Monday, December 15, 2008

Twitter And The Rainbow

This morning I was woken up by The Wife and kids at around 7:40 am. "Rainbow, rainbow!" my wife was screaming excitedly. Wringing my eyes, I reluctantly wobbled towards the other bedroom's window. Sure enough, there was a full size rainbow in the western direction from my house. As all rainbows are, this one was really beautiful too.

Twitter And The Rainbow

A few minutes later, as a religious morning routine, I got on to my computer. I browsed through the morning news on Times Of India and CNN, checked my work emails, checked my personal emails, fired up Google Reader and eventually moved to my TweetDeck. To my surprise, the TwitScoop pane was prominently displaying "rainbow" in the tag cloud.


I was not sure if the trending was really due to the rainbow I had seen less than half an hour ago from my bedroom window. So I clicked on "rainbow" and went to the TwitScoop page for this keyword.


Yes, it was really about the same rainbow. Folks were tweeting about the beautiful rainbow while they were commuting to work.

Twitter: The Next Generation News Wire

We have been aware that the newspapers are not doing well. I also know that Marc Andreesen has been predicting their demise for a while now. I have also seen Twitter as a news source during China's earthquake and Mumbai terrorist attacks. It is increasingly becoming as a news source, much faster and reliable than CNN or Reuters.

But this is really taking it to the next level. This has made it so local and personalized to me. It may be because this is the Silicon Valley and has higher per capita Tweeters than any other area in the world. Yet, this has been a great sample of the extreme potential on Twitter. Guy Kawasaki, you are absolutely right -- “For me, Twitter is more important than a cell phone... Twitter is a weapon.” Well in this case for me, Twitter is a rainbow.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Yahoo! Microsoft Deal: Battle Of The Journalists

After being glued to the TV set and ndtv.com for three straight days watching the Mumbai terror attacks, tonight was seeming like a slow news time. And then Times of London broke this news about Microsoft coming back to the table to discuss a $20 billion Yahoo! search deal. I got all excited and immediately went over to Tweetscan to see what the twitter world was talking about this event. Sure enough, there were several people already echoing the same news over and over.

The Missing Confirmation From Kara Swisher

One thing conspicuously missing was any mention of this deal on AllThingsD.com from Kara Swisher. From what I have learnt in the past several months, she seems to have the best sources inside Yahoo! Kara is the one breaking all Yahoo! related scoops. And she has been right all the time. How could she miss this one? There was something amiss. The Times Online story was still not confirmed in my mind.

So I tweeted about it and got a quick response from her. She also posted her blog update proclaiming this as "Total Fiction".


Battle Of The Journalists

So who might be right on this one? Is Times Of London publishing an unconfirmed rumor as a legitimate story? Or has Kara Swisher lost all of her Yahoo! sources? I am sure the story would unfold more in the morning and certainly Monday morning would have much more clarity. And I am glad this saga is happening during the weekend while the markets are closed. The wild swings that we have been seeing in NASDAQ would have made day traders very happy if this news came out during normal business hours.

One funny tidbit about this journalistic adventure -- the Times Of London is owned by News Corp. And News Corp. also owns AllThingsD.com where Kara blogs. So the same corporate entity seems to be sending us this story and then contradicting itself.

As I said, next few hours would provide more clarity on this. Meanwhile, I am preparing to participate in a rally in support of victims of Mumbai Terror attack in San Francisco on Sunday 11/30 at 2:30pm. Care to join?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama And America

What a historic day. Barack Obama is the president elect of USA. It is a dream come true.

When I came to the US in 1999 as a graduate student in NY, America was a shining beacon of prosperity, opportunity and equality. "An equal opportunity employer" was the term I learned when I first started looking for a job a couple of years later. It gave me a sense of how morally correct this nation was. I was proud of being able to live an work in America.

And then the slide began. The unnecessary Iraq war soon became the single biggest reason for hatred against an arrogant and belligerent America. The economy started slumping. US Dollar lost its charm. And then there was a low point in time in 2007 where Taj Mahal officials stopped accepting USD because of its declining value. It was a sorry state of affairs. I was losing hope in America. And it is still not that rosy a picture. The economy is still in the dumps. There is news of layoffs from many big companies. Inflation is rising rapidly. Housing market is still in crisis.

