Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The "Real" Madrid experience!

Snow in London, no salt ⇒ no flight to Switzerland! Go to Munich directly, eat good Bavarian food, and squeak out of Munich before the snow catches up...arrive in Madrid. Finally ... no snow to ground planes!

Ready to leave on went to the Bernabeu to buy shirts for RonRik! Walking back to the hotel, I see a big crowd gathered around the entrance, cheering and singing ... the players are driving in, so they can take the team bus to the hotel - game with Valencia tomorrow evening. I hang around, hoping to see a glimpse of some of the best soccer players in the world, since I'm leaving in the AM. Sure enough, I recognize Di Maria as he drives in to a cheering crowd. TV crews are shooting the scene, and yours truly makes it to the real Real Madrid web site, as photographic evidence shows!

Rajat's on the real Real Madrid website

Thrilling enough? NOT!

I walk into the hotel and am told that the airport is SHUT DOWN! Why? There's no snow?! No freeze!

Aha - the human element (Cisco! pay attention!) - Spain's air traffic controllers have gone on a flash strike and Spanish airspace is frozen! Government declares a state of alert and threatens the striking controllers with prison ... well flight is moved out a couple of days! Stuck in Madrid!

Colleague rises to the occasion (Thanks Cesar!!), and I get to see the Real Madrid game vs. Valencia on Saturday, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring 2 great goals right before my eyes!

" this real?"

Destiny, I say! I have the REAL Madrid experience!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's all about the video - idiot!

The most amazing invention in the world, after sliced bread, cars and cellphones is ... high definition television! There's been lots of well-deserved buzz over the last few weeks about self-driven cars; an interesting future ahead, but let's talk about what's currently on the pop charts!

It's all about video!!

I just realized that I pay more in (average) monthly bills to Comcast than I do to PG&E!! After food and shelter, I effectively pay more to my video provider - more than I pay per month in gas. The irony is that there's not much TV I watch - maybe a couple of DVRed shows per week. But when I watch something cool on HDTV, it's worthwhile - world cup soccer, NFL football (even when the damn Cowboys lose), CSI Miami (it does not matter how stupid the storyline is, or how hackneyed the acting, the faked-out colors of Miami are gorgeous, pixel by turquoise pixel)

Therefore, independent of wondrous phones and colorful book readers, the big screen is here to stay - I call it the form-factor discontinuity. That's also why Netflix, Apple and Google are all playing for the TV market, since you'll always have users in front of the gorgeous screen. If you consider games as interactive video, the case becomes even stronger. My boys were just pointing out one of the recent PS3 games, and the comment was, "it's just like being in a movie".

It is all about the video. Why? Since it's the best way to tell a story. You may not want to watch the story twice, but there's no better way to tell a story than with brilliant HD video and Dolby Surround!!

I'm not sure who will win the TV wars - but Apple TV seemed to go a step away from where we need to be, i.e., device consolidation. They should have made the iPad the AppleTV!! Why can't I just beam video wirelessly from my cell phone/tablet to the television - why do I need yet another device? At least Google TV seems to have tried to worm it's way into the actual television, and is based on the phone OS!! With built-in search, access to all the web via a full-blown browser, there's a chance it can become a convenient portal to photos and all video content, be it high-quality ESPN or Netflix, or crowdsourced or family videos on YouTube. Maybe Flash videos too :-) Of course, it would help if Hulu, NBC, ABC, CBS stop blocking Google TV :-)

Another argument is that it is also going to be the right place to allow you to interact with the web - this is where WebTV failed, but I'm not convinced that's going to be the predominant use of web access (with user interaction and input).

Why? I'm not sure I'm going to start browsing when I am watching a movie or a  world cup game, or my weekly show.  If I do, it will likely be infrequent. There's a reason that the TV is called the idiot box - I like being an idiot when I watch TV. I love the movie experience and I love the entertainment value of television.

Another "killer app" is supposed to be using the TV for calling. Given that Android is the Phone OS, that makes a lot of sense technically. I like that the TV can become a mega-phone, but I suspect it will not be the primary calling station. When Comcast beams the caller on my TV screen when a VOIP call comes in, I'm not jumping to pick up the phone. Why? Because the call is likely a disturbance when I'm watching a movie or a game. Will I place a call while watching a show? Unlikely. Will I use the TV to place the call, when I could Facetime on my mobile phone? Sometimes! Work-related telepresence?

I could be wrong about all this, since I'm the idiot with the idiot box. I like TV for entertainment - pure and simple. This is also why, given time, I have the capacity to watch *anything* on television ... I'll bet that there are many idiots in the world who prefer "recline" to "upright", at least on the living-room couch!

I can see Tweeting and Facebooking during a game or a show, but the real use of Google TV will be to stream audio/video/photos, and possibly, game content. The other stuff will be sidebar activities, also possible with your mobile device (iPad or phone). It's ironic that Facetime belongs to Apple and not Facebook!

So let's look a few years car will drive me to work, and I'll be sitting in the back seat, watching video!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Most articles about Google talk about the great food there. True! Some articles have written about the Google15. There's truth to this - I'm currently facing (despite my skinny frame) the Google5 - extra pounds that incrementally hit - I have a gut feeling about how this will turn out! Tradeoff -> goodg food vs. unneeded weight.

Trying to walk/run it off this evening (first activity in a while), I ran down a little creek near our home in Almaden. I saw a few mallard ducks and a family of quail scurrying into the bushes (yes quail can fly too!). Idyllic and peaceful, with the sun setting over the Santa Cruz mountains, and the water dribbling down the creek. The moon clear in the evening sky!

