Thursday, December 31, 2009

Random thoughts on the last day of 2009

This is going to be a collection of random conversations, thoughts and memories from the year gone by.

1. Bar Stools
I posted an ad on craigslist for 2 bar stools at $45.
a guy responded saying he will give me 25 because there are other comparable postings.
I'm like, douche this isn't a flea market. If there are other postings that are within your price range, contact them.
45 for 2 new bar stools isn't much.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Shop at Amazon and support me

Time is running out folks! Shop the best online deals at :Amazon: and support me without doing anything extraordinary.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Avatar - the review by Roger Ebert

The story, set in the year 2154, involves a mission by U. S. Armed Forces to an earth-sized moon in orbit around a massive star. This new world, Pandora, is a rich source of a mineral Earth desperately needs. Pandora represents not even a remote threat to Earth, but we nevertheless send in the military to attack and conquer them. Gung-ho Marines employ machine guns and pilot armored hover ships on bombing runs.
Hmm, sound familiar?

Friday, December 11, 2009

U.S. Retail Sales Rose 1.3% in November - Staggering!

"While sales reached $352.1 billion last month,"
This number is staggering because I just did some simple math in my head.
From census.gov, the US population is approximately 308.1 million.
This article states that 352.1 billion dollars were spent on retail purchases in November 2009.
Ergo, each person, on average, spent: 352.1billion/308.1million ~= 1130 dollars

People, what's wrong with you? :-) I am quitting this software engineering job and opening up a retail store. My parents have their heads screwed straight - 3 stores and counting...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hell is freezing over - Mozilla tells you how to switch from Google to Bing

And here's how you can easily switch Firefox's search from Google to Bing: link.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Wanna shop sample sales at Rue La La?

Here is how you get started with one of the best sites for sample sales: Rue La La

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Describing EC2 instances using the AWS SDK for .NET

Here is some sample code that shows you how to enumerate the EC2 instances currently associated with your AWS account.

DescribeInstancesResponse resp = ec2.DescribeInstances(new DescribeInstancesRequest());
if (resp.IsSetDescribeInstancesResult())
{
DescribeInstancesResult result = resp.DescribeInstancesResult;
foreach (RunningInstance inst in result.RunningInstance)
{
Console.WriteLine(inst.InstanceId);
}
}

Watch this space for more snippets of code that will help you manage your AWS resources using the SDK for .NET.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Chrome OS And The Microsoft Squeeze - Reaction

What utter bs - until Chrome OS and Mac OS X are adopted by the enterprise, they are always going to be the outsiders looking in. Techcrunch writers really need to get their head screwed straight so they see the light. Or go to PDC...

Friday, November 20, 2009

AWS for Windows Developers

If you are:
1. A Windows developer
2. Curious about AWS
3. Using AWS services but want to manage your infrastructure

Get the AWS SDK for .NET Development :here:

Getting started with AWS is simple using the built-in Visual Studio templates, project samples and AWS reference documentation is integrated into Visual Studio (hit F1). Post a message to the AWS Windows development forum and tell us about your experience with the SDK.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Yankees - 27th Title

Many will attribute this latest addition to the Yankees trophy collection to the 1/2 Billion dollar acquisitions they made in the summer. I think more than the money spent, there is something to be said about the new set of individuals playing like a team. The big stars didn't bring this to the fray; it's the National League players they acquired that imbued in the "jaded" Yankees a oneness of cause and lightened the atmosphere in the staid locker-room.

Even if I am wrong, I am so happy that the Yankees won it all this year. The best team in baseball deserved to win. Alex Rodriguez can stop going to the therapist now - he played like a champion, albeit a tainted one. Everyone in baseball has considered or used steroids; I am sure football players use HGH as well. Players are going to cheat and us fans are going to find out eventually. Let's stop being petty and let the games continue...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

MSVCR100.dll was not found. Reinstalling ... (FIX)

Searching the web for how to fix this will frustrate you to death. The fix is to download the latest .NET SDK (4.0 in this case) and run the installer. Download the redistributable exe, not the web downloader.

Download Link: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=ded875c8-fe5e-4cc9-b973-2171b61fe982&displaylang=en#filelist

So much for the web, MSDN or Bing search on MSDN adding any value.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Visual Studio Clipboard Ring

Here's a quasi-funny story. I didn't know C# when I worked at Microsoft, and oh god no I didn't use Visual Studio to write code at Microsoft either. ViM was my editor of choice at M$. Fast-forward to today; Amazon is paying me to build C# applications and libraries. I would use ViM to write C#, but VS 2008 is the cat's whiskers when it comes to .NET development.

With this being said, I do miss a ton of ViM features that aren't in Visual Studio. After what I learned today, I won't miss one - named buffers. To summarize the feature: if you need to preserve multiple items into the clipboard, do the following in command mode:
- select the text (Shift-V, Ctrl-V)
- pick a letter [A-Z] or a number [0-9] - say M
- type "My

To paste the contents of buffer 'M' in command mode, type: "Mp

The clipboard ring doesn't provide named buffers, but it remembers the last 15 items I copied, which is almost 90% of what I want. Here is how you use the feature:
1. Copy a selection using Ctrl-C (Copy).
2. Pressing Ctrl-V will paste the last item you copied.
3. Pressing Ctrl-Shift-V will also paste the last item in the clipboard. If you want to retrieve the second, or last item you inserted into the clipboard, simply keep pressing Ctrl-Shift-V to cycle through the items in the clipboard. Or just drag and drop any entry.

Q.E.D.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sleep already Manoj!

In the last five weeks since my return from India, I feel like I have worked more than I did during the five months prior to my vacation. Each passing day brings with it a new challenge, a new hack is put in place, an old hack is reused, heads are scratched to find ways to not break existing users, and the entire team is getting progressively tired. There is still a lot to do, and though the next few weeks will be hell, there is light at the end of the tunnel. A few of the key moving pieces have fallen into place this past week, and if we meet our development targets for this week, we will be in even better shape to make our deadline. Aah, the week after we release is going to be a well-earned break from the madness. At Amazon though, such reprieves from a harried schedule are short (too short some would argue) - I don't underestimate my boss's ability to assign me to another under-staffed, high-visibility, high-risk task that needed to be done yesterday. I guess being busy is a virtue and a blessing in this economy.

It has been a little more than 17 months since I joined Amazon; forever the observer, here are some differences I have noticed between working at Microsoft and Amazon:

- Amazon adheres strictly to its dictum of "Frugality drives Innovation". The philosophy is so pervasive here that it has seemed to have an effect on people's behavioral patterns - they switch off lights, use CFL bulbs, are environmentally conscious and avoid waste wherever possible. Compare this to Microsoft where a casual walk through a corridor will reveal at least one office with multiple incandescent lamps glowing bright. Problem is, the line between frugality and inconvenience is a very thin one, and is often drawn wrong. For instance, getting a parking spot at Amazon requires jumping through so many hoops that I wonder whether the administrative overhead involved in reimbursing people for parking saves Amazon any money!

- The number of "friends" I have made at work can be counted on my fingers. Maybe it's where I am in life, maybe it's the people here, but I haven't formed a group of Amazonians I can hang out with after-hours. Most folks here go home to their other-half, go to the opera or the symphony or the theatre, usually have their activities planned weeks in advance... Such a sea change from my life on the East-side; gone are the days when we did things on the spur of the moment.

- Most Amazonians I have interacted with live on the West Side.

- The lack of a gym, like the Pro Club, affiliated with Amazon is a glaring omission from the benefits package. I miss The Pro - without it, I don't have social hour any more :(

- The average age of an Amazonian seems to be older than a Microsoftie's.

- After a certain amount of time passes, the politics and in-fighting is the same everywhere.

- I actually miss the Microsoft cafeterias. The soda - not so much, and the Starbucks coffee machines - not at all!

On to other things now. A few months ago, one of my closest friends left Seattle, a departure that left a gaping void in my life. You don't realize how dependent you have grown on a person until they are no longer around - even the most basic activity becomes more fun when you have someone to share it with. The abject loneliness struck me like a bolt of lightning during the first weeks upon my return from Bombay. I was sunk; my closest friends were more than a simple phone call away - some were married, others had left for new cities in new countries...

As I struggled to cope with the sudden changes in my surroundings, I got my first lucky break - a connection with a person I've known, if only in passing, since I was 16. Kapil and Prachie had moved to the Seattle area, their son Adi in tow, sometime this summer. New to the town, Kapil was looking for the same things as the weathered Seattle-local in me was: a person to trust, to play tennis with, to share stories from Bombay with. You know, reminisce about the good times, thereby making the present even more livable. Not a week has gone by since my return that we haven't hung out, and I haven't returned home the last two weekends because it's hard to tear myself away from Adi, the warmth of their home, and Prachie's bland-but-flavorful cooking. Unbeknown to them, these three are the accidental heroes of my recovery from the depths I had sunk to. I no longer feel alone here - I have people that care for me. It's one thing to feign positivity and happiness; the comfort of knowing that I have people has helped me find inner peace and happiness. Armed I feel, to take on the next challenge that comes my way.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The torrid Windows Mobile saga continues on

Trends in the Mobile Phone segment became required reading for me once I heard about Apple entering the fray. At one point I considered moving to the Windows Mobile team before better sense prevailed and my career took a different turn. To be fair, Microsoft used to be a contender in the Enterprise smartphone market a few years ago. Now that it isn't, it continues to shock me how Microsoft executives view the future of the segment, at how skewed their perceptions of user interactions with Mobile phones are, and how they continue to believe that Windows Mobile is what customers might want moving forward. Says Andrew Lees, Microsoft’s senior vice president for the Windows Mobile effort:
“Our value proposition is you can get your business and your consumer scenarios on the PC, and in a relevant way for you on the phone.”
Fact - there is no value proposition for WinMo customers presently.
So far, Microsoft has not been able to answer critics who say its operating system is old, slow and hard to use.