But now there is hope. Or as The Man himself said in his acceptance speech "There is a chance to keep in the 21st century, the American promise alive."

I am so glad that Obama has won. I have been his big fan since his last elections Democratic Convention speech four year ago. I have read "Dreams from My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope". I greatly admire his oratory skills. I have followed him all along on Twitter and Friendfeed. And I have even donated $403 to his campaign over the last year or so - $100, $101, $101, $101. One donation per milestone -- initial candidacy, Hillary, Palin, and finally in the last week before the election. I am glad I could make a small difference to the campaign. Such is the charisma of Obama. And mind you, I don't even vote in USA.

What Next?

Now that expectations from Obama are through the ceiling, he would have to work hard to live up to them. The market plunge today are already being attributed as "First officially dashed hopes." The time for hero worship is over. In 76 days, the new administration would be coming to the spot light. Its time for some real work now. Make me proud to be living and working in America again. Good luck my man. Good luck Obama!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Six Months In Yahoo!

Today I complete working six months at Yahoo! Time for a quick recap. When I started work here in May '08, Lehman Brothers still existed. So did an independent WaMu. Freddie and Fannie were still chugging along on their own. Dow was well over ten thousand. Randy Pausch was updating his website regularly. Web 2.0 was cool. Seven hundred billion sounded like a lot of money to ever come out of government coffers. Hillary was in the news every day. As was Microsoft's hot pursuit of Yahoo!

So indeed six months is a large period of time. Things have changed, many for the worse. There is one glitter of hope remaining though -- Barack. November 4th. Please O God. Let Obama win.

I have enjoyed my days at Yahoo! It has certainly been a better than expected work environment for me. Yahoo! seem like a very employee friendly company. Despite the turbulent times, people seem to be always focused on work. There is a fair deal of media coverage that could easily distract you -- issues like the Microsoft bid, Google deal fed investigation, Jerry-as-CEO bashing, Valleywag leaks, Techcrunch hot lists of ex-Yahoos, etc. Sometimes I feel like Yahoo! should offer a PR position to the likes of Kara Swisher. Or just buy out VW and rebrand as Yahoo! Truemors or something. You know like in middle school you appoint the naughtiest guy as the 'prefect' of the class. Anyways, like it or not, Yahoo! seems to be a real media darling. Most closely scrutinized than any other company I know.

Jerry and Filo can be seen hanging around the cafes. You can sometimes see them standing in line to buy a sandwich just like anybody else. The all-hands from these guys are timely and always fun. This is a big contrast for me personally, compared to my previous company's CEO. There is never a Larry all-hands that I know of.

Parties. There was the Cinco De Mayo party on the first week of my joining. Then the big Summer Picnic for kids and families. Then the hack day party. Octoberfest. Halloweeen parade. And even a Diwali party. Not to mention the various project kickoff and completion parties and the team outings. And now there are plans for a Vegas themed holiday party. I am loving it.

And then there is devel-random@. Most awesome, but to be discussed some other time.

To round it off with a somber note, there is an impending layoff out there. But coming from seven years at Oracle, this is like an annual ritual for me now. Check back here frequently to see if I survived. Fingers crossed.

Update: Dec 10, 2008: I did survive the Yahoo! layoffs today.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

My Three Year Old Niece

My three year old niece, Amruta, seem to have this God gift for music and rhythm. Although she can not speak Hindi, here she is singing a popular song from the '80s -- "Yeh Mera Dil".




Notice how her hands beat perfectly to the music at the beginning. Very cool. I am so proud of her. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Yahoo!

Yahoo! The exclamation mark there is as much for emphasis as it is part of my new workplace's name and culture. I started work at Yahoo! today.

I couldn't figure if Obama / Clinton was more popular than Yahoo! / Microsoft today.

There is free latte.

Update: Saturday, 05/03, after 4:30pm. Definitely Yahoo! / Microsoft is more popular now.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Leaving The Emerald Towers Of Oracle

After nearly 7 years in Oracle, today is my last day of work here. It has been a great ride. This is my first job out of grad school. So obviously I have learnt a lot here -- a lot about American corporate environment and a lot about writing large scale business applications. My time at Oracle spanned across Oracle Exchange, iProcurement, Purchasing and Receivables teams and it has indeed been an incredibly rewarding experience. Working in PO and AR has given me invaluable exposure to both the buy and the sell sides of business.

