Tuesday, September 23, 2008

written once, never to be forgotten

to quote Seth Godin:

Is it worth doing?
What was my impact?
Will it matter in the long haul?
What sort of connections did I create?
Wherever you live, whatever you do, you have an obligation.
these are certainly words to live by. I can now find some order in the chaos...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Did we have the money all along?

Senator Sanders speaks to the administration's sudden volte face on the availability of funds:
I mean, for the longest period of time, up to literally a few weeks ago, we had our friends in the Bush administration telling us that the fundamentals of the economy are strong, everything is just fine. And now they tell us we’re on the verge of a major economic meltdown. We’ve got to give Wall Street a $700 billion bailout. And, by the way, of course, it is not going to be the people who have benefited, the people at the very, very top who have benefited financially from Bush’s reckless economic policies who are going to pick up the bailout; it is going to be the middle class, which has been suffering for the last eight years.
For years now, they’ve told us that we can’t afford—that the government providing healthcare to all people is just unimaginable; it can’t be done. We don’t have the money to rebuild our infrastructure. We don’t have the money to wipe out poverty. We can’t do it. But all of a sudden, yeah, we do have $700 billion for a bailout of Wall Street.
Hmm, that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach isn't a good one. I guess this is capitalism at its best - bail the rich out with the money from the not-so-rich...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Real World Browser Performance

The last few months have witnessed the resurgence of a browser arms race - Google launched Chrome, IE 8 is now in its second Beta, Mozilla is about to release an update to Firefox, and Apple is making waves with its changes to Webkit (and Safari). With the emergence of blogs, anyone who is someone on a product's team is waxing eloquent about "a" differentiating feature they worked on. For some reason, one of the most talked about aspects of the new breed of browsers is Performance; all this time I thought the user interface is what people cared about most.

Performance is not a bad metric to talk about. This post is not decrying the performance improvements per se; it's a critique of the lack of a holistic approach to performance. The Javascript engine gets the most attention, and the geeks are going to town writing about the nifty engineering miracles they have performed by "Native Runtime Code Generation" or by "JITting Java-script" - all great intellectual stimulation but Javascript performance is just one facet of the Performance cube.

At first, I was closely following the Javascript battle, and all the marketing speak clouded my judgment. An article from an unlikely source, the IE Blog, set me straight; here is the link I am referring to: Performance Consideration in IE: To summarize the article, every browser has unique performance challenges, and the overall performance can't be improved by overcoming a subset of the challenges. For instance, if the bottleneck is the rendering engine, improving the Javascript engine's performance by 200% will not translate into a 200% performance boost for the user. In some cases, the improvement will not even percolate through to the user.

This kind of insight doesn't require you to be a rocket scientist, but the idea is so fundamental, it is often overlooked. Software today is complex with many interacting pieces; fixing one of them doesn't necessarily fix the problems of the whole - the whole is greater than the sum of its parts! Don't get me wrong - a re-ignited browser war is great for me as a web surfer/developer. The emergence of cloud computing, of online productivity applications, of web mail, of facebook and myspace, et al have translated into me spending more time in my browser than most other applications. I foresee a day when code development will also be done in a browser client; for us developers, that's the final desktop bastion.

My request to Mozilla, Microsoft, Apple and their ilk is to keep their innovation engines running. If they are to attract new users, it behooves them to provide the complete story behind their innovations instead of a one-dimensional perspective. Eventually users smarten up, and if they realize they have been lied to, the browser landscape is vast enough for them to defect to another product with impunity.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Microsoft's MixView Beats Apple's Genius

I couldn't have said this better myself; I don't have a PC any more, but the Zune 3.0 software is so compelling, I might actually buy Fusion from VMWare.
"if Apple doesn't wake up and smell the coffee—iTunes is still basically the same concept it was back in 2001—they may find themselves as a runner-up in the software music player user interface front."
I'll let a visual speak to how compelling the new Mixview is...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Eating to stay healthy, with a twist

The eating habits of Americans (and this Indian) are a favorite object of my analysis. Over the past few years, I have made some changes to my dietary choices, to how I shop at the grocery store, and where I dine out. This New York Times article kinda validates the changes I have made, and provides some insight from nutritionists that is worth your attention.

