Monday, January 29, 2007

The first ever regression

Q: Who introduced the term 'regression' ?

A: Francis Galton. In his famous paper, "Family Likeness in Stature", Proceedings of Royal Society, London - 1886, he found that although there was a tendency for tall parents to have tall children and short parents to have short children, the average height of children born of parents of a given height tended to move or "regress" toward the average height in the population as a whole. This was Galton's law of universal regression. This law was then confirmed by Galton's friend Karl Pearson, who collected more than a 1000 records of heights of members of family groups.


Monday, January 15, 2007

A piece of advice on the Keynote videos


Here is a piece of advice to those intending to watch the keynote addresses( from the previous post) from Bill Gates (at CES 2007) and Steve Jobs (at Macworld 2007) - which both took place during the same week. Just to see the popularity among these speeches, Steve's keynote was viewed more than 11,000 times already on YouTube while Gates' was viewed only around 700 times.

And once I saw both, it was pretty evident why. What Microsoft claims to be cool in its Vista and Office Live, are no longer cool. They claim to take entertainment from the PC to the next level, whereas if you watch Steve Jobs' demo of the iPhone, you will understand that Apple has already taken entertainment to dozens of levels ahead.
While the iPhone's demo was receiving applause every 20 seconds, Justin Hutchinson, who was demo'ing the Vista at CES (see video Part-2) thought he demo'ed something sexy and when he failed to receive any sort of applause, he had to ask for it, "No claps? " That's how embarassing it was, when I was already beginning to feel the audience were being paid to applaud. Well, I mean, they are talking about managing photos, they should have just seen how iPhone (which runs OS-X and full-fledged Safari browser by the way - no miniature WAP browsers) manages photos - that is what is sexy, that is what is next mile! The iPhone is a revolution!

I suggest you watch Gates keynote first. Else, you might dismiss it within a few minutes - I'm only trying to be as fair as possible to Microsoft and Bill Gates. :)


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Jobs at MacWorld, Gates at CES, 2007

If you missed to hear where the technology is heading in 2007 and years to come, thank the YouTubers and watch it here...

Both the events were overcrowded in spite of falling on the same week strangely this year.

Here's Bill's keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show 2007, Las Vegas. It has 8 parts, the first part mostly filled with those crapy Microsoft ads which only they can decipher. You may want to skip to end of part-1 actually...

Steve's keynote at the MacWorld 2007, is just too exciting...Don't miss that...It's got 12 parts.
The first part is enough to catch your attention, where he unveils their new Mac vs Vista ad, and talks about Microsoft Zune's launch performance.


Friday, January 12, 2007

National LambdaRail - taking academic research to the next mile....

Q: What is the NLR?

A: The National LambdaRail (NLR) is a high-speed national computer network that runs over fiber-optics across the United States and the first transcontinental Ethernet network. The NLR is advancing the research, clinical, and educational goals of members and other institutions by establishing and maintaining this unique nationwide network infrastructure that is owned and controlled by the U.S. research community.

It currently spans across 28 N. American cities, and in contrast to Internet2 (or popularly i2, do not confuse with the suppply chain company), NLR is a university based and owned initiative.
Cisco Systems, one of the leading members of the NLR, provides the infrastructure which includes a dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM) national optical footprint, that is deployed across 15,000 route-miles of dark fiber across the country.

The goals of the NLR are clear - to push beyond the technical and performance limitations of today's Internet backbones, and use this to enable highly creative out-of-the-box experimentation and innovation. Just imagine how sophisticated this 10 Gbps (10 billion bits per second) national IP network is!

I'm currently working on strategy projects related to this, at Cisco-Public Sector, so thought I'll share some basic stuff. For more information, or to check if your school is part of this research network, please vist the NLR website

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Cisco sues Apple over 'iPhone' Trademark

Most of you must be aware of Apple's recent unveiling of its smartphone branded 'iPhone'
  • sleek and cool design as any other Apple product
  • 11.6 mm thick
  • 3.5 inch widescreen, bigger than most iPods
  • 3-in-1 handset
    • revolutionary mobile phone
    • widescreen iPod w/ touch conrols
    • breakthrough Internet communications device w/ desktop class email, web browsing, maps and searching
  • Touch screen for making phone calls, listening to music and everything else for most of the time
  • Sells for $499 - $599 under an exclusive agreement with AT&T's Cingular with a 2 year wireless plan
The iPhone is definitely a bad news for Palm's Treo 750 ($399) and Samsung's new BlackJack ($199). But price-wise BlackJack seems to be the best option, however when it comes to design and feel, it cannot beat Apple's iPhone. Click here for WSJ Premium's detailed comparison of the three products.

