Tuesday, December 23, 2008

No texting while driving!

In July 2008, hands-free was mandated as the legal way to engage with a cell phone in a car, and I made the case that it was a worthwhile law since human brains aren't really good at multitasking.

I assumed then that it meant that texting was forbidden while driving - ha ha! Today, as I drove in to work, I saw an electronic billboard on Highway 85 saying "No texting while driving come Jan 1" - It sounded like a joke to me, until I read about the new law! I guess people need to be told everything explicitly, like in kindergarten!

So - maybe we should pass some more laws, and they will actually be followed:

"No reading the newspaper while driving"
"No applying mascara using the rear-view mirror while driving"
"No watching movies with the kids while driving" - "Dolby surround" has a new meaning when you have 2 screens delivering the audio, one conveniently located next to the rear-view mirror ;-)

While we're at it, here's some more -
"No taking huge bonus as CEO when your company is going bankrupt"
"No killing people because they belong to a different religion"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A solid storage idea!

My timing was all wrong - (my timing is always wrong when money is involved :-))

Here, Toshiba is proposing a solid idea at the upcoming Consumer Electronics show - a solid state disk (SSD) drive that can actually solve real problems and move things forward, and there, I own Sandisk stock (that I thought would ride this wave) that's down in the doldrums. This sad, solid state, despite Apple moving the needle with its MacBook Air (which offers a 128 MB SSD at an exorbitant price) and smart phones becoming popular computing devices!

25% is what they expect the SSD market to be at by 2012.

With no moving parts, SSDs are silent, generate little heat, and can handle shocks and vibrations more effectively than standard hard drives. Data-transfer rates can be faster than hard drives, and booting a large operating system such as Windows Vista can be quick work for SSDs. In addition, SSDs consume less power compared to traditional hard drives and are lighter.

I should buy more Sandisk stock now? NOT! (My luck....)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Score one for coopetition!

Microsoft and Apple have an interesting relationship! 

If Microsoft did not create Office for the Mac, it is not clear if Apple would be enjoying the growing market share for its Macbooks and iMacs. If Microsoft did not invest in Apple a few years ago, despite being the "evil monopoly", would Apple have been in trouble? 

Today, even as the Microsoft Zune continues to (try to) compete with the iPod, and there are rumors of a Zune-based phone to compete with the iPhone, Microsoft announced availability of its first iPhone app, SeaDragon, at the iPhone App Store. This application allows iPhone users browse super-large giga-pixel images on an iPhone screen. Users can zoom way out or zoom way in, and access their Photosynth photos.

It will be interesting to see when the Microsoft applications show up on the Android market.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A dangerous bailout!

Kids are apparently bailing out from school, and the World of Warcraft (WOW) may have something to do with it!  WOW!!

According to the FCC:
You might find it alarming that one of the top reasons for college drop-outs in the U.S. is online gaming addiction—such as World of Warcraft—which is played by 11 million individuals worldwide.
I like a couple of video games on our Sony PS3 (which, it seems, is selling less this year due to the high price point and the economic downturn). My favorite is "Winning Eleven" which is a soccer game. I could not have imagined being able to get crazy playing soccer with fingers!! I can see why addiction to video games or the Internet isn't a stretch - more people online more hours in the day! Now, Sony just jumped into the virtual worlds fray with Sony Home!

I guess with things left unchecked, the kids will just stay HOME!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Silicon Valley - the next generation!

My 9-year-old is often caught stealing time in front of a laptop. When asked "What are you doing?" he answers, "sending email!". He sends a lot of IMs and email to his 13-year-old brother sitting in the next room :-)

That's the valley for you! When I forward him the soccer tryout schedule, his response - "Thanks pops!" with a funky font! The boys even write a blog - RONRIK - batteries included! Check out this nice poem!

This morning, I was talking about GM asking for more money from the US government to prevent bankruptcy, and the conversation with the 9-year-old goes as follows -
"Papa! You should buy a GM car right away!"

"Why? They could be going bankrupt!"

"Well, these cars could become rare..."

"You won't get parts for them...maybe.."

"But you can sell it on eBay for a higher price!"
Maybe there's hope for eBay yet :-)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The smartest of the smart?

What's in a name?

