Saturday, March 29

BMW


When I was a programmer in IRIS, I always used to dream of starting my own technology firm. One of my very good friends always used to kid around that I would have to hire her as a CTO for my firm. The moment I would oblige her by saying, why not ... she would come to the topic of remuneration (smart one, yes she is). So one day I gave in and say magnanimously ... bol bachha, kya chahiye tumhe ... pat would come the answer ... a BMW.

The answer would more or less have me confounded. Why a BMW? Of all the things ... BMW? Today I took a test drive in a BMW. Now I know why. Smart choice girl.

The managing director of the firm for which I work (eYantra) was in the process of evaluating a BMW ... needless to say, most of the core team was invited for the evaluation. Why would I say no? And on the D-Day, the car came ... a black shimmering sleek 320i BMW. A statement. A 35 lakh statement ... look I am here ... here, I am. The interiors were upholstered leather with wooden panelling. The entire car is packed with so many engineering marvels that its a small wonder its so small and sleek.

Whilst I was raving to my friend Phani, he asked me a simple question ... would you put in 35L to buy a BMW??

Fortunately, I am not going to start a technology firm :-)

Friday, March 28

Advertising is the new Content!

Got to read this from here.

In the new web savvy world, catching the attention of users is getting more and more difficult for advertisers. Gone are the days when unsuspecting users would click on banners that would say Click here! in bold letters. Google came up with the concept of inconspicuous ads with Google Ads. Added to that the context sensitive Google Ads ensured that the customization factor was there.

Now, Google has gone one step further ... widget based ads that actually draw the attention of the user to it. Not only drawing the users' attention, but also ensuring a healthy level of interaction with the ad itself! Be sure to check out the Intel ad in the link I have provided. The way new features of the processor are highlighted are just too good. At one point of time I was just playing the game to see which feature comes up next. The ad was the content I was interested in.

Is this just another form of subliminal marketing that we are seeing here?

Thursday, March 27

Indians are Brand Conscious

This is from LiveMint. They say that Indians rank third in the world in terms of being brand conscious. The study further says that Indians are not only conscious about the imported brands but also know about the domestic brands as well. Heres a quote -
In a luxury brands survey conducted by The Nielsen Company, a global information and media research company, India ranked third after Greece and Hong Kong in the list of most brand conscious countries in the world.
And if you look at it, its true! Heck, I just bought an iPod ... I would categorize Apple as a luxury brand. Just take a look around you, and you will see brands everywhere ...
  • He is an IIM grad
  • I just took a Kingfisher flight, the air hostesses were worth it
  • Moods please
  • It's a SONY
  • One Signature large please
Need I say more?

Tuesday, March 25

Customer Orientation

Are the modern sales guys really selling to us what we need? Or are they selling to us what they want to sell?

A couple of years back I had applied for a silver credit card (this was when I was a student). The card (Citibank) was good enough for me to use during my student days. And the great part about it was that my father booted the bill!! Once the job had started, the card was no longer needed, and soon it expired. I applied for one more credit card, to my chagrin, this time Citibank never responded. No issues, ye nahi to koi aur sahi ... so saying, I got another card.

Now, some months back, they sent me a renewed credit card - an exact replica of my expired card ... with my student photo as well (I was so "thin" back then!). This time around I feel no need for one more credit card; its almost equivalent to one more headache. Who has got time for paying those pesky monthly bills which always crop up when your bank account is doing the balancing act of the century (SideNote - bank balance is an oxymoron!!)

So, I tell them that I have no need for a card, can they destroy the card? Sadly, they advise me that the paperwork involved will be too much for them and for me. I believe them like a dimwit, and now I am still carrying my student credit card. I have no intention of using it. Upto this part, I am fine with it.

For the past week or so, everyday I recieve a call from our friendly next door Citibank salesguy intimating me that I have been selected for upgrading my card to an International Gold card (as if!!). I tell him that I am not interested in increasing my credit limit, every time. Still the calls keep on coming. Are they really listening or are they simply following through motions? If they are doing the later, then why bother with the futile exercise?

Apple

I just bought my first Apple product. Its a black 80GB iPod classic. Hmmm, a little bit late ... but I am still excited with the prospects!! Have installed the iTunes application + last.fm software. Now whatever that I am listening to, will be published online ... :-)

Sidenote: Do you think bloggers are secret exhibitionists?

Thursday, March 20

Savalee : The acorn and the oak

They have a saying - The acorn does not fall far from the oak ... but what about the acorn, it also wants to grow big and strong like the oak ... does it get that chance?

This movie, is very much like that. It is about one such young and talented singer (Amruta Subhash), who is the daughter of an acclaimed classical singer (played by Reema Lagoo). The daughter feels that she never gets her own credit, since all people attribute her talent to her mother. Eventually, the daughter throws away a ready made career planned by her mother to walk on a path of her own. A song of her own. It also showcases a mother's love for her daughter fraught with the pain of seeing a good disciple throwing away success and glory for a foolhardy cause.

