Sunday, November 26, 2006

Microsoft gets music player all wrong, critics say to avoid

The setup process stands among the very worst experiences I've ever had with digital music players. The installer app failed, and an hour into the ordeal, I found myself asking my office goldfish, "Has it really come to this? Am I really about to manually create and install a .dll file?"
Is this what a parent is supposed to be doing on a Christmas night or rather, week?

- says critic Andy Ihnatko

Here are the first comments of critics -

(1) I've spent a week setting this thing up and using it, and the overall experience is about as pleasant as having an airbag deploy in your face.

(2) The Zune is a square wheel, a product that's so absurd and so obviously immune to success that it evokes something akin to a sense of pity.

(3) The setup process stands among the very worst experiences I've ever had with digital music players.

(4) Only the Zune software can sync music, video and pictures onto the device; Zune is incompatible with Windows Media Player, the familiar hub of the Windows desktop media experience.

(5) Doesn't support podcasts

(6) It's incompatible with Microsoft's own PlaysForSure standard, too

(7) Incompatible with Microsoft's new Windows Vista

(7) Throw in the Zune's tail-wagging relationship with music publishers, and it almost becomes important that you encourage people not to buy one.

(8) In short, avoid it.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Oh yeah! N.I.B

One of my all time favorites from Black Sabbath.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

ThanksGiving - for all? hmmmm.......

Last afternoon, I just finished a slightly late lunch with a friend of mine from school, and I was walking on Guadalupe to take the bus to go to office. While I was walking, I was thinking of the long weekend plans and was really happy to see people rushing in and out of all the stores there, buying gifts for their friends and dear ones. This was one day that the whole of America celebrates, just forgetting about everything except fun!

Or is it the whole of America, actually?

I still hadn't reached the bus stop, when I saw four homeless guys sitting down by the street (on Guadalupe), and as I passed them, they asked me if I have a dollar to spare. My heart just sank for a minute. On one end, people are spending so lavishly on their gifts for the people they care. And, that includes me as well, I had just spent close to a 100 bucks on food and drinks just the last weekend for my friends and me. On the other end, there are a few poverty-stricken homeless folks, or actually more than a few, who probably don't even know (not literally) what Thanks Giving is all about!

I walked past as I had stopped this habit of giving money to the needy, as most often they get misspent. But then couldn't control myself, so walked back and asked them whether they've eaten and if they'd like to have something to eat. They were so overjoyed, you should have seen them. They said, "Sure!". I just walked in to the adjacent pizza kitchen, and ordered some pizza for them. While I was waiting, one of those guys came and asked me how long it would take. I said 20 minutes, but didn't know why he was asking me that. After 20 minutes, I took the stuff out to give it to them, and I saw not 4 folks, but around 10 folks now! I was again deeply moved. This concept of sharing is always more prevalent among those who don't have much to share, except their most valuable hearts!

Technically, their per-head consumption is going to go down becuase of the increase in their number now, so I should have gone back and got more stuff to eat probably. But I didn't, I asked them they can share that and they said they would and asked me not to worry about it. hmmmm.... (may be I should have actually). I also wanted to learn about how they landed up in this state, I'm sure they must have had a good background once. But I found it inappropriate at that time, so bid farewell. They thanked me, played a song for me as well and one of them wished me, "Thank you very much for this, and have a good Thanks Giving, brother"

I'm here today pondering on the unequal distribution of wealth in this universe. It is not merely economics. There's more reason to it. We don't realize how rich we are. Statistics in US show that, if your annual salary is more than $45,000, you are among the richest 1% in the world.
We, those who have everything we need, neither realize it, nor deserve it (I say this because, I didn't do anything exceptional to be where I am today. It was just God). God has given us, to share it with those who don't have. When will I make that a habit? I really don't know......

Anyway, that was a good eye-opening Thanks Giving wish for me, and probably the best I'm going to get. Happy Thanks Giving everyone!


Dude, else you can't do business in the Euro zone soon...