I have also learnt a lot how big software development companies are run effectively. Oracle Apps seem to be run in a very lean and mean way. Resources are mostly utilized to their fullest. There is minimal wasteful expenditure, at least in the engineering and development organizations. Can't speak of sales and marketing though. Ha! I have heard rumors that Oracle sales guys sometimes have very lavish parties. Never seen it actually. Never in dev orgs.

Larry Ellison: So Near Yet So Far

My lament is that I could never meet our celebrity CEO Larry. He is never seen in the RWS campus, like you know, strolling around or something. But tales abound about people running into him and his bodyguards in the 500 building elevators. The closest I have come to Larry was once during his Open World keynotes in the Moscone Center when I got the first row seat. He is shorter than I had imagined.

I once wrote an email to him when I completed 6 years here. I requested a 1-on-1 with him. You know, regular business. Never got a reply. Hmph.

HQ Campus Cafes

The cafes are great. I really like 300 and 400. The 300 cafe has an Italian section for pasta, pizza and lasagna, a grill section for fresh fish like salmon, mahi mahi, etc. and also a salad counter. I liked the spinach salad "with everything". And it has a cafe which is open late afternoons. So 300 is a popular hang out for coffee drinkers during the 3:00pm hours. The 400 cafe has a grill with burgers and quesadillas, a self-serve section for salads and sandwiches and another section which serves exotic delicacies like pot pies served with cheese and macaroni on the side. Yum.

The Gymnasium

The gym is a sprawling facility. It has an indoor basketball court, an outdoor beach volleyball court, a full size lap pool, lots of treadmills and other strength and cardio equipments. Also a couple of ping-pong tables. The gym hosts a lot of activities year round. It hosts summer and winter leagues for volleyball, ping-pong, basketball, badminton, etc. And miscellaneous events like the Health Fair. And it runs classes for yoga and aerobics and such like. And there is massage facility too. Never utilized.

I have been part of the winning team once for the indoor volleyball recreational league. It was a memorable win. And once we were runners up in beach volleyball. Again recreational league. Just to be clear, there are 3 levels -- recreational, intermediate and competitive. So you know where recreational stands. And I have been a runner up in the competitive ping-pong league once. Doubles with Ben Ao. It was a great win when we beat the favorites in the semi-finals.

Lake Larry

The main lagoon in front of the HQ buildings is fondly known as Lake Larry. It is customary to take a walk around it after finishing up the lunch. The path has recently been widened which makes it easy to avoid bumping into the very many pregnant ladies that love to finish their quota of the prescribed daily dose of walk around Lake Larry. So much better now.

Anyways Dude, What's Next?

So I wanted to learn more about how the products that I develop in Financials and Procurement, are actually being used by our customers. How is life on the other side of the table? What are the issues in real business scenarios? And so on. I got this opportunity to be part of a big lovable company and work in their Corporate IT team, where they use Oracle Apps. I like the new role and the new company and decided it was time to explore new frontiers. So here I am at a very important point of time in my life. My last day at Oracle is today.

I am going to Yahoo! tomorrow.





Friday, April 18, 2008

The Model-View-Controller (MVC) Song

MVC is a design pattern now heavily used as part of the base architecture in many business applications. For non-software folks, the phrase 'Model-View-Controller' may be as unintelligible as it can get. But for all the software developers out there, it is not less than the Holy Grail. And a really important topic for job interviews. Yes, really.

So to find a song written on this topic is quite amusing. I found it here in Peteris Krumins’ blog. The YouTube video shows a geeky Apple engineer, James Dempsey, singing this song in their worldwide developer convention in 2003. Here are portions of the lyrics that I found interesting:

Controller’s know the Model and View very
uahh - intimately
They often are hardcoding
which is very verboten for reusability.
But now you can connect any value you select
to any view property.
And I think you’ll start binding,
then you’ll be finding less code in your source tree.
Yeah I know I was astounded,
that’s not even a rhyme.