While entry into this market for Apple seems promising, it already faces problems. Linksys (recently acquired by Cisco Systems) has sued Apple over trademark violation, because Linksys (and hence Cisco now) has been holding the brandname iPhone since 2000, when Cisco acquired InfoGear Technology Corporation. But don't get confused, Cisco's iPhone is not a smartphone, but instead a VoIP phone. It'll be interesting to see how Apple responds to this lawsuit, as I believe they are not dumb to launch such a sexy product and brand it similar to another product, especially launched by a huge name as Cisco is, and Cisco isin't duh enough to sue Apple if it doesn't see it to be worthy. I'm sure Apple wouldn't or couldn't have reserved trademark rights for all i* products. I had an opportunity to work with Apple, and now am working with Cisco. So, I'm curious to see how this war goes...


Welcome to LA, Mr. Beckham...

WSJ Premium Uncut

That's right. My favorite soccer superstar, David Beckham, 31, is going to leave the Spanish club Real Madrid end of this season and has signed a deal with Los Angeles Galaxy and will start playing in the U.S Major League Soccer from August this year.

David joined Reall Madrid after a highly successful season with Manchester United where he won 6 league titles, 2 FA cups and the Champions League title. But Real Madrid was just not happening, with 6 different coaches and 3 club Presidents during David's stay there.

After his stepping down as captain of England at the end of the last World Cup, I was worried about his soccer future, as Real Madrid was just not the place. So, I think this would be a good move. In any case, British reports have suggested that the contract was for around $250 M.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Adobe says patch ready. So do it!

I recently posted on what researchers claim to be among the worst security bugs that they've ever observed. "It's the prevalence of it," notes Amol Sarwate, manager of vulnerability research at security services firm Qualys. "There's an Adobe Reader installed on almost every desktop."

"This is so very dangerous because it exploits a random PDF on the Web," says Billy Hoffman, a leading researcher at vulnerability-assessment firm SPI Dynamics. Well, bugs do surface at times, they are not Microsoft (hehe!). However, as promised, Adobe has released its patch late Tuesday this week to fix this XSS thingie.

How to patch
So, here are the alternatives (for Microsoft Windows) - both are very straightforward steps
For more information, visit their support site

(1) As Adobe recommends - Click here to download and install Adobe Reader 8 (any platform) from their website. (27.5 MB)
(2) If you are not able to install version 8, you have to install version 7.0.9 - Go here and choose your OS and then download (27 MB).

For both these downloads, before downloading it, remember to 'uncheck' the box on the page that reads 'Also download Adobe Photo Album Starter Edition' - it's one of their product bundling strategies, and apparently it took me a lot of time. Sure you won't need that when you have Picassa or other free stuff. The whole version 8 installation process took me a total of 26 minutes, but my machine is currently heavy and that includes about 15 minutes of the Photo Album installation. Hope it works good enough as the previous versions...

Server side workaround (for corporations and domains hosting websites)
Adobe has also suggested a server-side workaround - Basically we (at the server side) have to ensure that our users or customers open our PDFs outside of the browser. So, we need to change all the MIME types in the HTTP headers for ALL the PDF files, from 'application/pdf' to a more generic 'application/octet-stream' which would prompt the user to open or save explicitly. 'Opening' from this popup will open in the Acrobat Reader and not the embedded reader (faulty now) from within the browser. This seems the easiest to me - just a one-line change in httpd.conf file (for Apache). Adobe has also suggested other solutions for IIS and Apache web server versions separately, do take a thorough look before implementing the change.


