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Tell me more April 18, 2007

Posted by sk in 411, Computers & Internet, Google, Microsoft, search, Technology and Software, tellme.


Want information about local businesses on the go? Tellme is perfect for you. You can dial 1-800-555-tell (free) or 411 on Verizon and Cingular phones (paid) and get information about local businesses, sports scores, entertainment, etc.  For example, you can ask for an Indian restaurant in Tucson, AZ and then say, “Text me the query” to get a text message with detailed information. You can also text 83556 (“tellm”) with the search query. Tellme was recently acquired by Microsoft and the acquisition goes into effect on April 30th.

I’ve been accused in the past for not giving information about rival services, so here it is. Google has launched a 411 service too. It’s not as good as Tellme, but it’s good for those who prefer Google’s services or want to have nothing to do with “dying companies”. 😉 (notice the wink). Dial 1-800-Goog-411 for information about local businesses. 

Microsoft is dying? – deleted April 9, 2007

Posted by sk in Apple, Google, Microsoft, Technology and Software, windows.

The intent of this post was to start a thoughtful discussion on the topic. Instead, it quickly degenerated into a name-calling session, which is why I have decided to delete it. I have provided a link for those of you who are interested in the topic.

<This is a pretty good read for those of you who are interested in the topic.>

More Google units opt in for "opt out" March 18, 2007

Posted by sk in Google, Satire, Technology and Software.

After successfully implementing the “opt out” policy in the Google Book Search program – where Google copied every book irrespective of its copyright status , giving publishers who didn’t want to be part of the program a chance to opt out – and using a similar policy in YouTube –  where video clips are removed only when the copyright owner complains – Google decided to implement a similar policy in some of it other business units. I’m providing two examples here but there are more:

  • Since Google has been growing at a phenomenal rate with 50-100 new employees joining every week, there’s been a shortage of office space. Someone at Google used his 20% personal research time to come up with a brilliant plan to occupy empty offices in Mountain View, CA and stay there until the building owners kicked them out.  When asked why this would work, Google’s response was, “We give them free WI-FI, no?”
  • Another example is the personal records and information of users. Google recently decided to that it would sell this personal information to third parties unless the individual decided to op out, in which case it will purge all identifying information from its servers after 18 to 24 months.

A spokesperson for Google described “opt-out” as the new way of doing business at Google. The company has also decided to modify its unofficial motto to “Don’t be evil. Don’t opt out.”

Meanwhile, Google recently recognized its partners who brought in most advertising revenues. The top three didn’t turn up for the funtion – they were busy typo-squatting some more websites.

The iPhone Shuffle is here March 8, 2007

Posted by sk in Apple, iPhone, Microsoft, Technology and Software, Vatican.
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iPShortly after wowing the world with the iPhone, Steve Jobs today announced that Apple is already working on a “Shuffle” version of the iPhone. “Like the iPod Shuffle, the iPhone Shuffle comes without a screen,” Jobs announced to a roomful of Apple fans and tech journalists. After a brief standing ovation, Jobs continued, “The phone will also have no buttons and will be entirely voice activated. It also has a unique shuffle feature that arbitrarily picks a number to call from a list of numbers preloaded by the user into the desktop software for Windows and OS X.” Jobs claimed that the “Shuffle” feature is new to cell phones and will change the way people talk. “Our competitor thought the Zune would be a social device but this is magnificent. This is the true social device.” It has also been reported by sources at Saturday Night Live that the phone will have an iGenie that grants three iWishes.

Details about how much the phone will cost are sketchy but sources indicate that the phone will be available with a 2 GB Nand memory and will retail for $59.99 with a two year contract with AT&T.

Analysts hailed Jobs’ announcement and Apple’s share prices rose to an all-time high of $1000 when trading closed on Wednesday, March 7th, 2007.

Close on the heels of Jobs’ announcement a spokesperson for Microsoft claimed that Microsoft was working on a similar product called “Microsoft Windows Live Phone Shuffle edition” which they plan to release in 2010.

In other news, an anonymous commentor on a Windows site has indicated that the Pope has agreed to initiate proceedings for the canonization of Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs, as many of you already know, is already known as a “living saint” in many circles.