He looks a bit awkward and the guitar strumming could be better. And yes, sometimes it does not even rhyme. Yet, I still like the whole idea of this rendition. But again, an M-V-C song, come on... what next? A song on Ruby on Rails anyone?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Cell Phones Leapfrog Drinking Water

I recently had an opportunity to travel to our native village Naithana in Garhwal, which is in the state of Uttarakhand in India. This is a tiny remote village with a population of less than 100 people in the hills of Himalayas in northern part of India. I had been there just once before when I was 6 years old and only had faint recollections of the place.

This time I had a very different experience. The village has dilapidated even more. The houses are in ruins. All this because of the one-way migration from villages to cities. My father's family migrated out 46 years ago. No one ever goes back there. Our ancestral house, which was quite palatial at one time, is now totally disintegrated. In Hindi language, we have one word to describe it -- khandhar.

No Water Supply For 2 Days

The village does not have drinking water reliably supplied to the houses. Although the water pipes have been laid out to some houses, the supply is erratic at best. I was there for a couple of days, and the taps had been dry for over two days they told me. So the people living there had to fall back to plan B -- fetch water from the natural spring water sources that surround the village. That is what they had been doing for generations, so actually it was not much of a plan B for them. It was more of a plan A prime, I suppose. They do not expect 24x7 running water in the taps at home.

I did not expect much signs of progress in this village. In the morning, we were going to the water spring outside the village. You know, for the shower. On the way, I saw a couple of village girls walking back, carrying bucket full of water on their head. But lo and behold, to my surprise, here is what I heard and saw next.

... To Fetch A Pail Of Water

As the girls approached me, I thought I heard a cell phone ring. Maybe it is a transistor radio, I wondered. But as they passed me by, I saw one of them pull out a cell phone from under her scarf.








And she started merrily chatting away. I was blown away by the sight. It was a great contradiction, something you can only see in India.

Leapfrogging In Developing Countries

Is this really the way things are supposed to progress in developing countries? You now have cell phone service in places where there is no drinking water service. Similarly, there is a burgeoning air travel market in India, leapfrogging the investment required to build roadways infrastructure. And India has more number of poor and malnourished people than any other country, yet 4 of the top 8 richest people in Forbes Richest People list this year, are of Indian origin. At the Delhi airport this time, the immigration line for foreign passport holders was much longer than the Indian passport holders. Yet, the Delhi airport is a shambles.

I am amazed by these set of contradictions. It would be wonderful to get an objective third-party account of the current conditions and progress in India, maybe from an American/European tourist. Much like the venture capitalist Mark Davis wrote during his recent India trip.

Maybe these are just the growing pains of India. These inconsistencies should smoothen out in a few years. That is what I hope for. Go India!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

To Lose Dad

Posted on April 07, 2008

My dad passed away on Feb 21st, 2008, in Delhi -- sudden cardiac arrest. He was 68 years old. Born in a tiny village called Naithana in the Himalayas, he was the most positive and eternally optimistic person that I have ever known in my life.

This post is meant to be a recollection of the tragic event and a homage to my dad. So if you don't like reading this kind of personal and tragic stuff, please move on.

The Bad News

I got the phone call at around 3:00 pm on Feb 20 PT, while I was at work. A sudden rush of emotions engulfed me as I dropped everything and rushed home to my wife and kids. I barely managed to inform one of my managers before leaving the building. It was a totally unexpected news for me. With tears rolling down my eyes, the elevator ride through the 16 floors seemed like an eternity. By the time I reached my car in the garage, I was sobbing uncontrollably. Once inside the car, I just let my emotions lose. It was only after a few minutes that I gathered myself again, cranked up the engine and started to drive home, tears still rolling down my eyes. After a quick check with my wife and kids, I started calling the travel agents for a ticket to Delhi.

I took the 9:50 pm Lufthansa from SFO to DEL via Munich. It was Lunar Eclipse that night and the eclipse had just ended a few minutes ago in the west coast. As the flight took off from runway 28L, I could see the full moon in the clear skies above. A beautiful view that unfortunately I could not enjoy at that moment. For me, it was going to be a long 19 hours flight.