“Windows Mobile is simply dated, and that hasn’t changed in this release,” said Avi Greengart, research director for consumer devices at Current Analysis.

Indeed, a J. D. Power & Associates survey found that Windows Mobile had the lowest satisfaction rating among customers of any smartphone operating system. The iPhone has by far the most satisfying software, the study found. Android is a distant second, followed closely by BlackBerry’s operating system.

Windows Mobile scored below average on every attribute, said Kirk Parsons, director of the study, especially in ease of operation, speed and stability.
At least, Robbie Bach is willing to acknowledge that Microsoft should speed up its rate of innovation and think about customer scenarios more.
“You will see a speedy set of innovation for us in the next 6, 12, 24 months,” said Robert J. Bach, president of Microsoft’s entertainment and devices division at a news media event in New York to introduce a quick revision of the operating system called Windows Mobile 6.5. “Should we have picked up on the trends a little sooner? It’s hard not to say we should have,”he added.

Android’s supporters say that in contrast, Google’s software and the devices that run it are evolving very quickly.
I dare say, Windows Mobile needs an injection of Steven Sinofsky.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Safely using a SecureString in C# (don't convert it to a String)

There are a ton of examples online about how to use a C# SecureString object, but most of them have 1 key bug in them that renders the use of SecureString redundant - the examples convert the SecureString into a System.String object!

For those who don't know what a SecureString is, it's secure, it's safe and it should be used to protect resources like passwords, secret keys, etc. After some digging, I found a way to reduce the SecureString attack surface as much as possible. Here's how to generate an RFC-2104 compliant signature (used by AWS services like S3) with a SecureString:
public static string Sign(string data, System.Security.SecureString key, KeyedHashAlgorithm algorithm)
{
    // pointer to hold unmanaged reference to SecureString instance
    IntPtr bstr = IntPtr.Zero;
    char[] charArray = new char[key.Length];
    try 
    {   
        // Marshal SecureString into byte array
        bstr = Marshal.SecureStringToBSTR(key);
        Marshal.Copy(bstr, charArray, 0, charArray.Length);
        algorithm.Key = Encoding.UTF8.GetBytes(charArray);
        return Convert.ToBase64String(algorithm.ComputeHash(
            Encoding.UTF8.GetBytes(data.ToCharArray()))
            );  
    }   
    finally
    {   
        // Make sure that the clear text data is zeroed out 
        algorithm.Clear();
        Array.Clear(charArray, 0, charArray.Length);
        Marshal.ZeroFreeBSTR(bstr);
    }   
}

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Been a while

A lot has transpired since the last time I wrote a real blog post. Yes it's true, I am bitten by the twitter bug! It is infinitely easier to live in the moment, to observe rather than reflect, to react rather than think. Even when I did want to write, my surroundings conspired against my best wishes and left me with no real time or peace of mind to pen my thoughts. It turns out that unless I take the time to void my thoughts, they will continue to occupy my mind; there is no notion of free time - it is all spoken for.

Approximately a month ago, I grudgingly returned back to Seattle from a three week sojourn in Bombay. It was hard to come back this time, especially after having spent time in the throes of family. In an odd twist, no other entity can make you realize how lonely your existence is more than your own family can. Selfish as it may sound, there is something deeply comforting about the fact that someone is either waiting for you to get home or you are waiting for someone to come home to you. I now understand the compulsion people feel to start a family, to get a dog, to live with room-mates. Like cocaine addiction, this sense of comfort is uplifting yet fleeting; once you acquire it, you chase the high forever.

Often times we go on vacation and come back relaxed, with no other real dividend earned. This trip to India, relaxing as it was, yielded an unexpected bonus - I experienced what a parent must feel when they see their child grow up into an adult. For many years now, Nikhil has been a free agent; it has been hard to pin him down and inspire him to do anything of real import. The Nikhil I saw this time around was a changed person. He took a huge responsibility upon himself, he shepherded a store from conception to completion before my very eyes, vetoed decisions that he believed weren't in the best interests of the brand at large, and managed finances to the best of his abilities. This, for a guy who couldn't concentrate on anything work-related for more than two hours, was a volte face! My younger brother had finally stepped up to his responsibilities and taken his rightful place among the league of men. I have no doubts that he will be Extraordinary.

Since my return, I have plunged headlong into the sea of work yet to be accomplished. With a new product release around the corner, work is proving to be more than just a distraction from the bigger problems I have to eventually encounter. If I am not vigilant, work will consume every waking moment, even percolate into the nether hours thereby disrupting my already fragile circadian rhythms. I need to take pause, make the most of my time at work and strive for balance. Wish me well, for I will definitely need all the blessings I can muster...

Monday, October 05, 2009

Transferring large files > 512 MB using C# HttpWebRequest

When transferring large files over the network using C#, there is a good chance that your application will be thwarted by either:
- System.IO.Exception
- System.Net.WebException

Depending on the order in which you catch exceptions, you might spend a good deal of time debugging the root cause of the problem. In my case, I was trying to send a 4GB file over the wire; every time I tried, the upload would fail with the message:

System.Net.WebException: The request was aborted: The request was canceled.
System.IO.IOException: Cannot clos e stream until all bytes are written.

After a lot of debugging and speculation, the actual cause of the exception was not related to my use of Read/Write with the Stream(s) I chose for the operations. The issue was with the way the HttpWebRequest was configured, in particular, the timeout values associated with the request.

Refer the Properties section of HttpWebRequest@MSDN and look at the description for ReadWriteTimeout. The default value for this timeout, 300 seconds, was too low for the amount of data being transferred, resulting in the write being aborted prematurely. The only consequence of such an action is the exception I stated earlier. The fix: simple - increase the timeout to a reasonable value; our application has this set to 10 minutes.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Installing a Strong name signed assembly into the Windows GAC using MSI

Simple Steps:

1. Create a setup project.
2. Right click on the installer project and go to view the File System
3. Right click in the left pane and add Global Assembly Cache "special folder"
4. Click on the GAC folder and add the assembly or project output (make sure all is strong named otherwise the installer will fail).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Custom Actions and properties like TARGETDIR

If you want to pass an MSI property to your custom action exe, this is how you do it:

CustomAction -> Arguments: "[TARGETDIR]\".

Don't forget the trailing \
For Windows Installer properties such as [TARGETDIR] that return a directory, in addition to the brackets you must include quotation marks and a trailing backslash
If you forget, you'll spend 2 hours debugging an almost un-debuggable problem.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Want to lose weight fast? New York City has some advice.


Experts say, for example, that people who eschew sugary sodas like Coca-Cola or Pepsi in favor of “sports” or “energy” drinks are no better off. The health department urges residents to stay away from those drinks, as well as punch, fruit-flavored drinks and even store-prepared coffees and teas, which often come packed with sugar. (Officials say that if you drink coffee or tea, order it plain and add flavoring.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Simple changes to Windows applications that can make them *more* usable

Task Manager, Device Manager, any MMC snap-in will be benefited a great deal by a Search bar at the top of the UX. I am almost always looking for a certain device or application; having to sort the list by name and then searching manually through the list is so 90s

With Search becoming so pervasive in the OS, I think this is one frontier of the UX that Microsoft has forgotten to bring up to date with the times. Is someone in the Windows team listening?

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Games Amazon Plays

Like the Google Zeitgeist captures (some would argue accurately) the culturally relevant topics of the year gone by, I believe this information from Amazon would more accurately depict the sentiment of the customer on the street:
"From clothes to shoes to wireless phones to video games and electronics — Amazon sells them all and can accurately track the spending sentiment amongst its buyers. The company does publish some data occasionally, but what would be even cooler was if Amazon published its own “state of the economy” report every month, which would contain data that’s both more current and more accurate than some of what’s collected and published by governmental organizations."
Given how much secrecy Amazon likes to shroud its operations with, I doubt trends in its retail sales will ever be made public information. No harm in hoping though, right...

Monday, August 03, 2009

On the iPhone being a disappointment (Courtesy Scripting News)

Sharp words from an Internet-as-a-platform visionary. There is a world of truth in the iPhone being everything but a good phone, but I couldn't have put it in words like Dave does here: (excerpted from Scripting News)
There's still a ton of Woz in the Mac, I am typing this on a gorgeous unibody MacBook Pro, which is probably the most lovely computer I've ever used. The software I'm using has never been approved by Apple, and can be downloaded from the Internet. Next to it is an iPhone, which I use only as a phone, an IM device and a communicating camera. It sucks as a phone. The IM is okay and the camera is really nice. But as a platform it's a complete total disappointment.

Friday, July 31, 2009

I hate the fact that...

- Yahoo f***ing sold out to Microsoft
As an ardent follower and loyal fan of Yahoo! search since 2000, this is really a kick in my gonads.

- There is almost no good news reported by the news agencies these days

- It's getting harder and harder to save my brain from atrophy

- The King County assessor thinks my house isn't worth how much I owe on my loan

- Green cards are so friggin hard to get for us legitimate applicants. Sometimes I wish I applied for asylum status...

The list is endless, and maybe this is just a Friday evening thing. Maybe a short nap will lift my spirits...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Open Letter to Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz

Update: Techcrunch did this quick analysis of the change in Yahoo! and Microsoft stock today: Yahoo Got Binged, and how!

Hi Carol,

Thanks for the post on the Yahoo-Microsoft announcement. As a shareholder, one aspect of this merger isn't sitting well with me - future revenue growth.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that this deal gives Bing the impetus it needs and 5 years from today, its market share stands at 40% (from <10% today). Knowing Microsoft, it is sure to re-negotiate its giving away 88% of revenue generated from clicks originating from Yahoo! properties, thereby resulting in reduced Yahoo! revenues. Another immediate impact of this merger is the doubt this casts on the future of Yahoo! Search APIs, Yahoo!'s much praised BOSS initiative, Yahoo!'s new Searchpad, et al.