Bloomberg Uncut

Microsoft has finally met its previosuly extended deadlines on Nov. 23, regarding its data submission to the EU, thus avoiding a delay fine of 3 million euros ($3.9 million). This involves submitting data on how their Windows operating system communicates over the network.

Previously, they were keeping them secret and proprietary, which was considered to be unfair competition according to the EU anti-trust laws. Now, companies like IBM and Oracle will be determining if the information provided by Microsoft solves the problem of interoperability.

Way to go, Microsoft! You don't own the world!


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Heard of the term "McJob" ?

Q: What type of job is called a McJob?

A: Webster says ...

McJob - a low paying job that requires little skill and offers little scope for advancement.

If you're still wondering what's the origin of this word - it's a typical McDonald's job!


UNIX tips for the day

(1) How to run a shell script on a remote machine without copying the script out?
Very simple and obvious, but most people dont do this.
paddu:~$ cat | ssh remote_host /bin/sh

(2) How do I copy a directory structure from one machine to another?
paddu:~$ tar cf - local_dir | ssh remote_host "( cd abs_dest_dir ; tar xf - )"

tar cf - tars and writes to stdout, which is piped to stdin of the next command. The next command ssh's to the remote machine and changes dir to the specified destination directory. And lastly, tar xf - extracts the tar file by reading from stdin

(3) How to change every occurance of a string in multiple files from the command line?
Perl pie!
paddu:~$ perl - p -i -e 's/orig_string/new_string/g' *.cpp

(4) Give me a quick way to recursively delete all empty directories under a given directory structure
paddu:~$ find -d . -print0 | xargs -0 rmdir 2> /dev/null

The find will do a DFS first, and then rmdir will prune only the empty directories


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Contest -1 and Prizes...!!

Updated - There are a few corrections, they are in red. Also, please keep looking at the comments section, there are a few clarifications there...But in short:
STEP-1 : Decode the numbers to form words as described below
STEP-2: Unscramble the 9 words, ask me for clues (post a comment, I'll not publish)
STEP-3: Now, take the first chars of these 9 rightly-arranged words and rearrange them to form the final word.
I just posted the clues in the comments section

Ok, this is a small contest, open for all. But the prizes are restricted to first year McCombs MBAs. The first 5 correct respondents can claim one of the following from me:

(1) Competitive Strategy by Porter
(2) Barney (another strategy text)
(3) Bodie Marcus (Investments)
(4) Financial Strategy (Titman)
(5) Fredrickson Strategy course packet (otherwise worth more than $200!)
(6) If you require any other course packet or text, I will try to arrange it for free from my friends if I don't have it

DISCLAIMER - After you use them free of cost for the next semester, I would like them to be returned.

Contest Closes Sunday 11/26 with TG, after which I will post the results...

'Orite enjoy! This is purely for fun! Happy ThanksGiving!


I'm trying to develop a mapping between every possible word from one to twenty characters and unique integers. A very simple mapping, with the ordering done first by the length of the word, and then alphabetically. Assume they are case-insensitive. The list goes...

a 1
b 2
z 26
aa 27
ab 28

UPDATED: Please note, there are a few corrections in the identifiers. Sorry.
I had to change most of them, becuase of a problem with Excel. Excel rounds off numbers with more than 15 digits! I didn't know about that. Here is the related Microsoft bug
Thanks Microsoft! :) However, those who are interested in a fix for that, you can use the XLPrecision plugin
Apparently, it displays precisely more than 37,000 digits! I just tried it, it works fine...

'Orite, now I don't want you to go through the process of installing plugins for the purpose of solving this small puzzle, hence I went ahead and changed the identifiers and words, however retaining the final word I had in mind. Use this updated list. It's got a lot easier now...


Can you help me out with finding the words for the following unique identifiers ?
(1) 1,539,790,545,915
(2) 145,052,901,271
(3) 88,813,741,261,667
(4) 76,631,734,754
(5) 85,991,506,864,985
(6) 84,420,066,965,242
(7) 136,062,431,514,661
(8) 2,044,464,824,521
(9) 1,189,799

Now, unscramble these 9 words.