My eyes filled with tears, since this was hardly a peaceful, lovely day for our community - in the wee hours this morning, (around 3 am), a young boy from our community was killed in a car crash - a couple of teens were returning late when the driver, inebriated, crashed into the traffic light post. The car caught fire and the passenger, a recent graduate of the local Leland High School was trapped in the burning car - gone! Imagine this pretty day for his family and friends, and the family and friends of the driver, who is in jail. DUI!  Tradeoff? Probably one glass too many, one choice too bad, and a young man snuffed out at the prime of his life, another with this weight for the rest of his life.

We are constantly making these tradeoffs - trading off family time and relaxation for incremental importance at work ... a "career" or recognition or a fistful of dollars. I'm not able to see my parents in Bangalore for months on end, as we're here in California for a "better life" for ourselves and our kids. Our son is working very hard in high school - several hours of homework per day plus other commitments, and it's a daily tradeoff between his future and his social well-being.  More likely a tradeoff between a good UC school and another good school. Not much of a tradeoff! If he's not stressed, we're doing it on his behalf.

We're in Silicon Valley in the sun when the rains are pelting the streets in India. We've traded off the grass and the mountains for the concrete jungle and the traffic, the creek for noisy Old Madras Road, but we're losing ourselves in a meaningless quest for ... what?

We blog and tweet and only a few "followers" care about our false sense of self-importance or self-meaning. We think we're doing something important, but are we? We're only making a tradeoff - one decision at a time - that we'll be happy with or regret in the future.

This morning, I made my middle schooler get off the car and run to school so he wouldn't be tardy since all the cars had backed up on the side streets due to the accident (which we were unaware of). Tradeoff - he ran more than 3 blocks with his heavy backpack on his back, so he wouldn't be tardy!

Tradeoff -> no one was tardy today! The principal's phone message just asked us to hug our kids and tell them how much we love them, and that we should reinforce that they should use good judgment in their lives. Make the right choices! Some tradeoffs are expensive. Some tradeoffs are painful. Some tradeoffs don't leave room for others.

There's a poster and flowers at the traffic light near our house. Flowers for an immature decision, a bad choice.

Let's hope that our sons and daughters make the right tradeoffs. I'm questioning mine!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Another shift begins...

When I was a kid, I had written a poem called "Shift". Now, if blogging had existed then, I'd have published it on my blog (like ronrik), and therefore, you'd be able to evaluate my poetic instincts in their entirety. However, I had no blog at age 14, and so I have been unable to find the poem, so you'll just have to go with the few snippets that I remember.
Sirens blow, faces glow
People stream out in a pretty row
In the buses, people mop
with handkerchiefs, a sweaty drop.
A shift begins... another shift begins...
To the factory we go!

What's the basis for the poem? Let me explain...

My dad worked for ITI (Indian Telephone Industries), a very large, successful, public-sector telecommunications company in Bangalore. Here were some interesting things about that company/job:
  • Given that ITI was primarily government owned, food was heavily subsidized for the employees.
  • Employees took  shift buses (a full fleet of dozens of dark blue buses) to and from work. (We students took the buses into Bangalore city to our schools, and the buses brought the "workers" in for their shift.
  • Most "workers" just had a desk (or not) on the factory floor.
  • The siren blew loud and clear to announce the end of a shift/beginning of the next shift. It was often a reminder for us. Too late for the school bus in the morning, or dad would be back home soon, or we'd better get back home right away for "tiffin" if we didn't want mom mad!
Thinking about it - when going to work, now in Silicon Valley decades later,  I've come full circle!
  • We have subsidized (free) food at the cafeteria at work. Instead of dosas vs. vadas vs. puris vs. rice, we have chinese vs. indian vs. grill vs. mexican vs. tapas. But food is food!
  • I take a shuttle bus to work, and I need to be there on time, or I miss the  bus. It has Internet, but that just means that "they've" made it easier to work even on the bus! Oh yeah! It's air-conditioned, so no handkerchiefs required.
  • I've gone from a wonderful corner office (IBM Almaden) to a cube (Verity) to an open cube (Yahoo!) to ... hey hey hey ... a DESK (Google). I don't even have a wall to put up my award plaques from previous jobs. Ha! Even if I did, I'd probably have to move anyway, so easier to leave them in a box or in the garage at home!
The only real difference?

There's no siren!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What's in a Foxhurst?

One of the great things about living in Silicon Valley is the wonderful sunshine.

Two of the things that are not great about living in Silicon Valley - the exorbidant real-estate prices and

However, if you have a little room in the backyard, and if it is an older house, then you may also have the fortune to have a few fully grown fruit trees. We have a few. We had a good yield this year from our fruit trees - tangelos, nectarines, plums #1 and #2, and last, but definitely not least, the grapefruit!

Now, for a couple of years, we consumed none of the grapefruit (slightly bitter), but over the last couple of years, we discovered that grapefruit is an awesome component of Silicon Valley innovation - the drink called the Foxhurst!!

Three - the ingredients in a Foxhurst (besides ice):
 - Vodka (a few oz, depending on how innovative you want to feel)
 - Fresh-squeezed grapefruit from our Foxhurst backyard
 - 2 crushed fresh mint leaves from our Foxhurst backyard

If you want a little more zing, add an ounce of Patron Citronge (Orange Liqueur). The magic with grapefruit - you can't even taste the alchohol! The negative ... you can't have it if you are on statins :-(

I'd post a photo of the Foxhurst here instead of the grapefruit ... but it's been consumed!

I'm not yet on statins.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

3 strikes, but not out!

Under normal cicumstances, 3 strikes, and you're out!

If my car breaks down on me 3 times, I'd switch cars! 3 DSL issues later, I'm with Comcast.