Over the next few years, is the plan to focus on other ventures that will add to Yahoo!'s bottom-line? With the balance sheet in the state it is in currently, and with Search being the cash cow, unless Yahoo! strikes gold in a new venture, I don't see how revenue projections can be met. Maybe I am missing something here, as is the rest of the blogosphere, some shareholders and the developers building on top of Yahoo!'s platform.

Thanks,
Manoj

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Steps to Integrate an HXS into an MSI

Walkthrough: Registering and Integrating a Help Collection By Using Windows Installer

MSDN is a great resource; alas, finding relevant information on it is very difficult for two reasons. Firstly, no search engine does a good job of indexing the files. Secondly (and primarily), the page authors give the pages the most obscure possible titles. Take for instance the page I just linked to: why can't the summary be "Steps to Integrate HXS into MSI"? Since the page author hasn't done this, I have. It's all in the hands of the Google web spiders now - once they pick up this page and index it, others like me looking for this information won't have to search as much.

To use my close friend Juggy's favorite quote - "Power to the People!"

Hokum - Survey Shows Almost No One Will Switch To Microsoft Bing

Third, yes, Bing has added some cool innovations, but nothing that Google can't and won't copy immediately.

And that gets to the heart of Microsoft's problem here: Search isn't broken. The reason almost 70% of folks use Google is that most folks like Google and most folks are used to Google. If there's a 'better' search engine out there, most people probably don't know that it's better (because it's really hard to tell--in part because 'better' is in the eye of the beholder), and many people who can tell probably don't care.
A specious argument, at best, because it doesn't take history into account. When Google was first launched, people were very happy with the search options they had - Altavista and Yahoo. No one even thought they would switch to Google; case in point - Yahoo! is still the top dog in the AMEA markets. Google established a search monopoly only a few years ago, and though it has made incremental strides in its offerings since launch, it hasn't done anything along the lines of a revamp that Microsoft has undertaken with Bing.

Any prognostications on the future of the Search engine market are doomed to failure, because no one can really predict the psyche of users. If Bing continues to innovate past the "honeymoon" stage of its launch, I would be hard pressed to believe that it won't eventually take market share away from Google. Apropos the discussion of Google copying Bing, two things come to mind. First up, a few months ago, no one would even entertain the idea that Google needed to copy anything from Microsoft - the Bing team should pat themselves on the back for a moment. Seconly, the problem with copycat implementations is that people are observant enough to recognize one on sight; human behavioral studies have shown that "discerning" people usually pick the original over the ersatz version.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fix - AT&T The Remote Party has ended this connection

Use the automatic settings manager under All Programs -> Accessories -> Connection Setup so that you get MEdiaNEt as a GPRS connection configured on your phone. Mind you, the configuration as pushed to your phone by AT&T doesn't really work.

The fix:
Go to Settings>Connections>GPRS,
Highlight IMS CINGULAR And click ok.
It should Connect to: The Internet
Under Access Point It currently says: ims.cingular
THIS IS THE PROBLEM HERE>>>>>>>> Change this to:
wap.cingular
USER Name: Should Be Blank
Password: Should Be Blank
Authentication: Should be CHAP
Primary DNS: 0.0.0.0
Secondary DNS: 0.0.0.0
IP ADDRESS: should Be Blank As well...

It's been a while...

Since I:
- Had to completely reset my phone and start afresh. Apparently, sending and receiving about 3000 text messages and never deleting them from your phone is a bad idea. The database gets really corrupted - like I knew that was gonna happen
- Was part of a team that won its semi-final match and is headed to an ARCL divisional final. Hurrah!
- Came to work on a Sunday at 8pm
- Didn't have Internet at home
- Won a squash match this emphatically (4-0)

But enough bullet points; you would mistake this for a powerpoint presentation. I have been mulling over a few topics to write forth on, but the last two weeks have been the most hectic of 2009 (or so it seems). Arun married Purvie last weekend, and as one of his close friends in Seattle, I was assigned a few tasks during the wedding. All but one went off very smoothly, and in my books, that's a job well done. Surd was in town this past week as well - the guy unfortunately got the flu while on vacation, and unintentionally left it behind for me to pick it up as well. I've had a scratchy throat and have run a fever since Friday, but it isn't anything serious. At least not serious enough to prevent me from playing every sport I like this weekend!

Kapil, Prachie and Aadi have moved to Seattle from Dallas, and I couldn't have asked for something better. In Kapil, I have found a partner in crime for all my sporting activities - he plays tennis, cricket, golf, squash and racquetball - yippee! Wait, I forgot to mention, he just ran the Dallas half marathon (maybe it was the Austin one); more motivation for me to run and a companion that is willing to schlepp it to the West Side every now and again. The pot gets sweeter by the day.

In what I believe is the natural progression of things, Ashish and I tried something new last evening - we went to a lounge and spent quality time with Samrah and her friends. The outcome was surprising to us both - the conversation was crisp, the people were friendly, and there was none of the show-boarding that so characterizes trips to a club or bar in Belltown. The two of us have vowed to have more nights like these - where the people are few yet interesting, and we can walk away feeling like we learned something about someone new, rather than nothing about everyone around us. Next week, it's Lauren's house warming party...

On to the new week it is. My work is progressing at a good clip and this week is going to fly by pretty fast. I'll be in Vegas, India and Hawaii over the next two months - give me a shout if you're going to be in any of these locales, and I'll share my dates with you. Have a good week.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Adobe Flash and a HUGE missed opportunity with HTML5 video

Update: Thanks to John Gruber, Wikipedia and an Anonymous Reader, I now know that FLV is just a container format. The contained video still needs to be encoded with a specific codec; H.264 and Ogg are the prevalent codecs to accomplish this.

The author of the HTML5 specification has given up on resolving, what can best be termed an impasse, the issue with the <video> tag. The issue is that H.264 and Ogg Theora are being considered as the de facto video encodings for the Web of tomorrow, but no browser vendor can provide cross platform implementations of both codecs. Some vendors have expressed concerns around patents, while others have raised valid concerns about the encoding quality of Ogg. In all of this, I wonder why no one is even considering Adobe Flash's FLV format as the one "format" that rules them all. Most video on the web is delivered via the Flash player. The choice of video codec should therefore be a no-brainer!

It isn't, and the only thing I can think of is licensing of the FLV codec. That's hokum though - the flash codec is already installed on more than 90% of computers in the world today. Adobe has been more than responsive with fixing security issues, has a great track record with providing both tools to edit videos and has invested heavily in improving the encoder's quality over the last 10 years. Can someone help me understand why FLV is being marginalized here?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Palm Pre's address book criticisms

No review of the Palm webOS is without a mention of how the address book is very hard to navigate. True to form (and thoroughness), Ars' review of the webOS has this to say:
"Good luck browsing the Pre's address book—as most reviewers have pointed out, it's a mess. The webOS expects contacts to exist as a collection of federated services that you query, not as a structured, browsable repository. So when you add contact services—Google, Exchange, Facebook, AIM—to the Pre, it dumps all of the contacts that it pulls from these services into one impossibly long alphabetical list (mine is about 450 entries)."
In the last year since I have had a Windows mobile phone, I have never once browsed through my Contacts/Address Book. If I want to call or text someone, I start typing their name or number using the keypad - if they are in my address book, their name shows up; if they aren't, o well! What I'm trying to say is "Navigating the Address Book" is a function that was absolutely necessary circa 1999 when phones didn't have an awesome search feature. We're in the 21st century guys - stop mentioning moot points in your reviews.

For my money, the fact that navigating the Pre's address book is so difficult is a definite step forward. Like all new paradigms, this one will take some adjustment but eventually, it is for the best. There are better things to do than navigate a list of 100+ entries... When you launch the Pre's address book, you're supposed to just start typing the name of the contact that you're looking for on the built-in keyboard, and let webOS zero in on the desired record. If you try browsing for the desired contact, then you're wasting your time, because the data is just not structured for this kind of discovery. Pre wants you to query a service, not browse a repository."

Ars reviews the Palm Pre, part 2: the webOS experience - Ars Technica

"One of the established truths of the past 50 years of computing is that the same basic problems crop up over and over again in different forms, so that technological advances are less of a linear march forward than they are a sort of spiral that turns the same corners again and again, but on a different level with each rotation."
Profound

Coming Soon: Adobe Flash on Android, WinMo, and WebOS

"Coming Soon: Adobe Flash on Android, WinMo, and WebOS"

<gazes into his crystal-ball>
December 10, 2009

From the Light into the Darkness - The Dark Age of Mobile Web Browsing

It wasn't too long ago that my Palm Pre's browser nimbly navigated the web without draining my battery, over-heating my phone or playing sounds and videos I didn't authorize it to play. No annoying pop-ups, no flash advert telling me that I should call SINGLES-NET today! The downhill ride began right after Adobe's CEO, Shantanu Narayen, announced the general availability of Flash 10 for Palm, Android and Windows Mobile. The only platform that avoided flash, I dare say like the plague, was the iPhone. How I wish I had an iPhone...
<shudders>

Friday, June 19, 2009

Palm Pre Review Roundup

What's missing:

- App Store
- Some software nitpicks like a button missing here or the address book scrolling being onerous, but nothing that a 1.01 update can't fix
- Minor hardware issues that aren't so much design flaws as they are acclimatizing oneself to a new device after using an iPhone

Bottom Line:
Overall, the UI of the Pre is beautiful and quite functional, although I have my doubts about the wisdom of keeping the vestigial menu bar from classic Palm OS, which is both cumbersome to use and a very small fingertip target to open.

