Sunday, December 30, 2007

Google & Microsoft - Fight for the browser's default search engine

Very interesting and funny.. the way Google and Microsoft fight over whose search engine should be used by default.

I am installing Windows Live utilities to try them out. The only windows live utility that I've tried earlier is the Windows Live Writer - an offline blog editor which lets you type, format and post the message onto most of the famous blogging services like Blogger, Wordpress, Typepad, etc.

Its a very impressive tool, especially for people who want to compose their thought offline and then post them when they are connected.

So, while installing Windows Live utilities, I got this conflict (see the image below) where Google was preventing MS from changing the default search engine settings.



Very thoughtful of Google to anticipate that someone (oh.. come on they know its MS) would change the default search engine settings and Its nice on Microsoft's part to not force Windows Live Search onto users even though Internet Explorer belongs to them.


Which generation/version of iPod do you have ?

You can easily find that out by going through this article.

I found this article extremely useful. It gives a nice table which gives the entire lineup of iPods from the oldest one to the latest iPod Touch.




By the way, I have a 5th generation 30GB black color iPod :).

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Booting Windows from within Linux using QEMU

They say "Inside every good there is a bit of evil"

I did just that.. I installed evil inside the good.. Okay, don't worry.. I was not touched upon by angel and visited by God. I was talking about installing and booting Windows from inside Linux.

I used a VMM (Virtual Machine Monitor) called Qemu for this. Qemu came installed in my Dapper Drake.

I had some problems figurging out using the options. The options tell Qemu what to do and what hardware resources are available.

So here I what I did.

First, I create a virtual harddisk image using the utility qemu-img. Below is the command that I used. The below command creates a 4 GB virtual harddisk.

qemu-img create ./hda 4G

Second, I boot from Windows CD by specifying the cdrom device and also specify the virtual harddisk created by me in the earlier step. Once I execute the below command, I boot from the Windows CD and then go on to install Windows on the 4GB virtual harddisk.

qemu -hda ./hda -cdrom /dev/cdrom -boot d

I found that the performance of Windows running as a guest OS is not that bad. It is close to real.

Qemu, emulates a default set of hardware. For example, it emulates a RealTek NIC (Network Interface Card) to Windows. Windows installs the driver for the RealTek NIC. The last screenshot shows hardware configuration of the virtual machine.













Recovered my Windows - That too in less than a minute

How stupid it makes me look - talking about my over-confidence!!

I was trying to do all kinds of crap in trying to modify the faulty c:\boot.ini.. I was trying to mount the NTFS partition as read-write and I was today trying to boot windows from within Linux (using Qemu). I think I was thinking too complicated.

It just struck me as to why not I try this simple thing - Try booting from my Windows XP CD and get into recovery mode.. if there is one. To my surprise there was a recovery mode which just gave a command prompt. I just replaced my faulty boot.ini with the original backup. And thats it.. I am done!!

I had my windows boot as normal as before. :)

But it I learnt a great deal from the whole experience.. about mounting NTFS partitions and about loading Windows from within Linux.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Mounting NTFS partitions with read-write access - My experience

Mounting a windows NTFS partition as read/write could be done through couple of utilities such as ntfsprogs or Ntfs-3g. I could not find Ntfs-3g debian binaries for my Ubuntu Dapper Drake. Its not there in the existing repositories as well. I had ntfsprogs listed in my repositories. So I went about trying to mount my windows ntfs partition as read/write using ntfsprogs.

I found this wiki - Unofficial Starter's Guide to Ubuntu Dapper Drake - very useful for configuring fstab such that the windows ntfs partitions are mounted automatically during bootup. Now would you want your primary partition to be mounted with read/write access all times. I may not want that. NTFS partitions are anyways are mounted automatically as read-only by Dapper Drake. Unless you have a reason to modify some file in the NTFS partition, you may not want to mount it as a read-write partition. I had reason to mount my primary windows partition with read-write access. I had to modify the boot.ini file for windows to boot properly.

Even after modifying my fstab as given in the starter's guide and rebooting the machine, it still did not mount the intended NTFS partition. So I tried, mounting it manually using ntfsmount. I found this page on ntfsmount useful.

Here is what I got when I tried mounting manually.
Couldn't mount device '/dev/sda1': Operation not supported
Windows did not shut down properly. Try to mount volume in windows, shut down and try again.
Mount failed.
Wow!!! How did ntfsmount every figure out that my Windows was not shut down properly.

But I don't know how to process further. The only way I can recover my windows without re-installing is to modify the boot.ini file.

I need to figure out how to work around this problem.

Feeling tired and bored. I am going to try and solve this problem over this week.

My Windows Boot Time optimization effort ended up in disaster.

I had been very unhappy with the Windows XP boot time for quite some time. In the initial days, the boot time was pretty impressive and I used to get the desktop in a minute and a half.

But as I kept installing lot of software and some of which includes drivers for peripherals such as web cameras, I noticed that the boot time got really bad. As of yesterday, my windows xp home edition took around 4-5 minutes to load everything and stop showing the timer cursor on the desktop.

So I could not put up any more and so I was determined to find out what was causing the slowness.

I wanted to try out the following options to speed up the boot time and I wanted to do it in the order given below:
1.) Remove unwanted startup applications that get launched.
2.) Stop unwanted services permanently from starting.
3.) Look at the boot time logs to see if there were any errors or any drivers were taking time to get loaded.

For point 1.), it is fairly simple to stop applications from getting launched. You can goto Start->Programs->Startup and look at the applications that get launched at the startup of windows. You can either delete these applications under the "Startup" menu or drag and move them to directly under "Programs" or under any other menu item.

For point 2.), goto Start->Control Panel->Administrative Tools->Services to see the list of services available in the system. One of the columns tells you the state of the service - Started, Stopped or Automatic. You can know about what this service does by right-clicking on one of the services and then clicking on properties. Service is nothing but a program which runs in the background doing some job which is necessary. For example, Microsoft's indexing service runs in the background indexing files and directories. This indexing ensures that search is very fast.

Now, these services of course consume a good amount of CPU time thus making foreground applications slower.

After reading through the service's description, you will have a fair idea on whether or not you need this service to run. For example, if you don't have wifi at home, then you may not want this service which helps you configure wifi with ease. There are good number of services which run by default, which you may not want. Surprisingly, you may find services that get installed whenever you install applications. For example, when you install iTunes, there are services which get installed which help you detect a new version of iTunes and one which is used to detect an iPod whenever it is inserted. You may want to comment of the first service which is used to check for an updated version of iTunes. You can as well check for that manually. I have services from Google, HP, Symantec, etc. which got installed later.

There is a much easier and safer way of doing Points 1.) and 2.). You can use the application "msconfig" to modify startup programs and services. Launch "msconfig" from Start->Run.

It is easier this way, but why is it safer ?? Its safer because you can undo the changes that you have done.

I would love to post the detailed steps with screenshots. But unfortunately, my windows is screwed up and I am left with the option of only recollecting whatever I remember and write the same over here.

I am yet to talk about option 3.) which is much more dangerous and not recommended for novice users. In fact, having worked on windows internals and driver development in the past, I still managed to screw up my windows installation because of this option.