Exceptions involve matters of the heart, strong  relationships, a lack of choice or irrational attraction! For example, I'm sure we've had more than 3 major disagreements, but my wife and I are still together (uh-oh!). I'm sure our teenager has broken major rules more than 3 times, but I still see him at home. If you consistently have major issues with your boss ... you may just have to suck it up and deal with it. And then, there's irrational (or rational) attraction...

The point? Well ... I've had 3 issues with Apple's magical device this week alone, but rather than walk away, which I'd have done under normal circumstances, I'm still open to giving the iPad a shot. This only happens when one has something to offer beyond what's normal... Yes! the iPad is special!

I was using (not testing) my brother-in-law's iPad (I'm still waiting for multitasking (iOS4?) and video camera - i.e., for my very own xmas gift, or maybe someone will buy me a birthday gift next month).

News Flash! Apple's no-flash decision bit me in the butt 3 times in 1 day! (I think the iPad is great otherwise - and FlipBoard is pretty awesome on it.)

First, I tried following lyrics for a song I'm trying to learn while listening/streaming it live from a Bollywood website - doesn't matter which! There's a flash music widget on the site, so I normally go to the page and the song starts playing, while I can  scroll down the Hinglish lyrics! Convenient! Flash may be slow, but who cares - I want to do it! It works on my Android phone.

Tough - it did not work on the iPad. No flash!

Second, I tried going to Flickr on the iPad - is it just me, or does Flickr not work on the iPad? Tough. No flash! Anyone who thinks that's a good thing for users? Apple fanboys?

Next, I went to my own website. I've updated my own site with CoolIris Photo-wall - pretty cool, if you ask me, i.e., desirable functionality on my website. Screech! I could only see 3 large gaping spaces on the iPad! My site is broken on the iPad (no flash) because ...
Book of Jobs #1 - Thou shalt spend the time to "sanitize" thy pages of vermin Flash.
I need to HTML5 it? Should that really be my priority, or should I spend time playing carrom with my kids before they go off to college?

Strike 3!

While most other products would have been out of consideration after this kind of experience, I'm still open to the iPad, because I believe it is a game-changing product. But you know, if there was a copycat in the market by xmas, with similar functionality (a fast follower?) and user-choice, allowing me to do what I want/need to do, maybe I'd be okay if the brand said Orange!

I think the Flash decision will eventually amount to a bite out of Apple - maybe a small one.

BTW - I don't think the issue has anything to do with the system being "closed". Open systems are good, but not a recipe for success. Apple, Facebook are flourishing examples of closed systems! It's about being able to do what you want/need to do. I wasn't sure about this flashpoint earlier, but now it just seems like a bad business decision.

Today flash, tomorrow AdMob ads, what's strike three for developers?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

iPhone FaceTime - a Silicon Valley relationship!

This is a true story, and has nothing to do with Antennagate! Read on!  If you liked my "search play" you'll probably  like this...

A sweet relationship begins...

It was an early morning in January 2007, and he saw her shapely figure emerging from the an Apple orchard in Cupertino. It was, cliched as it may sound, love at first touch (yes, she did let him slide his fingers across her whenever he so desired!)

She brought him the newspaper in the morning, sang his favorite songs for him, was with him night and day, and even accompanied him to work. His company agreed to pay for her to be with him. They had free lunch together at the cafeteria everyday. I guess they thought that if she would constantly remind him of the tasks he was to do for them, that would pay off...and it did!

They went on a Safari together, and she took care of all the navigation, finding interesting places, maps, directions and all sorts of great information. The remainder of his family felt pretty left out, as he was with her in heart and soul even when he was physically with family members. He didn't care. He was in love with her smooth and shapely figure and delightful touch.

Fall! He'd fallen head over heels in love and they were married. He had her in his pocket, and they spent all the time together.

A year or two passed - she introduced him to her sisters, who were actually prettier and flirtatious (Man! was he surprised at how fast they were!), but he stuck with his first love. She suited his needs, and he needed no other...

The contract had been signed. Til' death do us part, so it seemed...

Boredom in the relationship...

As often as it occurs in real life, this Silicon Valley relationship lost steam just as Silicon Valley employees lose interest in their companies. (like software engineers lose interest with a product after a while just when they've learned enough and become important for the product). She was just not as flawless as during the early days. She seemed to be a little sluggish in the mornings, and every photo did not show her in the best light. There was no optimal resolution to all situations. Her favorite rubber jacket was slightly ripped - she still wore it sometimes and she looked kinda shabby.

He still tried talking  to her, but she did not always listen! It was like she did not recognize his voice.

Then, there was news of this new lady in town. She was introduced first as kinda stoic and robotic, like an Android, but once you came to know her (really), she was actually quite slick and fashionable. His company offered him her company - and to be polite, he asked her out!

Pandora's box had just been opened! and the music just flowed...

With his new amour, things were just brighter and faster. Her face was like liquid, and rippled with enthusiasm every time he touched her.

With his wife, things just got sluggish and irritating.

He'd just started listening to a great new radio station online, and his wife always seemed to turn it off every time he asked her a question! It got so damn irritating, he wanted nothing to do with her. With her, Pandora's music softened everything they did together - it was a cruel joke.

Going out in the car was just different. His wife would constantly remind him to ask for directions, while she would speak them out as he held her in his hand. Never did he get lost again, never reminded again that "men never ask for directions! (but should)"

He would pick her up in his hands, and speak with her, and she would respond to his every suggestion. It's like she knew his voice, accent and all!

He made a clean break! The separation was a little painful, and he had to learn a whole new set of buttons to push, but he got there quickly. He missed the old records that he would listen to with his wife.