The first change I made was to stop obsessing about the fat and calorific content of food. Since I had already figured out the most "harmful" foods, I caved in to my cravings for them every now and again. The key was to watch the portions I consumed of these foods.
"AFTER decades of obsessing about fat, calories and carbs, many dieters have made the unorthodox decision to simply enjoy food again.

That doesn’t mean they’re giving up on health or even weight loss. Instead, consumers and nutritionists say they are seeing a shift toward “positive eating” — shunning deprivation diets and instead focusing on adding seasonal vegetables, nuts, berries and other healthful foods to their plates.


Even the Calorie Control Council, which represents makers of commercial diet foods, notes the percentage of people who are dieting has declined — to 29 percent in 2007 from 33 percent in 2004.

And there are other indicators of a shift in eating habits. In May, the market research firm Information Resources reported that 53 percent of consumers say they are cooking from scratch more than they did just six months ago, in part, no doubt, because of the rising cost of prepared foods.
I had heard of the "Slow Movement", but this is the first time that I actually paid attention.
"Some former dieters say they’ve been influenced by the international Slow Food movement, a 10-year-old group that encourages locally grown, unprocessed food. Over the Labor Day weekend an estimated 60,000 people attended the Slow Food Nation festival in San Francisco.

Alice Waters, of the restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., and a prominent supporter of the Slow Food movement, said food habits change when a person begins to cook at home more. Her efforts to encourage home cooking include a new campaign of Internet cooking videos from the Slow Food Nation event, such as one from the chef Bryant Terry, who showed how to strip corn from the cob and saute it with chili."
My new approach towards food required a change to my life-style - I substituted the take-out meal with a home cooked one, and did my best to avoid late night binges. Even though my grocery bills are higher than they used to be, I know that the raw ingredients I use meet a high quality bar, something that I can't be assured of in a restaurant meal. Buying more fruit, eating peanuts or almonds instead of chips, using reduced fat butter - those changes were easier to make.

Even after making these adjustments, it's easy to let yourself go and become over-weight; when you have to cook the huge meals yourself (and clean the dishes after), the process becomes just a little more tedious. Or, you just give up, reach for the phone and dial Pizza Hut :)

Friday, September 12, 2008

To See the Sun Rising

I saw the sun rising from my bedroom window this morning, and it was a sight to behold. No alarms, no prodding required; I woke up all by myself, which is no small achievement :) I always wondered what people that woke up so early in the morning (7am is early for a night owl like me) did. Since you're here, it's obvious you want to know what I did; here's the list:

checked email.
downward facing dog - check.
upward facing dog - what?
scanned the news - nothing's really going on.
snapped my fingers, did my step, and I did it all by myself (??).

The alarm on my phone is going bonkers, so I better go heed to it. It's going to be a great weekend...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

I'm almost asleep and it's not even Midnight!

Waking up early in the morning takes a lot of work - for starters, you need to change your entire sleep schedule; since your sleep schedule has changed, you tend to feel drained during the early evening, which makes you reach out for a conveniently brewing cup of coffee; the seemingly extra hours you are awake also mean you eat a lot more than usual. There is an upside though, and now I can only speak from my own experience, so the change to first person is intentional. I manage my time better, work more efficiently, cook a meal almost every alternate day, work out (not always at the gym, sometimes I play tennis with my dad), and am less cranky than usual by the end of the day. Can't get anything without giving something these days...

The TV has been off since 11pm, its drone replaced by the melody of Anoushka Shankar's sitar, the tune to which I just did an entire session of meditative yoga. The Stock Market, my current job responsibilities, the next hurricane, Senator Palin, the Democratic party's chances, and a new business idea are all competing for my next available synapse. Without yoga, I'd be in no position to sleep; instead my eyelids feel heavy, and my heartbeat has slowed down. As my thoughts slow to a crawl, and forming coherent sentences becomes harder, I am ready to cave in to the exhaustion. Good night and have a great weekend.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Feeling Overwhelmed, Need to Rise Up