The N97? Mighty modest for the smartest smartphone on the planet! Nokia could have done better to have given this flagship smartphone a more interesting name - the Nokia Nutcracker?

Seems to look pretty good - it has up to 48GB of memory, a 5MP camera (my iPhone camera sucks) and Flash support, in addition to other interesting GPS, updated maps support, N-gage gaming, social navigation and music - the Nutcracker Suite!

Nokia also completed the acquisition of Symbian, which it will release as an open-source platform, much like the Open Handset Alliance. This, in the same breath as indicating that Linux could be used more in high-end phones.

This expensive arrow has been launched from the east!

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Gateway to India

I've too much to say about the terrible terrorist attack in Mumbai, but no real solution to offer.

One thing is for certain - the response to the attack was poor, and that's a euphemism!

Over the weekend, a friend mentioned that the rifles being carried by the policemen seemed the same as what he'd used as a student during NCC (National Cadet Corps) training 20 years ago! That, coupled with the lack of a trained SWAT team for each major city, despite 9/11 and the multiple other attacks over the last couple of years, shows that the political, governmental and security fabric in India is still made of khadi! So much for being a "nuclear power"...

I'm not a proponent of military escalation ...I'm a pacifist- but we're talking about the police and emergency response here! The lack of a proper response has been criticized within India and abroad - but even as the government of Pakistan treads gingerly, one Pakistani take (Mumbai fraud) is pretty outrageous!

Terrorism is not an issue with a lack of clarity on ideology - clearly, an ideology that involves killing innocent people and children is flawed! Despite this, the terrorists have been trained to believe that they are doing the right thing.

The only path forward that I can see involves economic upliftment and education.

Religion is just an excuse - religion is a superstition of society!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Choices choices - chicken netflix blockbuster sony xbox turkey comcast!

Nope - I'm not trying to provide keyword stuffing this thanksgiving!

Blockbuster just announced yet another way to watch movies on demand - via their new 2Wire set-top box. Now, should I turn off Comcast On Demand (which works quite well when the movie I care about is available), or should I try my PS3 movie streaming, or should I try some other jittery service?

Just as the phone, music player and PIM came together as the ... ahem...phone, it is time for the cable set-top box to get assimilated (Soncast!) by the Blu-ray player. The problem is that today both provide only one axis each of the x-y graph!

Now that Hulu and YouTube are going widescreen and waiting in the wings - maybe the right thing to do is wait for the Google game-top-box!

Happy thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The chip implant is here!

Indonesia is on a controversial path to implant RFID chips in HIV/AIDS patients in order to track, and punish aberrant high-risk candidates who transmit HIV to uninfected people.

John Manansang, one of the proponents of this technique to reduce the incidence of HIV in the Papua provinces, is being compared (by Gizmodo ) to the Nazis when he states, quite directly:
It's a simple technology. A signal from the microchip will track their movements and this will be received by monitoring authorities.
This is an interesting ethical threshold. Voluntary use of RFIDs, e.g., kids at theme-parks, is often endorsed. Medical information tracking has been an application.

GPS tracking is often the choice for non-violent criminals, as they can avoid incarceration by opting for this ignominous limitation. Even Martha Stewart had to settle for home arrest for several months via use of an electronic monitoring bracelet. RFID has been advocated for tracking evidence.

Human rights and privacy advocates refer to the rights to the non-violable body, and the 4th Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures, including bodily intrusions.

There are two questions here - (a) can these HIV patients be treated as criminals (or criminal evidence) who wantonly spread the disease and (b) if they are, is the RFID chip tracking equivalent to the electronic bracelet that Martha had no choice but wear?

Just make it a fashion statement and the problem will be solved! Of course, the chip could give you a tumor!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Anonymity breeds contempt?

In this new online social world, it isn't familiarity, but anonymity that breeds contempt! The avatar, the nickname, the unknown person behind the login - these seem to give people a way to express opinions, or otherwise blurt out, what they might not say under normal circumstances!

The video streaming suicide that recently played out on Justin.tv, with apparently a few who egged the suicidal teen to his death, shows that the social dynamics in an unknown Internet environment can be somewhat unpredictable. Apparently, this teen had faked this kind of episode in the past, but does that give people the right to be flippant, derogatory or hateful?

