Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Iam off to Chennai for a couple of days, and then to Trichi for another coupe of days. This will be my first visit to Trichi, so looking forward to it. I will be driving down to Chennai, but on a different route this time. Everyone seems to be discouraging me from going the Chitoor route, because of the violence in Andhra. So am planning to go via Hosur, even though its going to be a crowded route, because of all those overloaded trucks going at their own slow and steady pace. So mostly no blogging till Tuesday, unless i get some time with a internet-enabled PC.

Well, So Much for *That* Drive: The Story of Hard Drive Failure and Data Recovery

Monday, January 24, 2005 - Stories about the development of Apple's original Macintosh computer, and the people who created it.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

An inspiring essay by Azim Premji. Iam not sure whether this was given as a talk, or written as an article. But i surely found it inspiring.

These are changing times. Yet in the middle of all the changes there is one thing that constantly determines success. Some call it leadership. But to my mind, it is the single-minded pursuit of excellence.

Excellence endures and sustains. It goes beyond motivation into the realms of inspiration. Excellence can be as strong a uniting force as solid vision.

Excellence does not happen in a vacuum. It needs a collective obsession as I have experienced the benefits of excellence in my own life. Excellence is a great starting point for any new organisation but also an unending journey. What is excellence? It is about going a little beyond what we expect from ourselves. Part of the need for excellence is imposed on us externally by our customers. Our competition keeps us on our toes, especially when it is global in nature.

But the other driver of excellence is internal. I have found that excellence is not so much a battle you fight with others, but a battle you fight with yourself, by constantly raising the bar and stretching yourself and your team. This is the best and the most satisfying and challenging part about excellence.

*How does one create excellence in an organisation?*

*First*, we create an obsession with excellence. We must dream of it not only because it delivers better results but because we truly believe in it and find it intrinsically satisfying to us. We must think of excellence not only with our mind but also with our heart and soul. Let us look outside, at the global standards of excellence in quality, cost and delivery and let us not rest till we surpass them.

*Second*, we need to build a collective self-confidence. Organisations and people who pursue excellence are self-confident. This is because excellence requires tremendous faith in one's ability to do more and in a better way. Unless, we believe we can do better, we cannot.

*Third*, we must understand the difference between perfection for its own sake and excellence. Time is of essence. Globalisation has made the customer only more impatient. This may seem like a paradox: should we aim for excellence or should we aim for speed?
Excellence is about doing the best we can and speed lies in doing it quickly. These two concepts are not opposed to each other; in fact, speed and timeliness are important elements of quality and excellence.

*Fourth*, we must realise that we cannot be the best in everything we do. We must define what we are or would like to be best at and what someone else can do better. Excellence is no longer about being the best in India. It is about being the best in the world. We have to define what our own core competencies are and what we can outsource to other leaders. Headaches shared are headaches divided.

*Fifth*, we must create processes that enable excellence. Today, there are a number of global methods and processes available whether it is Six Sigma, CMM or ISO. Use them because they are based on distilled wisdom collected from the best companies in the world. Also, we must build a strong foundation of information technology, because in this complex, dynamic world, it is imperative that we use the most modern tools to keep processes updated.

*Sixth*, we must create a culture of teaming. I have found that while great individuals are important, one cannot have pockets of excellence. Quality gives ample opportunities to build a culture of teaming. Cross-functional teams that are customer facing can cut through an amazing amount of bureaucracy, personal empire building and silos and deliver savings that one would not have imagined possible. The other advantage of building teams focussed on quality is that the teaming culture eventually spreads to the rest of the organisation and teaming becomes a way of life.

*Seventh*, invest in excellence for the future. Future always seems to be at a distance. But it comes upon you so suddenly that it catches you by surprise, if not shock. What constitutes excellence in the future will be significantly different from what it is today. In these days of severe market pressures, there is big temptation to sacrifice the future to look good in the present. We must certainly trim our discretionary expenses, but we must ensure that our investments in strategic areas that lead to excellence in the future are protected.

*Finally*, excellence requires humility. This is especially needed when we feel we have reached the peak of excellence and there is nothing further we can do. We need an open mind to look at things in a different way and allow new inputs to come in. Otherwise, there is a real danger of becoming complacent or even downright arrogant. I would like to end my talk with a story that
illustrates this very well.