I much prefer the way the Pre (and Android, for that matter) handle out-of-band notifications, such as new email arrival, compared to the iPhone.for a 1.0, they’ve performed a minor miracle. It is a highly respectable competitor to the iPhone and other smartphones. I would rank it above Android, and miles above Windows Mobile.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Browser Installations mandating a reboot!

In complete violation of the "No Reboot" policy of Unix and Windows, installing Safari on the Mac mandates a reboot. Quicktime requires one as well, but that's fodder for another post. I have come to terms with Apple not having the time to build incremental App-update technology into their products, even though other s/w vendors have figured out how to do this 5 years ago. But this reboot requirement adds insult to injury, big time!

As time goes by, I am seriously contemplating replacing Mac OS with the Windows 7 RC on my Mac Book Pro. Unless of course 10.6 is a total breath of fresh air. Mac, you're on life support until you redeem yourself.

The Long Tail Principle and Monopolies

To continue a thought that I conveyed in my previous post - we are slowly arriving at the point, if we aren’t there already, where the iPhone is the de facto mobile development platform, in the same way that Windows is the development platform for desktop apps. So what should Android, Palm's webOS, Windows Mobile, Symbian do?

In any space, the established leaders maintain their position because of the “Long Tail principle” - they become something for everyone. The rest of the competition, though pushed to the fringes, can capitalize on 1 or more seams in the leader's coverage, deliver a compelling experience and maintain its relevance. The conventional wisdom is that it’s better to be everything to someone than something to everyone. This is what Bing needs to do if it is to compete with Google, how Apple has carved a niche for itself and stayed relevant despite the Microsoft juggernaut, how squashgear.com competes with Amazon, etc. So the answer is simple - instead of colliding head-on with Apple, the competitor that will truly succeed will be the one that carves a unique niche for itself and becomes everything for a small subset of the population.

Maybe Apple is right in focusing on the iPhone instead of the desktop

"Smartphone Rises Fast From Gadget to Necessity"

The iPhone OS has become the de facto platform for mobile application development, making it the Windows of the mobile world. My earlier post about Apple losing the script still stands, but for the moment, the iPhone is selling in droves. In this downturn, the key is to ride the cash cow to profit. Maybe iPhone OS 4.0 will be installed on Apple's version of a Netbook.

Excerpts from this article substantiate what is already known in Technology circles - the smartphone market is growing while the overall cell phone market is shrinking. The reason - social expectations, great features, an always-on Internet connection, social cachet, etc.
The smartphone surge, it seems, is a case of a trading-up trend in technology that is running strong enough to weather the downturn. And as is so often true when it comes to adoption of new technology, the smartphone story is as much about consumer sociology and psychology asit is about chips, bytes and bandwidth.

For a growing swath of the population, the social expectation is that one is nearly always connected and reachable almost instantly via e-mail.
And the devices are not cheap. The upfront payment looks small, less than $200. But over the life of the contract, usually two years, the cost of data services adds up to a sizable amount.
Smartphones are not cheap, particularly in tough economic times. The phones, even with routine discounts from wireless carriers, usually cost $100 to $300, while the data and calling service plans are typically $80 to $100 a month.

But recent smartphone converts are often people who count pennies, including many from the growing ranks of job seekers. Helene Rude of Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., was laid off from her job as a business development manager at I.B.M. this year, when her unit, among others, was the target of cuts. When she left, Ms. Rude had to turn in her company notebook computer with its constant wireless connection.

So she got an iPhone instead, allowing her to be online no matter where she was, without having to lug a computer around.
All of this is making the cellular providers salivate.
“Smartphones are seen as essential to be productive in a mobile society,”...

The smartphone wave, industry analysts say, should continue to build. The room for gains is ample because, though rising, smartphone sales will still account for only a quarter of total cellphone shipments in the United States this year. And along with the Palm Pre, a host of new smartphone handset and software offerings are coming this year, from Apple, R.I.M., Nokia, Microsoft, Google and others.

The industry’s goal is to win over more rank-and-file converts
As always, such devices are a mixed bag.
... the key is to make sure this technology helps you carry out the tasks of daily life instead of interfering with them. It’s about balance and managing things.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Has Apple lost the script?

Here is a contrarian view to Apple's recent announcements. These views are my own, and in no way endorsed by Apple.

I think Apple is losing its way. Here are my reasons why:

  1. Mac OS is stagnant, and now even Apple knows this to be a fact. There is no way they would drop the upgrade price to $29 if they felt that they were delivering value to the customer via this upgrade. All prior upgrades to the OS have been at $129. Unless Apple comes out with 10.7 within a year, both consumers and the Enterprise will not lap this new OS up.

  2. iPhone S/W 3.0 could only be an awesome release if it overhauled a crappy OS into a whiz-bang darling. The iPhone OS is slowly becoming a victim of its own success/feature-richness. It’s hard to wow an audience once they are used to the spectacular.

  3. Barring minor tweaks, the iPhone design is now almost 2 years old. In light of what the competition has slated for release in the coming year, the form-factor is beginning to show its gray hair. I touched a Palm Pre today, and I let out a quiet yelp of excitement like I did the first time I held my iPhone or the new Zune HD. No such wow-factor associated with the iPhone 3G’S’.

  4. Apple, in its infinite arrogance (and I dare say, ignorance), is not revealing any plans for a Netbook. Call me whatever you want, but the tiny Toshiba tablet I got many years ago is still my favorite machine to browse the web on while traveling. The thing is maybe 3 pounds, runs Windows XP, and let’s me do email, blog, twitter and youtube. What is Apple doing with the PA Semiconductor acquisition if they haven’t been put to work on an iPhone CPU or a Netbook CPU? NetBooks are the way of the future because our expectations from the compute power they provide are almost minimal. Also, with Cloud Computing gaining mainstream traction, my Netbook can become my gateway to my compute resources in the cloud. All cloud computing infrastructure builders are hard at work on creating expressive management interfaces for resources in the cloud. I don’t see why Office 2012 can’t be hosted in the cloud and accessed via a super thin shim/client/browser-plugin; the heavy lifting needed to render objects, etc is done in the cloud while the client does the task of rendering the items for the user.
Video features are big for the current generation of phone adopters and youtube junkies. Did you ever think unlimited texting would become du jour? I didn’t either. With this being said, let’s think about a 1st time iPhone buyer. The baseline is the iPhone 3G that will retail for $99. Is a slight CPU bump - which can’t be considered a feature since all of us know Moore’s Law – a compass, and a new yet ancient 3MP camera with video support enough of a reason to fork out a $100 more for the 3GS? In this economy, I’d be hard pressed to believe the answer to that question is YES. I’d like to see the sales figures for the entry-level 8GB iPhone 3G vs the 16GB model before that belief becomes fact, but I don’t have access to that granular sales data. As hunches go though, the entire world has been wrong with predicting sales of Apple products (and/or the demise of the company for that matter). If cost was the only driver for tech adoption, Apple’s laptops would never be adopted over their PC counterparts, and the top of the line Mac Book Pros would have to be discontinued because of cannibalization by the cheaper Mac Books.

What do I think of Bing.com?

In the days since Bing launched, I have been asked, on multiple occasions, what I think about Bing? At first, I ventured a guess at my answer, but not content with conjecture, I have spent the last few days using Bing as my primary search engine. Here are my findings:

- Google is still King when it comes to specific searches. If you know exactly what you are looking for, you might find the most relevant result on Bing or Yahoo! On Google, the success rate is very close to 100%.

- Google suggest is superior to Yahoo! suggest, if only marginally, because of their lead in Search relevance.

- The spelling suggestions provided by all 3 search engines are equally good.

- Bing and Yahoo! trounce Google in *vertical* searches like Travel. Actually, if the search query wasn't specific, Google's results were all over the map. In my opinion, this is uncharted territory in the online Search market. By nailing searches for common verticals like Travel, Shopping, Entertainment (movies, restaurants), and Answers, Bing and Yahoo! can really make a dent in Google's lead. Yahoo! Answers is a perfect example of the validity of this theory - too bad Google indexes Yahoo! Answers better than Yahoo! does.

The initial numbers are out; a combination of Microsoft's ad campaign and a better search experience, Bing has leapfrogged Yahoo to become the #2 search engine in the US. These are early days though, so let's wait and watch this unfold.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Bing vs Yahoo vs Google

Bing is all the news these days. I did an unscientific test today on a topic Bing suggested was its most popular search of the day - Roger Federer. Here are the results I got from the top 3 search engines:

Bing - Roger Federer
Yahoo - Roger Federer
Google - Roger Federer

I think both Yahoo and Google's results are more tailored to my tastes, but that might be because I use the 2 search engines more than I have Bing! Honestly though, for a sports fan like me, Bing still has a ways to go.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Seattle Summer is here

My Seattle compatriots and I are finally being treated to a long spell of warm weather; it was over 80 degrees all day today, and the night is warm as well. The story has been the same all over the US this year - the winter has been cold, dreary and long. Unlike the rest of the US though, the winters in Seattle seem unbearable because the Sun rarely rears its head.

Winter in Seattle brings with it many changes. The incessant drizzle and my burgeoning gas bill I can deal with; the sullen atmosphere, the general dourness around me, and my own dramatic mood-swings - those I have a harder time with. Yes, it has been clinically proven that sunlight deprivation has a severe effect on mood, appetite and enthusiasm. It's no surprise then that the Sun's return has brought back the smile on people's faces. The birds are chirping, the grills are cooking, the flowers are blossoming, and strangers are exchanging pleasantries again! Boy O Boy...