There are kernel (OS) traces which can be enabled whenever you want. This is primarily used during device driver development. The way you do it is that you specify the "/debug" flag in the file "boot.ini" under C:\. You may want to take a backup of boot.ini file before modifying it.

Debug traces will be diverted to the COM port. So you need to specify the baudrate and other com port details along with the "/debug" flag. Once you have done all that, you can connect the Windows machine being debugged (called as Target) to an Host PC through a Null-modem serial cable and view the debug traces. And if I remember correctly, once the booting and loading of drivers is done, it breaks at some execution point so that you get control from there on to continue debugging.

But I did a stupid assumption that giving "/debug" in the boot.ini and not giving other com port details will dump the debug traces on the same target machine. That was a wrong assumption. When I rebooted my windows with the modified boot.ini (containing "/debug" flag), it took sometime to boot. But I never got any debug traces on the screen. After sometime, the booting came to an halt and nothing happened. I think, the windows broke its execution for me to takeover. But without a second PC, I would never know what actually happened.

Before trying out the "/debug" flag option in boot.ini, I had tried an utility called BootVis.exe which was released by Microsoft earlier. It is not supported right now, but you can still download it from other places. This utility is supposed to profile and tell you where exactly we have the delay in the boot time. But when I tried this utility, it told me at the application level as to where the delay is, but I could not get any information about boot time delays. Thats the reason why I wanted to try the debug option in boot.ini.

So ultimately, my effort to optimize the windows boot time has left my windows installation useless.

I got an idea to recover my windows partition. All I had to do was just replace the modified boot.ini with the orginal boot.ini which I had backed up.

One way I could do this is from Ubuntu (yes, my PC is a dual-boot). I could mount by primary windows partition as a read/write and then modify the boot.ini.

I would like to explain about my experience trying to mounting NTFS partitions as read/write in a separate post such that it will benefit others as well.

So.. Wish me luck!! :)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Virtualization - Whats the big deal with booting an OS inside an OS!!

This was a question from a friend of mine. Whats the big deal about booting Linux inside Windows or Windows inside Linux or for that matter booting/running any Operating System inside an other Operating System ?

Its a big big deal.. believe me.. and let me explain how.

But before I answer this question, let me explain what Virtualization is in layman's terms (for the sake of those who don't know what it is).

Virtualization is a general word which means that you emulate and present something while keeping hidden the actual resources in the background. In the context of this post, by Virtualization, I mean Operating System virtualization.

OS Virtualization allows you to actually boot an operating system (its called as a Guest OS) inside an Operating System (lets call this as the Host OS). While the Host OS uses the actual physical resources such as physical memory, the physical processor and physical storage (well.. this is not actually true because storage can again be virtualized), the Guest OS runs like just another application inside the Host OS.

But the Guest OS is made to believe that it is actually accessing physical resources such as Processor, RAM, Interrupt Controller, etc but in reality all these are emulated by a software layer called as Virtualization Managers or Virtual Machine Monitor (VMM) or better known as Hypervisor (cool word isn't it ;) - sounds like a devices' name from Star Trek!! ). Host OS doesn't have a problem with this as it sees the Guest OS as an application. Now you can have as many instances of Guest OS' running inside the Host OS (only limited by the processing capacity of the Host OS).

Virtualization is of different types - Emulation, Para-virtualization, Native Virtualization, OS-Level Virtualization and Application-level virtualization.

You can quickly learn more about the different types from the links here and here.

Now let me answer as to what's the big deal about Virtualization.

I have used virtualization (like booting Linux from within windows) for petty and stupid reasons such as not having permissions in the organization to use Linux boxes. Virtualization would be the only way out.

But Virtualization is being used for more useful application in building data centers.

Data centers are simply a group of servers which host a customers data inside it. The servers may be used individually or in groups (also known as clusters) to form a cloud of servers which work as one (this is better known as cloud-computing). Data centers are sometimes known as server farms.

In today's world every big organization maintains a data centers one way or other. Data centers are expensive to maintain and scale. Adding servers is expensive and you may still end up having may servers which may not be utilizing even half the computing power.

Also, data centers have this problem wherein upgrading the servers involves lot of effort. Let me explain. When you want to upgrade the servers, the administrators (yes its plural.. lot of people would have to be involved) would have to undergo the nightmare of ensuring that all the data and services are available/migrated on to a new set of servers before they can upgrade the already existing hardware. An easy way out for the administrators is to have redundancy. Which means that data and services would have to be mirrored (copied) at multiple locations. Now this only complicates the situation and cost. You have the added cost of these additional mirror servers (so the cost goes even higher) and you also need a SAN (storage area network) expert whose job is to ensure that data mirroring happens without problems.

This is where virtualization technology comes to rescue. Using virtualization, you can run multiple guest OS' on a single server. Each guest OS is a server.. a virtual machine. You can run multiple virtual machines until a point where computing power of the Host OS (physical server) is used very efficiently. The server which was running, say, at less than half the processing power before virtualization would now run at close to 100% of the processing power which multiple virtual machines sharing the processing power equally.

These virtual machines are controlled and configured using a virtual machine monitor (VMM) a.k.a Hypervisor. The VMM has the capability to change the configuration of the simulated resources which the virtual machines use. For example, the you can add additional processors for each of these virtual machines. For example, if you had configured the virtual machine to use a dual-processor, now using a VMM, you can add 2 more processors by doing few clicks and now you have your virtual machine running on a quad-processor configuration. This you can do as and when you find that the processing power is available. Additional processing power would be available either because you have stopped or moved a virtual machine to a different physical server or the existing physical server was upgraded with more processing capacity.

It is equally easy to upgrade the physical servers on which these virtual machines execute. All you would have to do is to save the state of these virtual machines (on to a file) and copy these saved instances on to a new server and then start these virtual machines.

Virtualization software have become more complex than what I have explained above. I will keep updating this post with the following:
- The recent virtualization techniques used by different VMMs such as VMware, Xen, Hyper-V, etc.
- The recent trends and competition between different Virtualization companies
- Finally a word on Linux kernel's in-built support for virtualization.
- References to other web sites which give more detailed and reliable information about Virtualization.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

War of Two Gaints - Microsoft vs Google

I would highly recommend you reading this article in The New York Times which explains in detail the different dimensions of the cold war going on between Microsoft and Google.

Both are loaded with cash and both trying to venture into each others space. While Microsoft is trying to make it big in Search and Advertising (but still without success), Google is attacking right in the heart of Microsoft's strong holds - their Operating System (OS) and Office Suite.

Article explains as to who Google is trying to venture in the OS domain by recently announcing the Android platform which directly competes with Windows Mobile OS and how Google Docs may threaten MS-Office.

Article, very informative and gives lot of insight on what the top execs at both the companies might be worried about each other.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Amazon's SimpleDB - Nice concept that took time for me to grasp!!

I was reading this news about SimpleDB all over the technology news and blogosphere, yesterday.

So I opened couple of links given below including Amazon's SimpleDB announcement.
- Amazon.com: Amazon SimpleDB, Amazon Web Services
- inside looking out » What You Need To Know About Amazon SimpleDB
- Amazon SimpleDB 101 & Why It Matters - GigaOM

It was really tough for me to understand what SimpleDB was all about. All I knew about Amazon was that it was a great online book store which has spread into other areas of online shopping. And more recently, I know Amazon for Kindle - their e-reader. By the way, here is one more latest review about Kindle. Probably, this mindset about Amazon was the reason why I could not understand (digest) the fact about SimpleDb.