No Annulment

Their ATTorney, Bloody ATTgood said he was fine with the separation, although his wife had first introduced them. Further, since ATTgood had a deal with his company, he'd get a special discount for upcoming legal services. Sounded good! He trusted his lawyer at his word. He moved in with his first extramarital Nexus. He called her Nexy!

It was a few months when he started receiving his lawyer's repeated (irritating) SMSes. Apparently, he needed to pay more, the same pre-nuptial agreement could no longer be used with Nexy. His legal fees shot up, since apparently the lawyers were dealing with more complicated information - 3 G's more expensive! It sounded rather absurd - he did not feel like a million bucks! He'd spent enough on his wife to begin with!

He went through with it, and had to pay his lawyer more just to be with Next to Nexy. He was too much  in love with her to give her up and go back to his wife. Pay to play! The funny thing? With ATTgood, he did not get the 3 G's worth of service, as promised!

Then, he noticed that he was not getting the promised special discount with his legal fees - they were higher and were piling up, with no discount. What was he paying for? It took him months to find out. Call after call, ATTgood said they'd adjust his legal bills, but no discount was forthcoming!

He was mad, and called one more time, "I'm switching the legal service unless you tell me exactly why I'm not getting my promised discount. I have emotional trauma, and my relationship is in bad shape, and I'm paying more for your terrible services and dropped calls and you're ripping off my company discount. It's like a double-whammy, a single-EDGEd sword through my guts! It does not feel good, and now I'm beginning to think I should have stayed with my wife to begin with, so I wouldn't have had all this pain! I'm spending more money on this!

"Aah!" ATT-no-good croons. "It seems that I know what the problem is. The legal documents we have show that you are still married - to your WIFE! It's right here on the computer. Plain and simple."

"I thought I got that ANNULLED! I even paid more to make that happen, and to stop your stupid SMSes. "Are you an idiot? Or just a ****ing shark?" I'm not even getting anything more for paying more."

HE felt like the idiot for agreeing to all this!

All of a sudden, seemed like Nexy looked better in videos than in photos - she actually looked pretty dull in incandescent light, and her makeup was literally blueish in flourescent light. The damn flash didn't seem to do the trick either.

"Get the damn annulment, ATTnogood!" he bellowed. "Or I'm taking my legal services to T Mobile lawyer down T street!"

The party

The next weekend, he met his ex-wife at a party. She was wearing a brand new silver dress, with mesmerizing silver halter straps, and it looked like she had a glass sheen on her dress - front and back!

A couple of margaritas, and he wanted to go up to her, talk to her and see his face in her eyes! He wanted some FaceTime with her - she seemed to touch an emotional chord in him. She was looking prettier and brighter, and had lost some weight. Someone took a photo of her while he walked towards her, and there was a blinding flash. He saw that the photographer was delighted with the photograph.

There was a twinkle in her eyes!

The annulment was in flight, but he wanted to be with ... his wife ... again!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Football, execution, social networks and innovation!

The last month has been all about ... football ... and execution! Brazil, my favo(u)rite team, played the ultimate collaborative team game, weaving the ball around the field, and creating the most unexpected patterns in attack, but they had a single point of failure in defense, and their team network failed - instead of executing when in a position of strength (leading 1-0 against Holland), they focussed on denial-of-service attacks, and behaved as defensively as Yahoo! did vs. Google. The result -> they, like England, are out.  Beckham, in a fancy suit, was the marketing icon for both England and Yahoo! during the world cup. Marketing and execution are 2 different things!

I spent the last month at Bangalore, and one thing I learned, is that everything works there based on social networks. You call into the ether, you get Biryani delivered. You lower your car window and ask the autorickshaw-driver next to you, and you get to your destination (no need for Google maps :-)). "Aagey se right" and the social network executes for you. (Hyderabad is a different matter, as all answers seem to be "Seedha-eech". It's called "auto-forwarding to the next friend" :-)

Football is a social network - you pass the ball, you get it back, you score! It's like WebEx :-) The key learning is that the real power is in team-nets vs. anonymous social-nets. You want Messi on your team, not Joe the Plumber! This is true on the Internet as well - I trust my friends, colleagues more than anonymous followers.  This basically means that social features may have unexplored power in the enterprise (where the trusted team lives). (I'm not sure about the equivalent of a match-saving handball in social networks - blocking someone on Facebook?)

Maradona, with an opportunity to win, underestimated what the competition could do - the Argentine defense looked amateurish, especially on the 4th German goal (which should not have happened at a World Cup!!) You need  offense and defense to win, and that's true of technology as well. Yahoo! only had a "defense" strategy. Google and Facebook play like South American teams! Opt-out instead of opt-in is an aggressive strategy, followed by both.

Companies that underestimate the competion have chinks in their armor - which is why I place three elements into product strategy - mandatory features (trapping, passing, penalty kicks), defensive features (set plays, goalkeeping), and differentiating/offensive features (messi, forlan, klose and ronaldo9 (who may have done more than fabiano!)). Ghana lost because it missed a mandatory feature - slotting in a penalty kick when it mattered. African teams lose composure at key moments - unnecessary fouls late in games, etc. - they often beat themselves with a lack of discipline (Nigeria-Italy 1994)!  (similar to India/Cricket). Not so with teams like Germany, who have the ultimate discipline - they never beat themselves - you have to *beat* them, as Spain did today.  See this article on Africa's date with failure. Quoted:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” - Aristotle
This brings me to innovation. Innovation wins! Germany gave up on the old cross-and-head strategy. They innovated! England did not innovate, and their kick-and-rush was boring and predictable (even Beckenbauer said so). The result is that Germany's results were stunning. England came in with a Nokia and Germany spoke on an Apple iPhone 4 (4 goals/game?). I would not be surprised if Ballack being out actually helped Germany innovate. At the semi-final,  Germany played a scared, defensive, boring game, and got out-innovated! Simple! You need to play to win.