A clear blue sky and the balmy seaward breeze greeted me as I walked out of the doors of the Seattle Athletic Club this evening. Instead of walking to my car to head home for dinner, I sat on a park bench overlooking the horizon and watched the drama unfold in the distant horizon. The setting Sun imbued the evening sky with myriad hues of orange, my spirit soaring like the orange rising from the horizon upward into the sky. Mount Rainier to my left, the setting Sun to my right and the Puget Sound right in front of me - I sat around and soaked in the imagery until the lights went out.

Walking back to my car, I overheard a group of people talking about their woes with email organization. Only a few days ago, I stumbled upon the book "Getting Things Done", and some of the ideas I overheard seemed to come directly from it. When I eventually caught up with the girls sharing their thoughts, they noticed the wry smile on my face. What ensued actually took me by surprise - I had a conversation with complete strangers about organizing email. We joked with one another, exchanged stories, talked about the sunshine and a few minutes later said goodbye. The Sun does make us all social, and for that reason, the smile they noticed earlier is still plastered to my face. What can I say, I can't find a reason to frown!

P.S. I think it is pretty dumb that http://www.weather.com/Seattle doesn't automatically get redirected to the page that I have linked to with Seattle's weather forecast.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Whither GM and Chrysler

Where are GM and Chrysler headed to, and what will they wither into?
"Car giant General Motors is expected to file for bankruptcy protection later on Monday, marking the biggest failure of an industrial company in US history."

"Our correspondent says long-established subsidiaries Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer, as well as Saab, the remaining GM brand in Europe, are under threat as production plants are expected to close across the country."

"Meanwhile, a US bankruptcy court judge in New York has approved the sale of fellow US carmaker Chrysler to a consortium including Italy's Fiat.

The move, which is backed by both the US and Canadian governments, should enable the carmaker to exit bankruptcy protection in the near future."
I wonder when Ford will bite the dust and follow the other Detroit denizens into the arms of bankruptcy protection. It's a great time to be a taxpayer right now! (that was sarcasm)

Why did Nadal lose?

#1. He hit a lot of extremely short balls
#2. His service returns didn't have bite
#3. He was tired, and tentative on his strokes.

I wrote about Nadal's weaknesses immediately after the Australian Open 2009 semi-finals. That was then and this is now - to say I am shocked wouldn't cover it. I am saddened...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lawmakers Bill Taxpayers For TVs, Cameras, Lexus

After the huge scandal that has rocked the UK parliament, reports of US Lawmakers expensing their personal purchases are sure to cause a stir this side of the Atlantic. Obama's presidency has had its fair share of scandals involving lawmakers and members of parliament - first the indiscretions of the governor of Illinois, then the news of senators not paying their taxes, and now this. Mind you, these are the infractions that have surfaced; some government watchers suggest that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

When I first read about scandals of this nature, I couldn't quite fathom the outrage the taxpayers felt at the actions of their elected representatives. In India, I grew up reading about the excesses of ministers, their almost habitual flouting of the laws of the land, and witnessed their life of excess first hand. Truth is, politics corrupts even the best of us because with power comes money. I can't wait for the day when Indian politicians are subjected to the same scrutiny that their counterparts in the rest of the developed world. Until that day, I don't think India will be quite ready to usher in a new era of growth and prosperity.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Movie Critics have forgotten the script

I am beginning to think that movie critics are becoming more and more distanced from what people consider pulp entertainment. A movie like Terminator:Salvation is not designed to stimulate the neurons; its purpose is to visually stimulate, and help people get away from their mundane existence. Almost every movie recommended by critics has been a waste of my time, primarily because I don’t want to watch a director’s take on my miserable life; I’m living it already!

For what it's worth, Terminator will suck, but the thrills will make it worth the $1 I pay to see it when it arrives at my neighborhood Red Box.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Microsoft’s Ads Are Hurting Apple

The article summarizes the changes in the general public's perceptions of both Apple and Microsoft.
Apple has and still leads on: Quality (although MS has closed the gap) and Reputation.
MS has recently overtaken Apple on: Satisfaction and Value
MS has recently caught up to (i.e., virtually tied) on: General Impression, Willingness to Recommend"
With Windows 7 around the corner, Apple needs to reinvent itself or brace itself for a reversing of its growth spurt in the computer industry. I installed Windows 7 a few days ago, and even though the build is just an RC, there is very little to choose between a Mac and a PC now in terms of operating system. The build quality of Macs warranted the premium price tag, but those days are long gone. HP and Dell, in particular, have really stepped up to the plate and are building geek eye-candy. HP has the coolest people endorsing its products as well; the next year is going to be great for a laptop buyer.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

It's a lazy Sunday morning

My fortunes this past week have mirrored the swings in weather. Its fitting then that the week has ended on a sunny note. I woke up this morning, bid adieu to an old school friend who is on a whirlwind tour of the US, and before doing anything further, I sat out in the sun and meditated - some Manoj time was for the asking!

As my blog updates become less frequent and my use of twitter increases, I think any day I get a chance to sit down and pen my thoughts is a day I am blessed. Of late, I have onboarded new responsibilities and have let myself get caught up in situations that I could easily avoid. A quick note to the fledglings fantasizing about their grown-up days - being an adult sucks! Unless you make a concerted effort to keep up with your interests, something inevitably gets dropped off your list; sad thing is, most times this happens, you don't even realize what you've given up. In my case, that almost lost interest is music. Part of the reason for the diminished interest in music is ennui; the remainder is the lack of good stuff being released these days. I'll rephrase that - with my priorities shifting to work and my house, I haven't had a chance to explore my favourite genres for new music. Chalk up another consequence of quitting Microsoft - my Zune days exposed me to new artists, new music and to DJ Miss E's recommendations. Maybe it's time to reconnect with her, if only for her awesome taste in music! :)

Cricket has made a roaring comeback into my life, partly due to the IPL T20 tournament. I restored my connection with the ARCL and now play for a team comprised of Microsofties and Amazonians. My batting is rusty but my ability to track balls down (and hold on to catches) is undiminished; some batting practice and time at the crease will surely clear the cobwebs. Bowlers everywhere, watch out! Back to the IPL - I was thinking today that if the tournament is going to be held every year, cities that play host to each of the 7 teams can really profit from their respective franchises. With some creativity and updates to the existing infrastructure, the IPL can make a city a tourist haven, if only for the home games. Establish a home ground which will create a loyal fan base; upgrade the flight routes connecting each of the 7 cities to accommodate IPL fans and provide incentives to fly for a team's away games; hotels and guest services will mushroom around the grounds; voila, the city has a fresh crop of tourists that aren't visiting from a foreign country. The revenues from sales taxes alone will amount to a sizable sum of money...

Time to head out into the sun and smile through the rest of this gorgeous day!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

$999 MacBook Air deal FTW

AppleInsider | Apple lands Xbox boss, Mac OS X 10.5.7, $999 MacBook Air deal: "$999 MacBook Air and MacBook coupons

MacMall, one of AppleInsider's sponsors, dropped us a note earlier this week about a deal it's running on first-generation MacBook Airs. It's offering the original $1799 1.6GHz model with Intel graphics for $999 after instant discounts and a $200 mail-in-rebate. The deal may be a compelling option for anyone in the market for an ultra-portable Mac for basic email, internet and business use, and who isn't concerned with the NVIDIA graphics boost delivered by the latest models."

Monday, April 20, 2009

So what if the Yankees are blowing chunks at playing ball?

... you can at least eat healthfully at the new Yankees stadium.
When I entered the park I stopped at the produce stand—the produce stand!—and bought a couple of fresh pears. Later I went to the Noodle Bowl stand, where for $8.50 I got a bowl of noodles, veggies and tofu. Tofu at the ballpark...

All the food choices have calorie counts posted now, so you can avoid, or still indulge in, the almost 1,100 calorie Moe’s Homewrecker Burrito at La Esquina Latina...
Ummm Yummy!
Every few yards you find a trio of disposal cans. For regular trash, plastic and compost. Which you may actually have items for, with a produce stand on site.
Is this enough of a silver lining for the Yankees?

Wall Street Journal iPhone App Sets Content Free

"The Wall Street Journal, one of the few newspapers that charges for content online, released an app for the iPhone Wednesday which sets their content free, poking another hole in one of the internet's oldest pay walls."

Now for the fine print:
There is free, and then there is free, apparently. A Dow Jones spokeswoman wrote to wired.com Thursday to say that the company does intend to charge for some content consumed on smartphones "so we have a consistent experience across multiple platforms," though the company is "still exploring its options" and isn't saying when that might happen.

Thoughts on Pot vs. Alcohol from a Former Police Chief

"Over the past four years I've asked police officers throughout the U.S. (and in Canada) two questions. When's the last time you had to fight someone under the influence of marijuana? (I'm talking marijuana only, not pot plus a six-pack or a fifth of tequila.) My colleagues pause, they reflect. Their eyes widen as they realize that in their five or fifteen or thirty years on the job they have never had to fight a marijuana user. I then ask: When's the last time you had to fight a drunk? They look at their watches."

I don't fight with anyone when I am drunk; I just throw up. My friends can vouch for this just based on my behavior in Vegas this past weekend.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Roundup of Thoughts - 13 April 2009

In the "Real Life is imitating Reel Life" series, the planned demilitarization of America seems to draw inspiration from the current series of 24. If real life follows the script of the show, some disgruntled arms dealing "Patriot" is going to collude with one of America's opponents. Only bad things can come out of something like that.

I read Tony Greig's comments about the rising number of 6s in the limited overs game being a bad thing for cricket. He used the argument that a 6 is so entertaining because it is a rarity; the air of anticipation is what makes the outcome so viscerally pleasing. From where I sit, this is utter hockum - this is like saying home-runs are destroying the game of baseball; that the incessant slam dunking by NBA players has made the act of dunking passe and pedestrian. Too bad Tony's words aren't going to stop the players from "Taking it to the Maximum".