If you've got this far, this is hardly anything. Take the first letters of each of these, arrange them in some order and form a new word. Post that word in the comments section, with the 9 words too, and claim your prize!

(1) Once you reach STAGE-B, if you post the words, with your full name, I can email you clues if you're stuck on unscrambling any. I'm not posting the hints for all, since I've seen some terrific anagram solvers. Don't worry about posting your answers as comments, I will not publish them till the end-date
(2) Obviously, you CAN use any anagram engine, but you MAY not. Since the game is for fun, it is against the honor code.
(3) If you have any generic questions, feel free to post them as comments and I'll reply as soon as I can.
(4) For any post, sign off explicitly with your Full Name and write (McCombs) in paranthesis if you are a McCombs first year.
(5) Remember, contest closes on Sunday, but only the first five winners will be given prizes. So hurry! I will try to keep the post updated if as and when people complete
(6) Again, this is just for kicks!

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Fiefdom type of management

Q: What does one mean when he/she says the firm has a fiefdom type of management ?

A: An organization w/ a fiefdom type of management is one that is controlled by a dominant person or group. The people get inefficient and complacent, as a result of which they lose their curiosity and innovative capabilities.

It is similar to a domain controlled by a feudal lord, and that is the original meaning of fiefdom


Casino Royale - a welcome back...

I went for the opening day show to see what James Bond was all about before he started having his license to kill. Casino Royale, based on Ian Fleming's first Bond novel (1953), is a welcome back 007 movie. Daniel Craig, the new Bond guy, played his role to perfection. He is portrayed as a tougher guy than the other bonds we've seen. We know Bond is a composition of two parts - action and flirting. And, we've also noticed the character shift towards the latter from Roger Moore to Pierce Brosnan. But this new Bond, as I said is tougher and 90% action, perhaps because the novel was the first in the Bond series. Eva Green, the french woman who played the Bond girl Vesper Lynd, was just captivating.

This movie, in my opinion, goes back in style to the traditional bond movies of Sean Connery and Roger Moore. It is definitely a relief to see Bond as Mr. Detective than Mr. Gadgets. In all of Pierce Brosnan's Bond movies, I've seen a great focus on special effects and innovative gadgets. They were good, but leave those to Tom Cruise and his impossible missions! Why Bond? Here, Daniel Craig does full justification using just his knack and detective aptitude to disentangle himelf out his labyrinths - absolutely no Q-inspired gadgetry. Just a Sony Erricson mobile phone used throughout the movie! That's it!

Overall, a good movie. There will be a lot of critics for and against Daniel Craig's new assumption of the James Bond character. It's a big one! But I feel he brings a lot of toughness and edge long absent from the Bond franchise. They've brought the right guy in.

And yeah, the chase in the first few minutes is just terrific! Don't miss it!


Thursday, November 16, 2006

MICROSOFT Vista and MICROSOFT Zune are incompatible with each other!

Yes, you read right!! I first couldn't believe it, then couldn't stop rolling in laughter...;)

So, apparently they had a Vista team, and they had a Zune team. Each has been focussing on getting their specific product out in time (which traditionally they don't though) and failed to make one compliant with the other. Isin't that ridiculous? We've all been hearing of Vista, their new flavor of Windows operating system, and Zune, their iPod mimic, for so many months now. So, what did they think? Anyone who buys a Vista license, cannot own a Zune? hahaha!

Anyway, they're going to ship Vista in two weeks, and they confirm now that the system is currently not supported by Zune. Next steps? We know it all what they do best - patches, wait for 'em!


NetZero launches broadband!

Hurray! They join the party at last!

So, they go beyond dial-up and have launched a new Netzero DSL broadband service at $14.95 a month introductory offer. Yes, this was always on the cards, and this is yet another sign that the dial-up business is dying on the vine. For the past several quarters, chief competitors AOL and Earthlink have been reporting declining revenues in subscribers as more people ditch dial-up for faster broadband access.

