from mental level to physical, as part of creation process. Neverthless, a concept is still in realm of mental layer, and very distinct - with origins in unmanifest. Higher layers of "Kosas" work to ensure that the reality produced thus-far survives. These are essentially "creation", "maintenance" and "destruction" processes. So if one wants to go beyond, he focuses more on destruction represented by God Shiva.

In modern science, they have concluded that mind is result of chemical reactions in brain, i.e. reality is only the result of evolution after a big bang. In Indian philosophy, reality is merely a projection (or "Maya") of the consciousness. I think the plain way to understand is to ask: How do we get back to the "original program" from its assembly representation? We know it is tough. It is same problem in Genomics study: If genes came about due to higher level program being imposed, then how can you easily get an idea of that program in its pristine form - which is in abstract reality?

So from this background, let us analyze more about mind and "genius" processes.

Mind is interesting entity: Its main role is to receive sensory reality through brain and allowing us to think in terms of concepts. We say we see a table and not wood, and we are able to switch contexts easily when we have to reference wood. This simple aspect already requires a great deal of conceptual world view, so we are adjust the boundary of our consciousness to focus on "right" detail of reality. As per the "Kosas" view, the brain is simply bringing the right information up the sieve, rather than it "resulting" in mind. Remember, mind is a different layer altogether, and can't be "seen" in physical terms here. Pattern matching is an aid in this process, but the conceptual reality comes from mental layer and reflected in brain.

Mind also receives from unmanifest layers and typically presents that information into our consciousness as intuitions. Intuitions are not pattern-matching based (which are still physical, coming from brain). Intuition can be seen as "directly" becoming aware of something - out of no reason. Similar thing happens when we "see" something with our eyes, when you consider that everything as abstract reality. Mind is just a particular way the consciousness operates so that it facilitates the goals it has been set as part of higher level koshas. And if higher levels allow, it can get information directly from reality that doesn't belong to the body. It is like an operating system being able to access any program's memory. And this results in we hearing about several people reading minds, foretelling events etc. (Remember, in abstract, there is no time or space, it is all one abstract continuum.)

Now, how can you hack your mind?

I happened to be in Satsang with a well revered yogic Guru this week, what is done there is essentially to delve into unmanifest. There are practices which ensure your mind stops reacting to external senses and thoughts in brain, and starts to receive experiences of unmanifest from higher layers. Essentially you are hacking into your system, and allow unmanifest to become manifest.

So in this context, the genius capabilities are nothing but deeper exercising of mental faculty. For e.g., Sadguru said: "Simultaneously multiple perceptions are possible, and you will remember them all; or you can switch to any number of personalities and so on (as if one "downloads" right software into the system)". He even said he can simply "download" higher aspects of reality directly into our system if right conditions are there in energy levels, body and mind.

However, like a program in computer which can access anything and everything, mind can also be made to do a lot of things. For example, you may never want to forget anything. Or, you might be able to know anything that happens elsewhere in world. But these capabilities will ultimately not fulfill the design goals of the system (i.e. ourselves) - Too much information will make you restless, will not reduce your worries etc. So a guru tells you not to care for those qualities until you have a capability to become independent of qualities like fear. Moreover, if you focus too much on physical reality, then you can't go beyond to know more about ultimate reality.

So how do you actually hack into mind? Well, simple idea is to not use mind itself to hack, or our existing models. When mind becomes quiet, our conscious automatically becomes aware of higher levels of reality.

So how do I believe that this is indeed a possibility? Well, I have only experienced a little, but
I have lots of close friends and easy-to-approach everyday people who can tell you the kind of experiences, higher energy levels they are undergoing. You even have really serious Gurus coming on various religious TV channels giving a lot of details of the theory, processes, and hand-holding necessary for you to explore that other dimension. You have people narrating their experiences in public. And if you are lucky, you will even come across the physical manifestations like "Nadi Astrology" which are astonoishing - they have your future written up thousands of years back by some rishis, and you can explore it yourself.

For those who are interested in mind-hacking, India is truly a place to be.

And if you still distrust all these, there are "pure Jnana" ways i.e. using only reasoning to go beyond. That still remains my truly ultimate approach. I duly recommend books like UG's "Unrational ideas of man called UG" and "I am that" book by Nisargadatta Maharaj (Chetana Publications, Mumbai) to delve into these.

While I am interested in mind hacking, I still feel that this model is not ultimate reality. It is like a path created where there can be no path. Ultimate reality has absolutely no rules that it has to manifest this way!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Would you still be designing desktop applications?

Need for offline access, and fast and rich UI are probably two main reasons we still care for desktop applications - particularly in India where web access is still costly, and digital divide is striking. Adobe's AIR technology has created some good excitement for desktop applications. Are we now coming back and saying that desktop application development is getting new lease of life through desktop RIAs such as Adobe AIR?

Well, my answer is not an overwhelming yes, but let me analyze the typical pro-web reasonings:

Users can instantly access web-based applications; there is no additional Install step. Users surely have better experience with desktop RIA frameworks such as AIR or Java webstart. With fast network connections, the download of runtimes are pretty quick (about 5-10 MBs). The actual applications are usually very small, say few hundred KBs, so it is not considered as a problem. (However, I have faced other problems such as setting up of proxy, and so experience can be still annoying.)

Finding web based application is usually very quick, using Google. This is not a traditional reason, but I find this to be top in my priority list. A typical active web user accesses a few hundred applications today (both desktop and web together). In web, finding the application's site is usually very very quick - typically using google, and browser history. However, try doing same on desktop, you can count at least 15-20 clicks before you can get to your application. Of course there are productivity apps such as Launchy, but how many are aware of them? (And they are not always consistent). And desktop RIAs are still not doing anything to solve this problem.

Web based applications are single instance, and changes are reflected to all users instantly. With good auto-update capability, we do have some level of control. Ideally, the new version should simply overwrite the previous application i.e. no need to migrate the data. So this is really an application design issue: Design it in such a way that you use caches, and keep track of updates that you need to submit to web. A good set of design patterns for offline applications will solve these problems (and ideally same for web as well as offline applications).

Having to worry about Network Proxy and variety of other settings. Yes, this can be tricky. However, RIA frameworks do take care of these problems.

Having to worry about backup of your apps and its data. Not really an issue, because we are suggesting that the application should cache the data, and reset the environment every once in a while just in case. I look forward for the day when my desktop apps are really in web, and all I do is to sync them up. Let web remember what applications I have installed in my desktop.