Senator John McCain was a guest on The Tonight Show, and he came across as genuine, entertaining, witty and humble. I hope he is re-elected to his seat as governor of Arizona.

Australia has officially been displaced by South Africa as the #1 team in the World One Day Cricket standings. Go Springboks! I hope my colleague Ben, who is currently vacationing in South Africa, gets a chance to see a game live.

I wanted to post about something else but it has totally escaped my mind. Another fallout of getting older. Oh now I remember - I signed my tax forms today. If you're looking to get your taxes done, you should contact Jana Banks at 206-270-0281. She has been doing taxes for years, is approachable, thorough, and very organized. Unorganized and disheveled tax accountants don't do too well, I suppose. There is a subconscious correlation we make between thorough and organized; there is no comfort in handing your earnings statements (and the like) to a seemingly unorganized person!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Should Colleges Continue to Host Email for Their Students?

Should Colleges Continue to Host Email for Their Students? - ReadWriteWeb

All webmail providers should be excited by this story published by the ReadWriteWeb for two reasons:

1. There is a never ending stream of new students going to college every year
2. Most students keep an email address they started using in college well after they have graduated

Email is like a gateway drug - the providers can peddle advertisements, related web properties, and new services to their new (and hopefully loyal) users. College students possess an uncanny knack to influence not only their friends but also their less-web-savvy family, and this halo effect can only bring more subscribers to the fold. All in all, this change sounds like a great opportunity for Yahoo! and Google, the 2 webmail services best equipped to provide colleges with specialized email services. I can't imagine them charging colleges more than a nominal fee for this service, an amount that colleges won't begrudge. As the article states, college students use external email providers already and college email services are way behind the curve:
Schools, for the most part, aren't able to keep up with the speed of innovation on the web anyway, and the fact that many college-run email systems have fallen far behind the innovation curve has driven a lot of students to just forward their school email to a commercial account anyway.
...
the days when colleges provided the most important on-ramp to email and the Internet for their students are long over.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Is this the future of tech journalism?

With the 4th Estate going the way of the dodo, we are faced with the prospect of reading blogs to get our daily dose of news. This might be a future event for most forms of journalism, but Tech journalism has already made the move to the web with mixed results. Take this story from the Daring Fireball today:

VirtualBox is: “a family of powerful x86 virtualization products for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers, it is also the only professional solution that is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL).”

I need to use this for a certain project I’m working on. Admittedly, I’m not using it in any “enterprise” sense, whatever that means. I’m just using it as a desktop virtualization system. But from that perspective it strikes me as inferior to VMware Fusion in every way. An inferior product given away for free — is it any wonder that Sun is in trouble?
Without providing specifics about what was inferior (everything can't be), or any details about how the product was used, this post, in my opinion, is more slander than journalism. Turns out, Daring Fireball is a blog read by thousands, so this post will prevent its readers from even giving VirtualBox a fair chance. Maybe I am old school; when writing about a product, I try to accurately represent the pros and cons of using it. Unfortunately, I don't have the power to strike a product down with my keystrokes (a single flick of the pen doesn't seem apt any more). I believe that people whose fingers do wield that power should use it wisely.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Future of Books & the Kindle

The hottest tech gadget today is the Kindle. Before the Apple fanbois get on my case, I haven't discounted the iPhone. How I see it, the iPhone isn't just a gadget any more; that device has transcended from the realm of catchet to that of abject necessity. The Kindle hasn't reached that stratosphere yet, but the v2 release of the device has many punters predicting the demise of newsprint and paperbacks as we know them. Stop the press...

The realist in me thinks that there is still a ways to go before we stop devoting real estate to books. The first reason for my stance is nostalgia - many of us have a story that involves leafing through a publication, torchlight in hand, bedsheet failing to hide what you are truly doing; what about the comicbook hidden in a tome for a textbook? The second reason is that the Kindle, though a huge improvement over v1, is still a ways away from being the ideal reading device. No backlight, no color, no go; not for now. And last but not least, the demise of the paperback has been predicted before, but the medium hasn't gone away.

To the Kindle's credit, the device+service show what the future has in "store", and the little time I spent with the Kindle yesterday has made me a believer in the service model devised by Amazon. Others have waxed eloquent about the device and the service already, so there is no point in repeating their words here. What no one has touched upon is how the Kindle can make further inroads into the market; that's where I can add some value (props to Karan for the brainstorm):

- Kindle in Education
Let's face it, kids hate lugging textbooks around. The prohibitive cost of textbooks is the reason they are the most popular torrents on thepiratebay. The Kindle could be the final piece that helps broker a deal between educational institutions and textbook publishers that allows students to receive all their textbooks on a Kindle for a flat rate < total price of physical textbooks. This becomes an especially lucrative deal for publishers catering to University level courses where piracy and 2nd hand book sales are rampant - currently, publishers don't profit from either channel.

- Newspapers and Magazines
I think a good swath of the population would opt for a 2yr online-only subscription if a Kindle came bundled with the purchase. This saves on paper (environmentalists of the world rejoice), helps finance a publication's online endeavors, and peddles more Kindles.

- Kindle & Kaplan
'Nuff said.

Thoughts?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

How not to conduct oneself in public

Asa Dotzler is a key figure in the Mozilla community, and there used to be a time when his posts actually added some value to my perception of Firefox, et al. Of late though, his perspective seems to have gotten muddied, his opinions too strong, and well, I've had to stop reading his blog because it's extremely prejudiced against the competition (IE, Chrome, Windows, you name it).

Asa, I think it's time you took a class on Journalism, unless you want others to flip the bit on you and completely disregard your opinions (and/or existence).

Friday, March 20, 2009

On Positivity...

Obstacles are at every step
Stay positive, think smart
You will always find a way
The answer is often obvious.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

SPIN METER: Cue the Washington outrage

"For months, the Obama administration and members of Congress have known that insurance giant AIG was getting ready to pay huge bonuses while living off government bailouts. It wasn't until the money was flowing and news was trickling out to the public that official Washington rose up in anger and vowed to yank the money back."
No one predicted the public outcry, but now that the outrage is at fever pitch, the government's knee jerk reaction isn't going to cut it; people want "real" answers! This might be the final straw that results in some hard decisions being made about the banking system in America. Nationalization?!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Outrage at my Gas Bill

For the last three months, my eyes have been rolling backwards every time I cast a glance at my PSE utility bill. A gas bill of more than $100 is more than exorbitant given that I'm not at home for more than 12 hours every day, that the price of gas is almost half what it used to be only six months ago, and the utility companies are promising that they aren't profiting from their customers. I suspected some foul play, but this is America - it's not easy to steal "gas" from your neighbors!

When I saw a bill of $190 today, I flipped out, and actually lost my desire to go to the gym. I chose instead to investigate what might be going on. I wondered how other families are affording heating for their homes as I walked over to my gas meter and guess what - PSE and their great computerized system has been billing me for my neighbor's gas usage. You don't need to steal gas in America, PSE will help you by billing your neighbor without your asking.

My anger was amplified by the fact that the PSE call center stopped taking calls at 6:30; my call to them started ringing at 6:31. Sending them an email with the details is all I could do, and that's exactly what I did. I'll follow up the email with a call to their call center tomorrow morning. If they refuse to reimburse me for the excessive charges, I'm going to take my complaint to the Better Business Bureau. Let's see how this issue unfolds... In the interim, ensure that PSE is checking your house's meter and not your neighbor's.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Need more days like today

The ingredients that make for a perfect day are sound sleep, a productive day at work, a great workout, and a tasty meal before calling it a night. I got all of these and more today - I got some great advice on improving my squash game. It is no secret that I love playing squash, and like anything I pursue, I constantly want to improve my game. Sometimes to improve though, one must change a fundamental aspect of their game, and the advice I got today calls for such an adjustment. A well disguised and executed boast is almost always a point winner in squash. I was taught to play the percentages and hit the ball straight down the line, so I never really mastered the boast which is a lower percentage shot. Today, that's a glaring shortcoming in my game, and to get to the next level, I am going to have to add it to my arsenal.

I started working for my new team today, and though my work is related to the experience I acquired while working on EC2, it will take me a little while to become comfortable with my colleagues. A new office with a quasi-view through the conference room's windows will sweeten the pie a little bit, but the uncertainty of the new set of assignments has me nervously excited. With every new opportunity, I get a chance to reinvent myself, to work on how I am perceived as a professional. The first step towards doing that is making it to work at a reasonable hour. Sleeping at 2:40 in the morning isn't going to help in that endeavor! This whole spring forward has thrown my sleep cycle for a loop. I am not really complaining about the time shift though - walking back home while it's still light outside is a wonderful change from the dreariness of the winter. I think someone should convince the government to stop setting our clocks back an hour in the Fall because honestly, we're industrialized enough that setting the clocks back doesn't change how much energy we use. Get with the 21st century already...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Safari 4, the review

I was wary before downloading the latest release of Safari - v3 didn't wean me away from Firefox, and once Firefox 3 hit the streets, all the speed and memory usage comparisons came to a grinding halt. The fact that Firefox 3 is good at everything I need it to be good at is the real problem now - I will test new browsers, but eventually settle back to using Firefox every day. Well, Safari 4 might just change that.

For starters, the browser is noticeably snappier than Firefox. It loads up faster, loads pages faster, and using it makes me feel posh. The top sites page that welcomes me when Safari loads up gives the browser a cinematic feel; for a few fleeting moments, I am led to believe that I'm doing something less mundane than browsing the WWW. The new tab layout has its detractors, but I like the increased screen real estate. A typical user is not going to notice the slight blemish here or the odd pixel there - they are simply going to get used to the new interface and make the most of it.