United Online (the parent company of NetZero, Juno,, Bluelight Internet, and a few other web-based companies), has also reported 15% decline in the revenues from its Internet access business for the third quarter this year, as compared to last year. Earthlink, for example, saw its dial-up subscriptions decline by 81,000 third quarter, but gained 47,000 new subscribers for its broadband business. So, clearly, that's the way to go!

Hmm...It seems that United Online has entered into agreements with Verizon Communications to lease the networking infrastructure. That makes sense - if the capital investment is high, and there's someone doing it better - Buy, Don't Make! However, I feel, since Verizon also offers broadband service on its own, they would have a higher bargaining power in this context, and could charge United whatever they want for leasing the whole infrastructure, just to make sure United continues to charge higher than Verizon. Not sure, how they're working out the contract...

Well, lot's of interesting stuff happening out there, wish I continued to work for NetZero! It was a great company!


Monday, November 13, 2006

Question of the day

Q: Is a burrito a sandwich?

A: Panera Bread Co. says yes. A judge says no.

Superior Court judge Jefferey Locke cited Webster Dictionary as well as a testomony from a chef in ruling today against Panera in its bid to prevent a Mexican restaurant from moving into the same shopping mall. Panera has a clause in its lease that prevents White City Shopping Center in Shrewsbury from renting to another sandwich shop. Panera tried to invoke that clause to stop the opening of a Qdoba Mexican Grill.

The difference, rules the judge, comes down to using two slices of bread versus one tortilla. Breaking News! Earth-shattering!

Moral - If I'm unemployed, I'd rather sue my neighbor than find a job...

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Ponce de Pinot Noir - makes one healthy

WSJ Premium Uncut

Have you ever wondered why the French women are so slim and attractive, or why the French have fewer heart attacks than the Americans ? Probably, this is why...

Scientists have just discovered that a substance found in Pinot Noir (red wine), called resveratrol, protects mice from obesity and the effects of aging, and could perhaps do the same for humans too!
While mice are the only mammals tested so far, the researchers who've studied this effect are so convinced of its powers that some of them are already taking the stuff as nutritional supplements that can be purchased commercially.

Is this a biological free lunch?


The iconic Griffith observatory reopens!

CNN Uncut

The Griffith Observatory, the home for stargazers and famous backdrop for key scenes and stars like James Dean's "Rebel without a cause" in 1955, and Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1984 film, "The Terminator", re-opened on Friday after a 4-year $90 million makeover.

For history, the Griffith observatory was opened in 1935 by amateur astronomer Jenkins Griffith, with a vision of making astronomy and observation accessible to everyone. The 3-domed building atop the Hollywood Hills, offers a bird's-eye-view of Los Angeles, the second largest U.S city.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

U.S. Election 2006 - Can the GOP pull it off?

Updated: Click here to see the Governor election results.
The states of interest to me are TX, where Republican Rick Perry held on to his position, and OH where as most expected Democrat Ted Strickland received 60% of the votes against incumbent Republican governor Blackwell who received just 37% of the votes.

The balance of power in the Congress looks like -
Senate: D-51; R-49
House: D-229; R-196

Well, with the House, Senate and gubernatorial elections all round the corner to take place on Nov. 7th, the polls look pretty close. But I think the Democrats have an edge this time.

The Projected new Senate looks like:
49 Democrats
49 Republicans
2 ties

The Projected new House looks like:
241 Democrats
193 Republicans
1 tie

To track the latest poll changes and see a red-blue map of the US updated daily using the latest state polls, click here.

Overall the Democrats seem to have the upper hand as well in the gubernatorial elections. Wikipedia (although I don't trust it normally for facts) has put together a clean table (scroll down on the page) of the incumbent governor and the Democratic and Republican candidates contesting for governor for each state.