So I am tending to have a strong feeling that we can indeed rely on desktop, it might be possible for us to synchronize our desktop applications list with our web account, it will be easily possible to extend social applications to desktop soon, and more importantly, I don't have to worry about my application data at all. I am not sure if mainstream applications such as word processors, IDEs can easily follow this route to shed their weights, but we know for sure that a lot of useful, smaller applications will come to desktop, give us freedom to work from anywhere and offline, and generally offer a much better experience.

Ultimately, towards a true "desktop is cache of your web" scenario. Hopefully platform independent as well!


Friday, November 23, 2007

Nice reading - "Want 100 million farmers"

If you are interested in agricultural economics, check out this interesting entry:  More will be asked of us: Revisiting 100 Million Farmers. - A suggestion that really lot more farmers are needed for the economy, and each one of us should be able to participate in the farming process, particularly from within urban cities; and there are methods and approaches to do that, and some cities (like HongKong) are doing that.

So what's the problem here? The whole of food economics relies on fact that few people should produce food for a most of the population, so that that population can afford food at much lower prices - in a way that will sustain the farmer community at reasonable levels of living costs. With increase in awareness of organic farming, preferences to local sustainable farming, we do need to rethink on whether there can be a sustainable economic activity which can achieve these goals.

So if social networking are impacting us in shopping, finding good stocks etc., they may also help us grow food for few others, and make this activity economically sustainable, and may trigger a revolution in this space!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Google (and other) search results should contain date of content

Search engines have generally treated older content gets mixed with most recent (and continuously updated) content, and you read everything only to realize that it was old article. It would be useful if Google and other search engines do add dates to the search results.

It is not so trivial to figure out the date of content (will require fair amount of text analysis), but then, these tasks are so easy for Google.  If and when this happens, we can expect mashup folks to get active and use this information in interesting ways.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Cortex thinking vs. reptilian thinking ...

Exactly what is it that makes most people to give attention to your product or service, and then get "converted" so as to start liking your product and recommending to others? An abstraction of this is cortex thinking vs. reptilian thinking, highlighted by discussion with Clotaire Rapaille in this 37signals article: People have no idea why they're doing what they're doing.

When you create a situation that has to make people think on some aspects, then it is cortex thinking. For example, telling them "This is cheaper!". But when you connect with them without making them think - typically at emotional level, then you get them involved in very different way; sometimes the pattern may not even be connected to product directly. You build awareness of product, but without making that product central to the engagement of your customers.

However, one should also be aware of overall context. You can't sell cakes to person who is not having two loaves of bread to eat; i.e. if the people are looking for very specific things arising out of necessities.

For example, in airlines industry in India today, Air Deccan's price oriented "cortex" thinking is clearly dominant in its approach to connect to customers, who are probably flying for the very first time in life, and are from middle and lower classes, i.e. highly cost conscious. So it makes sense to go with "cheap airline flying" focused advertisements. On the contrary, Kingfisher does reptilian-like advertisements around concept of "Good Life", and very clearly, attempts to connect to market of wealthy people who don't care about price (and there are significant number of them too!), but would like the attention of getting pampered.

Now that the market is maturing, Air Deccan should start doing reptilian advertisements - start building brand around emotional aspects. The audience is sufficiently mature, and are probably bored of Air Deccan's efforts to lower the prices, but everyone also knows that we just can't take their low prices as granted; there are others who often have lower prices!

Whoever has seen another advert which seems to be doing reptilian is a new brand called "Bingo" - selling potato chips. Typically they start with highlighting image of something we know is not-so-ordinary and then kill it, saying that "Bingo is not having all that, but it has something that you really want!". Though not exactly connecting to yourself, it can still be called reptilian!

Interesting, this world!

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A group wants to open-source Retail supply chain processes

This one would be truly revolutionary when it comes along!

One of the groups called "open source co-operative", primarily belonging to retail industry (and backed by a manufacturing-based group) recently called a meeting of open-source enthusiasts to explain their concepts of open sourcing the retail supply chain.

No - not just to create open source solutions for retail chains, but to open up the whole logistics for public scrutiny. As customer, you would like to know what is the price at which something was procured at different points in supply chain, before you end up paying at the retail end. And by opening this process, this group wants to create a totally new model to enter booming market, which will hopefully get a major customer backing.

Their strategy is to ensure that the numerous small shops are able to get about 5-10% profits, and still be competitive enough to be able to fight it out with big chains which are now entering the market. As customer, for e.g., you are free to be aware of prices at different shops in your locality and how those prices were arrived it. (For e.g. did it cost more for logistics?)

Very innovative, and interesting, the concept is being promoted by non-software folks - primarily with retail and management background. They sought help of local linux groups to figure out how they can leverage open source community, and to chart out a well-managed plan to identify the projects, co-ordinations etc. in this space. They are also open to creating projects and helping out in fields other than retail (for e.g. law).

Quite exciting. The only link we have currently is from ITVidya's

More info will be up soon, and I think these folks are using some orkut groups for discussion...

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Andrew Cowie's talk in 2006

He gave a talk on "Solving fundamental structural problem of free software movement" where he addressed various problems.

He addressed the fact that it is indeed not very easy to contribute code for someone who is interested in participating. There is a long learning curve, and inherently centralized approach to get your patches accepted. The root of problem is the fact that everyone uses cvs and subversion, and he highlighted other emerging tools which approach the problem at the process level itself i.e. doing patch management in very different, decentralized manner.

Second problem is the difficulty of having to set up the build mechanism using make, autoconf and host of other tools, and he and others are working towards a simplified tool that could help the process (buildtool).

Third problem he addressed was the fact that bug tracking tools are indeed very bad - in the sense that for a given problem one faces, it is very difficult to trace back to the root of problem, which end up in some bug tracking system set up within project contexts, and end up as frustrating experience - especially considering that different libraries of same projects will use different bug-tracking systems altogether. Solution? To create a unified bug tracking mechanism.

And finally he also gave a lot of insights in ongoing Microsoft and Novell agreement related issues. And the fact that Microsoft can resurrect long-forgotten patents. He quoted example of DOS file system patent, which was resurrected after about 16-17 years or so...

People like me, who can't contribute on continuous basis, but can once in a while identify bugs and do small enhancements will indeed want to see some interesting things happen. I recently wanted to add a simple support for privoxy - to make it select a proxy from a list of proxies provided during runtime (something like switchproxy that is available as firefox plugin). I wanted this so that networking roaming is simplified and I can make privoxy the only proxy all my applications should configure and use; so I don't have to worry about switching proxies of every app when I roam. I knew exactly what code I wanted to write, but I couldn't get the build environment setup in quick enough time. (Especially considering that I wanted the binaries for windows).... and finally gave up on the idea.