And when you have killer features in your product (Milito), play them to win!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Oh Spam - why do you exist?

When you open your window, you get the fresh breeze,  but the room also gets dusty!

We're so used to SPAM, chain letters, etc., that I did not wait a moment to scream at my 11-year old when I saw his "Chain" email  ... he laughed, as did everyone at home, since it was a big joke that I'd fallen for  - he had made this up himself (read it and you'll see why it is funny and original). Even an 11-year old understands this insanity!!

Today, despite promises that  comment spam will soon be a thing of the past on Blogger, I can deal with it no longer. I have finally gone to full moderation of comments on my blog.  No more this crap - you @^%=*%^! who leave this kind of slime behind ...

You win some, you lose some. I'd gladly lose the SPAM!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

It's creation science!

This is the first invited post on my blog. I wanted to write about this topic, but Ronny, our very own highschooler, did a great job publishing this on Nanothoughts, a blog he shares with classmates from his Bellarmine freshman class. Enjoy Ronny's post!
What yesterday was fiction today manifests truly.
A rather poetic way of putting it, but I believe that the momentous occasion this article pertains to deserves it. This is a moment that future historians and students will look back on. Whether their rearward glances will contain regret or admiration, only time will tell. But for now, we've got this to chew on:

Man has become God.

Or at least a certain group of men have. On May 20, Craig Venter and a team of top scientists made an announcement: the world's first synthetic life form - a bacterium with a genome that is completely man made - has been created. The cell, dubbed Mycoplasma laboratorium, has been worked on by Venter's crew for almost fifteen years, and it's finally here. The cell, which takes physical components from a preexisting cell, but has a genome that is completely man made, has already replicated itself over a billion times.

Before this achievement, the longest synthesized sequence numbered about 30,000 pairs. The first chromosome attempted by his crew, that of the Mycoplasma genitalium genus, the smallest naturally occurring genome: 580,000 pairs. The final product: over 1,000,000 base pairs.

And that's still a comparatively tiny genome. Damn, nature, you scary.

So how did they do it?

Venter's group started with a very basic genome, that of the Mycoplasma genome. They began to eliminate genes, figuring out which ones were absolutely necessary to life. And after determining the Minimal Genome, they began to create the world's first man-made functional DNA sequence. The team used machines that produced DNA sequences up to 80 nucleotides long, but seeing as they eventually produced a genome 1,000,000 nucleotides long, you can see why this process took upwards of a decade. Venter explains the attitude his team took towards the process: "When we look at life forms, we see them as fixed entities. But they change from second to second. And life is basically a software process; our genetic code is our software, and our cells are dynamically, constantly, reading that code." In a way, what Venter's group did was change the operating system of the cell when they replaced its natural DNA with their own hand-crafted stuff.

And speaking of hand-crafted, this man-made genome is built to order. When working with such small bacteria, contamination is a big issue; someone sneezes in the lab, and you've got ten thousand new lifeforms, ready to be misidentified as your man-made masterpiece. So the crew over at Venter's included a couple of "easter eggs", including a functional html website in code, names, and even philosophical quotes in the code. These "watermarks," as Venter calls them, make misidentification almost impossible.

But what's really astounding is what this project means to us. The institute plans to use this achievement in producing biofuels, food on a larger scale, and even vaccines and medicines, much like E. Coli is altered to produce insulin and human growth hormone. These achievements have prevented disease and death in thousands suffering from diabetes or growth instability patterns. Since the genome for this kind of organism is completely artificial, it would be much simpler to simply include DNA that produces these kinds of necessities instead of having to inject it into plasmids and hoping that bacteria incorporate it when they undergo cell division. Geneticist Vyacheslav Tarantul said that this kind of cell would probably be more efficient than current bacteria used to do these kind of jobs, as it would have a genome geared to do only one thing. In this way, the man-made genome may prove to be a saving grace for mankind.

Unfortunately, Mycoplasma lboratorium may have negative effects as well. Among these are claims that because it is now possible to create completely synthetic genomes, governments and terrorists may create biological weapons, like cells that produce hydrogen cyanide or even sarin. The National Farmers Union also say that the cell may have a negative impact on the food industry, and that "the synthetic life form poses a risk to humankind and the environment."

For now, though, the cell only subsists on extremely rich substances where it is grown, and since it hasn't been subject to millions of years of evolution and can only infect goats, it poses no real threat to mankind as of yet. Critics say, however, that future man-made genomes can easily be tweaked to replicate behavior of parasites and infectious bacteria.

Deadly disease or answer to pleas, the changes brought about by Venter's team will be monumental. According to Venter, creating single celled eukaryotes is very viable, as chromosomes can be transferred "across kingdoms", but creating life on the scale of animals, even insects, will not happen within his lifetime. Sorry to all of you Jurassic Park fans out there, but dinosaurs are out of the question. As for the rest, we'll just have to see.

- Rohit (Ronny) Mukherjee

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Oh East is east and West is west ....

 Will the twain ever meet? Maybe, maybe not, but ... (if you haven't read the ballad, you must...)

Judging by the Internet connectivity at the hotel that I stayed at over the last couple of days in New York city, it is reasonable to say that the internet works better on my shuttle bus (back west) than it did at the hotel.

Score W=1, E=0.

While the weather this year on the west coast has been far from exemplary, thanks to El Nino (?), I did arrive to some sunlight, which quickly faded to rain, resulting in a couple of hours delay from JFK to DC.

Score W=2, E=0.

Judging by the results of the Cavs-Celtics game, it looks like LeBron will not really get a chance to redeem himself in the Nike puppet ad (3 championship rings :-)), and the Lakers will end up beating the Celtics again :-)

Score W=3, E=0.