How about this other case of a teen's suicide based on others creating a fake romance on the Web - how far will this new world go?

Another word about anonymity - it is ephemeral - eventually, there'll be ways - by oversight or purposeful - by which you can be discovered on-line!

A skunk, by any other name, still stinks!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Charge me up Silicon Valley!

Countering Disneyland's claim of being a Small World, Silicon Valley now claims to be a Better Place now!

Silicon Valley just endorsed a bold $1B plan for Better Place, a venture-based startup, to create a network of battery stations, that plans to enable a network and subscription model to push effective use of electric vehicles bu 2012. 

They are not building cars - but the network to refuel them, so that longer-distance trips are actually feasible.  Multiple manufacturers, including Nissan-Renault, GM, Tesla and Norwegian Think, will supply the vehicles, and Better Place plans to install about 250,000 charging ports, 200 battery-exchange stations and a control center to service Bay Area electric car drivers! 

I'm not entirely sure how it works - but ... customers will subscribe to drive a certain number of miles and get an electric vehicle at a discounted price.  Better Place will own the battery.

Will Silicon Valley be a better place soon?  This sounds like change I can believe in.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Talking *to* your phone makes sense!

Pushing the envelope in a consumer-friendly way, the Google App for the iPhone takes you from push-to-talk to talk-to-search! While voice recognition existed many years ago, via IBM Via Voice, and Dragon Naturally Speaking, etc., they were mostly limited to specific environments, such as medical applications.

I used IBM Voice Command more than 10 years ago (limited vocabulary for PC commands), and could voice-dial my contacts on my Sony-Ericsson Walkman phone 3 years back (you record the names a priori for recognition) - but these were not open ended, non-trained systems.

I guess voice recognition is finally coming of age! I am about 5 years behind on a bet!

Speak now, or forever hold your peace!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Blurring real and virtual worlds!

Although I kinda understand the rationale, I am still pretty amused ... a couple in the U.K. just split up because the husband's avatar was caught having an affair in Second Life!

I guess online behavior is an outlet for real-life, and may even explain why violent games are so popular. Do people find violent video games an acceptable outlet for violence?

Though some of the reasoning may have logic, this incident seems to be an overwhelming meld of real and imaginary.

The most amusing part? Apparently the husband is now engaged to the owner of his virtual amour, and the wife is now involved with someone in the World of Warcraft!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Brasil ....all the way!

What happens when a Brazilian soccer fan visits Brazil and goes to Maracana Stadium?

He brings back official Brazil T-Shirts for his soccer-playing boys!!!

I love yellow!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A significant departure - Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton died of cancer at 66 - and it is a significant loss.

He was part of many of our Thursday nights in Silicon Valley and New York - his E.R., now running, ironically, it's last season on T.V, has been a favo(u)rite for many years, colo(u)ring our view of the medical profession (usually red)!

His science fiction really had the ability to blur the line between science and fiction. At the very least, his ideas drove imagination.

Jurassic Park, brought to the screen by Spielberg (Time 100) in amazing fashion, speaks volumes of what he was capable of.

Rising Sun and Disclosure - I didn't realize that those were his books too - what a range!

A special man - Michael Crichton.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The rubber hits the road.

Obama wins the presidency in historical fashion! What he accomplished is impressive and unique.

Now, the magic show begins - but even as the curtains rise, the questioning has begun... what will he DO? Will he disappoint?

Starting with the Russian skirmishes, doubts about how he will pay for his healthcare plan, what he will (or not) accomplish in the middle-east, how he will handle issues like air-strikes on wedding parties, what he will do on outsourcing and taxes, how he will deliver on his campaign promises, how he will deal with the economic crisis...it goes on and on ...

What rabbits will he pull from his hat?

Monday, November 3, 2008

The political Internet!

The Internet is now being used more and more as a political tool. Natural, I guess, since newspapers have been doing this for many years. I guess the Internet used to be the non-elite media, but power is shifting in a hurry.

Last month, Obama used video games to get his message out. Obama, Hillary and the other candidates also used the Web to fuel grassroots campaigns, raising millions of dollars of funds, and taking Internet fundraising to a new level.

The CNN YouTube debates during the primaries, and the CNN Facebook People's debate, the candidates' Twitter presences, are all a testament to how the Web directs politics!