My sense of self oscillates between two extremes, and once the downward slide begins, it's very hard to pull myself out of my rut. It's September; another year has gone by; have I not met my expectations? Why am I low again? It could have something to do with recent events. Monday and Tuesday haven't gone as I had planned, and had it not been for the workout this evening (and the chocolate covered raisins after), I'd have gone into a protracted slump. I made a mistake while driving, the trip to St Helens was cut short 20 miles into the drive, work hasn't been easy, and it appears as if my best laid plans are getting foiled for no fault of mine. I can handle things not working out; things get over my head on the days when I recognize missed opportunities while experiencing an overwhelming sense of loneliness. It's surprising that I have staved off depression for this long...

Instead of letting my situation get the better of me, I've resolved to be positive this week. Things haven't been rosy the past couple days - so what?! I have a lot to celebrate - my new house, great friends, a year gone by filled with memorable experiences, and a lifetime of experiences in front of me. For the immediate future, I am going to make a list of things I must do before the 12th of September so that my birthday weekend is relatively stress free. Also on the list of immediate things to do - try and workout 5 times this week. Workout, work hard, eat well, sleep well, spend time with dad and friends - I know no better way to elevate my spirits.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Would it make sense for Mozilla to use Webkit?

Just throwing this thought out there. With so many companies using Webkit now, and the rendering engine's ability to be ported to the Mobile platform no longer in doubt, it might be time for Mozilla to reconsider its development of Gecko. The reasons are too simple and obvious to ignore any more - the advantages are

1. Standards compliance
2. Lower entry threshold for developers
3. Supports plug-ins and is considered more scalable than Gecko
4. Mobile port available
5. Leaner footprint
6. The code was written with maintainability in mind. By the admission of many core Gecko developers, parts of Gecko are extremely fragile due to legacy

Not a clear advantage, but if more developers work on Webkit, more of its bugs will be fixed, and eventually, most Open Source web browsers will use the same underlying technology to render pages. This will improve the web experience for all users, and with the increased exposure, Webkit's engine will be thoroughly tested thereby producing more bug reports, and ... It's a virtuous cycle that will only reap dividends for all involved.

Whether this will actually happen or not is questionable. If anything at all, with Google Chrome (and Android) picking Webkit over Gecko, this has become an issue of pride with Mozilla's developers becoming fiercely defensive of their pet technology. Once egos get involved, no constructive progress can be made towards the solution I am proposing...

Monday, September 01, 2008

Update: Google Chrome and the ramifications for Hosted Applications

Update: Someone actually gets paid to write stories like mine . Here's Ina Fried's lukewarm take on the subject: What Chrome means for Microsoft.

If you haven't read about Google Chrome yet, well, the link I've provided has some screenshots of the leaked beta before tomorrow's launch. Here are the browser choices on Windows today:
- IE 7, IE 8 Beta
- Firefox 2, Firefox 3
- Seamonkey
- Opera
- Safari

Google's chrome browser has some interesting innovations, but some of the tab sand-boxing work has already been released as part of IE 8. Plugin sand-boxing isn't going to be as easy, but that Google is investing in making web browsing safer is very encouraging.

I don't think Google is releasing a browser just because they really care about keep users secure while they browse the web. Don't get me wrong, that might very well be an ancillary consequence of their browser release, but I can't help but wonder about their ulterior motive here. Digging a little deeper reveals the first clue that not all is charity - the Google browser has special hooks for Google Gears, which in Google's own words, "is an open source project that enables more powerful web applications, by adding new features to your web browser". Chrome might very well become THE container to host Google's offerings of Office Productivity Applications. Chrome is based on Webkit, and is sure to have offline application capabilities built in (Google helped define the standard, which is partially implemented in Firefox 3.0). With Chrome, Google will have a PC client with cutting edge rendering capabilities and coupled with Gears, Google's productivity apps can work in offline mode.

In time, more applications created using the Google Gears API will be released that fulfill needs specific to business verticals. These applications will have the robustness afforded by online, redundant storage, the convenience of being accessible from any PC with "Chrome" installed, and the ease of use paralleling that of legacy, desktop applications. Microsoft and Adobe better take notice...