Saturday, July 29, 2006

Microsoft's 5-year flat stock price

I just took a peek at Microsoft's 5 year stock price range, which remains flat at around $25. They even tried a stock-split in early 2003 (see above chart)- but no luck with that too. This shows the stiff competition that the software giant is unable to handle, from Apple and Sony in the digital entertainment business, and Google in the online business. Thankfully, I am not one of their patient shareholders, expecting them to give something substantial back to me. Apparently, they have not been paying back sufficient dividends also enough to keep their shareholders happy, who have been grumbling for quite some time now about Microsoft's practice of not distributing more of its cash hoard.

That's probably why they are acquiring health-care software technology Azyxxi
(premium WSJ content) to explore their non-core business strategies. Do what you do best and succeed, or do what Microsoft does and ....


Trojan Firefox Extension

Trojan Firefox Extension: "Via mozillaZine

Anti-virus firms are reporting that a trojan horse that takes the form of a Mozilla Firefox extension has been spotted in the wild. The trojan, which McAfee has named FormSpy and Sophos has dubbed Troj/FireSpy-A, captures information entered into the browser, including, but not limited to, passwords and banking details, and sends them to a remote computer. The trojan comes with a Windows executable that can also record ICQ, POP3, IMAP and FTP passwords. Within Firefox, the trojan pretends to be the legitimate numberedlinks extension.

The good news? This is a Windows-only problem, so you Apple nerds and Linux goofs are safe. Feel free to sadly chuckle at the Windows world again. Also, according to the mozillaZine posting, this beastie 'does not use any Firefox security flaws to infect computers.' It's just a piece of badness that piggy-backs its way onto a system as a consequence of another infection."

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Unrelated, Irrational, Insensitive - Microsoft Office Assistant

Enjoy the parody ...well...huh....reality :)


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Question of the day

Q: What is the average price of a flat-screen TV?

A: $2489

This price today is half of a flat screen in 2004


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Scientists have humor too...unintentional though

Anecdotes from a few famous scientists -

(1) The English mathematician John Wallis (1616-1703) was
a friend of Isaac Newton. According to his diary, Newton
once bragged to Wallis about his little dog Diamond.

"My dog Diamond knows some mathematics. Today he
proved two theorems before lunch."

"Your dog must be a genius," said Wallis.

"Oh I wouldn't go that far," replied Newton. "The
first theorem had an error and the second had a
pathological exception."

(2) Isadora Duncan suggests to G.B. Shaw: What do you say, professor, shouldn't
we make a little baby together: what a baby it would be - my looks and your
intelligence! G.B. Shaw: I'm afraid, dear lady, it might be the other way

(3) When Einstein's Wife told him to dress properly when going to the office
he argued:
"Why should I? Everyone knows me there."

When he was told to dress properly for his first big conference:
"Why should I? No one knows me there."

(4) The story is that Albert Einstein's driver used to sit at the back of the
hall during each of his lectures, and after a period of time, remarked to
AE that he could probably give the lecture himself, haveing heard it
several times. So at the next stop on the tour, AE & the driver switched
places, with AE sitting at the back, in driver's uniform. The driver gave
the lecture, flawlessly. At the end, a member of the audience asked a
detailed question about some of the subject matter, upon which the lecturer
replied, 'well, the answer to that question is quite simple, I bet that my
driver, sitting up at the back, there, could answer it...'

(5) Justus von Liebig (1803-1873) one day was approached by his assistant who
all excited informed him that he had just discovered a universal solvent.
Liebig asked: - "And what is a universal solvent?" Assistant: - "One that
dissolves all substances." Liebig: - "Where are you going to keep that
solvent, then?!!!"

(6) Over a hundred years ago a university student found himself seated in
a train by the side of a person who seemed to be well-to do peasant.
He was praying the rosary and moving the beads in his fingers.

"Sir, do you still believe in such outdated things?" asked the student
of the old man."

"Yes, I do. Do you not?" asked the man.

The student burst out into a laughter and said, "I do not believe in
such silly things. Take my advice. Throw the rosary out through this
window, and learn what science has to say about it".