Perhaps the approach for things like making bug tracking uniform is to let each system give out ATOM feeds with specialized entry types (i.e. of type "bug"). Agreeing on schema will always be a problem, but we can still do something.  The feed aggregators can then ensure that they identify these entries and provide a uniform look and feel at client-end. And we require a mechanism to capture dependencies, and associate raw errors with high level errors. (For e.g. "xyz.h not found" should be translated to "Package xyzxyz not installed on your system."). The ATOM feed approach also helps offline users who are connected to internet intermittently...

And same approach should be usable for build system itself i.e. whatever will be accepted as replacement for CVS/Subversion on large scale...


Friday, November 24, 2006

FOSS 2006 - I would like to meet interested folks!

I am here at FOSS 2006 in Bangalore. Would like to meet other people from Pune. (Some 4-5 of us from my organization are here.) 

Some of my interests, and if you have same interests, we could try to meet! (Mail me at vinod dot kulkarni at gmail dot com).
  • Web-top concepts - Making browser front end the de-facto desktop, supported by native web server. Essentially integrate web and desktop in a way that it can give Linux an edge. (In this context, I would like to discuss role of ATOM protocols for some of the things.)
  • Wiki systems - We use twiki as our enterprise Knowledge Management (and several other) platform. If you are tracking Wiki's we can get in touch. (And in general, content management systems ...)
  • Bringing Web2.0 to enterprise and a better P2P approach for the same.
In particular, if you have open source projects in these areas (or may be in other areas as well), let me know!

So let me know if you are interested!


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Unbelievable - Very high density, paper based storage?

This deccan Herald story is truly unbelievable. A student has used a very different approach (of geometric figures to pack more data) and print them on paper. When scanned, one can retrieve the contents back. And what sizes are we talking about? You get an idea here:

In a demo at his college laboratory, this author could see text typed on 432 pages of foolscap paper being stored in a four square inch paper. The author was even shown a 45-second video clip of a Malayalam film stored on an ordinary paper piece.

This seems to be a legitimate news because (a) Deccan Herald is respected news paper, and (b) The approach seems to be new, and probably not tried out before.

So if we try to analyze the paper based data storage, using regular scanners and printers we get in market (and assuming no loss, which in any case can be compensated by good encoding techniques), here is a guess about best of parameters that one would expect:
  • About 10^2 distinct geometric shapes per 'location'
  • About 10^3 distinct colours
  • About 10x10 pixels for one geometric shape
  • You have about  10^3x10^3 dpi (best achievable printing/scanning, given that we have about 4800x1200 today) pixels.  That is about 10^4 locations per square inch.
So basically we have about 10^4 * 10^2 * 10^3 = 10^9 bits that you can accomodate in square inch.  And that is approx. 1GB, or about 100Megabytes.  Give or take an order or two of magnitude, and you have at least 1 Megabytes per square inch. And that was what was the kind of numbers which were reported.

So it seems like there is indeed some potential!

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Zimbra - Blog - Ajax sweet spots  is a good analysis by zimbra people; I specifically liked the following listing of how to supercharge email experience with ajax interfaces (+mashups etc.)

With Ajax-based messaging, arbitrary email content can be made live by linking it with web content and services on intranets or the Internet. No more cutting and pasting from email to browser. Mousing over actionable content gives the user a real-time preview (subject to security constraints) that can be factored in decision making:

• Mouse-over a date or time, and see what is in your calendar;

• Mouse-over a phone number, and see what is in your address book;

• Mouse-over a physical address, and see a map or even driving directions and estimated arrival time;

• Mouse-over a flight, and see whether or not it is on time;

• Mouse-over a customer email address or case tracking number, and see its status;

• Mouse-over an equity to get a quote;

• Mouse-over a part number to check inventory;

• Mouse-over an Internet order, and see its shipping status; and so on.

With Ajax-based messaging, email content can also be fully actionable:

• Right click on a phone number to make a call with your soft-phone (such as via Skype or a Cisco VoIP phone);

• Right click on a date to schedule a meeting;

• Right click on a name, address, or phone number to update your address book;

• Right click on an airline reservation to print your boarding pass;

• Right click on an equity to trade;

• Right click on a part number to place an order for more inventory;

• Right click on a purchase order, provisioning request, or other internal workflow request to approve or reject it; and so on again.

Now, only if we had fully open way of doing these things. The very first thing I envisage is to create a widget that can display single MIME email. Hopefully we will have it sometime.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

In India, philosophy is in the blood, and the media personalities are also not free from it.

I was watching Navjot Singh Sidhu, ex-cricketer and who is quite popular on TV for his famous one liners. One can see that the creativity just flows through him, without any effort, very natural and balanced. Otherwise, he would have been a big bore by now.

On this particular show, he was his true self, explaining his core beliefs; with firm footings in Indian philosophy. If someone were to cut that part and present it independently, it would be almost like any other Guru out there. Almost like Swami Vivekananda who appealed to youth; and he does it in modern day...

After all, he is known to meditate for 3 hours everyday.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Mohanchoti - Job site with referrals.

Mohanchoti Finally job site which takes references into account; companies should love this. At this time, I think it is Indian companies who could benefit due to typical service nature involving large volumes. May be it could as well become popular all across.

And these guys are aggressive in marketing. They sent orkut friend request to make themselves visible. Bad. But we will excuse you, if you can truly deliver a job site that is web 2.0 enabled, community oriented, and may be good referers can even make money too. (I know some of those networkers who are truly good...).

Drop your experiences here in the comments. It is hard to get a good idea unless the system gets some decent number of people. This part will be interesting. (And Naukari and others: You have to take note!)

Advertisements. The good, the bad and the ugly.

In the first advertisement, two teenagers are checking their weight; one of them is fat. But the weight of the fat guy turns out to be much less; because he is showing off his shoes which are so light that they are supposed to reduce your weight. That was indeed ugly; it can't hide the reality, and importantly, makes mockery of any thinking power.

In the next advertisement, a kid comes with a toy limousine car and asks the shopkeeper (celebrity) for cells. Upon using those cells, the toy instantaneously becomes a big full-size, 4 door limousine. Our celebrity exclaims "I never thought the cells are so powerful... there is something big in them ....". (To be fair, there was bit of creativity as well: The next kid brings a toy dinosaur and asks for cells). This ad was simply bad. It replaces established norms and kind of does brain washing of those kids.

