An interesting piece produced by NPR about the change in the portrayal of the NRI (Non-Resident Indian) over the ages in the Indian Cinema. An interview with WNYC Reporter Arun Venugopal.
Love the ability to embed NPR content.
The third milestone in my love for mobile connectivity, happened shortly after I bought my second phone. It was work that demanded I have no personal time and took steps to get me a Blackberry.
The Blackberry turned out to be a very different being, in comparison with my current phones. Everything about it screamed business - no frills; just a steady solid performer. It had everything I wanted to get work done, nothing that would make me buy one for myself. But it was the company that was paying for it, so my decision making process consisted of little more than asking a colleague which handset he recommended.
Thus I came to be in possession of my new Blackberry Bold. The feature list was pretty impressive, not to mention a paid for, always online 3G connectivity. Completing my enterprise activation was a breeze, and within time I had replicated my email and calendar on the perfectly usable mobile device.
The keyboard took a little getting used to. Realizing the power of being fully connected took a bit longer. But somewhere between checking the location of my next meeting without needing my laptop and being able to reply to quick emails at the extremes of each day, I realized something strange - I was no longer fascinated by the new device. In comparison with the time I spent configuring and personalizing my earlier phones - the customizations to my Blackberry were close to nil.
At the beginning I attributed this to my trivial approach to selecting it. But that wasn't it. What had changed was me and my attitude towards connectivity. Full mobile capability had quickly become a means to an end. With abundance came transparency - the Blackberry bold held little fascination beyond the emails it carried and the meetings it reminded me of.
I was no longer a connectivity virgin.
So, after about 5 years the phone - which was probably pretty advanced at the time of its purchase - was woefully antiquated. Not to mention the rough and tumble of time severely tested the paint, plastic and the buttons on the phone. It was time to get into the market for a new phone - and boy was it a revelation. All the time that I had not really paid attention to phone market, a number of new things happened - including the iPhone. But eventually I settled on my new Nokia 5800.
As I worked through the pros and cons of the phone, what struck me most was the extent to which my wants and needs from a phone had changed in the last five years. WAP an not an acceptable speed to browse. Browsing websites no longer meant struggling through text extracted by a lynx-lookalike; full color depiction of sites was expected. Email on phone completed with regular desktop clients in terms of capabilities and features. And having an always accessible device meant newer and more powerful applications. But instead of being overwhelmed, a missing accelerometer could be the reasons for rejecting a phone.
Beyond the physical capabilities, what struck me most was the ability to stay fully connected all the time. As soon as I acquired my phone, I linked my personal email accounts to the built-in email client, linked it up to my WiFi and was catching up on email with friends. The fact that this phone was able to connect to a wireless network, which about a couple of years ago, I couldn't find enough desktop software to support was mind-blowing. In addition, the phone also came with an in-built Global Positioning chip that spoke directly to satellites tearing across space fourteen thousand kilometers away.
And the thing weighed a tad more than a hundred grams or three and a half ounces.
The first mobile phone weighed in at 28 ounces, not including its antenna and only barely made phone calls.
In my mind this was my second generation of the mobile phone. My first phone showed me how to make phone calls, and use a smattering of other services. This one however was a more mature attempt at connectivity. However, I hadn't signed up for the ultimate of connectivity - an always-on network connection. And that would by the third time charm.
My first phone was bought back in late 2003. It was a Sony Ericsson T610. I remember this clearly, because I was among the last of my friends to purchase a phone. By the time we joined the productive workforce, mobile phones were no longer a luxury. Handset prices had been relentlessly pushed down by the glut of companies in the market, which was almost matched by the competition among the service providers. Before long, pretty much everyone I knew had a phone. And it became not only a connectivity imperative among friends, but became a requirement to keep in touch with team-mates and other business colleagues.
Everybody seemed to be doing it - so I held off - for seemed like eternity at the time, but was only about 9 months. Eventually I caved in. And when I went for a phone, I wanted to take one that had as many features as possible.
The T610 was pretty good for the time - It came with a tiny browser that you could use with WAP to trudge along the information superhighways. It ran JAVA applets - which was absolutely mind-blowing for me (and eventually led to the simple understanding that the phone was nothing more than a different avatar of the computer). And it came with a tiny camera that took 320 by 240 grainy excuses for pictures.
But I was ecstatic. I used every excuse to go online and check movie timings, even if no one else seemed remotely interested in going to a movie. I photographed and cataloged various events of my daily life now that I had a camera always at hand. I used an open source program to connect the phone to my laptop and use it as a mobile router (on WAP). I bought a terminator dongle online to flash the phone to the latest firmware (something that was pretty difficult at the time, requiring special hardware - the aforementioned termninator dongle). I backed up the files, restored them, backed them up again. I built by own ringtone (from the soundtrack of the game Blood)
Looking back, the phone did not do much, but it seemed at the time there was no limits to its capabilities. As it trudged along on WAP, I never stopped being amazed that the phone talked the same networking language as the old world mainframe behemoths - TCP/IP. When it took those tiny, barely recognizable pictures using the built-in camera, it always surprised me that they managed to squeeze a camera in there. I never saw it as the little engine that could, but I was pleasantly surprised that there was an engine in there to begin with.