A brilliant young professor went to meet a famous Zen master to have a discussion with him on Zen. He found himself in front of a modest house. He rang the doorbell and waited. A while later, he heard shuffling footsteps and the door was opened by the Zen master. He invited the professor to sit with him on the dining table. The professor was a little disappointed with the shabby appearance of the Zen master. He started quizzing him immediately on comparative
philosophies and the Zen master gave some brief answers.
When the professor began to debate with him on those answers, the Zen master stopped speaking and kept smiling at him. Finally, the professor got angry. He said, "I have come from a long distance just to understand the relevance of Zenism. But apparently you have nothing to say. I have not learnt anything from you at all."

At this point, the Zen master asked the professor to have some tea. When the professor held the cup, the Zen master started pouring tea into it. After some time, the tea started spilling and the professor shouted, "Stop! The cup can contain no more."

The Zen Master stopped and then, once again smiling, he said, "A mind, full of itself can receive nothing. How can I speak to you of Zenism until you empty your mind to learn." The professor understood and apologized to the Zen master. He parted from him, the Zen master -- a wiser man.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

MoonEdit - A multi-platform collaborative text editor :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Tried out MSN Web Messenger. This is excellent. You get to use the entire interface as you see using the MSN messenger executable on PC. Its fast. And what i liked the most, is that you dont seem to need a hotmail account to login and use MSN messenger. I created a passport account using my gmail account, and iam able to use msn messenger. That, was a pleasent surprise for me.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Circuit city is planning to introduce wireless headsets which can act as sales reps at its stores. An innovative idea indeed. As the article explains
"When the customer stops in a certain area, the headset can explain items, present audio from a TV demonstration and potentially even connect the customer live with a centralized sales assistant. In theory, that sales assistant might be 2,000 miles away—assuming no one in that store is available."

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Did anyone notice this fineprint on Apple's iPod Shuffle webpage?

  1. Music capacity is based on 4 minutes per song and 128Kbps AAC encoding.
  2. Do not eat iPod shuffle.
  3. Rechargeable batteries have a limited number of charge cycles and may eventually need to be replaced. Battery life and number of charge cycles vary by use and settings. See for more information.
  4. Some computers require either the optional iPod shuffle Dock or a USB cable extender (sold separately).
Note point 2. :)

I use Firefox almost 95% of the time (the other 5% for those crazy sites which seem to work only on IE. This includes a few of our intranet webpages). And i find the following extensions simply hard to live without.

Livelines - This helps me add a RSS feed directly into Bloglines
BlogThis - This is to post a blog entry in Blogger
IEView - View the current page in IE (for those 5% sites i was talking about)

Do you have any such 'hard to live without' Firefox extensions?

Friday, January 14, 2005

Linux for Embedded Systems?. This is an interesting article by David N. Kleidermacher. His views: Linux is a desktop OS, and so using it for embedded systems carried its own risks.
And the disclaimer : David works for Green Hills Software, which makes Integrity, an Embedded OS which is in direct competition with Linux for the Embedded market. But the article is a very good read, even though its a bit old.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Google begins recruiting in India. Does anyone know of someone who has appeared for a Google Bangalore interview? Should be interesting to hear their experience.

Wish you all a very happy Pongal. Its always nice when holidays fall on Fridays or Mondays!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A day with MSN Search Beta

I have been a Google search user for a few years now. I do almost 100% of my search using Google. Given all the hype around MSN search, i decided to use ot for a day and figure out whether it in anyway enhances my search experience. I logged every important search i made today and have given reasons why i feel one engine is better than the other as far as helpful search results go.