I identify with this plot a lot. I hail from a family of doctors. My parents also wanted me to take up medicine as my choice of profession, I dont say I did not try. I did, but lets just say that Maths came much more easily to me than Biology. My father is a double gold medallist (MBBS finals and MD finals), and that too from the top medical college in Mumbai. How can one surpass this if I am to remain in the field of medicine. Even today my sister is know as Dr. Ajinkya's daughter, although she is MD, Pathology and a brilliant histopathologist herself. Had I been a doctor, I would have struggled trying to prove to myself that I am as good as my father ... if not better. And that's precisely how Amruta's character would have felt.

Wednesday, March 19

Cause and Effect?



I was going through Digg! and on their second page, I saw these two posts, separated by around 10 odd posts. Do you think its a coincidence?

Screen-Half-1 and Screen-Half-2 - Complete screenshots taken for the skeptics.

Tuesday, March 18

Stardust

With an 8.0 rating, it was a sure shot plan for this evening. And with such a star studded star cast like De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes, Pete O'Toole ... I kind of expected a lot out of this movie and frankly speaking I was kind of let down.I dont know, maybe its just me ... but I feel it could do a bit more. Claire Danes and Pfieffer could have put in a little bit more ... but thats the way I feel.

Had I gone to the movie without any preconceived notions, then I would have enjoyed it a lot more. Well ... De Niro's role is enough for the paisa vasool factor. In fact, now that I think back, the casting is the one factor which has pulled the movie into the higher ratings. Its a fantasy movie that takes place in a magical land of Stormhold, which just so happens to share a "wall" with England. Beyond the wall in Stormhold, lies a whole different world of magic, wizardry and fantasy.

Of lightning bolts that can be sold, of flying pirate ships, of unicorns and of course of witches. Enter Pfeiffer, who plays the evil sorceress poised to take Claire Dane's heart for her eternal youth. Original plot ... indeed.

Theres a hopeless romantic within all of us. Its there within me, I endear it. This movie appeals to that silly person who likes the entire love-conquers-all concept. Thats why it is liked by people of all ages.

Bandwidth

The fastest I have surfed is when I was alone on the campus (during a brief stay in summers) at Planet-I. It was a glorious 2mbps speed. And it rocked! All you want at a click of a button. Even when the campus was in full swing, with 300 odd participants surfing the internet, the net was still at a decent pace. This is India we are talking, where people still pay a big premium for connectivity.

Last week, one of my room-mate informs me that in UK, they are working on this new technology thats going to shoot the transfer rates beyond imagination. Just imagine, what would you do with transfer rates of 100mbps!! All data you want is completely accessible and available to you within seconds. An entire movie within seconds ... infact, the individual user's need for a personal storage drive just might go down. This combined with the fact that many websites are now showing a conceptual web-OS ... like Desktop2 or Fanbox. Also, many SMEs are now opting for the Software As a Service (SAS) model, where in the firm does not have to invest in the licensing cost of any software, but would rather pay a periodical amount for that service.

You could in fact, cut costs by having an hosted ERP, Google Docs, a web OS and dumb terminals hooked up to a hosted storage server all on the internet. Your capital expenditures go down, but the variable expenditures might go up. If the opportunity cost of your capex beats your opex, then you definitely have a winner here.

Think about an individual user, all media content available ... on a pay per usage basis of course. For gamers, there is the WWW as your LAN ... talk about one huge LAN party.

It does change your perspective on connectivity and storage does'nt it?

Saturday, March 15

Microblogging

No, its not blogging at 10-6 power. Its a new form of blogging which allows users to text in brief updates on their day to day activities. The post need not be pretty descriptive, in fact generally it should be a one-liner.

Services like Twitter are very popular these days.

Is it just another form of exhibitionism or another way of meeting people. Well, it could be anything, I am definitely a twit!!

Thursday, March 13

Interviews

Have you ever been in an interview thinking "What am I doing here?" ... its probably a good thing if you have not been in such a scenario. I have been unfortunate enough to be in such a situation while being on both sides of the table viz., interviewee and interviewer. Being the interviewer is much more fun and a lot more relaxing.

Some of the things to watch out for if you ever are stuck in such a situation -
  • Ask yourself this - Are you that desperate that you want to be in such a situation to filter out those maybes from the definitely nots? If yes, then please fire away
  • Look at the time, it is a precious commodity. If the person you are interviewing is tryign to mislead the interview, remember you decide when the interview stops, do not feel afraid of being too rude
  • Some candidates can really be upto-no-good, drop them at the first sight. Do not entertain such people further ... its an injustice to them if they think that they are worthy of showing interest. I once ended up wasting a good hour trying to find out why did the candidate apply for what he did ... answer was simple ... employment
  • Have your HR/Recruitment guys screen them at the start itself, this eliminates all the definitely nots from the list
  • If that person has applied for a role in your department, ask a simple question to yourself ... would you want to see this face daily? There is a lot more to face value than just the face
Will post more my experiences as soon as I manage to reconcile those resumes.