Presumptuous? Maybe - but let's throw caution to the wind and predict the Sharks winning the Stanley Cup (they did make sure to not flame out in the first couple of rounds of the playoffs like they usually do!)

Score W=4, E=0

Now - Internet connectivity at Washington D.C., is also problematic (at least with VPN) - this does make cloud computing a little harder, does it not? East = 1, Cloud = 0.

If Cloud = W (the West is Cloud Mecca) that makes W= 4, E=1.

Walk into Times Square and it all balances out - NY City is still the capital of the world! I felt real nostalgic being back in NY (especially as it was not freezing cold, like I remembered it...)

East is east and West is west - and hey! - we have 2 boys, one born in NY and the other...sunny California!

(Go Sharks! Go Lakers! Go Earthquakes!)

Final score (E=W)!

Postscript (5/23) - The bold prediction about the Sharks turned out to be foolish! Score W=3, E=1.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

La La land? The valley is going nuts!!

This week has been crazy!

I finally got to read the sacred memo from the special one  (not Mourinho, who's also special, but the really special one :-)) Today! days after it was real-time news :-)

That's cause I was busy at work - yeah ... sometimes work comes before fun things like blogging! Ironically, one of the things that I spent some time on has similar keywords to what became major news this week - Adobe's Creative Suite (one of my products - Site Search - offers an awesome search experience across applications in Adobe's Creative Suite 5 - check it out!)

This week has been crazy! I just said that ...

First, Apple admitted that Macs crash! This must be devastating to all Apple fanboys!
We also know first hand that Flash is the number one reason Macs crash.
News Flash! They blamed it on Adobe.

Then they said a bunch about being "open" - that, by the way, I'll ignore, not because Apple is open (closing out a reasonably popular technology on the web isn't my idea of "open") - but because, personally, I think "open" is overused and overrated. Open does not relate to success, as we've seen over and over in the technology industry. IBM still rakes in billions with proprietary systems (sure, the banks are paying these billions with taxpayer money), Microsoft continues to rule with proprietary systems (offices with windows), and Google's search algorithms are not open-source (pagerank, not openrank). I still don't see Linux beating Windows or OSX.  iPhone and RIM are still pretty strong, tho' Android (the open one) is coming on strong.

Technology succeeds because it is good. Good is better than bad! Open can be irrelevant. Good closed is better than bad open! Let's close that window.

Lots of good points in the commandments. I buy some of them. Not this one, though...
We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.
Apple decided it did not want to be at the mercy of developer choice. It really isn't at the mercy of a third party, is it? If a "native" iPad app is better than a slow Flash app, users will get the "native" app, no? Let the user decide if he wants to play a crummy game! Why not let the developer decide if something's good or bad? It may be the best way for her to optimize her resources and hit multiple platforms in one shot, instead of being forced to develop more than once. If a developer can write in Java to run on all platforms, maybe they can write in Flash for all platforms (write once, run anywhere). Performance, good or bad ... should we let the developer decide? No! Apple decides.

Amazing that there's so much power here driving an entire industry to shift. I shouldn't be surprised - a president can take a country to war!

iPhone succeeded because the consumer loved it and the developer decided it was worthwhile developing for. Apple will continue to succeed as long as it is building compelling products! They just need to be more compelling than the other ones out there. iPad is a case in point ... compelling!

In the news:
Adobe, trying to Flex it's smaller muscle (remember, an apple a day keeps the doctor away) is offering Android phones to its employees.

Also in this week's news:
Our friends from Redmond also took the opportunity to say that HTML5 was the way to go (too much time and effort spent competing with Adobe with Silverlight? What becomes of Silverlight?)

In other news this week:
Apple's not just shutting down Flash videos globally, it's also stopping the music from playing on Lala :-) What becomes of streaming music? It becomes (for now) iTunes credits, and it stops playing on Google as well?

More news this week from La La land: Yahoo! thinks Google has a problem:
Google is going to have a problem because Google is only known for search,' said Ms. Bartz. 'It is only half our business; it's 99.9 percent of their business. They've got to find other things to do. Google has to grow a company the size of Yahoo every year to be interesting.
99% vs 50% - is it the size of the pizza, or is it the toppings?

Apple posted. Adobe posted. Microsoft posted. Google posted. And of all people, Yahoo! boasted! This is La La land!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Leapfrog! All you need to know you learned from frogs!

All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten - I haven't actually read Robert Fulghum's book, since I assumed the list below summarizes it's philosophy of living.

  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don't hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don't take things that aren't yours.
  • Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: 
  • The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.

The one I like best? Nap every afternoon! ...but despite having a nap pad outside my office at work, I haven't taken this advice. I even have unused massage coupons - I guess I did not learn in kindergarten. Have people noticed that what we learned - be direct and honest - doesn't always earn the best results in corporate life?

In Silicon Valley, others don't seem to have learned from kindergarten either - the philosophy seems to come from frogs - Leapfrog!
If you don't innovate, and don't leapfrog the first chance you get, you die! 
Given the recent news about Apple and Adobe, it looks like some folks played hookie from kindergarten and collected frogs instead - or maybe, they learned from frogs in school - (Eliot did ... in E.T., and learning toys from Leapfrog are popular...)

Leapfrog philosophy in action:

  • Mobile tech: Countries with poor communications infrastructures have decided not to waste time fixing the problem - they've simply skipped to mobile technology. 
  • Microsoft: Effectively created by IBM, they took their Windows-OS2 learnings and now effectively own the personal computer.
  • Oracle: Seizing on an opportunity created by IBM, they pulled forward in the database market.
  • Google: Given a conduit to succeed by Yahoo!, the original web directory, Google now owns navigation of the web.
  • Apple: Stuggling for years on the personal computer, they are now king of the hill with the iPhone, and taking the momentum to redefine personal computing with the iPad. The computer is personal again - and HP didn't do it!