I ended up using the phone for about 5 years. In the time I traveled across the globe; changed phone numbers at least 5 times; switched SIM cards every few months and generally pushed it beyond its limits. Eventually it's joystick started to give way, a few buttons began developing tantrums and no amount of dis-assembly to clean it helped. It was time for a change.
So this other day I was looking up cable companies in Wisconsin. This site helpfully popped up claiming to tell me why cable was better, by pointing out the differences between cable and the dish. Which it did, helpfully pointing out that the cable is quite indiscreet.
I am sure they were thinking discreet, but unfortunately they let the cat out of the bag instead.
WOW. If you have an hour and 20 minutes at some point, this is a must see. The Wave is Google's ambitious replacement of the email, instant message, tweet, blog and pretty much every other means of communication and collaboration currently available. But Google's approach to do this is not by providing yet another replacement, but by linking to these means of communication and extending them transparently.
At its heart, the Google Wave is email done right. Updating the current paradigm of point to point communication bursts offered by email, Google Wave offers a centralized client-server real-time collaborative alternative. What this means is that email is no longer delivered to your Inbox. Instead, your Inbox is a sort of a window into a central location, that essentially hosts a dynamic, ever changing web page which is your email. As people contribute to this web page - called the Wave, the client (in this case a HTML 5 compliant browser) automatically updates itself to reflect a common shared view.
If that is all that Google Wave was, then it would potentially have ended up as an optional Google Labs widget for Gmail. Instead, the Wave team took this further. They added real time - character by character refreshes; provided drag and drop functionality for rich media like photos and videos; enabled collaborative edit features for all content; and provided a means for existing communication mechanisms to interact with the content and updates. Suddenly the Wave seems much more than just a handy email gadget. Instead, it is a new way to think about communicating, sharing and collaborating.
The best part about Wave is that it forces you to think differently about communicating, by providing fundamentally different tools and mechanisms. A particularly enlightening moment in the presentation is when an old Wave was dug up where participants initially began communicating serially like an email, and realized mid-way through the process, that there was a potentially more productive way of continuing the same conversation through the editing features provided in the tool. It is this ability to simultaneously apply two diametrically different paradigms, that is the real potential for Wave. Users will no longer have to choose to learn a new paradigm - instead they can choose to stay the same, and wean off at their own pace.
The second major feature has to be its extensibility. The opening remarks encapsulated Google's approach to Wave - as a Product, Platform and Protocol. True to looking at it as a protocol, Wave developers seemed to have incorporated several real-world requirements into it. One example that sticks out is the ability for multiple Wave implementation to keep each other abreast only of updates that they really 'need to know'. Such an approach reflects today's Legal discovery requirements really well, and demonstrates Google's commitment to making this a broadly acceptable protocol.
The potential issues that Google will face in trying to establish a Wave based communication platform will probably not be technical to Wave at all. Google Wave assumes that ubiquitous connectivity, which seems to be the direction they have been driving with all their offerings. Of course, the Wave is going to use HTML 5's cache functionality to provide offline usage, but connectivity is still going to be critical in Wave's acceptance. HTML 5 brings another item of resistance for Wave's acceptance. It was only recently that Firefox finally overtook IE6 in terms of usage. Browser adoption has and will never be as cutting edge as Google will want it to be. Not having a HTML 5 compliant browser will effect Wave's adoption.
The second issue will be user acceptance. People have gotten used to email in the traditional sense. For the vast majority, thinking in terms of email is as far of a change as they can fathom. Forcing a truly dynamic paradigm upon them, may not be very successful.
The third issue is corporate acceptance. Large scale user and technical acceptance of new technology has always been tied to acceptance in the corporate world. Your company pays for you to learn something new, like say email, and you then take it up on your own. Wave offers collaboration aimed at smaller, widely dispersed teams. Unless companies are convinced about the benefits of Wave-ifying their email or IM, it may end up remaining just a geek's toy.
BING is the new name for Microsoft's search, formerly part of their LIVE suite of services. This seems to be a good few months for search. Just a few weeks ago we had the inauguration of Wolfram Alpha, and now the Bing.
Microsoft purportedly was very focused on verb-ifying their new offering and therefore had to go with the 'ing' ending. But Bing? As Chandler would say, Bing is Gaelic for 'Thy turkey is done'.