Movie rentals

Normally I am not into this, I prefer to watch my movies on an IMAX screen, or off a .torrent. In fact, there is a VCD guy just below my flat that rents out good titles at a very affordable price. I generally do not rent out movies.

A couple of weeks back, I came across a site - 70mm. Its a portal where you can login and rent out movies, the ones which are on the catalogue. If its available, then they will contact you and deliver the DVD/VCD at your doorstep ... Cash-On-Delivery (COD). How awesome is that!! I dont even have to get off my chair :-)

Since there is a dearth of marathi movies in Hyderabad, I did try ordering a DVD of a recent marathi movie - Savalee ... lets see how this pans out. Will report on this further.

Tuesday, March 11

Power of Blogging

Just about a year back, we had a pretty shitty (pardon my french) corporate website. Since my hands were full with setting up FooStor, I did not look at anything else. And all was wonderful, some time after that, a blogger, wrote a post on his blog about how sad the website looked.

We were blissfully unaware about this. Now after a year or so, whenever we google for our company's name, this post lists as high as the top post on the second page of search results. Not only that, but right now as we speak, we are in the middle of a recruitment drive. And quite a few of the candidates have seen this post and are enquiring about this post. So much so that, I had to drop in a mail to this blogger requesting him to post an addendum to his post about the new and improved corporate website.

Isn't it great, how much an impact a single blog post can have on a company's reputation?

Especially, if it is the truth :-)

Thankfully, the blogger responded quickly and also liked the new look, he has also agreed to post an addendum on the previous post. Whew!

Sunday, March 9

Juno


Have any of you watched the movie Kya Kehna - its the one in which Preity Zinta gets pregnant while still being an undergraduate. The entire movie is one sob story followed by next, how the society shuns her, how her college shuns her, how Preity's character simply buckles under all the pressure ... well, I have to confess that I could not stand to watch the entire movie. I had to switch the channel, I do not like to watch people roll about in their self-pity.

That is precisely the reason why I loved Juno. The outline of the plot is the same ... Juno, the main character of the movie, finds out that she is pregnant. The first 30 minutes go about in how the news has impacted her and all her friends ... her parents, and their reaction about the news. The fresh perspective comes now ... her parents accept it naturally and extend her the much needed support. Her friend also helps her out in her own inane way ... by finding out a surrogate family to whom Juno can donate the child to. Juno meets the loving family, and decides that her baby would be safe with this family. The baby's father is Juno's good friend Bleeker (played by Michael Cera from Superbad) who is completely unaware and not there during the entire pregnancy. The movie has its fair share of twists and turns ... where we are forced to think about relationships as the plot unfolds.

Juno is shown as the unpredictable, cool chick who is simply not ready for this, and yet she takes this on and goes through it ... without victimizing herself. Without feeling sorry for herself at any moment. And thats why I loved it so much. Definitely a 8.2

IE8: We are not the Devil anymore

Microsoft in an official release to the public has announced what features (read enhancements) they can expect from the much hyped Internet Explorer 8. This was at the MIX08 conference held at Las Vegas ... you can read about the entire details here (beware, it is encoded with the usual marketing spin). Will list down some of the salient features here -
  • Activities - Users can add more extensions to their browser (the way Firefox does already). These activities would enable the users to do more, in short, Microsoft gets a whole new way to bundle their failed products with the new and improved browser
  • WebSlices - Users can subscribe to content from within a page. The moment the content is changed, the users will be notified in their Links Bar.
  • Automatic Crash Recovery - That's reassuring!! This feature is being marketed actively instead of an implicit indication that it was always there. Anyways, how is this adding value over Firefox or Opera for that matter.
  • Safety Filter (thats Anti-Phishing) - This is to be improved and enhanced, which will block sites known to contain malicious scripts. No comments here. I am actually hoping that this works, people do not realize how important this feature is. And those who do, do not use IE :-)
  • Compliance - IE8 will now be more compliant to the CSS standards. Finally, some sense, these days too many sites are relying more and more on CSS instead of flash or complex javascripts for glitzing up their websites
  • AJAX Navigation - Hmmm ... this is a nice touch I must say. In all the AJAX based portals, whenever we click the back button of the browser, the browser goes to the page which was last submitted completely and not the last AJAXed state. Having this might be a blessing for normal users, I know the techies had just learned to live without AJAX navigation
  • Integration - IE8 promises ready made integration with Facebook and eBay, et al. So, thats a plus for all facebook and eBay users ... dunno how many of them will actually use it though.
All this and a lot more kids! These have been promised to the doe-eyed of Microsoft ... you can almost see the bunch of users in the background using their respective other browsers waiting and watching to see what happens next. I am one of them.