Candidates showing up on Saturday Night Live have their shows immediately broadcast on sites like Hulu, for immediate impact! Even email accounts are being hacked in order to help a political statement or cause!

Now, the battle of Proposition 8 (Anti-gay-marriage) is being fought using TCP/IP!! Google and Apple, among other high-profile companies in the Valley, have come out on blogs (against the proposition) to support their diverse workforces.

Google Ads are being used to get the yes-messsage out (even on my own blog!!)- and Adwords, Adsense are being criticized for triggering on these keywords. These systems are expected to be sophisticated enough to be able to understand a gay-site from a non-gay-site, and automatically self-moderate - while this is possible, it will likely not happen in time for the elections tomorrow!

The Internet isn't political enough...yet!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Maradona - an interesting move!

Walking along the corridor in Maracana stadium in Brazil last month, where the mighty Diego Maradona and other football greats also walked, I had to stop and freeze that moment in time.

Now, it appears as though Maradona is really going to coach Argentina's national team!! Interesting move indeed! FIFA has compiled 10 important days in his life, but the event that defines him is surely the second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup (after the hand of god goal).

True story: A few days before his drug test turned out positive, I had a dream that he was wearing pyjamas and banian (Kolkata street style), and "taking drugs" - I was scolding him in the dream!! Everyone I told about the dream had a good laugh, until he was thrown out unceremoniously from the 1994 world cup a few days later! Argentina went downhill in the tournament after that point.

Risky move! But I will be rooting for Argentina and Brazil!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Slow down or die!

A warning for Silicon Valley? Researchers found that turning back the clock by an hour (end of daylight savings time) implies fewer heart attacks! It's probably the extra hour of sleep!

Conversely, losing an hour of sleep caused more heart attacks at the onset of daylight savings time, especially on the first 3 days of the week.

Now - I have not yet died of a heart attack (as demonstrated by this blog post), but I have had issues with sleeping enough! Don't ask me why, but I keep waking up earlier than I need to! I'm sure this is also a problem for lots of other folks in the valley - so the question is - is there a higher incidence of heart attacks (health issues) in cities (countries) that are moving at the speed of Silicon?

This is a good report by the Swedish researchers! Yaaa!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Toys come of age!

Rovio is in a new class of toys! This roving robot performs surveillance of your home, so you feel safe when you are out. These gizmos may become status symbols, but the important thing is the viablility of robotics!

Many other utility robots are already invading your backyards (Robomow), carpets (Roomba) and swimming pools (Verro). iRobot (the company), and iRobot (the movie) are both rendering Isaac Asimov's dream world (I, Robot) into reality.

Now that you can effectively find all information on a topic online, the question is this - is a program - that goes to Wikipedia, performs concept analysis, summarizes multiple other articles from the Web, creates and formats a document, prints it out and orders the printer to staple it into your report to submit to your teacher - a robot or a homework helper?

Welcome "Homework Robots"!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Smart Cyborgs soon?

The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence is preparing for the day that machine intelligence exceeds human intelligence (maybe that already happened with Deep Blue beating Kasparov?). The Valley hosts their annual conference this weekend.

The improvements in machine compute power, cooler processors, solid state memory without moving parts, portable audio and video, machine translation and voice recognition have brought the electronic part of the equation to a very compelling point.

The news that you can circumvent natural circuits in the body, re-routing brain signals to bring back movements to paralyzed limbs, brings electronics and computing into the world of the cell.

Take that one step further with genetic engineering and personal DNA analysis, and optional sources of stem cells, and the unknowns of biology are beginning to get conquered.

Put them all together, and ...the viable Cyborg is here.

Android is already here :-)

Monday, October 20, 2008

GATTACA ... here and now!

Science fiction can become science (Arthur C Clarke and satellites)! What was thought-provoking DNA-based decision-making of the future is now real - the Personal Genome Project just put 10 prominent experts' DNA fingerprints online for the world to examine and research! They want to grow this to a 100,000 participants.

The issues around privacy, discrimination, medical coverage, and, possibly, employment and marriage, will soon be highlighted and discussed, bringing GATTACA, one of my favorite science fiction movies, into the real world!