Things that frustrate me the most....PART-2

Click here for Part-1 - Grocery Shopping

(2) Freeway Traffic: Whether you're driving or are in the passenger seat in your school shuttle, freeway traffic is freeway traffic - annoying to the core. It's been like this for ages, and if I complain that Austin's freeway traffic is too much to tolerate, I'm sure my West Coast and North East friends would get psyched out, 'cos it is X times worse out there. Compared to India where I come from, I must admit that the infrastructure in the U.S is so much better and much more convenient to drive, 'cos we don't even have lanes there in huge majority of the roads! However, even here in the U.S, with increasing population and declining death rates, the existing infrastructure cannot stand long.

How many times have I had to be late for my early morning class because of being privileged to be stuck on the freeways? And it annoys me so much because, it coincidentally happens on those days I even wake up early and get organized for class. And yet I got to be late! Well, one could argue that I must plan to take the previous shuttle in that case to allow for a guard band, but trust me, it never happens. After a late night assignment, I hardly have time for breakfast in the mornings. However, that is my specific case. I know a lot of people going to work or school, leave a good 30 minutes ahead of time to plan for the possible jam in freeway traffic if they need to hit it. But my question is, why should they? What happens if the whole world one day, by induction, plans to start early from home to be on time?

I think one way to get a start on solving this problem is, promote more of remote connectivity and work-from-home or study-from-home. Virtual classrooms and distance learning in 21st century schools and universities are becoming prevalent but not widely yet. This would also contribute to the growth of the economy in terms of lesser oil consumption and hence lesser foreign dependency.

Or, another thought - why not make the freeways move instead of the cars that move on it ? Ha! Weird? I mean, most of the traffic and accidents are caused by the varying speeds of vehicles. How would the world look like if the roads (at least the freeway ones which are long and uncurved mostly) were to move and the cars were to just stay stationary on them i.e. relative to the roads, the cars don't move, but relative to earth they do. All cars travel with same velocity, equal to that of the road, thereby reducing chances of freeway traffic jams and accidents, if properly designed and implemented.

Cost of infrastructure, fuel consumption to make the roads move, how to get on and off a stationary road to a moving freeway - out of scope currently, I have no clue yet - upto the Governors to give it a thought. Here's my problem. I don't want to leave early, my time is precious to me. But, I want to be on time to wherever I go...


Things that frustrate me the most....PART-1

I spent some time thinking about the top things that annoy me the most in my daily life. I'm sure most of us face these, and for most of these there are solutions or fixes available today. I've probably just been lazy to fix them or approach alternatives, and end up continuing to be frustrated. Hope to fix this weakness sooner than later.

(1) Grocery shopping: This is the most annoying task in the world for me. To pick up a gallon of milk or bottle of ketchup or a loaf of bread, which are the same and will be the same no matter who picks them up at the store, I have to allot/spend/waste time going to the grocery store, walking around like a dumb guy, standing in line to pay the bill and coming back home in utter frustration each and every time. 80% of my groceries remain the same every week. I pretty much pick up the same cereals, same beer, same bread, same German chocolate cake (or if it's not available at times, I go for the healthier Banana loaf) and yet I got to make these useless trips to the store every week.

As I mentioned, there are e-grocery solutions available today. Amazon has started delivering groceries home too. Thought I'll check them out, however, they deliver only in large batches. For example, they don't deliver a single box of Pringles, but only in sets of 10 or 15. Yeah, if I were foolish enough, I would stock them up.

Peapod realized this gap that they could bridge, and started this online grocery model a few years back. They made more than $50 M in revenues last year, but alas! - no or negligible profit. Nevertheless, they've spread only to a few cities so far and Austin isin't one of them, so I couldn't use their service. This online grocery business was one of those that crashed heavily during the dot com bubble burst in the early 2000s. Sadly for me, the industry never picked up. People lost their trust in such delivered groceries because of poor quality and not-on-time delivery.

However, this is a space that can be further explored, and I'm doing it. Consider just the cost savings to the economy in terms of fuel that is consumed by the 150 M American households to go to the grocery store and return back, rather than have an online grocery guy deliver in batches to communities and neighborhoods together. 150 M households, using up say a 0.25 gallon per trip to the grocery and back, making 4 trips a month on an average, contribute to 1.8 B gallons of gasoline consumption per year (just for groceries!). Of course, we can't avoid all of this, but can drastically reduce via community deliveries.

