Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thought for the day

Today’s financial crisis is Obama’s 9/11.

Monday, December 29, 2008

NYE 2009 at Harlot in SF

Juggy, Amru and I hit-up Harlot in the SOMA district this Saturday evening. There is no club in Seattle like Harlot; the closest night-time destination in Seattle that has a similar feel to Harlot is The Apartment. Tastefully decorated, small yet not cramped, Harlot made us feel cozy yet unconfined, so we decided to make it our destination for NYE 2009.

If you're in SF and want a place to party, there are a bunch of sites with detailed event information, ticket prices, etc. Expect to pay upwards of $50 for entry (some places offer free drinks but charge more), and get ready to party it up in quasi-warm San Francisco. As for me, I'll let the ticket stub speak for itself....

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Text Messages should be free

I have maintained that delivering a text message from me to one of my friends, or twitter for that matter, costs the Cellular network providers nothing. 160 characters per message should be easy to transmit when the Cell network is capable of transmitting millions of bytes that constitute our phone conversations. Almost every time I have this debate with someone, their point of view differs from mine; the result is always the same - since both parties don't know the internals of how the Cellular networks are provisioned, there is no conclusive proof that either of our arguments is valid. We take another swig of our respective drinks and move on to other topics.

Well, I no longer have to live knowing that I was siding with the losing argument on this count - delivering SMS messages is "practically" free for the Mobile Service providers, and they don't need to make any new infrastructural investments to accommodate for a huge spike in SMS usage by customers. This line from the linked article says it all:
A better description might be “cost carriers very, very, very little to transmit.”

For a deep-dive into why this is the case, read on...
A text message initially travels wirelessly from a handset to the closest base-station tower and is then transferred through wired links to the digital pipes of the telephone network, and then, near its destination, converted back into a wireless signal to traverse the final leg, from tower to handset. In the wired portion of its journey, a file of such infinitesimal size is inconsequential. Srinivasan Keshav, a professor of computer science at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, said: “Messages are small. Even though a trillion seems like a lot to carry, it isn’t.”

Perhaps the costs for the wireless portion at either end are high — spectrum is finite, after all, and carriers pay dearly for the rights to use it. But text messages are not just tiny; they are also free riders, tucked into what’s called a control channel, space reserved for operation of the wireless network.

That’s why a message is so limited in length: it must not exceed the length of the message used for internal communication between tower and handset to set up a call. The channel uses space whether or not a text message is inserted.

Professor Keshav said that once a carrier invests in the centralized storage equipment — storing a terabyte now costs only $100 and is dropping — and the staff to maintain it, its costs are basically covered. “Operating costs are relatively insensitive to volume,” he said. “It doesn’t cost the carrier much more to transmit a hundred million messages than a million.”
I guess AT&T is pocketing the $20 I am paying for unlimited text messaging, but I know people who have paid $40 in SMS overage charges some months of the year. Cell Phone plans in the US are a total scam compared to the ones my parents use in India, calls are way too expensive, US customers get forced into buying service packages and signing multi-year contracts, and now we discover this!?! As someone said, it is time for this oligopoly to be replaced by an honest Cell Phone service provider that doesn't do its darndest to swindle the consumer out of their hard earned $.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Should charities go for-profit?

I think this article on the changing world of charities misses the key point about why people are up in arms over for-profit charities - charities are exempt from paying certain taxes and they get sops from the government for working with the underprivileged. With this being said, I agree with the general tenor of the article, and believe that good can be done for people by those that don't necessarily work under the charity umbrella.
“Howard Schultz has done more for coffee-growing regions of Africa than anybody I can think of,” Michael Fairbanks, a development expert, said of the chief executive of Starbucks. By helping countries improve their coffee-growing practices and brand their coffees, Starbucks has probably helped impoverished African coffee farmers more than any aid group has.

Mr. Fairbanks himself demonstrates that a businessman can do good even as he does well. Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, hired Mr. Fairbanks’s consulting company and paid it millions of dollars between 2000 and 2007.
The accidental charity-ier; reminds me of the Jesuits who taught us that the best kind of charity is that which no one knows of, not even your left hand. A compelling read...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Season's Greetings

Merry Christmas
Happy Hanukah
Happy Festivus
A Happy New Year
to all!

Yes, I wished everyone a Merry Christmas. I really don't get why people are up in arms about this. Do I care?!

Aye Last Minute Shoppers, looking for Sweet Deals?

I am done with *shopping* for now; was looking for a pair of jeans that made my fat ass look, well, not so fat, but it didn't work. Clothes can only hide so much . If you are still in the market for some shopping, here are some smart tips (courtesy Yahoo! Finance):
For the best deals, check out these retailers:
  • J. Crew is offering 20 percent off through December 24, but it applies to in-store purchases only. That means the stores will be crowded, but you can snag some great deals on J. Crew's colorful winter collection.
  • If you like Lacoste's pastel colors, then you can take advantage of the mark downs on select Polo shirts for men and women. While the classic colors like yellow and blue carry their original $79.50 price tag, Wisteria purple, Storm Cloud blue, and others are on sale for $58.99.
  • The Gap is offering up to 40 percent off, while its sister stores Old Navy and Banana Republic are holding their own sales of up to a whopping 60 percent off.
  • At Target, shoppers can get visit stores to get up to 30 percent discounts--just make sure you check Target's weekly ad in advance.
  • Wal-Mart has put together its list of last-minute gift suggestions with some incredible discounts, including a Garmin GPS device with an mp3 player for $246, marked down from $498.
Good luck, and don't stress too much if you can't make it to the mall. Remember, it's the season of good cheer...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Blog's Word Map

You gotta try this site out - put any content in the textfield and it generates a word map for the text; it looks like this:

Monday, December 22, 2008

What browser to use on the Mac?