"Science? I do not understand this science? Perhaps you can explain it
to me.", the man said humbly with some tears in his eyes.

The student saw that the man was deeply moved. So to avoid further
hurting the feelings of the man, he said:

"Please give me your address and I will send you some literature to
help you on the matter."

The man fumbled in the inside pocket of his coat and gave the boy his
visiting card. On glancing at the card, the student, lowered his head
in shame and became silent. On the card he read:

"Louis Pasteur, Director of the Institute of Scientific Research,

(7) The zoologist William Buckland was known for tasting everything. During a
visit to Italy he was shown a stain on the floor of a church on the spot
where a saint had died. He was told that the the stain renewed itself
every morning with fresh blood. Buckland immediately kneeled on the floor
and licked the moist patch. He informed his host that it was not blood,
but nothing more than bats' urine.

Yes, William Buckland tastes everything.

(8) Albert Einstein (1879-1955) [German physicist] Albert Einstein, who
fancied himself as a violinist, was rehearsing a Haydn string quartet.
When he failed for the fourth time to get his entry in the second movement,
the cellist looked up and said, "The problem with you, Albert, is that you
simply can't count."

(9) Wiener was in fact very absent minded. The following story is told about
him: When they moved from Cambridge to Newton his wife, knowing that he
would be absolutely useless on the move, packed him off to MIT while she
directed the move. Since she was certain that he would forget that they
had moved and where they had moved to, she wrote down the new address on a
piece of paper, and gave it to him. Naturally, in the course of the day,
an insight occurred to him. He reached in his pocket, found a piece of
paper on which he furiously scribbled some notes, thought it over, decided
there was a fallacy in his idea, and threw the piece of paper away. At the
end of the day he went home (to the old address in Cambridge, of course).
When he got there he realized that they had moved, that he had no idea
where they had moved to, and that the piece of paper with the address was
long gone. Fortunately inspiration struck. There was a young girl on the
street and he conceived the idea of asking her where he had moved to,
saying, "Excuse me, perhaps you know me. I'm Norbert Wiener and we've just
moved. Would you know where we've moved to?" To which the young girl
replied, "Yes daddy, mommy thought you would forget."

(10) Paul Erdös had another version of this story, how Kummer calculated 7 x 9:
Kummer said to himself: "Hmmm the product cannot be 61, because 61 is
prime, it cannot be 65, because 65 is a multiple of 5, 67 is a prime, 69 is
too big - Only 63 is left."

(11) On one occasion, Erdös met a mathematician and asked him where he was
from. "Vancouver," the mathematician replied. "Oh, then you must know my
good friend Elliot Mendelson," Erdös said.

The reply was "I AM your good friend Elliot Mendelson."

(12) Von Neumann and Norbert Wiener were both the subject of many dotty
professor stories. Von Neumann supposedly had the habit of simply writing
answers to homework assignments on the board (the method of solution being,
of course, obvious) when he was asked how to solve problems. One time one
of his students tried to get more helpful information by asking if there
was another way to solve the problem. Von Neumann looked blank for a
moment, thought, and then answered, "Yes".


Pronounce 'Linux' the right way

Hear it from the man, Linus Torvalds, himself!


Question of the Day

Q: How many Americans wear contact lenses?

A: 40.7 million

This number has increased 11% since 2003


Monday, July 24, 2006

The mobile Linux grand alliance

The mobile Linux grand alliance: "Wow. Motorola, NEC, DoCoMo, Panasonic, Samsung, and Vodafone announced that they're banding together to create a unified Linux-based operating system for mobile devices. The group says it will create a unified set of APIs, but said nothing about user interface, so presumably they hope to differentiate from one-another at that level. The UI is pretty closely tied to the APIs, so I'm not sure how they will pull that off. Anyway, this is potentially a major challenge to the Windows Mobile and Symbian worlds, as this new Linux would presumably be free of charge. I think it's also ominous for PalmSource/Access and TrollTech. It'll be much harder for any of the mobile OS companies to charge for their software if there's a practical free alternative. (Speculation: If Motorola had succeeded in buying PalmSource, would they be donating some or all of Palm OS for Linux to the new consortium? We'll never know.) I think it's increasingly clear that OS plumbing is going to be a commodity in the mobile space; if you want to make money, you need to"


Zunes over Tunes? Nah.....