So much for this projected power of cells and shoes. One wishes that these dreams come true one day.

Seriously, there is a big problem that no one in the advertisement delivery chain seems to take responsibility for. These type of adverts are always targeted to influence young people and children. They strive to create a bigger-than-life images about their products; it doesn't matter whether it maps to any trace of reality... So they can't afford to teach rational decision making that requires one to measure things, understand the real choices ...

Interestingly, there was another advertisement which was very very positive, and I would truly like to thank the person who came out with the idea. This advert showed Mahendra Dhoni (a cricketer of excellence) in duplicate - one as a train's ticket collector, and another as he himself. And he says "I chose and worked to become what I am today; otherwise, I could have been that" pointing to train's ticket collector. And the advert (that of shoe polish) then says just one thing - "Outshine."; which very meaningfully has captured both the required meanings. Very positive communication all along, especially for young people for whom he is most popular icon today.

Of course, you can find fault with this one too: "How can they show Ticket Collector in a bad light?". But, that is not the feeling that you end up with, so I wouldn't buy this argument.

Unfortunately, the life goes on and on like that. Strong impressions are made on young people and are hard to remove later. The damage should be understood by those who are responsible for these things. If designed those bad and ugly advertisements, you will understand the kind of power (and damage) you have. May be a subset of kids are smart, and can even appreciate your creativity. But you can't ignore those remaining kids. After all, would you yourself like to become like robots; tools in other people's hands?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Wiki + RSS + Email ecosystem

David Berlind, in recent ZDNet blog - RSS: The new intranet protocol? comments:
"With RSS as both the notification mechanism and the content subscription mechanism, you basically have a single technology that takes e-mail, e-mail attachments, and far too many round-trips (of email, to fully facilitate the collaboration) completely out of the equation. "
In essence, his main contention is that it is mainly email vendors (IBM, Microsoft etc.) who have kept the collaboration problem "alive" and not really providing better systems upfront in lieu of email technology. And now, they ought to take technologies like RSS and Wiki systems seriously and provide solutions that may replace email.

I have held to an opinion that Blogs are NOT a replacement for email. But here is a different take: RSS feed as notification of changing content in wiki, as opposed to carrying content. Is this feasible? Are people already using RSS this way? I am not sure. You normally "live" in email system, and go to read blogs in your RSS client once in a while only i.e. you will miss notifications due to faster pace of collaboration. Indeed many people wish to get emails of changes in wiki systems rather than use RSS for notifications.

So what is possibility that RSS clients take over outlook, and you start living more in RSS client? Not so soon, I would say.

There is standard "good-enough" notification mechanism: Those balloons which pop-up and disappear automatically in non-intrusive manner. Microsoft supports them in most of its products. Even thunderbird has them. May be someone has RSS-to-notifier tool out there. The only problem I find with them is their transient nature: If you are not in your seat, you are likely to miss it. But this can be augmented easily; all we want is a mechanism to show missed alerts/notifications when we return to seat.

So with multiple means of notification (i.e. emails, RSS and the pop-ups), I am not sure which are right means. All we know is that they should get our attention quickly. They also should integrate with other tools - such as postponing a task, creating an event and so on. Ideally, I would like a completely independent notification system that integrates with mobile phones, email systems and so on; it adjusts the visibility appropriately; understands expiry aspects of notifications well, and keeps tab on long as well as short term notifications. Perhaps some innovation is supposed to happen there. Yes, RSS and notifications are intricately connected; but pure RSS is not a solution for notifications-related issues I listed here.

Coming back to wiki vs. email vs. RSS problem, I believe that wikis will integrate with email in better manner. We once tried a project where email content (of a shared imap folder) was itself available as wiki, and changed content was simply posted as new email. That way, you have same content as both wiki and email; solving a major integration problem. But the project was not fully explored.

Another approach is to "webify" email i.e. have a set of tools/technologies that will transform email consumption approach to use browser (as opposed to outlook etc.). That means, every email should be a web resource. And that will enable us to create shared areas easily (to share the emails, its documents etc.), and more importantly, start shifting to wiki based collaboration in incremental and integrated manner. So over the time, everyone will find it easier to simply use wiki approach to write documents and create presentations rather than using Microsoft products for the same. (It also lessens the IT support required to support single web stack in the organization.) Zimbra pioneered this type of enterprise stack already though it is still emai-only.

One most important aspect that still matters: Emails should be available offline - on laptops, and "with you always". This is conceptually as well as technologically strong argument (i.e. less dependencies; you always have access to your email even when internet connection doesn't work etc.). But when we also want web technology to creep in somehow instead of FAT outlook. The only architecture is to have offline web server, and synchronization mechanism that treats all content uniformly. Some companies (webaroo comes to mind) are already pushing this platform (For saved search results and ready-to-use web-packs).

And of course, we know Google now has capability to offer enterprise email systems - although no offline means as yet. We can guess they have a plan.

So there is indeed a lot of excitement in this space, and email ecosystem is still most happening place for innovation.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

ComputerWorld article: The Future of E-mail

The Future of E-mail explores various research related to email - from Microsoft R&D, IBM and HP, among several others - along with titbits such as how many work in email space in Microsoft R&D (which is, about 40). Here is quick summary of all projects:

Microsoft's efforts in Malware control
- "Combination of New technologies, plus economic and political pressures will solve the problem." Microsoft is primarily pushing Sender ID framework, whose advantage, it claims, is that it will work across the communication technologies (such as IM).
- "SmartScreen" filter uses statistical approach to identify spam. Phishing filter add-in for MSN Search toolbar. Other approaches - such as solving puzzles, micropayments also under consideration.
- "MailScope" which monitors email routes and identifies delays in email delivery.
- "SureMail" - approach to ensure emails are indeed received. A parallel architecture to email to post notifications (of having sent email) into a centralized table and ensuring that clients poll that table to know about pending emails.

Email as part of activity threads in workplace
- IBM's Activity Explorer is a collaboration tool that pulls together e-mail messages, synchronous communication such as instant messages, screen images, files, folders and to-do lists. A different UI has emails under explicitly defined activities of a business process.
- Microsoft Research has developed a way to combine e-mail, files, Web pages, calendar entries, to-do lists and other materials into one searchable archive. Called "Stuff I've Seen".

Mining corporate message archives
- HP's message mining to identify patterns of collaboration among people: Leadership roles, people who act as hubs and so on. For e.g. "Who are top 5 experts in topic XYZ?"
- Also a similar (but more subtler approaches) from Jon Kleinberg, a professor of computer science at Cornell University, who focuses on social networks; understanding precisely who or what factors are responsible for key influences on community.