The Last Rites

I reached our home in Delhi at 9:45 am the following morning, just in time to begin the ceremonial last rites. Dad was kept on the floor wrapped in a white piece of cloth. There was a large crowd of friends and relatives gathered around. I could not believe that all that was happening. As I walked into the room, I kneeled besides my dad and caressed his hair. He was cold. So cold. I got up and hugged my uncle very very tight and let it all out.

I checked in with my mom and brother in as vacant room. I wanted to learn all that happened during the last moments the previous night. Long story short, my dad had passed away quickly and peacefully in my mom's arms, before the ambulance could arrive.

Soon we began preparing for the last rites. The priest was waiting. Being the eldest son, it was my privilege and duty to perform the last rites -- kriya. The rituals were quite elaborate. Although, I consider myself a very non-religious person, it was interesting how I became very receptive to learn the meaning of each and every ritual at that time.

After a long morning of multiple rites and rituals, we all went to the banks of river Yamuna. A pyre was erected around my dad's body and I lit it up while the priest chanted holy mantras . The fire burnt for around three hours. Meanwhile, I, my brother and my dad's brothers got our head and facial hair shaved off -- all part of the rituals.

The Finality

The pyre burnt for 3 hours. I and my brother Vineet and all our friends and relatives patiently waited for the fire to burn out. In the end what was left was just ashes. The body was gone. Vanished. My dad was gone. Nothing could undo that. The finality of the event sunk in into me. I would never see or talk to my dad ever again.

The Elaborate Hindu Rituals -- 13 Days And More

The Hindu religion has this set of rituals that go on for 13 days after the demise. And then some. I guess the idea is to help the family members go through the grieving process in a more systematic way. And in some ways it really helps in the emotional healing. The rituals include a daily reading of a few chapters of Garud Puraan -- an ancient scripture that narrates that passage of the departed soul from the Earth to Heaven through a bunch of intermediate Nark's or Hells. At the end of the 13th day, the soul reaches Heaven, and all friends and relatives are invited for a simple lunch. This concludes the main rituals.

A Stone In Memory Of Each Thapliyal

At the end of one month of the demise, another little ceremony is scheduled. This one is for establishing a stone in the memory of the deceased. And this is performed in the native village, the birthplace of my dad.

Apparently, similar stones can be found for many of my ancestors in the same site in our native village. See pictures below. I did just that for my dad as well. We picked up a small stone from the banks of the river Alaknanda and put it along with the other ancestral stones. For this part, I traveled to our native village Naithana in Garhwal Himalayas. This ceremony really put things in perspective about my lineage and ancestry. There are about 25 stones in place, each representing one of my ancestor. Truly valuable and historic for all Thapliyal's.














This is like a small little cemetery for all of Thapliyal family of the Naithana village. It just occupies much less real estate.

Life Story Of My Dad

The story of my dad's life is very unique. He joined the Indian armed forces soon after completing his graduate studies. He fought against the Pakistan aggression in 1965 war. But that is not really what is interesting.

In 1968, he was on a training mission to learn about explosives. Sitting in a trench with another soldier, he was observing the working of an explosive on an I-beam. The bomb was a safe distance away. Or so he presumed, crouched inside the well dug trench. In a freak occurrence, some splinters ricocheted and struck the right side of his head. The protective helmet was not enough to prevent a deep gash on his skull. He was rushed to the hospital and the splinters were removed and his life was saved.

However, due to this brain injury, he was paralyzed on his left side. For life. He was just 28 years old.

It was the beginning of a struggle that would last another 40 years. A struggle that would see a bright young army officer limp for the rest of his life. A struggle that would confine a dashing young man to a sedentary office job in the administrative wing of a paramilitary force. A struggle that would make him see his peers grow to far reaching military ranks, while he remained an entry level commissioned officer.

Yet, he was the epitome of human spirit, life and optimism. I would never find him talk about any of these negativities in front of myself or my siblings. He was always a powerhouse for us. He was a brave fighter. Despite his handicap, he always maintained a dignified posture of an army man. He was also an eternal learner. He was famous amongst his friends and relatives for knowing the botanical names of every flower grown in the region. He had keen interest in Hindustani Classical Music or Shastriya Sangeet. He would immediately identify if a song playing on the radio was based on a raaga. He loved to hum along the original raaga along with the newer song that was playing. He had a passion for dogs and training dogs. He had dog training manuals dating back to the 60's. His general political knowledge was far above average and I believe he was a news junkie -- I seem to have inherited that trait from him. When in US, he would love to devour the SF Chronicle each day. In the evening he would discuss with me all about the local politics here, including the antics of mayor Gavin Newsom at that time. He loved the Americans for their passion for gardening and their manicured gardens, especially in the by-lanes of Redwood Shores. Fond memories of my dad... Ah.