Gene-testing startups like Navigenics and 23 and Me offer a mini-genetic analysis for a fee - you can find out if you have a pre-disposition or risk for a disease. They are socializing and democratizing personal genetics! Genepartner has already started providing a gene-based dating service (Love is no coincidence!!).

It will become interesting when, in addition to determining the sex of your child, you order from a menu that you'd like genes for...hmmm...music, art, mathematics...and let's throw in some soccer!

GATTACA! The future is NOW!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

High tech politics!

The stakes are high, the means to the end are as diverse and hi-tech as you can imagine. 

We've already seen how the electorate can be mobilized, and how millions of dollars of funds were raised a few dollars at a time on the Internet, via candidate sites like ww.barackobama.com and www.hillaryclinton.com

Now, raise that one level. Obama is apparently running an ad within the video game Burnout Paradise. I think that's a fantastic idea, especially if getting that disinterested voter off his couch is important.

I also learned that Governor Mark Warner apparently did a press event on Second Life - that's pretty cool too! The idea there - go to the electorate if the electorate will not come to you. That could be a mountain of votes!

I guess this actually works because these candidates just TALK  - they don't DO much online! If they did, there would be  a lot of stuff that would be censored, given that some of these powerful people use their power and influence in, shall we say, creative ways?

Maybe that's really the application for virtual worlds, such as Second Life and Lively, in politics. Keep the bad stuff in the fake world!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dream on, iPhone! (?)

Well well well...it seems that there's a little fight in the offing! News that there have been 1.5 million Dream phones pre-ordered bt T-Mobile from HTC  indicates that the iPhone may indeed have some interesting competion in the near term, although there's some scepticism about the numbers.

The iPhone, which just assumed the position of the 2nd best-selling handset in the U.S., is a worthy target!

The Dream is the Google Android phone (also known as G1). This,  in addition to the funky virtual keyboard with haptic feedback promised by the Blackberry Storm, constitutes interesting timing.

Let the games begin. 

Who is the Dream team? 

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Eat drink man woman!

We were discussing caffeine (stress and being grumpy) on our way to a meeting at work, but there were 2 interesting and seemingly important health-related news items that caught my eye today - with different consequences for men and women.

First, for women...the OvaSure test that tests for early ovarian cancer with reasonably high accuracy (it seems) has been flagged as illegal by the FDA - sounds a bit bureaucratic since it is a test (not medication) . Hopefully approval is just a matter of time, as the tradeoffs seem quite dramatic, as quoted below:

More than 21,000 new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed annually in the U.S.; more than 15,000 women die of it each year. When ovarian cancer is caught early, the five-year survival rate is over 90%, according to the American Cancer Society. But only about 20% of cases are caught that early. When it is discovered later, the five-year survival rate is less than 30%.

In a study published last February in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, the test correctly identified 95% of cancers in 224 samples, with a false positive rate of 0.6%. But because it hasn't been validated in the usual gamut of tests, some cancer specialists remained wary of it.
Next, for men...certain cells from male testes behave like embyonic stem cells and can be cajoled into becoming heart, bone, pancreatic and nerve cells. The downside ...benefits could only apply to men.

While using these cells would be far less controversial than using embyronic stem cells, imagine a brain grown from these cells!!

What's on your mind today?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Going Green inside and out!

Everyone's going green! The Chemistry Nobel prize went to 3 U.S.- based scientists - Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie and Roger Tsien - for discovering and developing the green flourescent protein (GFP).

Well - it is kinda impressive - what they do with this GFP, which comes from jellyfish. It is being used to study the progression of diseases, examine embryo, tissue and brain development, as well as mark cells and proteins for research.

The spectrum of colors has increased beyond green. As quoted:
Harvard researchers announced that they had tagged brain cells in mice with some 90 colors. The technique is called "Brainbow".

For a change - color discrimination for a good cause!

Monday, October 6, 2008

The ignoble Nobel races

I'm no expert on molecular biology or genetics, or even the scientific process driving modern medicine, but it is ironic to see that the basic human instincts of envy, greed and ego are driving not only the geo-political imbalances in the world, but also drive negative behavior among the most erudite - the scientists!

The 2008 Nobel for physiology or medicine was just awarded to the discovery of the AIDS virus, and for the discovery that the human papilloma virus causes cervical cancer. The race to get credit for the discovery of HIV between the US and the French reminds us of the other big race - the Race for the Double Helix, where it seems that not everyone who deserved the credit for the discovery of the DNA molecule (Rosalind Franklin) actually received it during their lifetimes!