As of now, if you do want to try out the beta, try the IE8 Readiness Toolkit and then proceed for the installation. One word. Apprehension.

Thursday, March 6

Stiki! or Story 2.0

I was going through IIM Indore's placement report which was released officially a couple of days back. Eager to know what my alma matter has chalked up, I went through the report. What interested me is not the fat packages and the multi-colored graphs done on the data, but the last part of the report.

The Batch of 2008 also saw two students taking the road less traveled of initiating a business venture of their own, as part time to start with. They have founded www.ourownbook.com - an innovative website that provides visitors a chance to participate in a collaborative book writing project, and get recognized as co-authors of the final book published.


A collaborative book! That interests me ... back when we were students, we often used to pass around small scraps of paper where one used to read the current contents of the paper, add some of his own and pass it further. The final outcome used to be hilarious. Many such stories and poems even had been made and fondly saved by us. This idea of Our Own Book seems to stem from such an idea. Immediately, it struck me as a Wiki way for writing your story ... a Story 2.0 or a Story + wiki = Stiki!

Some concerns about this mode of writing is that all the authors should be in-sync with each other's writing style and mentality. If this is unknown, then the story can meander into unknown ... it can take a life of it's own. And thats the exciting part ... I remember reading this funny mail about how a psychologist gave couples to write similar stories, and one couple ended up fighting about the content and outcome of the story.

I just added my first entry to the already existing entries ... there are simple and effective control systems to take out malicious users from the system. Thats good.

Looks like some people do remember that I is for Implementation after all. Kudos Anubhav and Dhruv ... sahi concept!

Do I write Chick Lit?


Do tell me this ... I dont think so, then again some ads like these make me think that I just might be writing Chick Lit. Seriously considering taking down this Ad-Sense module. Better to be individualistic than capitalistic, eh?

Then again ... I am an optimist :-)

Dual booting Linux with Windows

There would be probably zillion other pages on the blue nothing with similar instructions. Yes. But nothing beats doing these things yourselves ... blundering through some and still coming out on tops and saying ... whew!! I did it!! (ofcourse a little help from Google doesnt go unappreciated)

A lot of users go about the right way installing a dual boot system.
  1. Take backup of your existing data
  2. They will plan and create partitions
  3. They will first install Windows (WinXP in my case) on one drive
  4. They will then install Linux (Ubuntu here)
  5. Then relax, and configure both the OSes as per their desires
This is the simpler version of doing it. Its the real man's way ... a no-nonsense approach to getting things done.

And now there is my way. I have been using this laptop for about 8 months now ... running it on Ubuntu. So after roughly about 8 months, I have a 5Gb home folder, some customized applications, some handy scripts, an up-to-date system ... and with what internet speeds are in India, I do not wish to re-update my system again. So I decided, that I will try to rescue the Linux after losing my master boot record (MBR). So this is what I did -
  1. Installed WinXP on my 8GB FAT32 partition
  2. Put in an Ubuntu LiveCD and booted through it to Gutsy Gibbon
  3. Started grub and wrote that on the MBR. Now the windows was gone ... sigh!
    1. For more detailed instructions, please visit Recovering Ubuntu after installing Windows
  4. Started my actual Linux (whew!) and edited the grub configuration file
  5. Made a manual entry for windows in this and booted
    1. This is not easy as it sounds
    2. You need to know on which partition of your hard drive was windows installed (for me it was /dev/hda4) ... the grub entry which corresponds to this is (hd0,3) ... keep that in mind (minus 1)
  6. This was the exact entry
title Windoze XP
rootnoverify (hd0,3)
makeactive
chainloader +1
It works!

Why did I install Windows again? ... to play games :-)

Tuesday, March 4

Vanity Brands

We were having a team lunch ... the four of us, Manish, Mayank, Ranjith and myself. One of the rare occasions these days when all four had a free time slot in the middle of the day. So, sitting at Eat Street, Hyderabad near the Hussain sagar lake, having fast foods like the rest of urban India. As I reached for the Subway Cookie that I had bought, Manish remarked that I could have bought an entire packet of biscuits at 60% of that cookie's price.

While the others were laughing, I informed him that the utilities in both the cases are different. In case of Hide&Seek, the utility is value-for-hunger, in case of a Subway Cookie, its more or less Vanity (well actually its not vanity, but I just like them). But then we got into a discussion where other well known brands are often flaunted for vanity. There are so many of them ... Ferrari, Mercedes, Maybach, Apple, Tommy Hilfiger, Rolls Royce ... effectively all brands that could be used as a status symbol.

Monday, March 3

Mondays

Can't live with them, would love to live without them!!

Need I say more ... sigh!