Some of the key common campaign objectives for the Democrats in general are:
(1) Education: Increase funding for education. Recruit more teachers, increase their salaries. Increase scholarships and provide education to all children.
(2) Health care: Make health care more easily accessible. Provide health insurance to all.
(3) Increase investments in alternate sources of energy: Focus on ethanol and bio-diesel. Decrease dependence on foreign sources for oil and energy
(4) Tax System: Reduce taxes; encourage people to spend more

In addition, the Bush Government's position on the war in Iraq has also frustrated the public. So, it seems to me that the Republicans (GOP) cannot pull it off this time, the Democrats are coming back strongly. But we'll have to wait till the 7th to see what happens...


Amazon launches Unbox...check it out has launched its new digital video download service, Amazon Unbox . Unbox already offers thousands of TV shows (including those that aired last night!) and movies with DVD quality, which is triple the quality of commercial internet video services delivering content. It uses Remote Load technology, which allows customers to buy from one PC and download and watch on another within 3 to 7 minutes after ordering!

What does this mean to the traditional brick-and-mortar video stores like BlockBuster, Inc. and Hollywood Videos? Digitized video has been gaining popularity. Plus, there is peer-peer downloads that are posing a great threat these days to the BlockBusters of the world. No wonder BlockBuster's 5-y share price has been falling consistently (well, it's at least remained a little flat in the last one year, I think that's because they are making some money from their online stores following Netflix's business model)

It's currently trading at $4.37 per share, I can't even buy a single DVD with that!

I think Unbox is the way to go! With minimal efforts to order a DVD quality movie, I also get to keep it with me forever if I want to and it does not occupy physical storage space.
However, one thing that concerns me is the lead time for a movie to be released with Unbox. I'm not sure how their contract works and whether the studios (like Universal, Disney, which make the movies and hold all the rights to it) will release them to Unbox within the same time they make the DVDs available to BlockBuster and others. If yes, would/should BlockBuster react?


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Avoid these Interview Bloopers

Avoid these 10 interview bloopers - By Deborah Walker

(1) Poor handshake: The three-second handshake that starts the interview is your first opportunity to create a great impression. But all too often an interview is blown right from the start by an ineffective handshake. Once you've delivered a poor handshake, it's nearly impossible to recover your efforts to build rapport. Here are some examples:

* The Limp Hand (or "dead fish"): Gives the impression of disinterest or weakness
* The Tips of the Fingers: Shows lack of ability to engage.
* The Arm Pump: Sincerity is questionable, much like an overly aggressive salesman.

Even if you're a seasoned professional, don't assume you have avoided these pitfalls. Your handshake may be telling more about you than you know. Ask for honest critiques from several friends who aren't afraid to tell you the truth.

(2) Talking too much: In my recruiting days, I abhorred over-talkative candidates. So did most of my client employers. Over-talking takes a couple of forms:

* Taking too long to answer direct questions. The impression: This candidate just can't get to the point.
* Nervous talkers. The impression: This candidate is covering up something or is outright lying.

To avoid either of these forms of over-talking, practice answering questions in a direct manner. Avoid nervous talking by preparing for your interview with role-play

(3) Talking negatively about current or past employers/managers: The fastest way to talk yourself out of a new job is to say negative things. Even if your last boss was Attila the Hun, never, never state your ill feelings about him/her. No matter how reasonable your complaints, you will come out the loser if you show that you disrespect your boss because the interviewer will assume that you would similarly trash him or her. When faced with the challenge of talking about former employers, make sure you are prepared with a positive spin on your experiences.

(4) Showing up late or too early: One of the first lessons in job-search etiquette is to show up on time for interviews. Many job-seekers don't realize, however, that showing up too early often creates a poor first impression as well. Arriving more than 10 minutes early for an interview is a dead giveaway that the job seeker has too much time on his or her hands, much like the last one picked for the softball team. Don't diminish your candidate desirability by appearing desperate. Act as if your time were as valuable as the interviewer's. Always arrive on time, but never more than 10 minutes early.

(5) Treating the receptionist rudely: Since the first person you meet on an interview is usually a receptionist, this encounter represents the first impression you'll make. Don't mistake low rank for low input. Often that receptionist's job is to usher you into your interview. The receptionist has the power to pave your way positively or negatively before you even set eyes on the interviewer. The interviewer may also solicit the receptionist's opinion of you after you leave.

