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.


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