Silence of the SPARKS January 19, 2007

Posted by planetsk in Bollywood, Sports, Technology and Software.

Don’t let the heat go off the SPARKS

Ok, I will try my best to write this miscellaneous post.

Nothing new is happening in the new year except Abhishek Bachchan’s exceptional performance in GURU and his engagement with Ash. I watched the movie last week after a lot of struggle to get tickets. To my wonder, even in 0°F and snow, tickets were sold out for three consecutive shows or two days. I was surprised to see AB has got such a big following in US or in MN. May be Mani Rathnam and Ash were another factors. Anyway, I would recommend this movie if you really want to see some fine acting by Abhishek, great songs (yeah, they are really good when you watch them) and Abhishek again.

In sports related news, Sania crashed out of the Aus-Open. Will she ever enter atleast Quarter Finals in a Grand Slam ? Final showdown in NFL, I am guessing Pats Vs. Bears Super Bowl?? (of course will be knowing it by Sunday). David Beckham will be bending it in LA for $250M . Thats news to me. Soccer in US and that too in LA. Finally Cricket, India got another chance to get back to some kinda form before they go for world cup. Playing in India,Ganguly and Sachin may come as openers, changes in the team from last year..can these bring good things for India??

After lot of rumors, Apple iPhone will be arriving pretty soon and it’s already controversial as Cisco filed a lawsuit against Apple on using its trademark. It seems LG is also planning to come up with something similar to iPhone. MS Vista will be available worldwide by Jan30th. Thats good news for Zune and MS. The technologies and features in Vista appear to be solid especially Windows DVD Maker, ReadyBoost and ReadyDrive. Will wait to see them in application very soon.

Blogs gain favor worldwide December 30, 2006

Posted by sk in Computers & Internet, Just Posts, Technology and Software.

I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a while but forgot all about it. A comScore survey found that blogs are becoming more and more popular across the world. Eight countries in North America and Europe were examined and it was found that 58.2% of the online population in Canada had visited blogs during the given month. The following are the conclusions of the study:

  • Among the eight countries examined in the study, Canada saw the highest penetration of visitors to blogs, with 58 percent of all internet users visiting the category in October 2006. Half (51 percent) of all internet users in Spain also visited blogs.
  • Of the selected countries, only Germany (26 percent) and Italy (31 percent) had a lower penetration of internet visitors to the blogs category than the United States (36 percent).
  • Windows Live Spaces is the favorite blog site among the majority of countries studied, with 37 percent of all Canadians visiting the site in October 2006. Blogger.com had the highest penetration in the United States (12.4 percent) and Germany (9.7 percent), while the same was true for Skyblog in France (27.4 percent).

I’m sure Ruhi and Parmanu will be happy that Blogger.com had the highest penetration in the US. No?

In related news, analysts at Gartner believe that the blogging phenomenon will peak in 2007:

The analysts said that during the middle of next year the number of blogs will level out at about 100 million.

The firm has said that 200 million people have already stopped writing their blogs.

Last month blog tracking firm Technorati reported that 100,000 new blogs were being created every day, and 1.3 million blog posts were written.

Interestingly, Gartner also predicted that Vista would be the last major Windows release. They also suggested some time back that Apple should quit the hardware business.

Evil Google makes some good products December 29, 2006

Posted by sk in Computers & Internet, Google, Technology and Software.

When several people tell you something is good, it must be good, right? Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about how good Google Reader is. So I finally decided to try it out myself yesterday. And my verdict? It rocks. It truly does. I spent a couple of hours transferring my feeds from live.com and arranging them properly. I liked Live.com but it’s good for a few rss feeds. It took me a while to figure out, though, that the key ‘j’ is for next feed and ‘k’ is for the previou

s feed. I would have preferred ‘pg up’ and ‘pg dn’ but it’s a minor annoyance. Another minor annoyance I have is that sometimes my feeds are not marked as read even after I’ve read them. Overall, I think it’s a very easy to use rss aggregator with a clean interface. So, now I’m officially using Windows Live Writer for writing posts and Google Reader for reading them.