Microsoft has announced its final resort in the digital entertainment business, with the plan to launch software and hardware for digital music players, under the brand name Zune. Although they've got creative with the name (Zune is a non-dictionary, non-encyclopaedia word - see's suggestions) to match their rival Apple's iPod which is today almost a commodity item, I think the farthest innovative they can get would be as good as their Windows.

Nevertheless, expect the Microsoft-infected iPod called the Zune, later this year in December. This is probably how they would package it (read iPod as Zune) Enjoy!


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Take it back, you're wrong

1. "Everything that can be invented has been invented"
- U.S Patent Office Director urging President McKinley to abolish the Office (1899)

2. "I think there is a world market for about five computers"
- Thomas J. Watson, IBM President (1956)

3. "Man won't fly for a thousand years"
- Wilbur Wright to Orville after a disappointing experiment (1901)

4. "It doesn't matter what he does, he will never amount to anything"
- Albert Einstein's teacher to his father (1895)

5. "640K ought to be enough for anybody"
- Bill Gates (1981)

6. "We don't need you, you haven't got through college yet"
- HP's rejection of Steve Jobs, before he went on to found Apple

7. "Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau"
- Irving Fisher, Professor Economics, Yale University (Oct 16, 1929)

8. "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out"
- Decca Recording Co, rejecting The Beatles (1962)

The enlightening book, "303 of the World's Worst Predictions" by W. Coffey, is full of such amusing and insightful erroneous quotes

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Nintendo obsession

Did you react this way when you saw your first XBox or Nintendo? Well, I've never seen any kid this way... Is this a new tech obsession that is making its way into the world these days, or just the Nintendo 64?


Friday, July 21, 2006

Question of the day

Q: On an average, what is the total number of holes in one made by members of the PGA tour in one year?

A: 31

A hole in one is made once every 2375 shots!


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Microsoft's Net Drops 24%

Microsoft's Net Drops 24%: "Microsoft reported a 24% decline in net income as legal expenses offset increasing sales in its server and videogame businesses. The software giant announced plans to spend $40 billion on stock buybacks. Shares rose 6% after hours."

And they show no signs of obeying the EU yet. They were fined last week for a massive $357 million for not obeying a 2004 antitrust order. They are also threatened on greater penalties in future. It is not exceptional to be a software giant, Microsoft must learn to be so with legal conduct and trust. What do they think - the EU folks are jokers? I'm going to Vegas to bet that soon Microsoft is going to be disallowed from doing business in Europe, if they continue to fail to comply.

Update: They try hard though to convince shareholders and customers, and have announced $20 billion worth share repurchase plan.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Question of the day

Q: What percentage of U.S population have some digital video recorders or DVRs?

A: 12.5%

Forrester Research expects this number to increase to 50% by the year 2010


Saturday, July 15, 2006

2nd Sem MBA - Highlights

Just managed to find some time to update you on my academic experience during my 2nd semester. Just like the first one, this was a great learning process too.

(1) Strategic Management: This (probably along with the Financial Accounting course that I did during 1st semester) is the best business course I've taken so far. This was an entirely case-based course where we discussed a case study from almost an entirely different industry every class. Some of these cases were pretty old, from 90's and 80's but they were chosen with a reason. The class was divided into three phases:
(a) You know the business you are in, how do you manage the corporate strategy?
(b) How do you manage your corporate portfolio of products? Which businesses you should be in, and which you should get rid of and when?
(c) Given the business you are going to be in, and the strategy you've decided to follow, how do you implement this strategy across the organization?

We learnt how a CEO should act and lead with the example of Lou Gerstner, the CEO of American Express a few years back, who brough about a sea-change in the organization by turning and motivating every employee to become an entrepreneur and innovator. At the same time, we also learnt about the common mistakes CEO make in crunch situations and how one should not act to turn the company around, with the example of Jim Bartlett, a newly hired CEO of Cleveland Twist Drill who failed to please his shareholders and also his employees, and was thrown away after a few years of further failures. What made this class a success and so interesting was the approach taken by our highly experienced Prof. James Fredrickson and how he directed the class discussions. It was really exciting to see people with vast experiences in highly diversified industries and multifarious backgrounds second and contradict each other in a professional manner all through this course - what a learning experience!