In addition, there's the pain of finding a parking slot, wasting time picking up the same stuff I pick up every time, standing like a loser in the line just gazing at the Hollywood break-up stories on the magazines there, loading and unloading, and above all - the frustration that de-energizes rest of my day...


Monday, January 08, 2007

French man gets his lost wallet back after 62 years

Forbes Uncut

Strange and interesting story...

Ray Heilwagen lost his wallet 62 years back in France during World War II. Late last year, he received a call from Stephen Breitenstein of Palatine asking if he had lost his billfold. Apparently, Stephen's father also served in France during World War II and recently died. Digging through his father's possessions, Stephen found this wallet that his father had probably brought back from the war hoping to find the owner one day.

Stephen's efforts to find the owner using the Internet and return it back to Ray in tact with all the Francs, pictures and Ray's original Social Security card, are creditworthy. As for Breitenstein, "I was impressed that a stranger would go to such trouble to locate me and return my wallet," Heilwagen said.

6 decades....ufff.....


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Microsoft announces partnership with Ford

Bloomberg Uncut

Microsoft will join hands with Ford Motor Corp to provide drivers with voice activated software that helps them play mp3 songs and make mobile phone calls. Ford will offer the system in a dozen 2008 models.

OK. Two big names making such big deals is not unfamiliar to us. However, this is how the two companies have been performing lately.

Signs of desperation? I'm not sure yet how they are working out the deal. Does Microsoft get a cut on every Ford that is sold with the Sync (that's how they are calling it I guess) system? If so, that's not going to be any heavy cash in revenues for Microsoft as we see the declining sales of Ford (along with its buddy, GM) and struggling to compete with Toyota.

Investors see these too..Shares of Nasdaq:MSFT fell 17 cents to $29.64 and NYSE:F dropped 8 cents to $7.62, when the deal was announced.

Signing a partnership with a company that is just struggling to avoid bankruptcy? Is that optimism? God bless!


Saturday, January 06, 2007

First-To-Market - is it really important?

Hell, yeah!

We've all heard the terms First-To-Market and early adoption. Well, there have been cases where large competitors, due to their technology expertise and distribution system and excessive marketing efforts, have been able to jump in after first players and still grab the market away. Nevertheless, entering a new niche market quick always has its value. Apple's iPod is a glowing example to underline their importance in today's fast growing industries especially technology.

This is more important for entrepreneurial or startup firms, who may not have enough capital to fight the competition away or excessive money to throw away at their marketing and advertising expenses. I came across a beautiful example highlighting this point on the TechCrunch blog. Look at the Palo-Alto based firm FilmLoop.

FilmLoop's service allows users to create photo slide shows and help users view them via a desktop application. They just raised $7 M in venture capital from VC firm ComVentures 8 months back, and here they are today laying off most of their staff of 30 employees after attempts to sell the company failed.

Why? The Founders made crucial early mistakes versus its competitors. Slide, RockYou and Photobucket, among others, offer crushing competition services. While Slide and RockYou focused early on giving users the ability to embed slide shows into MySpace and other social networking communities, FilmLoop added this service only recently. They missed the social networking opportunity ( a big, big market today!) and now it is too late! Niche markets as this cannot support many players and that's when First-To-Market comes to light.

Whether FilmLoop is going to again try to sell out or shutdown operations or continue the service with their few remaining dollars, we should know soon.


'Open Prisons' are in the spotlight in UK

Q: What are 'open prisons' ?

Classified as Category D, open prisons have a more relaxed security regime and are generally used to prepare inmates for their release. White-collar criminals indulging in crimes such as fraud or deception traditionally spend much of their sentence in open prisons. But people placed in open jails have to risk assessed and categorized as low risk to the public before being transferred from high-risk facilities.

Examples of open prisons include include Ford in West Sussex, North Sea Camp in Lincolnshire, Hollesley Bay in Suffolk, and Leyhill in Gloucestershire

Prisoners can wander about freely, do academic classes and business studies and in general they get prepared to get back to the community, in these open prisons. For more insight, refer to this article on BBC news


Patch your Adobe Reader next week...