You might consider me to be stupid and dumbfor having read the above links at least 4-5 times (except for the Amazon's web page where they explained about SimpleDB. I should have read that first) and then I slowly came to realize that SimpleDB was a web service which is available for you (or your company) to create, store, update and handle a database online.

Basically, you would setup an RDBMS such as Oracle and then have a web interface to update the database (backend).

What Amazon promises is that they seem to have all the storage and database related logic distributed over a network of servers (concept known as cloud-computing). If you are an organization, then you are readily use this web service for your database/backend requirements. The cost as Amazon claims is very nominal. Refer to their SimpleDB page for details of the cost.

You should probably read this article in CNet News about SimpleDB, which is more down to earth and is for non-geeky folks.

From the above article is when I came to know that wordpress.com actually uses SimpleDB as their backend. This is like a eye opener.

Look at the possibilities that it opens up for a startup which wants a reliable and fast backend.

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I have been allergic to the DBMB/RDBMS and I have been particularly allergic to the word "Oracle". The main reason for this is that during my student days, the way concepts of DB and RDBMS were taught was horrifying and I started hating the subject.

But during my work years, I realized that I do like database concepts and I have designed a few decent DB schemas using MS-Access and given it a web interface. I had come up with simple tools such as bug tracker. Not bad for a guy who hated concepts of DB so much.. i tell myself.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Integrated Dictionary in The NYTs' web site!!

I have this habit of selecting lines from a news/article when I read it and sometimes I double-click a word. I don't know why I do that, but it has become a habit of sorts. Probably, it shows my mentally stressing/bookmarking of some lines and words.

Today when I was reading this article in the NYT, I clicked a particular word and instantly it opened up a reference search "powered by Answers.com".






This I feel is very innovative and very useful for readers. Usually, you will copy and paste this word in your dictionary tool or one of the many only dictionaries, to know the meaning.

Update: This is funny :). When you try to double-click some word on this reference/dictionary page (the screenshot above), it doesn't do anything. It would have been good if they would allow me to search the meaning of other words from this page.

What makes you browsing experience in iPhone and Nokia N/E series phones great ?

You should thank Webkit, the open source web browser engine*, for the wonderful browsing experience.

This what the Webkit home page has to say:
WebKit is an open source web browser engine. WebKit is also the name of the Mac OS X system framework version of the engine that's used by Safari, Dashboard, Mail, and many other OS X applications. WebKit's HTML and JavaScript code began as a branch of the KHTML and KJS libraries from KDE. This website is also the home of S60's S60 WebKit development.


Apart from Apple (as the Safari web browser in their Mac OS X, iPhone and iPod Touch) and Nokia (in their N and E series of phones), Google has also included Webkit as the default web browsing engine in its recently released Android platform for mobile devices.

In his post, Bob Cringely reasons as to why Webkit is such a strategic project for Apple and why it would also be the driver for the rumoured iTablet (you find my previous post questioning as to whether Apple's PDA would click or not ?).

You may also find it interesting to read this post by Om Malik about Webkit's rise to popularity. Gives you a quick round up of where webkit stands compared to its competition.

Webkit is still evolving (but fast) and has a long way to go before winning hearts of hardcore Opera Mini fans like myself :). Read this post in Wap Review to know why Opera Mini 4.0 is better than Webkit on a Nokia (and I completely agree with that).

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Web Browser Engine - This is the piece of software which downloads the html web page from the address specified by you, processes it and renders it back on the screen of the display device. The screen could be anything from your PC Monitor to an iPhone's touch screen.

Verizon Team Lunch Photos - Nov 28, 2007

Happy and proud to post the photos of my team.

Some of best engineers I've ever worked with.. :)



All Standing - Left to Right : Subha Viswanathan, Sankarnarayanan Sivanu, Vimal Raj, Ravikumar Thangavel, Sundar Moses, Saleem Mohammed, Vijay Senthil, Vinodkrishnan Surianarayanan, Arjun Baskaran, Padmakumar Rajan, Prabhu Mohan, Kiran Patibandla, Ramana Jeyaraman, Arunachala Karthik, FS
Sitting : Thats me - Mohasin


You can view the complete album by clicking below.

Verizon Team Lunch

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Top Tech Trends - Internet video, Apple products, Gaming consoles


The Yahoo! Top Technology Trends of 2007 gives an interesting view of products and services the users were searching for in the net in 2007.

Internet Video service YouTube leads the list of top technology trends. YouTube has become more of monopoly when it comes to internet video. Clear evidence that internet video is coming to be the most preferred form of watching content. Personally, I've starting watching lot of videos on YouTube, especially after I got a better broadband connection. As I mentioning in my previous post, on-demand viewing is the way to go in future.

An other interesting trend to notice this year was that, Apple with its products iPhone, iPod and iTunes (media download service) was all over the news. A total dominance in the news landscape. Steve does know how to generate buzz about any new product he introduces.




Also, point to note is that iPod is still more popular trend compared to iPhone. Also, iPod is the only media player in the top 10. Below Google trends show (blue indicates iPod and red for Zune) that iPod is far ahead in terms of popularity compared to Microsoft's Zune. Microsoft had introduce second generation Zune. Would have to wait and watch if they can ever make a dent in iPod's market share.


And last but not the least, 2007 was also a big year for gaming consoles. Nitendo's Wii, after its release in December 2006, was an instant hit. In fact, Wii has been selling more consoles in the first few months than what Xbox and PS2 took to sell it over a year. Nintendo made a huge come back after having been overshodowed by Sony and Microsoft for many years. But Nitendo is also having a problem with the current demand. Its supply-chain is unable to meet the demand which could become a huge problem over a period of time (a big booster for Sony's PS3 :)). Read this article from WSJ to understand the problem.




Sony launched its 3rd generation console - PlayStation3 (PS3) - November of 2006. While Sony lost ground to Wii in the initial months to Wii, recently it has overtaken Wii in terms of Sales in Japan.

Xbox 360 had a first comer advantage as it got released almost a year ahead of Wii and PS3. But it is never able to match the sales figure of Wii and PS3. But recently Xbox 360 was in news for one of the bestselling game series - Halo 3. Xbox 360 has been adding new features like the ability to download videos and games.

(I personally am a serious gamer and have a Playstation2 at home. But I have not tried any of the new consoles. So whatever I have mentioned above is from news and videos that I have been tracking on the net.)

Also, on the list are Facebook, the most happening Social Networking service and Wikipedia, the online reference for almost every topic in the world.

Top Trends of 2007 from Yahoo

Yahoo! announced the top trends of 2007 early this week, based on the search queries that people used in Yahoo! search.

This what Yahoo! has to say on how it interpreted user's search queries into meaningful top trends of this year.
To come up with the Top Trends of 2007, we analyze search queries based on a number of factors, including absolute volume and growth versus previous periods, to see which themes and trends bubble to the surface. And of course, individual users and their searches remain anonymous.

The trends are categorized into different groups such as Top News Stories, Top environmental topics, Top troubled celebrities, Top Technologies, Top tags used in Del.icio.us, etc.

The trends give a beautiful and a quick snapshot of important happenings and events of last year. That the beauty of taking the common consensus of the millions of people from around the world in a indirect way... their search queries.