Leapfrogging is not about sharing, saying you're sorry, and not necessarily about playing fair, or being nice and giving credit! It's about sitting on your haunches, and kicking off with the strongest legs you have and landing as far afield as you can.

Sharing? Qualcomm and Broadcom are looking to share nothing more than the word "com" in their names! Patent law is about not sharing! And while folks cry on about sharing (open source/open systems anyone?) most successful T-ecosystems - Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Cisco, Blackberry, IBM are pretty proprietary, if you ask me.

Apple just about slapped Adobe, which, through the years has been pulling Macs with their products (or did Adobe screw itself?). Didn't Microsoft actually help Apple tide through some tough times, only to see them surging forward on phones, and now, personal computing?  Google settled a core search advertising Yahoo! lawsuit - for a tiny amount (in hindsight), and isn't really opening up the lane for the Apple-mobile to cruise - Android anyone? Oracle, through its acquisition of Sun, effectively chops MySQL off at the knees, just before it jumped ... frog legs for a snack! Kodak? Anyone use Kodak anymore?

Flush? Companies regularly acquire competitors, or use other means just to flush them down the toilet.
Amazon - Junglee. Microsoft - Sybase. Autonomy - Verity (after leapfrog!). When you play Frogger, you better watch for traffic!

Hey ...this ain't kindergarten! Leapfrog or croak!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Grandson, Grandpa do good in 2 Silicon Valleys

In the very same year, grandson and grandpa ended up doing a lot of good!

Rikki and his student council helped Williams Elementary School raise $1400 for Haiti earthquake relief in Silicon Valley, California.

Half a world away, in India's Silicon Valley, his grandfather (my dad) was felicitated for having conceived, raising support, cajoling the Bangalore Corporation (that's hard), getting the Corporation to dedicate funds (that's really hard) and actually getting them to build a state-of-the-art park in Koramangala's 6th block without paying anyone any bribes (that's really really hard). The park is still being maintained, with security, sprinkler systems, and an entrance fee that people actually pay  for a walk-in-the-park in the evenings.

I'm proud of them both!!

Happy birthday Rikki.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010 that shortening!

I hate short URLs. Why? There are very few reasons for their existence! One: Twitter. Two: Tracking. Three? ... My friend Joshua has an excellent take on this. There may be some reasons for shortening URLs, but embedding URLs in posts is not one of them.

Twitter is convenient for short posts, but needing to go get a or tiny.url in the 21st century is seriously a step backward. It slows us down. 2 steps instead of 1. Yes, yes, I understand the 140 character limit, but why enforce that limit anywhere beyond SMS? Who uses SMS to tweet anyway? Anyone? Enforcing this limit in environments beyond SMS is bogus and is responsible for a bunch of random services to exist and for slowing down the web (via unnecessary redirects).

I no longer know a tweet URL I'm clicking on - it could be spam, it could be great - the only signal is whether I trust the person who tweeted it. Therefore, shorteners are now offering more services on top (of an unnecessary service):
"First we'll shorten it for you, so you'll have to take an extra hop on the internet, and we have a reason to exist. Next, to look more useful, we'll provide you spam signals and trap you before you do harm to yourself. Then, we'll provide you metadata and statistics.  We're so useful." 
Baloney! If a URL is driving users to my own content, guess what - I already have (or should have) tracking, e.g., Google Analytics, at my web site/blog. If it is not my own content, then measuring why and how many people are clicking on (my) URLs to news sites, magazines and journals can't really be anything but self-serving. So, shortener tracking is basically an artificial need.

Facebook does not have this limitation; I add a link and Facebook does more for me - it extracts images and summarizes for me - that's value! Metadata? How many people have linked it could be useful, user ratings on the target document would be useful, a favicon of the site could be useful - not the damn cryptic URL that adds nothing. Do I really want to remember that stands for Techcrunch? No! I'd rather have the TC favicon next to the URL. That's authority for the simple-minded! Of course, that authority is a little suspect after stories like this and this and then this (more like Valleywag :-))

Even if Twitter needs to shorten, do they really have to put the garbled text for the link anchor? Can't they just say "LINK/STORY" instead of and link to whatever silly URL trimming service they favor that morning? Twitter? Anybody home? Are you listening?

It makes me upset that this silly trend has caused further proliferation of shortening services, which sometimes frame URLs instead of redirecting, rather than shorten the lives of the few that existed. And, of course, these services are trim-med all the time, so we can't depend on them!

I don't know if Google Buzz, or Yahoo! Updates will succeed/flourish, but at least shortening is not mandatory fat for these services, and I sure hope they help short URLs die!

Mobile is surely going to leave SMS limits behind - and if people really  need to use SMS, use technology like compression to send longer messages over SMS - this is text for heavens sake! Weren't people using fancy compression to send larger messages over SMS? Do it people!

We all know shortening is not good for health!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

iToast! The iPad is a flying toaster!

Okay - I feel pretty darn good that I called it perfectly ...7 months before Steve Jobs took to the stage:
  1. That NetBooks aren't worth much and don't do anything well
  2. That they'd call it the iPad (not the iSlate, or iTablet)
  3. That it is the Phone Operating System (POS) that eventually matters!
For now, the iPad addresses the "form factor discontinuity" that I spoke of  - i.e., is the larger non-phone device that's not my superbowl TV (large-screen HD). Right now, you still have to carry your iPhone and the iPad (and pay twice for wireless?!). That's gotta be fixed ... see below about v2 and v3 ...

