The Reading List

The one great thing about the library or the LRC (Learning Resource Center) at ISB is the wide variety of books available for one to read. Since we are pretty much allowed to issue a lot of books (I dont even know what the upper limit is…), I usually end up picking up 1 or 2 of them whenever I go there to study/discuss something with the group etc. However, as always, theres not much time to actually read the books, and I end up with an increasing pile that I need to read.

While I havent recently had much time for reading, the near future may actually give me a chance, so heres a list of my stack of books, so to speak. Making a public commitment is always supposed to help in motivation, right?
1. The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman: Absolutely on top of my list, this is supposed to be THE book talking about product design and how designers/engineers may forget about the user while making sure aesthetics/functionality is complete in a product. An interesting read with lots of real life examples.
2. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen: Part of a series of books by the Harvard professor, this book defined the very concept of ‘Disruptive Innovation‘, very important in the technology industry, and almost solely responsible for a whole course on the topic here at ISB. Hence my interest in learning more about it.
3. The Long Tail by Chris Anderson: The book by Wired magazine’s editor already has attained cult status in the way it attempts to explain a new way of doing business by concentrating on a large number of items with low demand for each. This so called ‘long tail’ effect is especially useful in the information age with models such as Amazon/itunes using it to build up volumes over the net.
4. fire in the valley by Paul Freiberger & Michael Swaine: This is another book that caught my eye randomly in the library. The source for the movie ‘Pirates of Silicon Valley‘, this 500 pager (2000 edition) is a history of the early years of silicon valley and the PC industry as it was evolving pre 1985, covering the rise of giants such as Apple, Microsoft etc. This is more of a personal interest thing, and something I am aways ready to read more about!
5. Snapshots from Hell by Peter Robinson is supposedly a great book and a look at the authors life at Stanford GSB. I am sure its going to be an interesting read, and I look forward to similarities with life at ISB!
6. Computer Networks by Andrew S. Tanenbaum: Surprised to see this staple of computer science graduates in the list? I was even more surprised to find a complete rack of the most common/recognised computer books in the ISB library! Lets just say I need a basic refresher to prepare myself for what I am planning to do post-ISB.
7. Just for Fun by Linus Torvalds with David Diamond: Linus’s biography. Do I even need to explain why I want to read this one? Only problem is I saw it on my table yesterday, but cant find it right now! Oh well, it’ll turn up.
8. Tintin and Co. by Michael Farr: One of the leading British experts on Tintin, this book is a look at the different characters appearing in the enduring comic series by Herge.
So theres the list. How many of these I actually end up reading, lets see… πŸ˜‰

2 days of effort down the drain…

Its always hard when you put in a lot of effort in doing something but it doesn’t work out well. In that event, the one consolation you have is that you did give it your best shot but it wasn’t meant to be.

However, even harder task is when you spend a lot of time preparing for something, to the exclusion of a lot of other things, and don’t even get a chance to have someone look at your work. Something similar happened today. I worked on preparing a presentation (for a company interview, what else πŸ˜‰ ), but got eliminated in the first round itself, while the ppt was actually scheduled for the second round! It is ironic though, spending so much time on something that you know you may not even get to present.
Anyway, thats what the internet is for: sharing ones work without having to undergo distribution charges for the content! So heres what I did prepare, a study on some features that could be added to the multi-protocol IM service: Meebo (Now my previous post makes sense as well I bet!).
The presentation is a bit incomplete/simplistic, because I of course expected to be able to explain it all in much greater detail, but hey, feel free to leave your comments.
Most of the revenue assumptions/estimates are in an embedded excel as well as a word doc with a hypothetical blogpost introducing one of these features.

PS: Awesome background/font template credit to Amit Goyal.

Using the meebome widget to chat with visitors to my blog

I was playing around with Meebo recently as part of prep for an interview, when I came across this cool product they have called meebome. You can see the widget active on the right side of my blog page in fact.

For those who don’t know, Meebo is a multi platform IM client, allowing you to sign into multiple networks like MSN/Yahoo/Gtalk/Facebook chat etc from a single browser window. Around since 2005, they are VC funded and started showing ads last year, finally trying to monetize on the huge community that they have built up over time.

Its a nifty little widget, allowing you to interact with visitors who visit your blog in real time with IM style private messaging, something Meebo is known for. Unlike some other similar services (shoutbox?) that allow website users to leave messages, Meebome is pure IM, so any messages you leave will NOT be visible to others (except me of course :P). The only requirement being that I need to be signed into Meebo for the live chat to work, which is reasonable.
I have interacted with a few visitors to my blog through Meebome, and must say its an interesting experience!
Meebo has recently been building quite a community website around the core multi-platform IM product that they started with. They have partnered with multiple website with their Meebo bar, allowing people to stay logged in on other sites, and display ads to those users, of course. With their increased user-base, this seems to be an interesting play, and may perhaps bring them to profitability as well.
So wanna talk? Ping me using the widget, and lets see if I am online!

Google enables https by default – Finally!

A day after the beginning of the Google-China soap opera (still ongoing of course) and the reported mail hacks, came the news that Google was making Gmail more secure by enabling https access by default (reported here and here). While https access has been available to users since at least beginning of 2007 (earliest reference I found, check here), you had to go into settings to turn it for default use or use a different URL to login. The funny part is that even last year, privacy advocates had asked Google to enable it by default.

On a personal note, I had enabled this sometime in 2008 I believe, when they introduced a setting to switch and choose the more secure option.

Google says that the switchover was planned since six months and was NOT related to the China issue and reportedly wouldnt have prevented the attacks.
Sam Schillace, an engineering director at Google Apps, said the shift to default HTTPS was not prompted by the attacks and, to the best of his knowledge, would not have averted them. The move had been in the works for some six months, during which time Google engineers did extensive testing and made numerous technical fixes to enable a smooth transition.

However, the announcement itself was prompted by the attack news. β€œThe Gmail team decided, why wait?” he said. β€œWe want our users to be as safe as we can make them be.”

– from Nytimes Blogs

The funny part? If this was ‘completely unrelated’ to the China issue and Google had planned it all along implies that Google was pretty much prepared for the transition. Indeed, the above comment mentions that it was in process for about 6 months, with ‘extensive testing and technical fixes’.

However, if you look at the bottom of the announcement page (here), you see that multiple applications from Google itself, including Gmail Notifier, Gmail for mobile, Google Toolbar, offline Gmail and the iGoogle email widget are all having incompatibilities/issues with the https default setting. Now if this was planned in advance, I dont think it would have been too difficult for Google to simply push out updates for these products. All that was needed was a check to switch to https inside the app automatically if it detected that the user account was configured as such!

Bottomline: While it may have been under consideration, this was clearly a sudden decision without the ‘extensive’ testing that is Google’s trademark. Why they dont they just admit it? Dunno…

How to play amr files?

The reason for this post? A couple of audio calls I had recorded on my mobile phone for a report we were doing. However, when I transferred them to my laptop to transcribe them, I realised that they are all recorded in the *.amr file format. This is apparently a standard for speech recordings and used by multiple firms (including Sony Ericsson on my k790i). On top of it all, I don’t have the phone anymore (got a new one, more on that later), but I needed to read the files. Amazingly, most of the standard players I use, including winamp, windows media, and even VLC were of no help (license issues apparently).

A search on the net led to, and the reason for this post. Its a pretty light and useful piece of software for what it does. Theres a simple UI. Just add your files, and go ahead and play them, or convert them to WAV or MP3 formats. The reverse is also possible (in case you want it). Best of all, there’s no trial period or anything. The software is free.
So if you need help with this strange looking format, you know where to go.