I have made the transition to the Mac platform 100%. I use Windows at work only because I must, or at least I lead myself to obey that like it was religion. All went well until I *had* to use my Windows laptop to do something; it had been 3 months since the last time I had flipped its lid open, and I must say, I felt like a duck in water...

The biggest problem with moving away from Windows to any other platform is there are fewer software options. In the case of the Mac, sometimes fewer translates into ONE. There are other options, of course, but they are almost unusable or provide so little functionality that they become non-contenders for my attention. Desktop productivity applications are particularly lacking on the Mac - Microsoft Office is nothing like its Windows counterpart (that's right, I said it!) and when it comes to browsers, Safari is totally a poser. I can't believe I just said that...

Here's why:
- Many sites don't work correctly in Safari. Now one might argue that the sites don't adhere to web standards, but as the user, I give a flying F for web standards. I want to view a page, show me it already! Firefox does just okay...
- The Security story in Safari, particularly vis-a-vis accepting and rejecting certificates is a joke.
- Ditto for Cookie Management
- No Undo Close Tab?
- I am not a huge extensions user in Firefox because most of the stuff is already done for me. Yes, I maintain Elasticfox, so it's only natural for me to pick Firefox, but that's secondary to this discussion. I routinely miss Firefox features when I use Safari.

I could go on, but I don't want this to devolve into a rant. I really like that Apple supports KHTML and I laud its efforts at keeping up with Mozilla's work with Firefox, but honestly, I think it is time for all parties involved to come to an agreement of some sort. I guess I am the only one with the pipe-dream that one day I'll be using a browser with the best Javascript engine, best rendering engine, and best usability possible. I don't care who releases the browser, as long as it has the best of all possible technologies baked into it.

Is that me asking for too much?

P.S. I would use Firefox on the Mac but it prevents my machine from going to sleep. Apparently, fixing that bug isn't on MoFo's radar. Sigh...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow Week 2008?

I think it's a first for Seattle - it has almost been a week since the first snow flurries descended upon the Emerald city. Today though, nature decided to really open her bosom and let them flurries loose - my driveway had maybe 6 inches of snow, and Beacon Hill wasn't the hardest hit. This snow is going to take more than a few days to clear up. Time to get ready for the aftermath of a snow storm - slick roads, black ice, and jack-knifing vehicles. O Golly!

Been cooped up at home all day is a great recipe for productivity, but after a while, I tend to start tearing through my pantry looking for new things to eat. I think I have exhausted the stockpile of ready to eat food in my house; the thought of cooking tomorrow isn't very appetizing, but if I am to survive another day without visiting a grocery store, I gotta cook. I could take the higher road and not eat but if you know me at all, you know that isn't an option; Manoj Mehta likes to eat.

When asked, almost everyone speaks in such excited tones about the snow. Why doesn't anyone talk about the other side of a snow-storm? The accidents, the general trepidation to venture out of the house, the unnecessary layers of clothing one must put on, the interminable delays in the public transportation system, the reduction in retail sales, the Internet fatigue. Say what - Internet fatigue??

Yes I said it - I couldn't go to the gym and didn't want to watch any television, so I surfed the web all evening and now, I am bored. Yes, I could get a hobby, but how it would have to be indoors, unless you consider snowboarding a hobby. I could be productive indoors, but that's for office hours. What about after? I could go visit a friend, but we're back to the venturing out problem again. So yes, pray tell me, what does one do when they are snowed in like this? By that question I mean, what do *YOU* (imagine my finger pointing) do in times like these?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Switch to Firefox already!

BBC NEWS | Technology | Serious security flaw found in IE: "'Microsoft is continuing its investigation of public reports of attacks against a new vulnerability in Internet Explorer,' said the firm in a security advisory alert about the flaw.

Microsoft says it has detected attacks against IE 7.0 but said the 'underlying vulnerability' was present in all versions of the browser.

Other browsers, such as Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Safari, are not vulnerable to the flaw Microsoft has identified."

Need I say more? Get Firefox :here:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Re-establish Sync Partnership between ActiveSync and Windows Mobile Device

I just spent 2 hours trying to re-establish a sync partnership between my Windows Mobile phone and Microsoft ActiveSync. Too bad there is almost no documentation on how to fix this on the Microsoft website - awesome M$, friggin awesome. Not only is the OS behind the times now, it isn't even as usable as the iPhone OS.

Here is the solution:
On the Device:
- Choose USB to PC and uncheck "Enable advanced network functionality".

If you want to do this on the PC, do the following:
- Delete: C:\Documents and Settings\Your_NAME\Application Data\Microsoft\ActiveSync\Profiles\WM_YourDevice_name

Oh yeah, don't get me started about how changing my device's name causes all messaging functionality to get borked. More pain to follow...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My Dash runs Windows Mobile 6.1

and here are the instructions I followed to update my phone: Setup WinMo 6.1.

If you're late to the 6.1 party, as late as I was, the site has all the info you need. Don't worry about not being able to download the key config cab - it's not that important.

I'll echo my impressions of the 6.1 update when I have used it for a week...