There are some very interesting results from these trends. But I really want to post it separately because I want the topic of the post to convey quickly what I found interesting.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Thoughts on On-Demand Television!!

Read this article on The New York Times about Internet Video and how it is replacing the traditional business model of generating video for broadcast television.

The article is good and is backed by good data and interviews from internet video/content producers. But the article missed out some of the key developments in the world of television and on-demand viewing of content.

Here are the points which I felt were missed out with respect to viewing content on-demand.

Video (or content, for that matter) is becoming "on-demand". TV Service providers (cable companies and telcos alike) provide a library of on-demand movies and shows which gets streamed as IP packets (IPTV as we call it) so that users can watch it at their convenience. So, basically, TV service providers understand this need of users to watch video at their convenient time.

Also, Set Top Boxes (STB) (device which your tv service provider installs to receive and show the video on your television) come with lot of value-added features. DVR is one such feature. DVR (Digital Video Recorder) capable STBs which come with inbuilt hard disk let you schedule and record shows/episodes which can be watched later at your own convenience. So, this again is an other form of on-demand viewing.

Apart from this there are companies like Vudu which are coming up with pure IPTV set top boxes which do not support broadcast television. These set top boxes always receive video on demand. Vudu for example is trying to achieve what Netflix does today. The only difference is that the movie library is available 24x7. You can browse through the library of movies on your television, watch a trailer, then buy/rent that movie on the television and the movie gets streamed to your television instantly (through the Set Top Box).

These boxes, I can bet, will at one point of time come enabled with capability to search and play video content available on the internet.

So the point is, PC may not be the preferred viewing option for video. Television is always the preferred option for viewing video. Television is here to stay one way or the other. What changes is how the content is going to be delivered to your television.

.....................

To deviate from the actual topic, what I am also not sure is how on-demand viewing is going to affect advertising. Advertising traditionally to some extent was targeted by the prime time slots. Of course, advertisers also take into account the kind of show that they want to target.

Advertising would be more targeted with on-demand viewing. Advertisers would want slots in the most watched and top-rated shows.

Also, I keep wondering if there would be any side-effects on human behavior because on on-demand viewing. I am not sure of what kind of effects these might be. When I compare my viewing patterns as a kid as against what my son/grandson might face in future, there will be a huge difference. For example, as a kids, I had a pre-defined time when my favorite shows/movies would be aired. My mom would want me (threaten) to complete my studies and home work for the day before I can watch these shows that gets aired at a particular time. If I had had on-demand facilities of viewing video, I would probably not have bothered to complete my home work on time :). Even, if I would complete my studies on time, I would have probably ended up watching television all night long because I could have ideally demanded to see any show I wished. The only restriction would have been my mom poping in every now and then asking me to go to bed :).

What about Parental Controls? With video/content being generated by almost everyone, how reliably can you rate these programs. Take YouTube videos for example. These are user rated videos and again the rating is a perspective of the group which rates these videos.

There are lots of such questions for which only time can give an answer.

Interesting perspective: Social Networking behaviors are analogous to those in Tribal Societies

A very interesting and thought provoking read in The New York Times about Social Networking. The author of this article investigates social networking behavior as a type of orality observed in may tribal societies.

The article states that online social networking behaviors and tribal behaviors are similar:
In tribal societies, people routinely give each other jewelry, weapons and ritual objects to cement their social ties. On Facebook, people accomplish the same thing by trading symbolic sock monkeys, disco balls and hula girls.

“It’s reminiscent of how people exchange gifts in tribal cultures,” says Dr. Strate, whose MySpace page lists his 1,335 “friends” along with his academic credentials and his predilection for “Battlestar Galactica.”
The article acknowledges that there are major differences between these two:
As intriguing as these parallels may be, they only stretch so far. There are big differences between real oral cultures and the virtual kind. In tribal societies, forging social bonds is a matter of survival; on the Internet, far less so. There is presumably no tribal antecedent for popular Facebook rituals like “poking,” virtual sheep-tossing or drunk-dialing your friends.

Then there’s the question of who really counts as a “friend.” In tribal societies, people develop bonds through direct, ongoing face-to-face contact. The Web eliminates that need for physical proximity, enabling people to declare friendships on the basis of otherwise flimsy connections.

This approach to studying online social networking is good. In the sense, we can probably come up with new features in social networking sites based on what has worked on the real world Oral societies.

Want to setup MythTV in India!!

Then you can get some gyaan (knowledge) from these series of post mentioned below in Ramki's blog.

http://gyaan.blogspot.com/2007/11/vacation-time.html
http://gyaan.blogspot.com/2007/11/tvtime-running-on-ubuntu.html
http://gyaan.blogspot.com/2007/11/tivo-nero-and-my-mythtv-progress.html

To summarize quickly as to what Ramki has done till now with respect to MythTV is that, he has installed an Intex TV capture card on his PC and installed Mythbuntu as the second operating system. After this he has recompiled the kernel and drivers to make TvTime work with his Intex card. He has also tried generating xmltv file which is the program information file for MythTv. Right now, he is able to feed in the channel frequency numbers directly into MythTV and is able to watch and pause the programs. Next, as he says in his post is to make his MythTV point to the xmltv files that he has generated.

I personally have lot of questions on what he has done. I need to ask him this when I meet him.

But keep watching his blog where he intends to give more updates on his progress with installing MythTV.


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For those who don't know what MythTV is.. it is a software which runs on Linux and which turns your PC into a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) where you can record programs in your PCs and watch them at your convenience. You can also pause Live TV and watch it again whenever you want to. This is the"better" alternative for Microsoft's Windows Media Center Edition of their Operating System.



PS: Ramki is a Delivery Head for the Fios TV team in Verizon India and he is my boss as well :)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Want to know what Google Intranet looks like!!

Then read this article in Google Blogoscoped.

It tells you about all those tools that you would use in a Company Intranet like their home page, the employee tools, their development tools, etc.

Reading through the article gave me a feeling as if I got appointed in Google for a day :) (I can hear you saying.. "in your dreams")

So, if you get appointed in Google.. you already know where to look for information in their intranet :)))

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Congratulations to Vz Wireless customers in US !!

Verizon Wireless has announced "Any Apps, Any Device" option for its customers starting 2008.

Finally, the wireless industry in USA seems to be maturing. Here in India, you could use any handset that you have bought in a mobile phone store with any wireless service provider.

It really gives the customers the freedom of choice. She/He can choose between a huge array of phones from the cheapest one with call and SMS only option to the most advanced phone like Nokia N95.

I always used to pity the sad state of wireless customers in US, where they have to buy the phone as a part of the wireless package. The user has a very limited choice. But I guess folks in US are pretty much used to it and never really care about the choice-factor.

But believe me, it makes a great difference in having this freedom. People will come to realize and appreciate this freedom that Verizon Wireless is about to offer.

This really a great moment for Wireless industry in US and also to the millions of wireless customers.

Its a matter of time and soon At&t and others will follow.

--------
Read this post on GigaOM to get more insight about this news.

Monday, November 26, 2007

How does Google benefit from Android?

This was the question my friend and office colleague was asking me when we were, in general, discussing about technology.