In many spheres, Safari 4 has closed the gap with Firefox 3 - search suggestions is one particular area where the new browser has made significant improvements. The suggestions are accurate, and the browser seems to learn from my selections. I do miss the ability to add an engine other than Google as the default, but I am a minority (this is not including Japan and China where Google isn't the search head honcho).

So what functionality of Firefox do I miss in Safari:
- Page Search (using the / key to start searching, hitting Enter to follow a link)
- Extensions
- Web compatibility
  - Hotmail/Live Mail is broken in S4
  - Sites with scripts don't work correctly
  - Flash pegs the CPU at 90% (but this might be a flash issue)
- Import Wizard
  - Let's me share bookmarks, settings, files between Firefox and Safari

All-in-all, this is a great beta, and I'm looking forward to the final release of this browser. If only I didn't have to reboot my computer after the installation, if installing it didn't break Spotlight, and if it didn't act like it had 80% market share, I would add it to my list of favorite Mac applications...

Thursday, March 05, 2009

First post from my phone

Yay for me. Now must fix the pictures that were hosted on winisp...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

How To: Migrate an Amazon AMI from the US to the EU using Elasticfox

Step 1: Select the AMI to Migrate




Step 2: Specify the bucket if the defaults aren’t populated correctly



Step 3: Watch the Migration Progress while you sip a cup of coffee



Thursday, February 19, 2009

Until there are greedy people

... there will be fraudulent businesses and unscrupulous businessmen.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Are PG and JNJ good stocks to buy?

I was talking to a friend of mine a few days ago about the recession. She's a nanny, and considered herself to be indispensable to the functioning of today's working American society. It's quite the norm for both parents to be working, at least it used to be until people started getting laid off left and right. I started to think about that conversation and with the backdrop of the latest report on how more than 80% of the people being laid off are Men, I realized that the recession might have another unexpected consequence - more babies.

Let's face it, the 3 things guys think of the most are food, sleep and sex. Advances in modern medicine, pharmaceutical research, and boredom make for a heady concoction that is most likely going to result in more than 1 oops moments in the lives of "laid-off" couples (that's right, I just coined a new term). With more babies on their way, what are you going to need? A tonna baby and household products. Which companies are leaders in those categories? Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson.

Q.E.D.

The final nail in Vista's coffin

A Microsoft rumor site announces the "Free Upgrade to Windows 7 Program" for qualified customers. Here is the bottom-line:

The only Windows Vista® versions eligible for the program are :
  1. Windows Vista® Home Premium
  2. Windows Vista® Business
  3. Windows Vista® Ultimate
* Microsoft Windows Vista® Home Basic, Windows Vista® Starter Edition, and Windows® XP (all editions) are not qualifying products under the program.

The PC industry has slowed down for the first time in 10+ years. Some of the slowdown can be attributed to the fact that Windows 7 is on the horizon, some of it to the growth of the Mac platform. Hopefully, once the Vista world is running on Windows 7, all the negative press that dogged Microsoft due to a poor operating platform will be a thing of the past.

The good reviews being garnered by Windows 7 must be a huge thorn in the Apple Marketing Team's side - what are they going to mock about Windows once the OS releases? :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ethics in Business

... coming soon to a theater near you - an ethical American business.

Guffaws

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Transit Paradox in America

Soaring gas prices and rising unemployment lead to record usage of public transit systems all over America. With 885 billion $ in stimulus being planned for the foreseeable future, you would think that some money would be apportioned for transit systems. Like the stimulus plan, the golden age of public transit in the US is on the cusp. Wrong!
Transit systems across the country are raising fares and cutting service even after attracting record numbers of riders last year, when many drivers fled $4-a-gallon gas prices and stop-and-go traffic for seats on buses and trains.

Their problem is that fare-box revenue accounts for only a fifth to a half of the operating revenue of most transit systems — and the sputtering economy has eroded the state and local tax collections that the systems depend on to keep running. Many transit systems are cutting service even as demand is up.

“We’ve termed it the ‘transit paradox,’ ” said Clarence W. Marsella, the general manager of Denver’s transit system, which is raising fares and cutting service to make up for the steep drop in local sales tax.
The government bailed the auto industry out with taxpayer money only last month, so you would think that it would extend its largesse to the Public Transit infrastructure. Well, wrong again...
The billions of dollars that Congress plans to spend on mass transit as part of the stimulus bill will also do little to help these systems with their current problems. That is because the new federal money — $12 billion was included in the version passed last week by the House of Representatives, while the Senate originally proposed less — is devoted to big capital projects, like buying train cars and buses and building or repairing tracks and stations. Money that some lawmakers had proposed to help transit systems pay their operating costs, and avoid layoffs and service cuts, was not included in the most current version.
Maybe the government has nothing to earn from such programs. Strike another win for big oil, and the 1st (and maybe the only) win in 2009 for the *big* 3 "bankrupt" car companies.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The mark of a true champion - Modesty

Q. After the victory of Wimbledon last year and after the victory of the hard court now, I guess you proved yourself as a true king from this moment. How do you think about that?

RAFAEL NADAL: Can you repeat the last thing only?

Q. You proved yourself as a true king.

RAFAEL NADAL: Oh, no, no. Well, the true, no. I don't know. I just win for sure an important title for my careera. But I no better five hours before than now, no? That's the true, no?

When you win an important match, but you have to know before the match who you are and after the match you have to know who you are, too. You are the same, no?
Wow.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

What Rafa needs to do to be competitive in the Aus Open Final

Rafa and Verdasco played in a match for the ages on Friday; too bad it wasn't the final of the Australian Open. Nadal's opponent in the final, Federer, had an easy outing in the semis - he beat Roddick in straight sets - and to the casual observer, Federer wasn't even the least bit exhausted after the match.

To be competitive in tonight/today's final, Nadal is going to have to do more than recover both physically and mentally after the ordeal in the semis. For those with the slightest insight into the game and reasonably powers of observation, it was obvious that there are glaring faults in Nadal's approach on hard courts. Here is my list of things he needs to alter if he is to make short work of opponents that have had success on hard courts in the past:

- Selectively flatten out his shots (backhands and forehands) instead of hitting all of them with so much top spin. The 95 winners Verdasco hit against Nadal are testament to the effectiveness of a flattened shot on hard courts - the ball doesn't sit up and the added speed is an aggressive posture.
- Return serve from closer to the baseline
- Hit a deeper service return (corollary of the previous "point")

I am looking forward to a great contest today; a Nadal-Federer match-up has always lived up to expectations on every surface other than the Red Clay of Roland Garros. Let's see how the latest bout in their storied rivalry plays out...

Troubled peanut firm's chief also an industry quality adviser

The president of the peanut company linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak serves on an industry advisory board that helps the U.S. Department of Agriculture set quality standards for peanuts.
Aah the Irony - Part Deux.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pasting code in VIM is broken, here's the fix

Copying and pasting code snippets from other applications or a browser is du jour these days. If you're a VIM user like me, you've definitely run into the problem of Vim mysteriously inserting a lot of extra white space into pasted code. This is Vim being smarter than it should be - it thinks that you are actually typing and not pasting, so it proceeds to re-indent already indented code. The fix is simple:
:set paste
Paste the code in Insert mode, and once done, type the following command:
:set nopaste

Q.E.D.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Elasticfox feature requests?

Elasticfox is an EC2 management console written as a Firefox extension. If you have a feature request for this extension, please post a comment, and I'll do my best to implement it in an upcoming release.

Features not going into the next release - Tagging. I know people want it so you don't need to post a comment for that feature's addition.

Thanks!

Using Blogger is so much better than your own hosting service

Here's why, and I've been using it just for a day:

1. Layout customizations
2. Posting takes less than a second to complete
3. Blogger Image Upload is pretty cool

... why it's a bad idea:
1. If Blogger is down, your blog is unavailable to the World. But then again, the 95%+ uptime is good enough for my blog.

I am going to post a story about how to do MUI stuff in Windows tomorrow.

(I) Need to stop freaking out!

Primarily because it isn't good for me, but the problem is, panicking is a genetic trait, and both my parents kinda have it. I tend to stay calm when shit hits the fan, but it's the calm that's at the eye of a storm, one that belies the resident turmoil. I become extremely single-minded, and have a hard time focusing on anything but the crisis at hand. My blood pressure spikes up, my breathing becomes less regular, common sense takes leave of me, and I start thinking of every possible way to resolve the situation. Often times, this includes making a desperate call to a friend that I think can help. Today's emergency - my blog ISP is run by folks on the chopping block at Microsoft; maybe unrelated to the layoffs was the 24hr outage of my site. Enough reasons to trigger PANIC-mode. Last week, bad gas in my fuel tank caused me to ask my dad if the misfiring engine was symptomatic of a timing belt or spark plug problem. Geez!!

Under normal circumstances, I believe that I use common sense and know how to work the system. When something freaks me out though, I lose this ability; in moments like these, I have no qualms in calling a friend and asking the stupidest questions possible - smart move if I knew one. Once I have done this, I recover my composure, and with some help, usually overcome the hurdle. If I can't, I realize that I must let things unfold, which restores me back to my normal self.

Avoiding the freak-out episode is difficult but is something I have resolved to fix in the coming year. Big ticket items for me are keeping a lid on my temper, not drinking caffeine, getting in shape, and, as I just said, not freaking out. If you notice me straying from these goals, remind me of this post and I'll correct my course. To a better 2009 then...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Location, Same Old Content

The folks that used to ensure that my blog was constantly available have been laid off, so I need to move to a new hosting provider. Starting today, my old blog address: http://manoj.members.winisp.net/ will no longer work. Instead, I resume hosting my blog on blogspot's public servers. It's been a great ride with winisp, and I'd like to thank everyone with Winsip, Microsoft included, for providing a great hosting environment.