Email has been my personal focus for last several years, and I can't agree more to a general impression that email is yet to come out of its teanage stage. Blogs serve a different communication paradigm, and while it will co-exist (and integrate - from workflow point of view), it won't replace email. But wikis are very different beasts; if done well, they have capability to create a dent in email. It all depends on how universal they will become; like how sendmail became universal some years ago.

We have some projects within my organization, and quite interesting too - it has elements of all three aspects discussed above. You would have to contact me through official channels, if you are interested.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Success of "Bhoomi" - eGovernance project of Karnataka state govt.

Slowly and steadily, e-Governance projects have started making a mark in India. From: Right click to e-asy governance- The Times of India article:

- It just takes 2 min. to get your land records. (Compared to endless queues earlier + bribes etc.)
- 4.06 crore farmers have used this service, paying about Rs. 61.94 crores for the service; roughly about Rs. 15/- per use. (This is probably for period of about 2000 to 2005.)
- Most important, the service is available via 203 kiosks all over the state.
- To ensure there is no unathorized tampering of records, officers have to use their fingerprints to get access.
- Linked online with banks and courts, all associated processes (such as taking loans, resolving litigations) have become much simpler and taking less time.
- Estimated Rs. 2500 crores savings from controlling losses due to tampering from Bangalore alone.

This successful implementation and goes a long way to give confidence in the eGovernance systems.

Even in Maharashtra, the system has been put into place.

Maturity from the governing class is still slow to come. In a recent local news, the corporaters of Pune Municipal Corporation demanded a return to manual system to collect the taxes because servers were not functioning properly for a month. They could have as well demanded to know why PMC is not able to maintain its servers in nice way. (Perhaps it is due to common problem of not having to find right people/companies who can provide such services in reliable manner.)

Whatever it is, we see strong winds of change, and it is bound to take everyone along with it ...

Friday, June 23, 2006

Cringely to local TV stations: Connect to your customers directly from local telcos ...

Here is something that can greatly benefit India.

Just some time back, my house had 100mbps fibre connectivity via a local ISP provider. However, the business model of this provider was not strong. And he had to take the fibre over the existing housing societies, running into problems with cable providers. Also, there was no easy solution to provide power at different points which needed bridging. Ultimately, that provider closed down.

What I had suggested to him at that time was to install a set of services involving audio/video from the free content available from internet, and to use local advertisements effectively. Essentially make the service sufficiently sticky. But they just couldn't do it. This big amount of bandwidth - connecting some 2-3000 houses - could have also been used in P2P manner. But then it would have required something else altogether.

Similar model is in essence the summary of Cringely's suggestions in (PBS | I, Cringely . June 8, 2006 - Local Heroes). He suggests that local TV companies can make use of this approach - by keeping their servers at each of the DSL/Cable provider's network room.

In contrast, centralized, web-based approach to serving video / broadband data to end-users is very costly. In India, you can today afford 256kbps at reasonable costs. Nothing more. So Cringely's model is a very interesting hope - provided our policy makers take note. (Rather, a hoping that they don't interfere, if such a model boots up.)

This is surely a model that can be kicked off with purely local relations (as Cringely points out). In India, we still don't have concepts of local TV stations. Local cable companies do show movies and (sometimes live) footage of local events. And the biggest benefitiary would be the education sector which enables eLearning on a wide scale. (Folks at Project Ekalavya, take note!).

Reliance already is already testing IPTV with its 100mbps network. (And I have seen it, and it is simply fabulous - you can access any archived TV program, choose any movie at any time, or listen to songs.) I am not sure of other players, but Cringely's model doesn't require centralized approach, it all depends on whether they can inflence BSNL (key player in DSL segment) and several other ISPs in India. Clearly an opportunity for a new business model - if someone has right contacts.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Enterprise deployment of Firefox ...

Biggest problem of using things like bookmarklets in enterprise is that you can't cleanly ensure everyone can see same thing. You require some decent means to control the configuration from one place.

The mozillazine article - Firefox Enterprise Notes has some best practices - though bit old (July 2005).

Hope that Flock, with its recent beta, can make it to enterprise!

Monday, June 19, 2006

India's answer to "Ripley's Believe it or not"

Zee's "Shabhash India" show debuted today with amazing believe-it-or-not type performances from individuals from different corners of the country.

First performer took in water from his nose and threw it like a jet, from ... corner of his eye! That this jet of water was so forceful was it was thrown to distance of about 11 feet. Think about the kind of cavity the person may be having, and the kind of control on his internal muscles.

The second person was having, visibly, the largest lung that I might have seen so far. This person took a truck tube, blew it to fill it completely .... and then blow so much as to burst it!! To be able to do this, his lungs should bear forces greater that what a truck can create when tyres burst!

Both the above people claimed that their capability came from Yoga/Meditation/Pranayama.

And the third one was a small kid talented with skating. In skating, one of the performance is to widen the legs and try to pass through a clearance as small as possible. Now this kind managed through of clearance of 6.5 inches... which was created by lining up some 33 cars side-by-side!!! That is at about 100 to 120 feet long!! Probably the height of this kid's head was about 5 inch - when in horizontal position - turned sidewise. Also, I don't know how he moved all that 120 feet in straight line - because he held his body rigidly throughout.

All in all, Kudos to Zee for having creating this interesting TV show, and having identified such interesting people from different places. The show is going to be there every day ...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Tagging email messages - Thunderbird plugin from!

Finally the tagging comes to email world. blog has a release candidate for the same.

Emails and web world are still separate. Ideally, we should have a standardized approach to view any emails as a web resource (i.e. URL), and then be able to tag it or use tonnes of innovative approaches out there...

BTW, service (which automatically creates tags) is also quite amazing... Unlike recommendations given from sites like delicious, I guess this service uses text analysis.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

BarCampPune - Recoja tags specific content within web pages

Bringing tagging granularity to finer level so you can tag at paragraph or specific content, is an innovation that is likely to be very useful. What it does is to allow us to increase relevance of specific content, and not web page as a whole. This is greatly useful when you are consuming content in a aggregated manner (such as in news aggregators).

Shodhan Sheth and Anand Kishore are working on Recoja, which does precisely this thing. They presented their work on extensions to delicious tagging to facilitate this (via firefox plugin).

What Recoja does is that it allows you to tag a specific paragraph within a web, so that it is much more context specific. So when page is displayed (in firefox), it will show a small tag icon in green (cute, really!) and then when you move cursor there, it will highlight the tags put there.