Adobe has posted a security advisory late Thursday regarding a cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in versions 7.0.8 or earlier of the Reader and Acrobat 7.0.8 that could allow remote attackers to introduce arbitrary and malicious Javascript code into a browser session. Basically, any website that hosts a PDF file can be used to conduct this attack and your PC can be victimized very easily. All a hacker has to do is find a website that has a link to a PDF file (nowadays all of them do) and then when the user clicks on that link, the Javascript executes and the attacker can move on to any traditional malfeasance like stealing browser histories, masking fraudster phishing sites, etc...

Adobe has promised to
patch their buggy software next week. Researchers fear that this bug is a much more serious problem that they initially thought and it may be the worst bug of 2007 (too early to say that right? esp. keeping in mind IE 8 is also expected to launch later this year :) ).

Anyway, the patch will be released on their support site. All you got to do is download and install the patch. Or, Adobe 8 Reader is immune to this bug and can also be downloaded free of charge from Adobe's website.

Browsers affected - Firefox 1.5, Firefox 2.0, some versions of Opera, and IE 6 on some versions of Windows (XP SP2, XP SP1), but I woundn't risk it


UNIX tips for the day

1. How do you sum up a file containing numbers (one in each row)?

I keep forgetting there is a simple AWK command to do this...

[paddu@home ] cat <filename.txt> | awk '{sum = sum + $1}; END {print sum}'


Friday, January 05, 2007

Hilarious Yes Prime Minister clip - who reads the papers?

With a classic Bernard's one-liner towards the end...


25 reasons to choose Linux over Vista....

Frank J. Ohlhorst, from CRN, compiled 25 shortcomings of Windows Vista when he reviewed the product, and All About Linux adds their views to these shortcomings.

Here is the list, read it and get to know what you want to switch to.

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BadVista campain starts getting popular...rapidly...

The BadVista campaign is an advocate for the freedom of computer users, opposing adoption of Microsoft Windows Vista and promoting free (as in freedom) software alternatives.

It is the latest in a series of activist campaigns started by Free Software Foundation (FSF). Released on December 15, the campaign currently takes the form of a blog site coordinated by John Sullivan, a program administrator at the FSF. They claimed and I tried it out. Google 'Microsoft Vista' and this blog turns up already on the first page of results, thats how fast they are catching fire!

You can support the campaign by joining the FSF.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

First woman speaker in 230 years!

I just saw on ABC news, Ms. Nancy Pelosi being sworn in as the Speaker for this new 2007 Congress. She is amazingly the first woman speaker over the last 230 years ever since this Republic was formed.

Ms. Pelosi is a Democrat from CA, and is third in line for Presidency after President Mr. Bush and Vice President Mr. Cheney. She has given the new Congress, not 200 days, but 100 hours to fall in place and start acting as one team. Now, that's a motivation.

The swearing in was a pleasant sight with all the children and grandchildren of the members of the Congress, yes, this is one day the members are allowed to bring their children. And, Ms. Pelosi invited all the children over to the podium to show her warmth.


UT, truly International....

Late November last year, we had our International Cultural Night at UT that happens every year. Japan, China, Nigeria, India, Peru, Mexico and Brazil were not the only countries that participated. Overall, it was a grand success, not becuase India championed the trophy out at the end of the day, but because of the energy, excitement and commitment that people carried in preparation for the day.

Here are a few photos to show what it looked like that day. Sadly I had to miss most of it due to other prior commitments.

This is the Indian stage- well decorated, tasty food, colorful wear and a Nigerian visitor.

Pretty Brazilian girls in action...( I think this was Brazil performing, hmm...)

The traditional Indian Barathanatiyam in its complete excellence...reminds me of my sis...

Oh yeah! Here's Kevin Mastriano enjoying some food. I'm sure even he doesn't know which country's he's tasting...there was so much food all over the place, I heard...!

We took the shield home, nevertheless, each and everyone there was a winner. It was a great day!

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

So funny...Matt Damon impersonates his buddy Matthew McConaughey...

This is hilarious!! Damon proves he is a star once again, doing McConaughey in David Letterman's show....terrific, must see video...