Ola http://jhatax.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Weekend Shenanigans - Revisited

Do you remember having a conversation like this one in your life?

Friend: "You coming to Vertigo tonight for Ashish's party"
You: "I wanna, but I don't got no pants!"

Friend: "You can have mine!?"
You: "None of my legs will fit into your pants."

...

Friend: "Clearly, you got some pants..."

Something like this can only happen if you fly by the seat of, wait for it, your pants! Rewind back to Saturday... I was cleaning up the house, resolving EC2 tickets, and after a particularly harrowing week of oncall, I was ready for a run to get some fresh air. Right about the time I was headed out, I got a call from Shari for a game of squash. Now this was an unexpected event, and without realizing it was already 5:30 in the evening, I marched out of the house with my pager, laptop and workout bag.

The game went on for almost two hours, and by the time I walked out of the Pro Club, it was close to 9pm. Part of the delay was my incessant checking of the pager and ticket queue to ensure I didn't miss anything important, but that's just an excuse. I should know full well that a trip to the Pro Club on the weekend is rarely quick - I catch up with everyone, play squash, get a good steam in, et al.

Only problem with leaving the Pro at 9pm was that the party was on the East Side at Vertigo. I was now faced with the dilemma of driving back to Seattle, getting ready and coming back to Bellevue or heading over to Ashish's in my tracks and hoodie. Had I gone home, there would be no reason for this post...

Lucky or not, I had a pair of pants in my car boot, but they were marked for donation for a reason - the zipper didn't stay up. This fact was extremely entertaining for my friends for reasons that are unclear to me, and they insisted that I wear them pants to the party. Eventually, I let myself into Ashish's closet and picked up the first M sized shirt I laid eyes on, and he was gracious enough to loan me a pair of pants that were too loose for him. They fit me just right :( :)

Well, I can't think of a Mastercard commercial about this, so without further ado, let me show you the end result.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The 44th President of the United States

Mr President, you take office in difficult circumstances. An unprecedented, global financial crisis that has diminished the confidence of the American populace, high jobless rates, and wars on multiple fronts are just a few of the problems you inherit on day 1. On the home front, you have called for investments in infrastructure - in the building of roads and bridges - which will create jobs for millions and invigorate the economy. New roads and bridges are great, but I beseech thee to invest in initiatives that let Americans meet at crossroads without having to jump into their cars to get there - in mass transit projects for instance. One can argue that American society has advanced to the point that we almost never need to interact with another American. Our quest for personal space is now our Achilles heel, and we seek solitude to our detriment.

Your election to the highest office is a testament to your ability to unite people of disparate backgrounds. Help us help ourselves - give us more reason to interact with one another, and we will find a way to prosper as one. The compassion of American citizens is unquestionable, but our insular society has helped foment hatred and split us asunder. "One swallow does not a summer make" - yet, like the rest of the World believes, I know that your Inauguration is the harbinger of a new era. Good Luck and God Speed.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Windows 7 love-fest has begun, and for good reason

Rolls the drums please, because for the first time in maybe 10 years, the entire tech industry is excited about the release of a Microsoft Operating System. Last week, I commented on the Windows 7 presenter's apparent inability to control her gushing while describing 7's new features. Apparently, the gush-fever has spread to the rest of the blogosphere:
If the Vole has learned something from Apple is that an operating system has to be simple to use and look a bit tasty. Windows 7 does this in a way that Vista didn't. It also has to work, which Vista didn't properly.

If Microsoft had released Windows 7 instead of Vista there would have been no rise of Ubuntu or OSX. Now, alas, it is only a matter of time until people come back to the claws of the Vole. The Linux crowd were too busy talking about their superiority on the server and ignored the desktop to the OS's eventual doom. Windows 7 is as pretty as Apple stuff, just as easy to use, and does not treat you like a moron.

The only thing that will keep people away will be the price. If Microsoft was a little bit sensible it would learn that the prices it is shipping the software on are far too high. With a product like Windows 7 at a price of less than $100 it would clean up spectacularly. It will not do this of course which might just save other operating systems out there. Me, I will probably get Windows 7. µ
In case you didn't recognize the µ at the end of that post, it's the inquirer's signature "End of File" tag; for those who came in late, the Inquirer is renowned for its Microsoft bashing. With 7 going prime-time in July 2009, it might just be time to invest in Microsoft, again! Well, Bank of America and Wells Fargo are shite right now...

Quote of the Day, courtesy Gina Tripani

"it's time to mitigate the urgent to focus on the important"

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Steve Jobs health fracas

The melee in the press that followed after Steve Jobs' announcement about his health deserves rebuke from all quarters. I am glad I live a life of relative anonymity because this kind of scrutiny of my personal life is something I can't handle. As the editor of Gizmodo said so eloquently,
Writing about a man’s health, trying to figure out if he’s dying or not by talking to third-party expert doctors, checking statistics for Whipple procedure survival rates and timelines, checking in with sources who know people who know people who have heard that he’s dying—they’re all basically indecent things to do.
As regards the opinion that the Apple ship is going to sink soon, I beg to differ. Apple has great minds at work; though Steve is the public face of Apple, there are elves at work in the background that actually ensure that Steve has something phenomenal to announce every time he takes the stage. The folks that made Apple work before, will continue making it work in the future. The key for Apple is to find a creative force that continues to galvanize its employees and keeps the press salivating for future product releases.

Don't get me wrong, Steve's shoes are going to be very hard to fill, but as long as someone else fits in 90% of the way, Apple should be in good shape. Are you telling me that there isn't another Type-A, controlling, demanding, creative, visionary dictator out there? Do you think Steve hasn't groomed someone to be the heir to his throne? Wait, did I just equate Steve Jobs to a dictator? Too bad I can't attach the term perpetuous to his tag...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Greate news - Retail sales plummet 2.7 percent in December

The stock market has crashed on the news that retail sales were worse than expected, and the lowest in 40 yeas. Am I the only one who sees the silver lining in this dark cloud?
Retail sales plunged far more than expected in December, ending a dismal holiday season with a record sixth straight monthly decline, and there's no relief in sight as consumer demand remains weak.

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that retail sales dropped 2.7 percent last month, more than double the 1.2 percent decline that Wall Street expected.

The December plunge in sales, which followed a November drop revised downward to 2.1 percent, confirmed private sector reports that retailers had suffered their worst holiday shopping season since at least 1969.
Now is the time to invest in stocks because come nex Holiday season, there is a distinct possibility that retail sales will be better than this nadir they have hit. Analysts and market watchers are going to jump with joy at the positive news and stucks will surge upward.

There is precedent for this - it's called the last 15 years. The US consumer's purchasing power has increased year-on-year since Clinton came into power, and like every bubble, this one was sure to burst. Things will line up in the coming years and everyone will prosper...

Microsoft Songsmith commercial uses a Mac

Aah, the irony.

As usual, everything else about the commercial kinda sucks.

Bin Laden tape calls for holy war in Gaza

Big Surprise.

The 2009 story thus far - sore, Market sucks, 24 is back!

Not just because it is difficult to motivate yourself to go to the gym. It's what happens after you have made the trek to the gym that the pain begins - the machines seem to be conspiring against you, you can't will your body to go the distance you could, the weights you lift are not as heavy, and the aches and soreness - they last days. Most people take a break before returning back to the gym...

Yesterday was the first day in 2009 that I completed what I consider a workout: stairmaster - check; sprints - check; strength training - check; squash - check; wake up in the morning with sore muscles - check. The reasonable thing would be for me to take it easy today; instead, I climbed stairs at work, ran part of the way to the gym (2 and something miles), and did a killer yoga class that felt more like a massage than a yoga class, but I digress. The shower after all of this exertion was interesting - I had to sit on the bench for a few minutes before taking the "plunge" :)

I haven't been focusing on the markets for the last month primarily because the market is still too volatile. The Bush presidency is coming to an end, GM hasn't turned a corner yet, Microsoft might be laying people off, and the new season of 24 just began this weekend. Jack is back, minus the CTU this time around, but the whole show has a skunkworks feel this time around - Chloe and Buchanan are working out of a makeshift garage type office outfitted with cool gadgets; Jack doesn't have access to a never-ending array of weapons; finally, he is competing against the Goliath of Law Enforcement - the FBI. For once, Mr Bauer is the underdog, and we all love the underdog, don't we?

Time for bed...

Monday, January 12, 2009

15 Things

I got a request from my cousin to write 15 random things - observations, quirks, opinions, et al - about myself last night. At first, I didn't think much of the request, but I couldn't do anything else until I was done with the 15th item. Here is what I came up with:
  1. I am stuck between two phases - being old and feeling young
  2. I am addicted to coffee, but I am trying to rid myself of the habit
  3. I am a social person, but get bored in large gatherings of people
  4. I have a short attention span
  5. Good music makes any activity doable
  6. I know the lyrics to almost every Pink Floyd song
  7. Being frank is one of my strengths and weaknesses
  8. Age is just a number - you are as old as you make yourself out to be. Likewise, someone's age doesn't stop me from befriending them.
  9. My favorite quote - "If you stand for nothing, you will fall for everything"
  10. 24 is my all-time favorite show
  11. I am shy at first, especially with women; my tongue-tiedness is often mistaken for arrogance
  12. Some of my closest friends formed bad first impressions of me. Now they wish they hadn't revised that first impression :)
  13. Waking up early has eluded me all my adult life
  14. I fancy my cooking
  15. I stopped working out as much as I used to because of ennui; it's time I found other activities to keep myself in shape or else I'll have to buy a new wardrobe.
You should try this exercise - it might help you realize something that you've been wanting to avoid confronting.