There are some challenges. For e.g. the tags are external to content. So when content changes, their algorithms have to re-identify the content which was tagged. So the references which are created should be content based. (One algorithm: Choose the paragraph, checksum it and store it. Next time, try to identify this paragraphs. Use 2-3 trigger words to try to identify the checksum that needs to be search in current page.) But this algorithm requires a good amount of CPU power, as well as storage.

Now that we create tags at paragraph level, then this will basically allow us to add and share notes when collaborating - better than the way Web does. This is very much required for wiki systems!

(Questions asked: Can I use the same to tag audio/video content - specific segments?)

Good plugin!!

BarCampPune - Context based search project by Mukul Joshi (and other presentations)

Mukul Joshi presented an implementation of context-sensitive search engine that was implemented by some project students, and got a first prize in annual competition held in IISc. (Sorry, don't have reference here.)

Context search is when search engine gives you options when you search. For e.g. if you say Apple, is it Apple computer or Apple fruit?

He gave a good overview, and explained all the concepts; in particular use of Context Net database (again, sorry no reference as yet) that has some 50000+ concepts. More importantly, how can personalization be integrated so that user doesn't have to specifically select context. He also neatly summed up various problems in search space still to be attacked.

Interestingly, Webaroo also gave a presentation. They have something known as 'webpacks' which are a set of collected information about a particular topic such as City. (These can be uploaded to mobile later.) So that is basically a context, right? So what they do is to automatically identify good resources and pack them for you to download them in mobile (so they are available offline for search and browse).

Atul Kulkarni gave a talk on Naive Bayesian classification, and gave resources / toolkits etc.

BarCampPune - Context based search project by Mukul Joshi (and others)

Mukul Joshi presented an implementation of context-sensitive search engine that was implemented by some project students, and got a first prize in annual competition held in IISc. (Sorry, don't have reference here.)

Context search is when search engine gives you options when you search. For e.g. if you say Apple, is it Apple computer or Apple fruit?

He gave a good overview, and explained all the concepts; in particular use of Context Net database (again, sorry no reference as yet) that has some 50000+ concepts. More importantly, how can personalization be integrated so that user doesn't have to specifically select context. He also neatly summed up various problems in search space still to be attacked.

Interestingly, Webaroo also gave a presentation. They have something known as 'webpacks' which are a set of collected information about a particular topic such as City. (These can be uploaded to mobile later.) So that is basically a context, right? So what they do is to automatically identify good resources and pack them for you to download them in mobile (so they are available offline for search and browse).

Atul Kulkarni gave a talk on Naive Bayesian classification, and gave resources / toolkits etc.

BarCampPune - Adaptive Learning by Parag Shah ...

Parag Shah, an avid researcher on learning methodologies, put up a good list of productivity tools in this space at Adaptive Learning.

For e.g. ePortfolios as one of the tools. Another example: Virtual worlds, such as SecondLife, are going to be one of the key enablers. (It seems Microsoft has already put a lot of stuff there for learning.) Some scenes from second life put on the site.

Some good practices out there to check out.

BarCampPune - Carpools for India!

Finally some interesting problems getting solved in India. In this case, carpooling - for key Indian cities: Sidharth Sharma, who lives in Pune, has setup

It is still not a service, but currently a sourceforge project. Needless to say, integrates with Google Maps!

And since we don't have good road maps to go with google maps in India, hopefully this effort will become a vehicle to augment google maps with road networks in a collaborative manner.

BarCampPune - Indecca uses Erlang for gaming infrastructure

Today at BarCampPune, Rakesh Raju from Indecca, a gaming infrastructure company gave a good presentation on their technology challenges in supporting gaming infrastructure.

Requiring scaling to lakhs of users, they are considering Erlang for their infrastructure - which has been used for telecom industry for scalability, concurrency etc.

Seems like some good thinking going on there.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Intel's (new?) site layout and feedback usability ...

I visited Intel website recently and was in for a pleasant surprise! Intel has given up on those dark blue colors, and seems to be using best of the web design techniques.

In particular, I was bit intrigued by the way they get feedback. A small window appears (not a popup; but those javascript effects - such as this. But it only asks if you are interested in giving feedback after reading the article, and if you click on yes, places a special icon at bottom right corner of the page.

It is a different story that in firefox (i.e. most recent update), I couldn't access that icon. The firefox scrollbar would roll back just above that icon everytime I try to drag it to try to access that icon. Obviously some gotcha - when it is placed relative to frame.

The article I was reading was about the kind of challenges in Intel's mobility strategy (Building Intel's mobile tomorrow - an interview with Kevin Kahn - Director of Communication Technology Lab at Intel. I still retain interest in Intel's Mobilized Software Initiative (though it has kind of gone out of buzz) - with its objective of truly mobile computing (i.e. even with limited internet connectivity, using power judiciously, designing for multiple form factors and so on.)

Insight into Hotmail's infrastructure

A Conversation with Phil Smoot - An engineer at Hotmail discusses the challenges of keeping one of the Web’s largest and oldest Internet services running 24/7. A good overview of their challenges and methodologies of large scale system.

  • 10000 servers, 100 admins (across the world)
  • Primarily Microsoft shop. (Visual studio, SQLServer etc.)
  • billions of email messages (mostly spam?!!) per day
Key challenges:
  • Dealing with abuse and spam
  • Shipping features every 3 and 6 months
  • How to release complex changes over a set of multiple releases
  • Best practices
  • Fully automated rollouts
  • Distribute new version to first 10 servers, and then 100 and then 1000 and so on. Ensure multiple versions can co-exist
  • Load balancing across the site. (transactions + user capacity)
  • Focus on specs of changes, so as to be able to predict the effects and measure them. Be able to have right instrumentation for measurements.
  • Predict cost of change. Even a penny counts (over millions of users.)
  • Be able to operationally you can isolate a broken or failing hardware component or server or service.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Screencasting as Advertisement medium ...

A microsoft video ad screams that "you can be king of web" through a video that shows a man picking up a crown from a drawer and wearing it (in his cubicle.)

Why can't they instead directly screencast the actual product usage and capabilities? Considering that I was viewing the page of a highly technical site, the devels and managers might as well get some really useful information and "get involved" with the advert.

May be some other companies can try that!


Amazon CTO Werner Vogel's views on SOA standards ...

A great inerview in ACM Queue: A Conversation with Werner Vogels - Amazon's CTO explains what's behind its growth from online bookstore to e-commerce juggernaut.:

JG: "How many of the current buzzwords, such as SOA, WSDL, SOAP, WS-security, are relevant to you?"