My Mom's Relentless Struggle

The story of my dad would remain incomplete without the mention of my mom. She is the epitome of devotion. They had been married only 3 years when the accident happened with my dad in 1968. Since then she had been taking care of him like a baby. She would feed him, bathe him, dress him up, take care of his medicines and even administer the twice-a-day insulin injections that were part of his life for the last 15 years. My dad was diabetic, and my mom was his nurse. He could not survive a single moment without her.

Here is a little bit of statistics to challenge you. My mom and dad never lived apart for more than 40 years. Not even few hours. They were always together -- mainly because my dad acutely depended on her. Again -- not even for few hours did they live separately. For 40 years. Glued together.

Can you beat that?

I can not even begin to comprehend how much she would be missing dad now.

The Cycle Of Life

With time, I have begun to digest the fact that my dad is gone. I guess, time is the biggest healer in this situation. The one rule of this game is that everyone has to go one day. No one can change that. Now I have 2 young sons. It is their turn to begin their lives. It just completes the whole circle.

Rest in peace, papa.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hillary Cry Scoble Cry

Whats with crying now a days? Everyone seems to be shedding a tear in public. Having tears in your eyes is suddenly fashionable. It certainly is driving up votes for some. For others it may just be driving up the page hits on their blog.

Real Men Cry: Blame It On Microsoft

The popular tech blogger Robert Scoble wrote a piece today about a forthcoming product announcement from Microsoft. It was titled "Microsoft researchers make me cry". Apparently he is so pleased with the product demo that it is making him cry with joy. Aww. Building up the suspense, he compares this upcoming 2/27 product release to the release of some well known software products in the past, like Excel, Photoshop, Netscape, ICQ and Skype. He really seem to be totally awed by the research efforts of M$. And yes, he got my attention with his post.

The Onion Peeling Machine ?

What else could it be? It certainly could make anyone cry. But Scoble mentioned that it is actually a piece of software, not hardware. So we can rule out the Onion Peeling Machine, or a newer XYZ-Box or Zune 2.0. And no, it can not be a Microsoft iPhone either.

It is a piece of software "that really changes my world", he says. Is it IE8? Well, IE7 makes me cry. Hell, many Microsoft products make me cry. Is it Virtual Earth meets Multi Media meets Multi Touch meets Distributed Storage meets Silvershit, or whatever? Whatever.

Stealing The Thunder From Adobe AIR and Mozilla Prism Launch?

Looks like Adobe has a pre-release tour going on for a planned launch of its Flex and AIR products at the end of February. Is it a coincidence that the M$ launch is scheduled around the same time?

And Mozilla Prism is supposed to be released at the end of Feb. as well. That would bring Mozilla's popular browser a step closer to the desktop -- a territory where Microsoft is king. Is it making Microsoft nervous?

Would It Really Make A Difference?

Sometimes shedding a tear in public can be a good thing. It is drumming up the hype for Microsoft. The whole blogosphere is now holding its breath. I can't wait till February 27th. I hope it does not turn out to be a dud like like the over hyped Segway that Jeff Bezos praised so much before it was launched at the end of 2001. Let me quote Bezos from 2001:

"You have a product so revolutionary, you'll have no problem selling it. The question is, are people going to be allowed to use it?"
—Jeff Bezos, Founder Amazon.com

Scoble seems to be drooling with a similar enthusiasm. So really what is left to be seen is that even though this new Microsoft product may be super cool, but would it really matter?

Update 05/13/08: It was all about the World Wide Telescope. Doh.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

iPhone Competitor From A Company That Has Never Made A Phone Before

One of the most desirable features for iPhone 2.0, whenever it launches, I am hoping would be "real GPS capabilities", not just what we have today -- Google Maps with some shoddy triangulation services. With the integration of real GPS to Google Maps, this navigation feature would be a killer app in v2.0.