Even in Silicon Valley, you see this from time to time - with respect to patents, founding, e.g., Wikipedia, ideas and credit, e.g., Facebook - ConnectU. The right people often get forgotten when convenient to some parties! Fame and fortune drive people to this.

The excuse...it's only human!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Gandhi across the world!

On Gandhiji's birthday (Oct 02) it seems only right to post the picture of the great man from my recent trip to Mexico City.

I'm not a huge fan of all his philosophies, but there's no question about his greatness and his influence across the globe!

Apparently, there are statues of Gandhi in 70 countries across the world!

One thing we do need in this world - peace!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Internet in 2001

Google just celebrated its tenth birthday! In celebration, Google put out a special site that chronicles various launches and other events. It's searchable via Google Site Search :-)

More entertaining is the approximation of Google's 2001 index, which reflects the state of the Internet in 2001. You can search the 2001 Internet! Remember, when you search, you're searching an index that reflects the content available in 2001. Some of that content no longer exists, so click on the link that says "View old version on the Internet Archive". This should show you a snapshot of the old (archived) page.

Search for currently relevant queries and you'll find some really entertaining results, e.g., "iPhone" - click the Internet Archive version of the "Infogear iPhone" result (or one of the others...) gives you an interesting view of what the "iPhone" was in 2001 :-)

Very im-mobile!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Getting Creative with contextual search!

I'd written about the value of contextual search a couple of months ago - more relevant results for the Beijing Olympics and for the US Elections via a more focused search.

Now, Adobe's Creative Suite 4, the premier authoring and graphics package used for web design, includes a customized Adobe Community Help search (using Google Custom Search), that searches high quality content - blogs, docs, tips and tricks, etc. from the experts in the Adobe community. This was announced on the Google blog and on Adobe's Community Help blog.

Silicon Valley is at the heart of interesting cross-company collaborations that cause your lives to become ...a little easier!

Its' fun to be involved in innovation!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bringing Brazil back to San Jose

When you stand on the soil of Maracana stadium, one's priorities slip out of consideration for a while, while the footprints of soccer greats take center stage!

The Google Search Masters 2008 conferences at Mexico City and Sao Paulo were great, but walking through the corridor onto the field on which the likes of Maradona, Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Romario, Kaka (the list goes on and on) also stepped, left me feeling excited and insignificant in the same moment.

I bought some nice Brazil soccer shirts for myself and Ronrik at Maracana (the same air) - let's see how this impacts our game :-)

More on Brazil and Mexico later....

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bringing San Jose to Mexico City

Where am I from?

Questioned by the official in the Turibus in Mexico City, I first say, "San Jose" - add "California", and then, seeing some puzzled expressions, "India". I guess that's really what she wanted to know!

In Mexico City for a few days for a conference, headed to Brazil tomorrow (excited about being in the land of the Ronald(inh)os and Pele!)

Mexico City is a wonderful city - we climbed the Teotihuacan Pyramids outside the city yesterday, and took the Turibus ride around the city today! That cathedral is impressive!

The mix of old and new, and the stores and street vendors, the crowds - made me nostalgic about India - a visit is overdue!

The food is fantastic, and the margaritas are great!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I thought she WAS Sarah Palin :-)

Another really good political SNL sketch - I'd missed it, but when I started watching, I thought it was really Sarah Palin next to Amy Poehler! It was only after a few seconds that I realized that Tina Fey was what I'd searched for to find this clip!

What I liked best was Clinton's laugh towards the end (about "wanting it more") - it reminded me of the police commissioner in the Pink Panther movies, starring Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Proving the big bang?

20 years in the making, particles can finally be made to collide to explain the universe. The Large Hadron Collider just did a successful first test run. The French-Swiss 17-mile drive is likely a little more violent than the one in Monterrey, CA!

The fear and criticism was that this could create black holes that could east us alive (click for answer). What's the fear? - this is exactly what people have been doing for thousands of years - colliding to try and consume each other!