The first wave of the pundits said "meh" after the announcement; a few positive reviews are finally trickling in!

This is the first salvo from Apple, and the iPad's still missing a couple of minor things, which I'm sure
will come in v2 (after they've sold a few million v1's), but here's why I (like Joe Hewitt) think the iPad is a significant development:
  • This effectively kills the Kindle (toast!) as we know it - no reason  to buy a solo B&W display when I can have full-function hi-quality color. Kindle can try to do SDKs etc. - but it would have to start competing on an even basis or it's toast! Dell had better "reconsider" their minitablet strategy :-)
  • It effectively kills the need for/definition of the traditional Netbook (toast!) - anything smaller than the iPad screen will cause derision! Anything as big or larger, with touch capability, will be as expensive. Apple's hit the ball price $499 into the netbook ball park! I expect they'll continue to adjust this and add features to make advanced users pay $800+). Does this mean that this is the only thing out there? No - it means that this defines what else is out there!
  • It does not kill the iPhone, like some suggest - you will not use the iPad as a replacement for the iPhone today. Netbooks and iPads don't fit in your pocket! (therefore not toast). In fact, since you'll have to carry both for now, Apple's getting recurring revenues for a while from Apple diehards! (ka-ching!)
  • The iPad is not just a larger iPhone! There are applications you cannot effectively use on the phone that you can on the iPad. You can edit documents on it, you can finger-paint on it. Can you imagine how Adobe's rubber-stamp tool will work on this with 2 fingers? ...and yes - you will be able to hang it up on the kitchen wall for live TV at breakfast.
  • It is always going to be a full superset of the web browser! Anything that works in the cloud will work, some things that don't work in the cloud/or need the hardware will work too! And as God said ... better :-)
  • A masterstroke here is the inclusion of the finger-special productivity suite (iWork). This makes the iPad the full-stack computer, addressing 90+% of what people do on a laptop today. 30 bucks (slick experience) vs. hundreds of dollars (Office - slick experience) vs. free for cloud-tools (functional experience).
  • For students, this is the one thing they need - the book reader (esp. with textbooks), the presenter, the report-generator, the browser, the facebooker, the free messenger, the iTune-r, the finger-based iSketch-er.
  • This is the laptop of the future! Typing a lot? Plug it into the keyboard and you have what you need - i.e., dock it at home, dock it at work, and pad it on the bus/train! Tell me again - why do I need a "laptop" any more, unless I am a developer?
  • Most importantly, this sets the stage for a new consumer computer operating system (POS), which offers the best of both worlds - full function web-based applications based on HTML5 (which also hurts Flash) as well as a whole set of slick (and surely getting slicker) applications, which will work very seamlessly across the phone and the "laptop". And yes! Android is a logical contender. A future POS developer station? Just the iPad (with SDK) + iDock! (throw in a larger screen). 
  • This does eliminate one important inconvenience with the iPhone - the need to sync. This finally gets the download stuff - music, books, etc. wirelessly. Wired sync is toast! (Thanks to Android for pushing this first)
  • If the iPad is a wild success (we'll see how this survey changes over time) and Apple does not capitulate on including Flash, then is Flash at a Flashpoint (toast)? I'm not convinced about this one - it's a little muddled, like their VOIP position was. But if YouTube, etc., also go HTML5, there's a confluence of factors.
  • V2 of the iPad? - video camera for videoconferencing and multi-tasking for things like background Pandora, VC, VOIP.
  • V3 of the iPad?  is just the display with connectivity to the iPhone in my pocket - setting the stage for the iScroll. That, my friends, will be an expensive display :-)
Let's iToast to that!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wh"Y" not X?

I hope my wife is not reading my blog. "Y" you ask? I now have the perfect argument when she says I'm wrong (which happens a lot):

"You're the prettier gibbon, lipstick and all, but hey...I'm more evolved!!"

Research, presented in no less a journal than Nature, shows that while the Y chromosome (half the size of the feminine counterpart X), much maligned over the years as being responsible for men behaving badly, has actually been very very busy ... evolving!

While the rest of our human genome (X included) differs from chimps by only about 2%, the champion Y has been found to be 30% different. More impressive, this has happened in short order!! Only 6 million years!!

My earlier theory on the higher evolutionary status of the male was based on the fact that men invented pockets (in pants) first (women have to carry handbags, etc.) - but, for some odd reason, that argument has been summarily dismissed by all females that have encountered it (I guess all men know who really wears the pantsuit in the house!!)

There's no word yet on if the phrase "men are pigs" will have to go out of style; I don't think swine chromosomes were rooted out.
So - now ... the new argument rings irrefutably true, and I don't have to spit to prove it: 23 IS me!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Of mice and men ... and cell phones!

Gotta start off 2010 with  positive news!! Good findings beyond coffee ... apparently cellphone radiation, much-maligned in the past as being potentially carcinogenic, has been identified as being a great way to protect against alzheimers!!

Florida scientists have discovered that phone radiation actually protected the memories of  mice programmed to get alzheimer's disease!

If older Alzheimer's mice already showing memory problems were exposed to the electro-magnetic waves, their memory impairment disappeared.
The mice in the study were exposed to 2 hours of (cell phone) radiation a day for 9 months!

The exciting discovery is that electro-magnetic field exposure could be an effective, non-invasive and drug-free way to prevent and treat Alzheimer's disease in humans. Apparently, these mice mimic some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's in people, so this is hopefully for mice and men! Further, this could also help treat traumatic brain injuries, as in soldiers during war!

Also quoted:
We don't recommend spending 24 hours a day on a mobile phone - we don't know the long-term effects, and bills could go through the roof.
In other words... get off your Nexus One after a couple of hours!