I've really enjoyed his latest two movies, Departed and Good Shepherd...I thought Departed was a terrific story and movie by itself, and in Good Shepherd, Damon deserves full credit to his performance...


If Sandra Bullock can 'Speed' it up, so can Chiranjeevi....

I don't know which movie came first to the screens, but I think the two scenes are fairly comparable, except that different modes of transportation were used....

In case you didn't know, Chiranjeevi is a top and among the highest paid Indian actors today, making successful Telugu language movies in the state of AP, India.

Watch till the end and enjoy...


Foreign students in India and U.S ...

I came across an interesting, but not surprising, statistic from the Institute of International Education, that I thought I'll share.

In 2005-06, India was the country with the highest number of students studying in the U.S (76,503 Indians out of 564,766 total foreign students).

In start contrast, India held the 20th place among the countries where the Americans go out to study with a total of 1,767 U.S students.

What a difference! Of course, the population counts, but still the economy of the two countries accounts for this large difference. Heard India is a developing world power and growing economy (close to 9% GDP growth)? You're right - that's why this number (1,767 U.S students in India) is up 52.7% in 2005-06 over the previous year, only second to Argentina with a 53.1% increase!


Secondary education in Africa

Q: How many children in Africa reach secondary education?

A: In one out of four African countries, half of the children enrolled at the end of primary school do not continue to the secondary level in the following year.

Yes, upto 50% dropout, according to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics.


Saddam Hussain's execution - last minute video

For those who haven't seen it....

Note: This video may be inappropriate for some viewers. This blog does not authenticate it too.

This event highlighted 2006. Whether it will improve the conditions in Iraq, we will have to wait and see. There are politically varied opinions on this debate...


'Dirt' premieres today on FX - first episode not impressive...

Yeah, I sat through that, since I had nothing else to do tonight.

Hmmm...but I wanted to see it actually, 'cos it was being hyped up a lot. The commercials were very flashy, jazzy and seductive. Courtney Cox isin't just going along for the ride here, 'Dirt' is from the production company she runs with her husband, David Arquette. If you missed it today, or haven't seen the commericals, here you go -

I found it odd and funny initialy to see Courtney not play Monica but instead a more serious character in Lucy Spiller as the editor of tabloid magazines whose mission is reflected in the show's title. She looked good though.

I expected more from the opening episode at least, more than the Don Konkey character, a schizophrenic paparazzo who will do anything his editor asks him too bringing back X-rated pics of quicks, the dead, and hypocritical power couples. I think they filmed the show supposing it to be fast-moving, it was instead frustrating. We've seen all the celebrity dirt already, right? - blackmails, hot-tubs and bubble baths, car crashes, cocaine addictions, pain killers, action stars, extra-maritals, etc. I'm not sure what else 'Dirt' is going to bring to light.

Anyway too early, let's see how the following episodes are. It shows on FX - Tuesday nights 10 pm EST.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

'Incentives', against smoking for example ...

Q: What do you mean by 'incentive' and what are its different flavors?

A: According to Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, authors of Freakonomics, an incentive is simply a means of urging people to do more of a good thing and less of a bad thing.
They say, there are three basic flavors of incentive - economic, social and moral. Very often a single incentive scheme will include all three.

For example, think about the anti-smokingcampaign.
(1) The addition of a $3-per-pack sin tax is a strong economic incentive against buying cigarettes
(2) Banning of cigarettes in restaurants and bars is a powerful social incentive
(3) When U.S. Govt. says terrorists raise money by selling black-market cigarettes, it acts as a strong moral incentive.


Protect your teeth

Q: What percentage of the U.S population have some problem or the other with their teeth?

A: ~80%

Yes, that truly is such a high number that even I didn't expect. Take good care of your teeth in this new year and beyond. Starting steps would be to brush two times a day and visit the dentist two times a year at the least...


Enjoy the new year with a 'Shiver'

Wish you all a very happy and prosperous 2007, folks!

Here's Maroon-5, playing "Shiver" - one of their greatest, and my all time favorites, live at Ellen DeGeneres show a few months back in '06. Their lead and guitar, Adam Levine, is just so amazing!

Oh, and I just caught sight of the video of a team of girls at the Starpower competition, CA, dancing to this. Thought they did a terrific job, enjoy....