(6) Asking about benefits, vacation time or salary: What if a car salesman asked to see your credit report before allowing you to test drive the cars? That would be ridiculous, and you'd walk away in disgust. The effect is about the same when a job-seeker asks about benefits or other employee perks during the first interview. Wait until you've won the employer over before beginning that discussion.

(7) Not preparing for the interview: Nothing communicates disinterest like a candidate who hasn't bothered to do pre-interview research. On the flip side, the quickest way to a good impression is to demonstrate your interest with a few well thought out questions that reflect your knowledge of their organization. [Editor's note: To ensure that you are prepared, see our article, The Ultimate Guide to Job Interview Preparation.]

(8) Verbal ticks: An ill-at-ease candidate seldom makes a good impression. The first signs of nervousness are verbal ticks. We all have them from time to time -- "umm," "like," "you know." Ignore the butterflies in your stomach and put up a front of calm confidence by avoiding verbal ticks. You can also sometimes avoid verbal ticks by pausing for a few seconds to gather your thoughts before each response.

One of the best ways to reduce or eliminate them is through role-play. Practice sharing your best success stories ahead of time, and you'll feel more relaxed during the real interview.

(9) Not enough/too much eye contact: Either situation can create a negative effect. Avoid eye contact and you'll seem shifty, untruthful, or disnterested; offer too much eye contact, and you'll wear the interviewer out. If you sometimes have trouble with eye-contact balance, work this issue out ahead of time in an interview practice session with a friend.

(10) Failure to match communication styles: It's almost impossible to make a good first impression if you can't communicate effectively with an interviewer. But you can easily change that situation by mirroring the way the interviewer treats you. For instance:

* If the interviewer seems all business, don't attempt to loosen him/her up with a joke or story. Be succinct and businesslike
* If the interviewer is personable, try discussing his/her interests. Often the items on display in the office can offer a clue.
* If asked a direct question, answer directly. Then follow up by asking if more information is needed.

Allowing the interviewer to set the tone of conversation can vastly improve your chances of making a favorable impression. You can put the interviewer at ease -- and make yourself seem more like him or her -- by mirroring his or her communication style.

Hope this helps.


YouTube - the making

YouTube, the startup that Google just agreed to buy for $1.2 billion in stock will definitely remain among the success stories of the net.

Here is a video posted on YouTube of how its founders started YouTube. Enjoy entrepreneurs! (the first 1.5 mins are really kewl...)

As a side note, yesterday in my New Venture Creation class, one of my friends asked Prof. Rob Adams (founder AV labs) a question: How do we know it is the right moment to give up our fulltime job in the industry and enter totally into the venture. It's a big risk isin't it?

Adams: When you just cannot think or focus on anything else...


BlueTie - A threat to Microsoft Exchange server?

Microsoft Exchange server has pretty much been the defacto standard when it comes to e-mail, calendering and contact management in today's work place. But, it's really difficult to justify spending the money and maintaining Exchange server for Small Businesses (SMBs). So, many SMBs turn to Hosted Exchange where they avoid the big maintenance costs. But even Hosted Exchange is a costly option - can range from $4.95 per user to $575/month for 50+ users.

BlueTie, a new player on the block, poses a serious threat to Exchange server with its service including everything you would normally find on Exchange. You can check out a demo of their AJAX interface at their homepage

Their free version is pretty comprehensive (20 users/account and 5GB storage). And their Pro version is priced at $4.99/user/month.

I'm not sure yet if BlueTie can climb upto Microsoft Exchange, but SMBs are sure to benefit. Let's wait and see...

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Congrats Internet!

Reached 100 million websites. Incredible? Yes it is indeed!

There were just 18,000 Web sites when Netcraft, based in Bath, England, began keeping track in August of 1995. It took until May of 2004 to reach the 50 million milestone; then only 30 more months to hit 100 million, late in the month of October 2006.

More astonishing - more than half of these sites are being updated regularly!