Anyway, one of the first feeds that I added was that of Mike Torres, who works in the Live Spaces team. He wrote a post about how Google may be compromising its ethics. The gist of his argument is this: when you search the keyword “blog” on Google, Google Blogger doesn’t figure among the top results (and not even in the first 5 pages). However, right below the sponsored links, there’s an orange blogger icon with the text, “Tip: Want to share your life online with your blog? Try Blogger.” Mike has this to say about it:

For a company that prides itself in its integrity (or at least used to) this is a pretty messed up thing to do. I can’t even find Blogger in the organic search results; I stopped looking on page 5. Which means that instead of earning its spot on page 1 (or any other page for that matter) they decided to promote their own service in a way that no one else can do at the top of the organic search results. This makes it look like Blogger is actually more popular than TypePad, Windows Live Spaces, Yahoo 360, and WordPress.com when in reality, according to Google’s own algorithms, it isn’t.

Ultimately, the folks who end up suffering the most are the Six Apart guys who are paying Google to run ads against the word “blog”. Now, if you were in charge of Six Apart’s advertising strategy, would you continue to pay for this ad when your competition has an unfair advantage? Which one would you click on? The one that looks like an ad or the one that looks like a friendly tip from your friends at Google HQ?

Come on guys. You can’t have it both ways – you’re either biased or you’re unbiased. But don’t say you’re unbiased and then sneak little orange B icons above your competition. Especially after saying you don’t ‘smooth the way’ for your own ads.

I initially didn’t pay much attention to it. After all, Mike is ultimately a Microsoftie. 🙂 but Mike provides a link to Blake Ross’s blog (a Firefox developer). Blake has this to say:

Google lost me today.
Google is now displaying “tips” that point searchers to Google Calendar, Blogger and Picasa for any search phrase that includes “calendar” (e.g. Yahoo calendar), “blog” and “photo sharing,” respectively. This is clearly bad for competitors, and it’s also a bad sign for Google. But I generally support anything that benefits users, including monopolistic packaging. I believe, for instance, that shipping Internet Explorer with Windows was a good move.
Google is predicated on the idea that the democratic structure of the Web will push the cream to the top. Search for “photo sharing” and you should already get the highest quality services. According to Google, Picasa is not one of them. These “tips,” then, can only be a tacit admission of failure: either the company does not believe in its own search technology, or it does not believe its products are good enough to rise to the top organically. I’d guess the latter.

Paul Thurrott linked to this article on Blake Ross’s blog and added his own comments at the end:

This is just the tip of the iceberg. From Google’s sad IE 7 toolbar that actually prevents users from changing the browser’s search preferences to the EULA in Google’s phishing filter that admits it makes no attempt at all to perserve your privacy, Google is pure evil. That makes their corporate motto both ironic and hypocritical, but mostly it makes us all chumps for using their services. And yes, I use GMail. I’m an idiot.


My take on this: I think Google should simply abandon its “Don’t Be Evil” motto. I don’t know if it’s possible for any company to survive in corporate America without being evil to a certain extent. Yes, Google is evil, just like Microsoft or Yahoo!, but they make some great products, so, big deal.

Google Spreadsheets – Now better than Excel December 7, 2006

Posted by sk in Computers & Internet, Google, Microsoft, Technology and Software.

Yesterday a friend of mine suddenly pinged me and asked me if I had taken a look at Google Spreadsheets lately. I said I had looked at it once earlier but wasn’t really impressed. So this friend asked me to take a look at it again. She said it had everything that is present in Excel. I grudgingly decided to take a look at it. Grudgingly because I’m not the biggest fan of Google’s products. Yes, the search engine is awesome and I use it exclusively. No, I don’t like GMail. I use it for these useless websites that ask you to give out your e-mail address to register and then send you spam mails everyday. GTalk? It’s okay. Not a big fan of that either. Anyway, you already knew this, right?