I'm no physicist - but the following sounded really impressive:

If a beam circulates around the tunnel for 10 hours, for instance, it will travel more than 10 billion kilometers, which is the distance it would take to travel to Neptune and back.
With the Big Bang theory, scientists largely believe that more than 13 billion years ago, an amazingly dense object the size of maybe a coin expanded into the universe that we know now -- with planets, stars, black holes and life.

...resulting in global warming, ethnic cleansing and religious fundamentalism...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Armstrong doing a Jordan?

Well...either champions just can't keep away from competition, or they like to flirt with failure! Lance Armstrong, at 38, wants to Livestrong on his bike again!! He's going to ride like the wind at the Tour de France.

I'll tell you later about the 29-mile bike ride from the Santa Cruz mountains to Santa Cruz beach that I completed a few weeks back! Why, you ask? Darned if I know - the important thing is ....it's HAAAARD to do (of course, in my defence, I haven't biked in 20 years!)

So - will Armstrong be a big letdown like Jordan was when he returned for the second time?

Can't these folks stay retired?

I'd like to retire!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The value of contextual search

Over the last couple of weeks, Google launched a couple of interesting search experiences: one for the Beijing Summer Olympics (what an Olympics!), and one for the upcoming U.S. Elections. Each of these sites has a Custom Search box on the top right corner that promises to make it easier for you to find relevant information fast!

Search for "bolt" on the Olympics search engine, and then on your favorite web search engine. One gives you a big Bolt smile, while the other will likely give you a page with little to do with Usain Bolt. Context!

(Note: try it today, as this behavior will change in the future with web search updates)

Try searching "roe v wade" with the Elections search engine and on your favorite web search engine. The first gives you John McCain and Barack Obama's positions on the issue. The other ... general information. Context!

My point? Context does make a big difference! That's why I'm a big believer in search personalization as well...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bolt, Lewis, Jordan, Armstrong or Phelps?

Who's the greatest athlete of all time?

Notice that even soccer greats like Pele, Maradona and the Ronal-dos and -dinhos are not on my list, so Tiger Woods is surely a long shot, and I'm not considering Kasparov.

Bolt? Remember this - 9.69, 19.30! No fancy suit, or drag-saving pools.

First to hold gold in 100 and 200 meters since Carl Lewis in 1984 (who also won the long jump and relay). He smashed Michael Johnson's 12-year old 200 meters record in style! And he's apparently clean of drugs too (ironic/sad that that's the first thing that comes to mind these days!)

See the full picture? Look at it again - it is in plain sight - see the space between them all - no hundredth's of a second finish here!

Whats' in a name? How long will it last?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Invisibility Cloak? Check!

Now that scientists have invented invisibility, the only thing left to invent is "Energize" technology (first documented in Star Trek), which will make travel instantaneous and (hopefully) painless. At least you won't have to pay the airlines for water!

Scientists at Berkeley and Duke have been messing with creating the technology for Harry Potter's Invisibility Cloak, and they're knocking on the door (tying the final knot?).

This one is interesting - but most applications that I can think up are sorta "negative", i.e., military, espionage, subterfuge, voyeurism, etc. The one positive one I thought up was entertainment, but that's already been covered by magicians!

Can you think of interesting applications that are positive?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Drama and moviemaking at the Olympics?

If you're among the BILLION people who saw the Olympics opening ceremony, you should be resigned to not seeing a grander one in your lifetime. Why?

It is not just about the planning, or the money spent, or the large number of participants. It is about the combination of all these with a couple of ingredients that only a couple of other countries in the world can provide - deep, rich and varied culture and imagery, and a discipline that is almost impossible to reproduce. Take 2008 performers and ask them to practise more than 8 hours a day for 4 months, and you'll see what I mean.

Of course, they're also spiritual enough to ward off rain!

Now couple all this with a little "creativity". Add a touch of moviemaking to the multimedia, and you have a pretty face with the song, and you can blow away the smog. It has now been revealed that the little girl who "sang" at the ceremony was a face for another voice! And the amazing fireworks footprints we saw thudding to the Birds Nest stadium in high definition were actually...er..."previously recorded animated footage".

All in all - give Beijing an A+ for hard work, national pride, impeccable performances and ....creative moviemaking!

They selected director Zhang Yimou for a reason.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The real hero!