WV: "I would like to distinguish three categories of interfaces here. The first category is the services that make up the Amazon platform. There we use interface specifications such as WSDL, but we use optimized transport and marshalling technology to ensure efficient use of CPU and network resources.

The second category is the interface with our retail partners, which has strict descriptions for XML feed processing, service interfaces, etc., and where we leverage as many standard technologies as possible.

The third category is our public Amazon Web Services, which builds on the platform services and provides REST-like as well as SOAP interfaces. If we look at how developers use these interfaces, in general the REST version is used by small libraries in Perl or PHP as part of a LAMP stack, and the SOAP calls are mainly done by applications that have been built on Java or .NET platforms by consuming our WSDL files and generating proxy objects.

Do we see that customers who develop applications using AWS care about REST or SOAP? Absolutely not! A small group of REST evangelists continue to use the Amazon Web Services numbers to drive that distinction, but we find that developers really just want to build their applications using the easiest toolkit they can find. They are not interested in what goes on the wire or how request URLs get constructed; they just want to build their applications."
So REST vs. SOAP/WebServices debate continues. "Easiest toolkit" is of course what all developers are looking for - ones that hide all the intricacies and dependencies among multiple-vendor stacks out there. But would REST win (because of least dependencies, simplicity)? Would Web Services win (generally elaborate architecture, more vendor activity)?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Raj National Travels ...

Raj national travels now offers a complete internet based booking ( from any point to any point (on the routes they have services).

But one of the foolish things they seem to be doing is to imitate the Airline business to obsene levels. For e.g. you have to "check in the luggage", "report 30 min prior to the start time" etc. The whole point of traveling by bus - especially between cities such as Mumbai and Pune (distance of about 2 hours) is that you save a lot of time by catching the bus just 5 min before scheduled departure.

And another foolish thing: Because they run off the internet, they don't have mechanism to admit last-minute passengers. Once we were right at there when bus was about to leave (from the last pick-up point in the city), and even though there were sufficient no. of unoccupied seats, the in-charge basically said they can't any more passengers. No - not even "in-house" TC as you have in trains! Isn't that foolish? Basically it shows how the software systems are often built without understanding of real world properly...

The level of sincerity among staff is however quite high. When the service was delayed once, the person in-charge gave factual answers, and also gave appropriate instructions to not to stop for tea break - since we had to catch flight immediately.

In any case, the rates are no less than other buses. The main convenience is that you can book with your credit card (and beware - you may not be able to cancel; the cancellation charges are more than ticket charges - another fooling thing!).

Hope these people get software things right. And most importantly, they should give some respect to most basic aspects of life, and not take us customers for granted.

Titbits from Frank Addante's FounderBlog: From a 29-year-old college drop-out

Frank has written a nice blog piece on his experiences with startup ( Strongmail is in very interesting space - which you must track if you are in email space.

Some really interesting points made there:

About sensing capabilities in people ...
"This was one of the largest, most demanding IT infrastructures ever built, and Tim conquered it; a guy, who less than 2 years prior, was hired to be our recruiter. This proved to me that smart, motivated people, with a passion for learning, can accomplish anything if given the right opportunity..."
About how SPAM, which in traditional way of looking, was going to be bad for their business, but then became opportunity for the company ... since everyone wanted even better control over email.
"At first, I thought this was going to destroy our business – email was no longer trustworthy. Then, the opportunity became clear. With all of the changes came new laws, new protocols, new industry standards and a whole lot of complexity. These things would require every company in the world to adapt their existing email infrastructure to deal with the changes, and keep up with the rapidly evolving requirements. It turned out that this drove even more demand for StrongMail. This became the immediate compelling event."
On cultural differences between LA an Silicon Valley ...
"We did not fully appreciate or understand the different nuances in the work culture between Los Angeles and Silicon Valley. With tech companies in Los Angeles, people show up to work in jeans, are laid back, work hard, have diverse work experience (beyond software) and simply focus on results. In Silicon Valley, people are much more competitive, have more focus/experience in software backgrounds and often focus more attention on the methods first, then the results."
On importance of gut-feeling; when trying to "go-by-book" didn't work ...
"I promised myself that I would always trust my gut and my instincts –right or wrong- and move forward. I needed to feel confident in my decisions. That’s exactly what I did and almost overnight, the entire company was transformed – we started growing quickly, exceeding our targets and we have been seeing extremely positive results ever since."
If you are on enterpreneureal track, don't miss it!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

PCQuest nominates Best IT Implmentation Awards for Indian projects ...

Railways gets first prize for their operational system designed by CRIS, among 152 projects nominated from 25 industry verticals.

The data seems to say that 1. IT is high priority for Indian businesses 2. The projects are largely successful. (Though we can't really conclude the second point, because there is no data about how many projects are delayed or have not been executed properly.)

An interesting study of its kind by PCQuest, all the laurels for it.

Friday, May 12, 2006


It is very nice that BarCamps are providing a platform for Indian geeks.

I would be there in Mumbai for this event (at IITB, Powai), and I am interested in discussing in several emerging areas: Dynamic applications (i.e. which are created on the fly by business users), Wiki Systems (and our enterprise deployment experience), Structured Wiki (and some demos) and so on.

So do get in touch! (I work in Pune.)


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Serious answers required!

The following list is floating around the net. Apart from being funny, one can have a serious look at the funniness factor. Most of the "fun" arises when applying usual logic to a new situation or a context. Like, you physically press harder on remote control when batteries are weak, because in the usual case, say cycling, you have to put more force to make cycle move fast.

Why do we press harder on a remote control when we
know the batteries are flat?

Why do banks charge a fee on "insufficient funds" when
they know there is not enough?

Why does someone believe you when you say there are
four billion stars, but check when you say the paint
is wet?

Why doesn't glue stick to the bottle?

Why do they use sterilised needles for death by lethal

Why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?

Why does Superman stop bullets with his chest,but
ducks when you throw a revolver at him?

Why do Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

Whose idea was it to put an "S" in the word "lisp"?

What is the speed of darkness?

Are there specially reserved parking spaces for
"normal" people at the Special Olympics?

If you send someone 'Styrofoam', how do you pack it?

If the temperature is zero outside today and it's
going to be twice as cold tomorrow, how cold will it

If people evolved from apes, why are there still apes?

If it's true that we are here to help others, what are
the others doing here?

Do married people live longer than single ones or does
it only seem longer?