I explained to him that Android will speed up innovation on the mobile computing front thus ensuring that users have a better and more PC-like web browsing experience on their mobile devices. This ensures that more and more users will starting browsing the net from their phones and thus ensuring that more and more traffic is driven to one of Google's many services where they serve Ads and also not to forget that Google Ads are scattered all over the world wide web.

Basically, Google believes in increasing size of the pie rather than increasing size of the slice in the existing pie. Interesting quote isn't it :). Well, I read about this quote in this news article by Financial Post which questions Google's business model on going the open source way with OpenSocial and Android.

Though I told my friend about the above, I wanted to confirm again if this is how Google really was hoping to benefit out of Android platform. So I did a little bit of Google'ing and and came across this interview given by Eric Schmidt and Andy Rubin, Director of mobile platforms at Google (the brain behind Android)

This is what Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, has to say in his interview at PBS.

SPENCER MICHELS: Now you say you're almost giving this away, why?

ERIC SCHMIDT: We're giving Android away because we benefit when the Web is better. We benefit when more people are using the internet, especially on mobile devices. And we benefit because when more people use Google, more people use Google search and every once in a while those people will use our ads. So eventually we think an Android mobile user is pretty likely to use Google advertising and our studies indicate that mobile ads are going to be worth a lot more than the traditional ads that we sell.

SPENCER MICHELS: Why?

ERIC SCHMIDT: The easiest example to think about is how personal your phone is. Everyone here, everyone in our audience has a mobile phone, very hard to get away from them. That phone is with them, it knows where they are. Imagine how we can use that information to provide a more targeted ad, if it were appropriate.

By the way, it is a very good interview and would recommend reading it if you want to know Google's plan for Android and mobile computing.

Google forming the Open Handset Alliance and defining a new mobile platform called Android once again proves my point that there is this race to establish a linux-based mobile operating system/platform (Oh yeah.. Android is based on Linux. On top of Linux, they have a Virtual Machine which offers APIs similar to Java VM but is supposed to be much more advanced than Java VM).

But with Google intelligently forming an alliance which includes telephone operators to handset manufacturers to chip manufacturers, they are better poised to take over the Mobile Operating System space much to the dislikes of giants like Symbian and Microsoft.

Google not just stops there. They even have a announced a $ 10 million prize money for users who develop useful and compelling applications using Android. This is to ensure that more and more developers get involved in this effort.

The advantage, I could perceive, from Android could be the following:

Handset Manufacturers: They would not have to pay hefty licensing fees to proprietary mobile operating systems like Symbian and Microsoft. So the cost of the handset goes down thus boosting the handset sales.

Developers: Because it is an open platform and almost everything is available for free, you can pretty much write any application you want. Imagination (of course the phone's capabilities) if your limit.

Consumers/End Users: Because handset prices go down, consumers can afford to easily buy them and they also get to install and use thousands of applications that were developed by the open source community.

Telephone Operators: They get to benefit because consumers start using these web-enabled/web-based applications on their Android phones and thus the data traffic is going to increase drastically. Operators are going to charge for this data traffic.

Of course, not to forget Google (and others).. they would be benefiting as well from Ads clicked by users on their mobile phones.

I am not sure how successful Android is going to be. But my gut feeling says that it will take off well. But, I believe, for the mobile web to pick up really well, the network speeds have to improve a lot. They sure will. Its just a matter of time.

-----------------

For those read this post till this point, scratching your heads, wondering as to what Android was all about, please read below.

Google, earlier this month (Nov 5th, 2007) announced that it was forming the Open Handset Alliance which is going to drive the development of Android. Android is an open platform for mobile phones which consist of an operating system, a set of software modules for performing some of the common tasks on the phone (middleware, as we call it in software terminology) and a user interface. You also can download the software development kit (SDK) for developing your own applications that run on the Android platform.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Redefining books - E-Reader from Amazon

I read this news in Newsweek about this e-reader from Amazon called as "Kindle".

Kindle is a physical electronic device which of size of a book. It can store and display pages of books for you to read. That's why it is called a e-reader.



The beauty of this e-reader is that it can store thousands of books for you to read at your leisure. Not just that, you can subscribe to news papers and magazines and read them on this e-reader.

Kindle also has internet capabilities and lets you search the net and go through wikipedia and things like that.

Now, you must be thinking as to how good/pleasurable will it be to read a book on a device. But it seems that the device uses a technology called E-Ink which renders the text on the screen very similar and close to a printed paper. So it looks like printed paper and feels like printed paper. Below is a short description of E-Ink which I took from the Newsweek article.

This decade's major breakthrough has been the introduction of E Ink, whose creators came out of the MIT Media Lab. Working sort of like an Etch A Sketch, it forms letters by rearranging chemicals under the surface of the screen, making a page that looks a lot like a printed one. The first major implementation of E Ink was the $299 Sony Reader, launched in 2006 and heavily promoted. Sony won't divulge sales figures, but business director Bob Nell says the Reader has exceeded the company's expectations, and earlier this fall Sony introduced a sleeker second-generation model, the 505. (The Reader has no wireless—you must download on your computer and then move it to the device— and doesn't enable searching within a book.)
Oh yes.. Kindle is not the first device of its kind. Sony has done it before.

In my opinion, what matters is that the publishing industry should form an open standard format which can be then published on to e-reader's like Kindle (it may already be the case even now.. i don't know).

E-reader is something I have already thought of since many years. It will be the next great breakthrough. Think about it. School children don't have to carry so many books. And why would you want to give a cheap laptop to a child. Give them a e-reader like kindle which will contain all the book the kind ever needs. This will expand the kids knowledge.

I am definitely looking forward to buying this the next time I end up in US.

And hey.. there are two things I could realize from what Amazon is trying to do.

First, the world is moving towards convergence. Kindle with its internet capabilities is already a sort of handheld PDA. Now even other PDAs like iPhone could support such e-reader capabilities.

Second, now isn't it interesting to note that Amazon is also becoming a product company. Now this is what in my opinion I would term as "Business Convergence". The line between services and product companies is disappearing.

Btw, read the Newsweek article. Its a painfully long article but with lot of insight.

And also you can read the device's review at Engadget.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

How to get a Linux Kernel Mailing List Daily Digest ?

The Linux Kernel Mailing List (LKML) is the official place where stars like Linus Torvalds, Alan Cox and Ingo Molnar discuss along with thousands of other geeks from around the world about various topics pertaining to the Linux Kernel development.

If you are one of the wannabe geeks who wants to follow the activities of this list, then you will try to subscribe to this list. But as the LKML FAQ suggests, its probably a bad idea to subscribe to this list if you do not have the appetite to read hundreds of messages that get posted to this list on a daily basis.

If following LKML is what you really want to do, then its probably a better idea to get a Daily Digest which summarises all the activities in LKML during that day.

After some search on the net, I found that Dell offers a Daily Digest of LKML. I found it very useful.

Great service from Dell!! Appreciate it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Closing down DigitallySmart and starting SmartMobileLife

I am closing down Digitally Smart (blog about technology in general) because I could not find to blog about everything on Technology.

So I thought I will rather blog on a more specific topic that I like.I am passionate about Mobile Computing and have been keenly following trends in Mobile Computing. I thought I will focus more about that.