I never thought that instead of GPS-in-iPhone, I would instead be getting an option of iPhone-in-GPS. That too from a company that has never made a phone before.

Garmin Nuviphone

The GPS device maker Garmin, is launching an iPhone like device that has GPS built right into it. They are calling it the Nuviphone, perhaps to signify it as an improvement over their successful line of Nuvi GPS devices. I own Nuvi 360 and have been a happy customer. So I am excited to see what the Nuviphone would offer.

Nuviphone Videos

Garmin has released some videos to advertise the Nuviphone. I am embedding a couple of them here:

Video 1:



Video 2:



These advertiement videos look promising. However, it would be difficult to compete with iPhone, not only as a classy breakthrough phone, but also as a popular fashion statement. I wish Nuviphone all the best!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Sharing Google Reader Subscriptions (OPML Files)

Paul, Jake and Rich, all have their Google Reader subscription lists published on their blog profiles in Oracle AppsLab's About Page:

I like their openness. It gives a me some insight into what they like to read. I have picked up many of their subscriptions and added to my own Reader list. This is similar to the idea of a blogroll, except that in this case you share all of your subscriptions, instead of only your favorite ones.

In many ways, this is also similar to the social bookmarking concept like del.icio.us. However, there is no single server managing your shared feeds and no social networking concepts around it. You need to host your own OPML files. (If you notice above, the shared files are OPML files, even though they have the XML extension). Perhaps an opportunity for someone to build on this. It would certainly add more value to the concept of sharing, which is a corner stone of Web 2.0.


OPML - Not Very Readable


OPML is an XML format for outlines, i.e. a hierarchical, ordered list of arbitrary elements. Google Reader uses this format if you want to export or import your subscription lists. Even though the OPML format helps in easy import/export of your subscriptions, it is not best suited for browsing through the reading list. Unless you are an XML reading geek, the OPML file would not make much sense to you.

OPML Readers

So I looked around to see if there are any we utilities out there to help me read OPML files in a better way. Well, there are a few options:
  1. XSL Style Sheet: If you don't mind a little code copying.
  2. OPML to HTML Web Utility: Hosted for you in a separate server.
  3. OPML Widget: It's the coolest one.

1. OPML XSL Style Sheet:


I found a good XSL from Chris Finke's blog via a google search. By the magic of XSL transformations, here is the difference:
The actual XSL file can be downloaded from the given link:

http://www.chrisfinke.com/files/2006/08/opml.xsl

If you want to use this XSL, all you need to do is to add one line in your OPML file:

< ? xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ? >
< ? xml-stylesheet type="text/xsl" href="opml.xsl" ? >
< version="1.0">

So that was the XSL way of doing things. Lets move on to the next option.


2. OPML to HTML Web Utility:


Thankfully, there exists a somewhat easier way to publish OPML as a more readable HTML. You do not have to write even that single line of code as in the previous method. We can simply use an OPML Browser web utility for the conversion. I pointed Paul, Jake and Rich OPML files to this OPML Browser, and here we get a better set of a much more readable lists:
Nice and easy. However, you still need to host you own OPML files. At least no coding is required for this one.


3. OPML Widgets:

Last option is the sort of coolest one. Well, 2007 was supposed to have been a year of widgets, according to Newsweek. Since there was no apparent widget frenzy in '07, I guess this one is still 'sort of cool' in my book. In all fairness, I'll give one more year to Newsweek. Hopefully, widgets would soon catch our imaginations as Newsweek had predicted over an year ago.

Anyways, coming back to the topic in hand, I found an RSS/OPML Reader Widget from SpringWidgets. The look and feel of the widget is very nice. It is easily customizable and is very easy to embed too. Here I have embedded the Google Reader subscription lists for Paul, Jake, Rich and myself.

Paul






Jake






Rich






Puneet





As you can see from the 4 widgets above, clearly Rich reads the most.

So those were the 3 methods I could find to easily share your OPML files. If you know better ways, please do share.

Bonus: Direct Link To Google Reader OPML Files

As a bonus, I'll let you on this tip. Typically, to get the OPML file from Google Reader, you would go to Import/Export page and then export the list to your disk. Well, there is a better way to access your OPML files with a direct link.