If you watched the 4x100 freestyle relay yesterday, featuring Michael Phelps on a historical medal bid, you just saw one of the most unbelievable athletic performances of all time, and it wasn't from Phelps. In fact, Michael should just hand off all credit for this gold to Jason Lezak, who, ironically, has just about been discovered.

With less than 50 meters to go, being 0.59 seconds behind the world record swimmer Alain Bernard, who was himself on a record-setting pace, I actually mentioned to my family that the race was over! Rising from the surface of the water like an acquatic Phoenix, Lezak did the impossible, smashing real and conceptual limits, winning by 8 hundredths of a second, handing more fame to Phelps :-) (you don't see Jason's photo in an article about him). Who is the real hero?

In this race, the worst team shaved more than a second off the pre-Beijing world record!!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Browsing for fun!

Just when you thought that the browser wars had concluded, and that Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari (for Mac and iPhone) had settled into their market share buckets, you hear about some really cool stuff happening in the browser world. (I'm sure there are other browsers like Opera, and custom browsers for mobile devices, but really...)

Check out Pogo from AT&T, built with the help of 3-D visualization technology from Vizible. The Mozilla folks have started putting out cool new concepts for Firefox - Aurora, Bookmarks and the Mobile browse experience.

If you've used PicLens from CoolIris, you'll see some similarities with these efforts - that's probably where it is headed. Now - is there much point trying to create yet another browser today? Maybe there's still room for innovation after all...

Friday, August 1, 2008

Terraforming a new home?

The discovery of water on Mars is exciting, and is probably going to encourage scientists who believe in Terraforming Mars into a human-friendly habitat. What this means is that when all the hills in Silicon Valley are covered with new million-dollar homes, and we run out of space to build more, we can hop on a NASA or Virgin Galactic flight from Moffett field (after our Mars innoculations and injections) for the open-houses in the Victoria Crater or Mariner Valley, Mars, GX 004.

Pause for thought, though, given the very important point that if we can't change the environment on our own little blue planet, how are we going to paint the red planet green?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More clouds in the heavens!

Everyone wants a place in line at Heaven's Gates! HP, Intel, Yahoo just created their own cloud in the skies. There have already been players in this space - Amazon's been doing this with their Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) framework and their Simple Storage Service (S3). Unfortunately, in recent months, the Amazon offering has been beset with some stability challenges. IBM and Google had already made their foray into this space, and Microsoft is also headed that way.

IBM had pushed for the network computer in the 90s - it was the right idea, but it was a few years too early. Now is the right time. I presume that networking companies are going to try to put more into the network routers - or at least take credit. But Cisco's thrust into messaging the Human Network is admirable, although, I guess Telepresence does stand out.

I see many Google engineers with a sticker on their laptop that says "My other computer is a data center".

Monday, July 28, 2008

Blurring the Human-Machine line

The industrial revolution clearly established machines superior to humans on a physical basis. Now, the intellectual assault is on.

As new techniques are invented where machines are beginning to outperform humans, and as more realistic humanoid and other intelligent robots take stage, the blurring of the line between human and machine is happening as we speak.

As machines can search better, churn through numbers faster and play better chess, interesting applications for machines is all it takes. Check out how BigDog can not just move across rough terrain, but actually regain its balance after a pretty large and sudden replacement (don't miss the comedy version - it is a classic!)

What would you do if you could clone yourself (at least physically and behaviorally, if not mentally) with an Android? How would autonomous Androids interact with each other?

There's discussion around micro- and nano- applications to health, which is a different way of looking at the problem - the android is the human in this case -

Human systems are first being aided, then being mended by chips and nano-devices. Genetic engineering and personalized medicine is where the assimilation will be complete.

Your heart just got fixed! Is your heart in the right place?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Web-TV or TV-Web?

A simple choice of combination - do you want to browse the web on your TV, or do you want to relate from the TV to the Web. WebTV from Microsoft struggled its way forward (not really sure how it is doing - seems still alive :-) - but this brilliant move from TiVo takes it to the next level. Not sure how much time it will take for people to start doing purchases this way, but the possibilities are phenomenal.

Couch potatoes with money and impulse - shopping from the couch without even picking up the phone - just click on the remote!

The real next step on this is mobile - are you really on your couch all the time?

Maybe the Amazon is really the greenest place on earth?