(2) Advanced Corporate Finance: This was an extension to the Finance 101 class in the 1st semester, and is one of the pre-requisites for the upcoming Finance courses. With visiting professor, Prof. Matthew Clayton, we learnt about option-pricing theories and how financial options (like Microsoft's call and put options) are priced and how they create value for the holder. We also dealt with real strategic options that arise from the ability to alter a project midcourse or enter into new projects as a result of some investments. We then moved to review capital budgeting and valuation methods that we learnt in the 101 course, and delved further into how taxes play an important role in the decisions on an organization's capital structure. Perhaps the most interesting part of this course was bankruptcy financing, which includes the direct (legal fees, etc) and indirect costs (loss of customers and suppliers) that a company may incur if it runs into Chapters 7 or 11 bankruptcy. This most often results in debtholder-equityholder conflicts and we saw how, in such situations, equityholders choose to pass-up even +NPV projects because the debtholders take most of the benefits, which is the classical debt-overhang or under-investment problem. Further, asset subsitution scenarios where equityholders takeup lower NPV projects, sometimes leads to credit raitoning where a firm falls into a position where it is unable to borrow at "any" rate. We closed the course by touching a little on how convertibles and warrants are different from normal bonds and options respectively and studied about how M&A deals are made, and what are the financial advantages and disadvantages of mergers and acquisitions.

(3) Marketing management: This is the core marketing course, probably the only marketing course that I will be electing to take. It was a good introductory course, but just that my interests vary. Prof. Kapil Jain did a good job in walking us through the marketing fudamentals, the commonly used 4P's and 5C's that constitute most marketing frameworks. He used a lot of his own frameworks too about pricing and effective marketing communication strategies. This was a case-based class too, though not completely. We analyzed around 6 cases through the course, very interesting ones like how SkiSailer should position its new product their R&D architect and come up with and what were the strengths and weaknesses of their marketing strategy. Another interesting case was what market and customer segments should KONE target its new Monospace elevator at. The second half of the course was mostly spent on a Marketplace simulation. We worked in teams and competed against other teams on a complete simulation in taking a product to market in 8 quarters, which involved pricing, positioning, supply chain operations and production capacity handling, advertising and launching sales promotions and authoring the optimal number of sales offices and sales personnel. This simulation also required us to work on developing business plans to show how the product and the company sees itself in the quarters to come.

(4) Strategy for High-Technology Industries: This was a case based course too, but all the cases were very recent and well chosen from high-tech companies and industries. We explored different industries like nanotech, bio-energy, semiconductors and some of the companies we discussed were Matsushita, Dell, Xerox PARC, and Apple of course. The course was also complemented by a well-organized and stimulating speaker series. Prof. Tim Ruefli and Dr. Steve Finnerty (VP - Dell, who co-authored this course) used their industry expertise and contacts to bring in executive speakers from a high-tech firm like National Instruments, I2 or Motion Computing or local Austin technology startups like Axalto and Austin Energy (believe me, there are tons of them mostly started by UT graduates). In teams, we also got the opportunity to work as live consultants with Austin startups. I consulted with Evolutionary Technology International (ETI), a data integration startup at Austin, to develop a startegy for them to allocate and use the $6M VC funding they received and devise a plan to double their revenues to $20M in 2 years.

(5) Consulting Practicum: I dropped a course to gain some practical work experience, so underwent a consulting practicum organized by Capgemini Consulting. We had Mr. Chris Rediker and Mr. Tim Teuscher from Capgemini come to UT and train us on the best consulting practices and how to work with clients. During the course, I worked with SBC Knowledge Ventures, which later became AT&T Knowledge Ventures (after SBC acquired AT&T and decided to rebrand globally as AT&T) at Austin. Our team analyzed their processes and identified key metrics that helped determine their performance based on their annual revenues and profits or number of deals that they cut based on their intellectual properties (IP), including AT&T's patents, softwares, trademarks and copyrights and other know-how. We developed two models for AT&T KV to track and improve their performance, and presented the same to their top level management including their CEO at the end of the practicum. Some of the other practicum projects were from HP, Shell Oil, GE Medical, TempleInland and a few others.