Feel free to visit my blog on Mobile Computing - http://smartmobilelife.blogspot.com

I am still maintaining a backup of all the post from the DigitallySmart blog in the following location - http://digitallysmart.wordpress.com

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pathetic situation of ICFAI Exam Centre

Today I had to take my MBA group B exams at ICFAI exam center CHENNAI-VI (which is the ICFAI National College at ADJ Complex, Annanagar (West), Mogappai east, Chennai, TamilNadu, India).

I had two papers on economics - one in the morning (10AM-1PM) and the other in the evening (2PM-5PM).

It had been a long time since I joined ICFAI (almost 2 years) and I am still writing my first semester exams. Never had time to either prepare or take these exams before due to my work pressure. But I was determined to take these exams this time at least and clear my first semester. I had total of 3 subjects to take this time (Financial Accounting, Economics and Management). I could not take Financial Accounting last week.. as usual never could prepare for that.

But I was confident about Economics. After I reached this exam center (CHENNAI-VI) , I could never find a parking space. The parking space for cars was occupied by bikes and all the cars were parked in the pathway of the IN and OUT gates. There was no one to organize the parking at all. I had no other option (and was feeling guilty) but to leave my car in the OUT gate pathway thus preventing any car from exiting out.

Then once I reached the examination hall, I found that most of the chairs were of the type where the writing pad is attached (supposed to) to the chair. But to my dismay I found that the pad/plank of wood on most of the chairs was detached. You had to sit in the chair and then have this pad in your lap. Man.. this was really uncomfortable.. because of the fact that the pad keeps shaking and slipping from my laps.

I am kind of furious.. and what surprises me is the fact that an MBA exam center is in such a bad shape. People who take these exams are future MBA degree holders. Forget that.. but I expected a lot from ICFAI as a university. It was disappointing to see exam center being so disorganized and infrastructure so bad.

I never complained about the chair in the morning session. But I could not keep quite for the afternoon session. So when I asked for a better chair and table, to the examiner, he promised me to get it replaced as soon as he is done with the question paper distribution.

But the guy never turned up till the last moment :(.

Also, I don't understand how all the students can sit so comfortably with such faulty chairs and take their exams. Why were they not opening their mouth?

Hope, the top guys at ICFAI take notice of this and ensure that exam centers are well organized and comfortable.

When the whole world is moving towards computer-aided tests (CAT) .. I am not sure why ICFAI is still sticking to the paper method. CAT would be well suited for ICFAI exams because you only have multiple choice questions. Why can't you provide a nice cozy air-conditioned room where I can take a computer-aided-test for all my exams. Moving to CAT will certainly avoid lot of paper work for you guys as well.

Guess I am asking for too much.. forget CAT for now.. please make the exam halls comfortable.. that would be more than enough.

Unfortunately, I cannot change my exam center now. I have no choice but to take the next 2 exams at this center (CHENNAI-VI) next Sunday as well.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Feedburner bought by Google!! Man I din't know this..

Man... How come I never knew this news ? Am I going into some kind of suspended animation sometimes and all this happens. This is really news to me and I got to know this from the Feedburner home page. I have logged in through the feedburner home page a zillion times and how come I missed seeing this announcement!! Gosh, my observation power has gone really bad :(.

I was not active online before the month of August due to my project deadlines and I spent very little time browsing the web. I guess this acquisition happened in July. Unfortunately, I could not (and cannot still) browse the internet from my office network due to security reasons. And believe me, I have never seen or heard of so much security restrictions until I joined my current organization. I don't want to crib out it.. I am used to it right now.

Coming back to this news.. the guys at Google who are spotting and acquiring such companies are really good. As a layman user, whatever web sites which I thought were good have been acquired by Google.. recent one was Jaiku (Jaiku.. as I've mentioned before.. is a really cool web service and better than twitter).

Hmm.. but also thinking about all these acquisitions.. I hope Google does not become monopolistic. And again, I see that all the best services that I use are coming under Google's umbrella. I am not comfortable with that.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Mobile platform-specific Google Maps!!

Wow.. finally Google Maps specifically created for S60 Symbian platform.

Here are some screenshots of the new Google Maps installed on my Nokia E61 :).









By the way, I found this review at All About Symbian about the new Google Maps very useful.

I knew this would eventually happen. This is what I was suggesting to Schrep in my comments to his post. I was mentioning about my thoughts on how Firefox for mobile phones should follow a strategy where first they come up with a Java based firefox so that they can capture the mass market and then they followup with a platform specific firefox application which gives a better performance.

Now, Google did just that. They first came up with a java-based Google Maps. This ensured that most of the phones start using Google Maps (capture the mass market). Now they've come up with a platform-specific Google Map which is available for Windows Mobile, Palm OS, Symbian and Blackberry, which gives a better performance and also utilize phone-specific features. For example, the new Google Map uses the phones' GPS if that's available. So if you install the new Google Maps on your Nokia N95, then it will automatically use the inbuilt GPS to show your location on the map.

For those who are not familiar with mobile applications.. what this means is that the previously available Google Map application (software) for the mobile phones was written (developed) using Java. Which means any Java enabled phone was install and use Google Maps on their phone. So you must be asking whats the big deal about Google Maps now?!!

Well, any Java-based application runs on top of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) which in turn runs on top of the mobile OS (platform). Which means there will be a comparable difference in performance between a Java-based application and a platform-specific application. Obviously, platform-specific applications are must faster. Also, developing mobile applications using the platform specific APIs (Application Programming Interface) will let us utilize any in-built phone features like GPS (as I've mentioned above).

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Race for Linux based Mobile Operating System

Phew.. what a journey through the world of mobile internet devices, mobile web browsers and operating systems for mobile devices. I am referring to the link after link journey of mine that was spawned from the links given in this post by Schrep on Mozilla's plans for going mobile. Schrep talks about what are Mozilla's plans to take Firefox onto mobile devices. In his post he had given reference to Intel, Nokia and couple of other links pertaining to how mobile web was really taking off and that it justified Mozilla's focus for a mobile browser.

During this journey (browsing) today, one aspect is very clear, that is, there is this race towards coming up with a Linux based mobile operating system.

Let me elaborate more.

First, I read this interview of Matt Zimmerman (CTO of Ubuntu) where he explains about Ubuntu Mobile, an effort by Ubuntu to bring an Ubuntu flavor on mobile devices. He says that there is a possibility of mobile devices coming up with Ubuntu Mobile installed, as early as 2008!!!

Next I read about Nokia's Maemo initiative where they have come up with a framework for mobile internet devices built on top of any linux operating system running on any device (including mobile phones.. possibly).

Then I read this news on how ARM is trying to come up with a better version of Linux well suited for mobile devices. You can find more information about ARM Mobile Linux Platform here.

And then Intel has its own initiative on bringing Linux on mobile internet devices called Moblin.

And finally how can I forget about the rumoured Gphone which many say (like this latest news on Fotune and The Register) that it is Google's effort in bringing in their own Linux-based operating system for mobile devices.

So what do you think are the least common denominators from all the above news.

Linux is going to dominate the embedded device space:

Mobile phone vendors like Nokia, Motorola and Palm either have their versions of embedded Linux running on their phones and they are under development right now.

Its not just mobile phones but other devices like Internet Tabloids would also run on Linux.

And from my experience on set top boxes, I know Linux has made in-roads there as well.