I checked out Google Spreadsheets again last night and I must say I was very very impressed. It features the Excel type user interface with some added functionality. It has all the functions that one would normally use – math, statistical, financial, etc. So what if it doesn’t do charts (this could be because I used IE instead of FF? Maybe Microsoft intentionally kills some of the features?)? That’s so 19th century? So what if it doesn’t have the equivalent of VBA? Who uses that anyway? An interesting feature that’s absent in Excel is collaboration. You can collaborate with others while working on the spreadsheet. There’s also a chat window for sending love notes. I collaborated with my friend and created a new spreadsheet with three columns . Yaaaay!! I was able to save it to my computer as a pdf file. This too is something that’s missing in Excel 2003 without third party addons. This person suggested an easy method to convert Excel files to pdf format – create your file in  Excel, copy and paste the data to Google Spreadsheets, and save as pdf – simple, see? So, on the whole, it was a great experience using Google Spreadsheets and as an Engineer I definitely found it to be more useful than Microsoft Excel. But that got me thinking – why do people within Google use Microsoft Excel? Anyone?


Google – overpriced? November 29, 2006

Posted by sk in Computers & Internet, Google, Microsoft, Technology and Software.

Dave Winer says Web Bubble Burst 2.0 will come about when Google’s stock crashes and that we’re safe as long as Google is doing well. Scoble believes there’s nothing that can stop Google. Even if the domestic market stops growing, he says there is a lot of scope for growth in international markets and as long as that potential exists, Google will continue to grow at alarming rates. He further goes on to say that Google is in the same position that Microsoft was in 18 years ago and we all know how far Microsoft has come.  I guess he’s right too. For a long time Microsoft had just one source of revenues – Windows. Even now, about 90% of their revenues come from Office and Windows. Most of Google’s revenue comes from advertisements.

Speculators are having a field time predicting their next move. I don’t want to go down Will-Google-Get-Bigger-than-Microsoft lane here. There are many other bloggers who are devoting ample time, energy and resources in putting together those arguments… oops… posts!!! With due respect to their endeavors, let me proceed to my main point here. With Google’s shares trading at $489.50 currently, I have been obviously intrigued. Is it overpriced? Of course, yes! Duhh… stupid question??? So how overpriced is it? Is it overpriced enough to bring the entire market crashing down? If the prices were to climb up to $1000/share, then yes. Speculators would try to sell their shares in lots and cause rapid fall in share prices. Obviously, for this to happen, the volume of the stock controlled by these traders need to be substantial enough to cause any change in the price. But at what price will this happen? I don’t know! My guess is as good as yours. But I do feel that Google has the potential of bringing about a bubble, if not another crash.

I tried to calculate the Intrinsic Value of Google’s stock. This would tell me how much the stock may be worth depending upon the current earnings of the company. Even though this is not a definite yardstick for quantifying whether the present market price is good for investment purposes or not, it will definitely give you a good idea regarding your position. Of course, all these calculations require a great deal of discretion on the part of the investor to make a rational and educated judgment.

So how do I achieve this task? Simple! I followed the time and tested rule of using the Earnings Per Share (EPS) and the annual returns of stocks. For the annual return of stocks, I used the Geometric Average of Stock Returns from 1929-2005. This was around 9.69%. I know that this is not a precise figure, but this is the closest to what I want to measure.

Okay, so here is the actual calculation. PRECAUTION: Read the next few lines at your own risk and PLEASE PLEASE do not use swear words when you see the actual figure!

Intrinsic Value= EPS (2006)/Annual Return

= $7.68/.0969


I got the EPS value from Reuters Website. Yes, $79.25 only!!!!

Hmmm….do you want to invest now? I still would… only if I had the money!

(with inputs from cotton)

Zune Update: welcome to the social November 2, 2006

Posted by sk in iPod, Microsoft, Music, Technology and Software, YouTube, Zune.

Meet Zune

With less than two weeks to go before the US launch, Microsoft has been trying to build up excitement slowly. First it was some viral ads on comingzune.com. Yesterday, the official Zune website, zune.net finally came up. Apparently, Microsoft couldn’t buy zune.com. Also, Cesar Menendez has posted some of the TV spots on YouTube. Microsoft’s advertising strategy is clearly apparent from this. They’re following the same strategy that brands like American Eagle, Gap etc. follow – targeting the youth. Only time will tell if this’ll be successful. Oh, and by the way, Zune does have some cool accessories.

UPDATE: The Zune team has released a cool theme for Windows XP. It’s based on the Windows Royale theme with black taskbars instead of blue. Not surprisingly, the start button is brown. You can get the theme here. Sadly, the theme doesn’t work with Ubuntu.