In addition to the coursework, I had the opportunity to dine with Frank Torgus, the CIO of Shell Oil, and on another occasion, with Pramodh Singh, the Director of Technology Innovation at P&G, and with the CTO from one of famous casinos in Vegas, and many others of the like. These are in addition to the 'official' "Think and Drink" activities that happen every week for the B-school students at Downtown Austin. Also, as part of the UT Speaker Series, we had the like of Jeff Immelt (CEO, GE) , Rick Wagoner (CEO, GM) and Michael Dell address us with their inspiring thoughts on globalization and business strategies. Another important activity that kept us occupied this semster was the internship search. More on that later...


Monday, July 10, 2006

At Shiva Vishnu Temple at Cleveland

There was this lovely Shiva Vishnu temple at Parma, OH, that I visited this Sunday, with mixed feelings after King of Grass - Federer's 4th consecutive Wimbledon title, and France's fighting (when I say fighting, I literally mean fighting - I was disheartened to see one of the all time greatest soccer players and one of my favorites in Zidane get violent today) loss to Italy in the FIFA finals.

The mandir was located in a very scenic and peaceful place.

And peace reigns inside (picked this one from the temple's website )

As a bonus to those who missed the 4th July celebrations here, here is a trailor of the fireworks ar Cleveland.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

My date with Niagara

Just wanted to be the typical alien at the United States, so decided to visit her. Since I'm at Cleveland now, didn't want to miss this opportunity as she's only a 3-hour drive from here. If I get back to Austin, wonder when I would have got this chance. Here are a few snaps from that experience, most are self-explanatory. She's old, but gorgeous!

This is how she looks from the U.S side. Claims go that her Canadian side looks more magnificent.

Indian at U.S. , Canada from U.S ...

I think these ones are from the top of Niagara. If you move a little south, you'll see her slipping down.

Soon, my date turns into a conference. Betrayed! There were others invited too!
The famous - "Maid of the Mist" ride - It's much spoken about, but I felt it was just good and nothing spectacular about it.
We got to wear these while on the ferry for the I wish I needn't had to...
And so feels my friend Jitendra too! (since we didn't have a big group this time, I had to click him and he had to click me)

The play continues to scene-2, costume changes to yellow, if we wanted to go right beneath the falls at this point called 'Cave of the Winds'

Ok, I saw a pretty bird and I thought I shot it. But now.....I guess it flew away and only my shadow remains........

Tried real hard not to make weird facial expressions during such a marvellous rendezvous, but.....hmmm....God knows where these come from!

And so, for a peaceful finish, the better looking part of the two, all by herself...


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Discovery, a "GO" for launch

This is the 3rd time the space shuttle Discovery has been scheduled for launch. The NASA management has turned more conservative giving top priority to safety measures for the astronauts. However, they did find a pencil-sized crack in the foam insulation around the shuttle's fuel tank, but the engineers have confirmed that the structure is in good shape and ready to launch. NASA administrator Michael Griffin said, "I personally want every engineer to express the best opinion that they can give us". Since the Columbia tragedy, NASA has spent more than $1.2 billion in just ramping up its safety measures. As a side note, NASA has an annual budget of $16 billion, out which it spends $4 billion in launching the vehicles. The rest is spent on new technologies and newer vehicles.

But anyway, now, Discovery is good to go! The 7-member crew of Discovery were in all smiles as they suited up Tuesday morning. This is the first time a U.S space shuttle has attempted to lift off on the 4th of July. The scheduled launch time is 2:38 PM E.S.T, that is around 2 hours away from now. Keep watch, the launch is covered live on MSNBC.


Monday, July 03, 2006

No, trust me, its a Ferrari 1-2

I was already having a bad weekend with England gone down in FIFA. The race on Sunday made things worse for me. What?