Recently, Google rolled out their Blogroll tool (Nov '07). To make it work, they had to provide direct access to OPML file as well. Although this is not yet published by Google, one of the developers from Google Reader team Mihai Parparita, responded to Andy Beard'sa blog post and provide this neat tip.
  1. Click on 'Your shared items' link in Google Reader. You may have to share at least one item first before this link shows up.
  2. On the 'Your shared items' page, notice a big URL for your shared page. e.g.

    http://www.google.com/reader/shared/03629049342455201244

  3. This URL has a large number, which is your unique ID. Copy this number.
  4. Construct the following URL. Replace the ID with your own.

    http://www.google.com/reader/public/subscriptions/user/03629049342455201244

This URL is a direct link to your OPML file. The only issue is that the HTTP header spits it out as an attachment. But I can live with it. So go ahead, publish your Google Reader lists using one of the methods above. Share the love, Web 2.0 ishtyle :)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

When Web 2.0 Has A House Party (Video)

Every company on Web 2.0 is invited to a house party. Here is the list in order of appearance:

  1. Google (I'm Feeling Lucky)
  2. Fling.com (NSFW)
  3. RateMyRack.com (NSFW)
  4. Flickr
  5. eBaumsWorld.com
  6. SomethingAwful.com
  7. eBay
  8. Amazon
  9. PayPal
  10. Cracked.com (itself)
  11. MapQuest (is this one Web 2.0?)
  12. Digg
  13. FaceBook
  14. MySpace
  15. Snopes.com (you're such a buzz kill)
  16. Wikipedia (just make something up, it doesn't matter to her)
  17. YouTube
  18. AskJeeves
  19. Craigslist
  20. UrbanDictionary
Did I miss anyone?

My favorite was the MySpace guy -- "Who wants to be my f$*@#ing friend?". Hilarious video from cracked.com. Must watch.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Macworld Slashdots Twitter?

Dude, what's wrong with Twitter. They have been slashdotted by a mere Macworld? And with less than a million registered users? Why can't they keep up with these spikes? I am a beginner Tweeter (puneetx), and am not pleased at all to find that Twitter downtime is so common. How would thoughtful Twitter applications like EventTrack even work if the service is down during the event?

I hope Jaiku and others start becoming popular and this data portability thing starts working soon, so that we are not limited by the vagaries of Twitter.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Netflix Offers Unlimited Streaming. Would They Improve The Bollywood Selection?

Netflix would start unlimited streaming to most of it's subscribers this week onwards. It is being said that this is in response to an anticipated entry of Apple into the movie rental market soon. Great, I would now have 3 options soon:

  1. Comcast On Demand: I already have the option of online movies through the On Demand service from Comcast.
  2. Netflix+LG: And later this year LG Electronics Inc. will begin selling a set-top box that will deliver the Netflix content to TVs.
  3. Apple TV + iTunes: With Apple joining the rental movie business, that would be option #3.
Now I only wish that these services would improve their selection of Bollywood movies. The current set of hindi movies in Netflix and Comcast is not upto par. I hope Apple would bring in more excitement to this market and hopefully more focus on the south Asian audience. That would be awesome.

Growing As A Blogger

Jake wanted me to become an external blogger. I thought it's about time too. So today I start my journey into the wide open blogosphere.

My Blogging History

It was one fine day in mid '07 when
Sagar dared me to start blogging. He said he would start blogging, only if I did. Well it was a dare after all. So I started blogging internally within Big O using a sluggishy blogging server and infrastructure. I blogged mainly about Fusion and other internal musings. Then Sagar left. And there was no one else to nudge me to update my blog. Well, it was fun while it lasted. Anyways, I was not as prolific a blogger as Jake or Sagar, though I did hear back occasional positive comments from my readership, which was like 5 people.

What to expect from Puneet Thapliyal's blog?

In this external blog, I would start as being part of the echo chamber. That is, I would mainly re-post the interesting blog or article I read on the web, with some of my own wise comments. My interests are mainly around technology, startups, India, politics, movies and management. So I guess there would be something for everyone's liking.

With that, I begin my journey into the exciting world of the blogoverse. Wish me luck!