If someone with a split personality threatens to
commit suicide, is it a hostage situation

Can you cry under water?

What level of importance must a person have , before
they are considered assassinated instead of just

If money doesn't grow on trees then why do banks have

Why does a round pizza come in a square box?

How is it that we put man on the moon before we
figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on
bigger suitcases ?

Why is it that people say they "slept like a baby"
when babies wake up, like, every two hours?

If a deaf person has to go to court, is it still called
a hearing?

Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put
money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

State-of-the-art Road Travel services?

Past few days, there has been a flutter in travel circles with Raj National Express announcing Rs. 99 fare from Pune to Mumbai - fine print being that it is only for limited time. In any case, the company is likely to kickstart the competition in the road travel sector - at least in Pune-Mumbai route.

The current services are pretty bad (confort-wise), even though the available schedules are good (every 15 min.). A popular private player provides very cramped space between the seats. This insensitive player also numbers all the seats so that "1" starts from somewhere middle, so if you select 15/16 as a good seat, it is actually one of the last ones. (Initial seats are named "A" to "N" or so.)

It was interesting to find an ad of Raj National in one of the channels (as running ticker bar) - probably first time for any travel player. The site was prominently displayed. Visiting the site made you believe that it is indeed of the standard of airline players (with online booking and all that). But unfortunately it took only a few clicks to realize that it is just a template and a static site (complete with a "Verisign" logo, which of course is just a image). The agency probably doesn't know the value of attention generated from the ad!

Let us all hope something good happens in this sector in coming days...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

NGPay - J2ME based mobile payment solution

Deccan Air, India's "Innovative" airline (and, of course, often low-cost too!) introduced mobile phone based booking solution. I came to know of it today, even though the information went around the newspapers during July (for example, see this blog entry from Mobile Pundit).

NGPay seems to be very interesting solution. From what I read in FAQs (they don't yet have a site as of now), you first provide your credit card info in secure wallet, and they use it when you book the tickets. I guess they verify the transaction directly with the bank using secure lines. They create multiple associations with various merchants - Airlines, Movie theaters etc. And we win, because the overall booking experience is integrated and available from mobile. And this is indeed a way to go; because you want your regular transactions - such as ticket bookings and bill payments - at tip of your fingers at any time. Other type of interactions, such as shopping on internet, are occassional and can be done online using a computer. (In any case, mobile experience for a random site is not predictable.)

From security point of view, the credit card info would only pass via mobile and NGPay systems, and perhaps directly to banks via secure channels. (NGPay would have to build reputation, and they better have solid systems.) So nice thing for us, end users.

The scalability is of course a problem: How quickly can they add merchants. I would subscribe to standard set of merchants that I normally deal with - using a computer. Mobile UI becomes manageable and predictable. (Otherwise, with 100's of merchants, the mobile UI becomes limiting.)

So, overall, a killer app. But last few months haven't shown much traction. (No more news in papers, for e.g.). I am betting on this solution, and I feel it is just a matter of some advertizement or mouth-publicity.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

USB drive is master, and laptop is backup.

Several applications (such as thunderbird) are now on USB drive. Along with working data. So USB drive is now a master and your laptop harddisk is a slave! True inversion of roles!!

You can probably use a program such as unicorn to do the backup. (Need to check if it is USB friendly.) And you even have advantage of using your home computer as second backup.

Indeed, an inversion of roles!!

BTW, I actually like SD card rather than a long thumb drive. These can be inserted into a laptop (via a PCMCIA card, or a slot itself if laptop has it), and so they don't protrude out. Keep a SD-to-USB adapter around in your laptop back.

(Triggered by pcmag: Ultimate USB Key) that lists a lot of useful apps.)


Sunday, August 28, 2005

Posting from thinblog -

It is a small (113kb) cute blog client that can post to blogger.
But not feature rich. Idea is to integrate this with one of the wiki softwares. So you should
be able to use wiki system for actually creating the blog posts and use this client to post them.

Friday, October 15, 2004

pal-mate touch-panel PDA: Ineresting design!

Happened to come across this interesting (and cheap) gadget: Pal-Mate. The unique fact about it is that it uses simple light to transfer information (contacts/schedule) from your monitor to itself. So I need to get one - available from bazee or rediff.) The price at rediff/bazee seems to be only about $15, whereas elsewhere it is more like $50.

A good review can be found at
PRODUCT REVIEW: "MiniPDA" - PALMATE by Ashley McCullough. Another one is here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

ongoing � Java Regex Wrangling

Tim Bray on java vs. perl when it comes to regexes. Counting 15 million matched tokens in 100MB file: Perl: 8min 47sec, Java: 3 min 4 Sec. (OS X, possibly on Debian linux as well.)

ongoing � Java Regex Wrangling

Tim Bray: "Java regex is within 10% of speed of perl regex. But regex results are occassional variations around international characters."

Monday, May 31, 2004

On-chip XML query processing

Seems like XML processing on chip is finally being announced as per this link: Cover Pages: XML Silicon: The Tarari Random Access XML (RAX) Content Processor - RAX Content Processor which can "easily process millions of XPaths per second. It would really be interesting to see the exact conditions under which this is likely to work.

3 years back bunch of us (who started a incubation company at IITB for this purpose) wanted to put XML processing on chip for different reason: To evolve a standard that will free embedded system designers from the UI related dependencies, and allow a universal access mechanism to any device from any other device such as PDA. We couldn't take it to funding stage, but all the same, we had envisaged an XML based standard for the same.

Such is life.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Infosys and IBM in India compared (rediff article)

Infosys versus IBM: Converging? is a good read to get a quick overview of the scenario about how IBM India compare. Key conclusions:

1. Overall, the gross profit margin of IBM stands at 40.6 per cent. But if one were to exclude the profit contribution from the products segment, IBM's global services margins stand at 25.2 per cent. This, when compared to Infosys' margin at 47.6 per cent, is definitely lower. While we expect Infosys' margins to decline in the future, the company is gradually moving up the value chain and to that extent the rate of decline will be slower.

2. While we are not sure whether $1 billion of revenues is 'the' threshold limit. Surely, it will enable Infosys to showcase its ability while bidding for larger contracts in the future. At the end of the day, the company already has a proven track record of delivering services for over 15 years now. So, the long-term growth prospects, from this perspective, are encouraging.

With recent $750 million 10-year deal from Bharati Televentures, IBM is definitely inching towards a top player. But Infosys, with its $1 billion revenues, will start competing at world level.

We could say that global competition has come home now. All the more pressure on "the very best performance" from companies in India.