The IndianPolis U.S Grand Prix has the former world champion set another record for himself to become the only driver in the world to win the grand prix 5 times. I don't even remember the last race when Ferrari dominated all through like this. No doubt, Bridgestone was competitive as usual on this track while Michelin was more conservative in the Renaults and McLarens of the world. So, primarily, Ferrari had the edge thanks to Bridgestone. I think every year the Indianapolis grand prix should win the most dramatic grandprix of the year. No one has forgotten what happened last year here, when Michelin pulled back support for its teams adn we had only 6 cars racing and Schumacher pulled it off. This year, we had 7 cars crash out at the first corner itself. Juan Pablo, as usual, with this stupid, more than aggresive, driving tocuhed the rear of Raikonnen which left Nick Heidfeld spinning out of the track. With the way the accident looked, I'm so glad he's doing fine. Although Montoya indirectly blamed Raikonnen for braking early, it was pretty obvious that it was a reckless and senseless move by Montoya.

With Schumacher and Massa on row-1, I was overjoyed to see the start. Its been quite a while that I saw 2 red cars on the front line. Although Massa took on Schumacher on turn-1, Schumacher regained lead at the 2nd pit stop. It was nice to see the Ferrari crew back in action and excitement with well-executed pit stop strategies for both Massa and Schumacher. They dominated the race throughout and finished 1 and 2.

Former world champion, Michael Schumcher, lifts the trophy to trail Alonso by 19 points after this. Although I've been an ardent Ferrari fan for years and years, I felt really disappointed that I missed the chance to go for this race. My friends and I had planned to gor for this race, but I had bailed out. I should have trusted Bridgestone, if not Ferrari atleast :) I made a big mistake in deciding not to go for this race, I haven't seen one live. It would have been a great opportunity, I wonder if I ever again will get to see two Ferraris on the podium with Schumacher in the center. With the way things have been for Ferrari over the last couple of years, I didn't expect anything different in this race too and felt I would be greatly let down if I were to see Schumacher drive a mediocre race. But I was wrong!

So, with mixed feelings, I begin this week.


My FIFA comes to an end

This weekend has been very disappointing for multiple reasons - one of them being England's loss to Portugal in the World Cup Soccer Quarterfinals. As most of you know, I'm a big fan of the English football team. Michael Owen, Beckham, Rooney, Gerrard, Ashley Cole and Terry are among my favorites any day whether they play for their country or for their English Premier League clu (bs. With such flair and talent, I would still bet that England is the strongest team on paper even today. I know, they have not been playing well all through the tournament. Beckham repeated history through his magnificent free kick against Ecuador in the last-16 round to take his team through to the QF, just like he did against Argentina in the previous world cup. But that was not enough, England has to score goals. They have a very formidable defense in A.Cole, Ferdinand, and Terry but they have to score too!. England looked very weak throughout the cup without their key forward Michael Owen and their only forward Rooney (God forgive their strategy to play a single forward, esp. with Rooney not in the greatest of his forms) .

Portugal is not the greatest of the teams to play a QF against. They are more hooligans than professionals, with a special mention to their leader Figo. I consider the English team to be among the most professional players in the world today, but faced a huge let down after that dramatic incident of the immature Rooney in act. England lost the match at that very instant. They had no one to score, with Beckham sitting out too.
Honestly, they were a disgrace in the penalty shoot-outs. The first shot taken by one of their most experienced folks, Frank Lampard, said it all. Lampard is a great player, however, had been having a pathetic world cup thus far and beyond. But the experience in people like Lampard and Gerrard should have handled the pressure better and got the goals in. Penalty shoot-outs are the bare minimum I expected from them.

To rub sand on my wounds, Beckham stepped down as the English captain after leading the country for 7 years. He made the announcement in an emotional statement in a press conference on Sunday. It is a very sad moment for the Real Madrid player who has led the English team in 58 out of his 95 appearances for his country.

With England on its knees, my world cup has come to an end. I expected England to at least make it to the semi-finals where I thought they would lose to Brazil. But Brazil was in turn upset by Zizou's last France. I have an inclination towards France, but am not very interested in following the games beyond this. Anyway, I can shift my focus to other things happening now like work and Wimbledon.

England, the rocks are slippery, you need a strong foothold!