1) I use Firefox for my daily work, and it provides a Google search box by default. So i decided to get a similar msn search box. So searched both MSN and Google. Google's first result pointed me to Ryanware blog which contained an installation for the msn search plugin, while MSN didn't get this result anywhere in the first page. Google - 1, MSN - 0
2) For writing a new windows based tools, i often refer to MSDN for getting the API definitions and other MFC class related info. I dont search normally MSDN, but i use Google and search for example, "msdn+CCommandLineinfo''. In this specific example search, Google gave the class definition from MSDN as the first result., while MSN didnt show the class definition page anywhere in the first page. Google - 2, MSN - 0
3) I use QNX as my embedded OS at work. So similar to the search 2 above, i use the QNX webpage for help on API functions. So here is an example search on MSN and Google. Google as usual gets me the right page as the first result. MSN doesn't have the exact page as the first result, and it has links to the right page in a few results, so iam not that disappointed with this result. So i give equal points to both Google and MSN. Google - 2.5 MSN-0.5
4) Searching for BSNL broadband on Google gave the BSNL's broadband application form as the first result, which is pretty impressive. MSN pointed to the BSNL homepage as the 5th result. OK, but not up to the mark. Also in this search case, having the news items pointing to the launch of BSNL broadband on top of the page on Google was very helpful. Google - 3.5 MSN - 0.5
5) Searching for Bangalore Habba, MSN managed to find the homepage, while Google was just pointing to some news items about the Habba. Google 3.5 MSN 1.5
6) Searching for the PGSM course at IIM, Bangalore . Google has the best results. MSN not up to the mark. Google 4.5 MSN 1.5

Most other searches Google and MSN were mostly close. But still given that Google consistently gives better results, looks like MSN folks have a lot more work to do.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Just downloaded and installed Lektora Beta. Lektora is a new browser-based RSS aggregator.
I have been using Bloglines for a while now, and pretty satisfied with it. The main reason i like Bloglines is the fact that it lets me read blogs on any computer i use, without the need for installing any new software. Yet, as Lektora is also a browser-based aggregator, i decided to give this a try. Here is my initial impression.

1) This has a very nice and polished look.
2) Available for both IE and Firefox.

1) Lektora requires you to download a 1.7 MB software to your machine.
2) Every time i try to read the blogs, Lektora takes time aggregating the feeds. This seems to take more time that i would like. With bloglines, this is really a snap.
3) Bloglines has a really nice feature in which it shows only the updated feeds since i last read a blog. Somehow i couldn't figure out how to do a similar thing in this tool.
4) There is no way for me to selectively delete a few blogs that i have added to the tool. Its painful when you try and delete the default blogs one by one.

Overall, Lektora beta doesn't have enough to cause a switch from Bloglines. Once they iron out the initial usability issues, may be this is worth a look.

Update: As the author of Lektora commented in the comments section, Item 3 is actually the default in which Lektora is installed. And Item 4 : Deleting a set of blogs is actually possible in Lektora.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Using Opaque pointers in C/C++. Basic stuff, but still a neat writeup.

BSNL announces Broadband tariffs. I guess iam going for the Home 500 scheme which has 1GB upload/download limit, and 256 kbps bandwidth.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

TheOpenCD. A collection of open source applications for Windows. (via jeremy)

A site redesign at last. I have been toying with this idea of simplifying the looks of my blog for a long time. And finally over the weekend, with my brother's help, i have managed this design. The picture you see on the banner was taken a few months back at Kumarakom in Kerala. Still one thing left is to find a nice name for my blog. All ideas are welcome.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Innovative embedded solutions has a very cool wireless device called Vaayu, that you can use to connect your laptop to a dail-up connection. Its priced at Rs 3800/- and is available from Bazee

Friday, January 07, 2005

CNET has published its list of Top 10 cell phones of 2004.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Marketing Software When You Are a Small Company

Bill Gates at the CES 2005 - Video of the Keynote speech

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Innovation Inc. - Pixar Animation Studios' approach to creativity

Full Video of Google on the CBS show '60 Minutes'.

India's Odd Couple: Cops and Tech

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Six Apart to buy Live Journal. Are we starting to see weblog service consolidation?

Zaptophone has introduced Tsunami Aid Ringtones, which are basically national anthems of the Tsunami affected countries. The proceeds from selling this goes towards the US fund for UNICEF Tsunami relief efforts. National anthems of Thailand, Srilanka, India and Indonesia are available.

Adobe Reader 7.0 is available for download. This version seems to be much faster in startup time when compared to 6.0.

Finally got time to read Camels and Rubber Duckies - Joel's essay on product pricing. Interesting read.

Sunday, January 02, 2005