Chipset Vendors are desperately trying to define a mobile platform based on Linux:

All mobile chipset vendors (like Intel, ARM, Broadcom, etc.) seem to be defining a Mobile Linux Platform where they are more than willing to provide support to the developer community in supporting their hardware. Reason, they see lot of potential for mobile devices and they want to make their platform developer friendly.. especially Linux friendly.

Today's browsing on internet has been very useful and given me a lot of perspective on mobile computing.

Let me hit back on Bobbie Johnson's post

Let me get emotional and hit back at Bobbie Johnson's comment on Techmeme.

First of all, let me clarify Techmeme is not valley-centric. Sitting here in India, I use Techmeme as much as people in the Valley do.

I think Bobbie is extremely pissed off with the fact that they were listed #57 on the Techmeme Leaderboard.

Bobbie Johnson writes:
But for us, it represents a tiny proportion of referral traffic.
You are lucky that you (Gaurdian) are being referred to a small but really smart and intelligent set of people. And also it shows the fact that Guardian is probably lacking some quality technology news. You can probably spend some time providing quality news rather that criticizing others.

Bobbie Johnson writes:
In the past three months, our biggest referrers included the Drudge Report, those cheeky beggars at Digg, Google News, Reddit and the Huffington Post. Further down the list I see StumbleUpon, Slashdot, BoingBoing and a number of loony New World Order conspiracist site
Again let me reiterate, Techmeme is a site where Technology and other related news is aggregated. Now what kind of news was being referred from the above sites. Most of it has to do with general news. Give us the stats and lets talk more about this.

Bobbie Johnson writes:
But for the people who jostle for position on the site's top 100, what's the use of being part of an aggregator that aggregates but doesn't send readers your way?
Now Bobbie the above comments shows your ignorance. I would beg you to go ahead and use Techmeme's feed in your aggregator (if at all you use one). The feed stories do show a link to the original story.

I hate people who give just articles just to get into lime light. I am going to boycott any news from Guardian and I am removing you guys from my news reader.

As I told you, I am emotional now.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Happy for Jaiku. It was always better than Twitter.

One of the reviews that I had been postponing for a very long time is that comparing Jaiku with Twitter. Will definitely come up with this review soon.

Though I have accounts in both Twitter and Jaiku, I always found Jaiku to be far more advanced that Twitter. If you follow some of the older post in Jaiku, I would have given a comparison of Jaiku versus Twitter.

I am really happy that Jaiku is joining Google. They really deserve this.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Linux kernel can adapt to total number of processors

It was really a very interesting read for me today about the article - SMP alternatives. This seems to be a very old artcile, but I found this to be a most stumbledupon article pertain to linux kernel (Yep, was browsing the top links at StumbleUpon in the kernel category).

This article explains that concept of "alternatives" in the linux kernel where the kernel can optimize itself during boot time by detecting the number of CPUs present onboard. This is to address the issue where the kernels which are compiled for say 1 CPU would still be using only 1 CPU even after upgrading your hardware to two or more CPUs.

The concept is really interesting and as the article concludes, using "Alternatives" you can always have one single kernel which can adapt and change its run time code to utilize all the CPUs.

One possible use for this, the article says, is in virtual machines where adding or removing of CPUs during runtime is quite probable.

I found the comments for this new article to be as interesting as the article itself.

Advertisers' Strategy: Following consumers to odd places

I picked up this news from Techmeme about Toyota releasing a free game for Xbox users in order to promote Toyota Yaris.

Really an interesting strategy from Toyota to promote their car. I would say its one other form of interactive advertising. I see a lot of potential for this and I am pretty sure lot of others are going to follow this. An other interesting trend I can predict is that gaming consoles are increasingly becoming an advertising platform.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Ditching Google Bookmarks and moving to..

I finally had to ditch Google Bookmarks because of its deficiencies (which I will explain below). The only regret is that I am moving my bookmarks outside the Google ecosystem. Maybe, if I keep using Google Bookmarks for quite some time, it might improve and there might be better integration of Google Bookmarks with their other services which would make my life easier.

What I mean by advantages of Google ecosystem and its integration is that, say for example, I can create a document in Google Docs and later on I can post that as a blog into my blogger account (I might have given a bad example.. if you have a better example, please let me know). So, it lets me move my information and thoughts across different web applications with ease. All my information is consolidated. That's what I mean by "Google ecosystem and its integration advantages".

I might still be updating or taking copies of bookmarks in Google Bookmarks for the above mentioned reasons. But it depends on my time.

Now, I don't blame Google for its deficiencies in Google Bookmark because they never claimed that it was a social bookmarking site. In fact, its a pretty decent personal bookmarking web service. Its just that I am need of some advanced features which are available only in some good social bookmarking sites. Let me just list out as to what kind of features will take it from "good to great" bookmarking service.

Sharing of bookmark: This is one of the main reasons why I want to move out. When Google has been great at exposing information in the form of RSS feeds in most of their web service (for example, feeds from blogger or shared items in Google Reader), I could not understand why they could not do so for such a simple but yet powerful web service.

Private and Public bookmarks: Of course, I can ask for this feature only if the first one is implemented. I would like to share some bookmarks and hide some of them.

Integration with Social Networking sites: This is an era of social networking and if you are an average user, I can bet that you must be having an account in at least one of the following: Orkut; Facebook; MySpace. Most of the other web applications provide ways to share their application in these kind of social networking sites. For example, I can put my twitter profile in Facebook. So, it would be great if I can share my bookmarks in such social networking sites.

Grouping Tags: Its good that I can tag my bookmarks. But it would be great if I can group them into categories or folders. When I could do this in Google Reader then why not in Google Bookmarks.

Blog Integration: Allowing me to add link and/or tag roll widgets into my blog is missing in Google Bookmarks.

Basically, I am asking Google Bookmarks to mature from a personal bookmarking site into a social bookmarking site.

I know Google has been working towards an other web service called Google Share Stuff which is an effort at bringing in the concept social bookmarking. But it is still in its infant stages and has a long way to go before it matures (out of the Google Labs as well.. talking of Google Labs and their beta applications, I am not if Google Bookmarks has graduated out of Google Labs.. I am assuming it did).

Now, I went out hunting for a good bookmarking site. Not many useful reviews or comparisons were available (at least I could not find them). But I did get some pointers on which were the most famous one. And after quick look at each of these services and considering their usability and look'n'feel, I decided to go with Del.icio.us.

Del.icio.us deserves a separate post for itself where I would like to explain its features and advantages. But for now, to tell you in short, its a great web service.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Opera Watch: Change in my perspective of Opera

I have been using Opera for quite sometime and that too on and off. My closeness to Opera probably grew with the use of Opera Mini. My only impression of Opera was that it was dormant or rather a sleepy organization and that they were probably struggling to keep themselves alive (Of course, this was my stupid assumption)

But only after visiting Daniel Goldman's blog on Opera did I realize that there is different world out there where lot of stuff is happening at Opera ,where they attend exhibitions showcasing their products, all of C*O's taking part in it and its CEO is actually a cool guy spending some time with the Opera fans. And of course not to mention the wealth of activity happening at the products end - Opera, Opera Mini, Opera Mobile, etc..

Visiting Opera Watch definitely has given a totally different perspective of Opera. Guys at Opera, I guess you need to promote yourself (market your brand name) so that lot of other folks who think Opera as a boring organization know that lot of things are actually happening.

By the way, nice blog Daniel and please keep posting us with great news on Opera. :)

And hey, thanks giving me some tips too :) And hey, your other suggestion on adding other search engines din't work for me.

Home Pages: Google, Yahoo and Live Search








Find the odd man out. And explain why.. :) My answer is Google!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Ever wondered how Techmeme works ?

Well, I always used to wonder about the relevance of technology news that Techmeme aggregates. I was confident that I could google and find out how it actually works.

I had all the time today (in fact I explored the Techmeme page completly to find Techmeme River about which I have explained in my previous post). So I thought let me first google my query about "Techmeme". Well.. no relavant web pages to explain how techmeme works. I told myself that I had to give a better query and so I tried "Techmeme Internals". No luck this time as well. But hey wait.. what a stupid query was that. I am not searching for some operating system internals (But I was hoping that the algorithm behind Techmeme should be something as complex as an OS). Never mind and now I searched for "About Techmeme". Nope.. No luck. And finally I knew where I could find more information about Techmeme's working and so I searched Wikipedia for Techmeme. I did find a link I guess... but the page was empty. To my surprise and dismay I could not find any relevant web page that explained how exactly Techmeme works.

Now, my quest to find more about Techmeme became personal (it was hurting my ego and my ability to find anything on the web is being questioned) and so this time I din't want to trust Google's ability to give me search results by reading my mind and by interpreting one or two words that I typed. So this time I typed in a better query- "How Techmeme work" and this time I found an interview in wired.com of Gabe Rivera who is supposedly the inventor of Techmeme giving some details about how Techmeme works.

Gabe Rivera was very cautious about leaking out any information about how Techmeme works. The only information (or rather confirmation) that he told was that the list of sites it monitors is generated automatically. But never told how it is done.

Somewhere in this interview, Wired News was referring to Rivera's blog site for one of the questions and Ahaa.. so let me check his blog. But wait.. where is this blog. No problem.. I instantly turned towards our universal knowledge base - you guessed it right - Google and searched for "Gabe Rivera" and the first result was http://blog.memeorandum.com/. Clicking this actually redirected me to http://news.techmeme.com/. This site is supposed to be the official news/blog site updating us about what's happening at Techmeme.

As I scrolled down the blog/news about Techmeme, I got my answer to how Techmeme works in this message that was posted yesterday (Oct 1, 2007). This message/news was posted as if in anticipation of my curiosity about how Techmeme works. One day earlier and I still wouldn't have known exactly how Techmeme works.

This is an interesting post and is must-read for anyone curious to know about how Techmeme works. To tell you in short as to what this post says, Techmeme has released a web page called Techmeme Letterboard which actually gives the list of Top 100 sources from which Techmeme picks its news. And these sources are sorted with top-ranked sites on the top. Rivera says that the ranking is based on the presence of this web site. What it essentially means is that the number of external links to one particular web site would increase its presence and in turn its ranking in Techmeme.

Gabe Rivera also explains that he has released this list of sources now (after all these years) is because he was in a comfortable state to tackle any criticism that might arise about the method used to pick up these sources for news and information.

This list is going to be updated quite frequently (on a daily or hourly basis) and Gabe encourages people to use it as they wish.

Great.. I know to some extent as to how exactly this site works. And at least I know the list of sources from which the news and information is getting picked up.

Now thinking about how Techmeme picks most of the popular sources for information, would it be possible for users to build something like their personal Techmeme where she/he adds his source of information and chooses how to present this information to the rest of the world. Its a matter of time before this becomes a reality especially with services like Google Reader where you can share topics of your interest and with Google Shared Stuff.

Techmeme River

Interesting to see that Techmeme has a page which displays the aggregated news in reverse chronological order. The site is called Techmeme River.. River to probably indicate the flow of news.

I am not sure this site (Techmeme River) was around for quite sometime and that I overlooked it. But today I really had time to look at the little details of techmeme such as link to Techmeme River and also a preferences link at the top, which lets you choose options like opening the post in a separate window (man.. all the while I was pressing the shift key on my keyboard while clicking links in Techmeme such that the news opened in a new window... all the while it was a configurable option and I din't know about it.)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Linux Journal magazine archives for free!! Appreciate it!!

Wow.. I never knew I could get Linux Journal archives for free :). I really appreciate this.. for keeping the spirit of free knowledge alive.

I must say.. Its a wonderful magazine for Linux and has really widened my perspective about Linux. We do have an India alternative - Linux For You. Its the only Indian Magazine on Linux and the content is good.. Not bad and not excellent.

Good reviews are painful to write

I just posted a review about Opera Mini on Digitally Smart. Though I enjoyed writing this review very much, I also have to say, writing good reviews is a long process.

It took me close to 3 days to first take screenshots of Opera Mini, then uploading them on to blogger, then writing a review and placing the uploaded photos at relevant places. Given the fact that I hardly have time left are hectic hours at office and very little time that I spend with my kid, I usually wait till Nazia and Ahu to sleep so that I can carry on writing reviews.

Hope I get more time to post more meaningful reviews and information at Digitally Smart.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

AJAX initiative for mobile web

Read this news in Techmeme about leading vendors and companies taking part in a workshop aimed at bringing AJAX for the mobile web applications.

This further strengthens my argument from my previous post that mobile web is picking up. I think AJAX something that was definitely missing on the mobile platform. When most of the web applications are making use of AJAX to bring interactiveness and better usability, the mobile web has been lagging behind.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mobile web is not all that bad

There was this post from Scott Karp on why Mobile Web sucks for him. I could hardly agree with what he had to say and I really wanted to post this message as a reply to that. I guess lot of others would also disagree the fact that Mobile web is bad and Russel Beattie's post expresses his opposition to the fact that Mobile web browsing sucks (well.. Ahmm.. good post Russ.. except that my ears are bleeding with so many f*** :))

I think mobile surfing (and mobile computing in general) is really picking up recently. As Russ has pointed out, lot of popular web services have started providing an alternate web link which serves mobile-optimized web pages which start with http://m.theirdomainname.com/ (well not necessarily all follow the same format. For example, Techmeme's mobile site has this URL http://www.techmeme.com/mini ). But for web sites who don't provide mobile versions of their web pages there are going to lose out on a huge number of users who browse from mobile devices. As I had mentioned earlier, the are vastly underestimating the need for a mobile optimized web site.

I know lot of us have trouble finding web services which are optimized for mobile browsing. I had the same frustration trying to figure out such mobile web pages. That's the reason why I am maintaining a list of web sites which are optimized for mobile browsing. I have been updating this list as and when I find newer web sites.

Coming to Scott's complain that mobile browsing is slow, I agree with that, but its not really that bad. There are ways to circumvent this. Just like Russ, I too use Opera Mini beta for browsing on my Nokia E61. One thing that Opera does intelligently is that it does not download the web pages to the phone as it it. The web pages are first fetched into the Opera proxy severs and then they are optimized and reduced in size (to a factor of 70-90% approximately) and then pushed on to your phone. So the browsing experience (fetching and rendering them on the phone) is very fast.

Mobile Computing is the future and the whole world is slowly moving towards it. I know there are problems with mobile computing but I am sure these are being addresses as you read this.