Bing has been live for a while, and it is not really all that bad. My bone of contention with its predecessor, Live search, was the super-heavy pages used to display results, and not so much the quality of the searches themselves. That seems to have changed with Bing. The pages seem quick. Not much of a fan of the changing main page background, but maybe that is just a matter of getting used to it. Of course, if you want to see the previous photos, you have to install Silverlight.
I guess for me, that is what makes Microsoft so annoying. It is like a car salesman that just wouldn't give up. It is always a matter of, 'I will give you this if you want that'. Microsoft properties online seem to acutely make you aware that you are a guest and therefore need to mind your manners and clicks. The constant struggle for one-up-manship reminds one of a petulant child, unhappy about the attention being showered on younger sibling Google.
One more matter of annoyance before I move on. This one specific to Bing. I don't think I am much of a fan of location assumptions being made by the software and then filtering my results without really letting me know about it. Seeing local search results surreptitiously is almost like those sleazy ads one sees online, from ladies starved of physical affection who magically know where you live and want to make a tryst with you. I may be using a proxy - did Bing think of that? Filtering my results for Indianapolis, Indiana when I am not even in the same state, isn't smart as much as it is annoying.
Bing seeks to bring travel into the search engine. As an example, they trot out the ability to book flights to Hawaii. Apparently, that is all there is to it. Try booking a flight to Milwaukee, and you are back to Expedia or Travelocity. So maybe, Hawaii wasn't so much as a feature, as it was a demo. Maybe we need Silverlight to be able to book tickets everywhere else.
Overall the search is in there somewhere. The interface is definitely better, and worth checking out. It has a few new demos of potential new features to come. Otherwise, it is pretty much same old, same old.
It has been a while since there has been something new on the search scene. There was one highly publicized, incomplete junk that came out a few months ago called cuil (pronounced cool). As the name portends, it was not. At all.
Anyway - a new site called Wolfram|Alpha (name rather unfortunate) - is the new kid on the block bringing forth a really different approach to search. Instead of searching through pages to suggest potentially relevant pages, WA tries to answer quantitative questions with just the answer. If you need to know the population of the world, you just ask 'world population' and you get the answer of 6.53 billion people.
Search is tough. Understanding and algorithmically analyzing human fuzzy interaction is inherently difficult. And WA is trying to do two things at once - understand the fuzzy world-wide-web and obtain facts from them. This has long been the goal of a semantic web, that is nowhere near reality today. At the same time WA is trying to understand user searches to generate quantitative queries that can then be applied to the data that it has collected earlier.
First impressions - WA seems to be doing an ok job on the two entity intersections. If you are looking for 'world + population', you are good. Or you are looking for 'India + mobile phones' you are good too. But trying to do an intersection of 'world + population + mobile phones' seems to trouble the search engine.
Another disappointing aspect is its inability to interpret date and time as a dimension to queries that seem to work well on 'today'. For example, searching for gold + price works well. But trying to search for gold + price + any date doesn't compute. This seems to work for dow jones + any date, but not for gold + price. See similarities to the third level intersection problem observed above?
What it seems to be doing a good job is on the roll-ups. Try searching for Asia + cellular phones. You not only get the total estimate for Asia, but you also get a list of all the countries with their estimated cellular phone populations. Pretty interesting eh?
All in all, WA looks like a good for an alpha. It seems to be able to do simple queries and roll-ups. Not really good with anything complex, not to mention numerous glitches in the UI of the site. Also interesting will be the response from rights holders to their data being used by the engine. Granted 'facts' do not fall under the purview of copyrights. But what would happen if, say, results from surveys started to be incorporated into search results? That is if WA can one day show you the percentage of all people in United States, having cell phones with AT&T service expressing satisfaction with their service in a survey. What will the survey owners think of that? What will AT&T think of that?
All in all, am really excited to see where this goes. Here to the semantic web, without having to work hard at it.
When I re-started the blog a few days ago, one thing that played on my mind was the audience or lack of it. Over the last few years, I had been indoctrinated incessantly over the need to line up messages to an audience. Writing without an audience, as with this blog, seemed to be a hark to the old days and the old ways.
That is when I realized that the joy in what I did on this blog was for me and me alone. Writing is something I liked to do, and this provided a means for me to instinctively fulfill that urge. The website provided me with a means to basically bring together stuff I did over time to one place. There was a definite satisfaction in seeing a project come to fruition, the beats having to pander (!?) to an audience.
As Krishna says in the Bhagwad Gita:
To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction.
It is the joy of writing and working on my website that is my biggest gain. And thus I go, talking to myself.
What did jQuery do? Well, check out the neat plugin for jQuery, that allows you to sort tables on the fly.
Nokia has done a very good job with the hardware requirements of the 5800. As noted in my earlier posts here and here, there are a number of things to love about the phone. But, as with anything else, there are always room for improvement, and here are some key opportunities. You will see that a number of examples are more interface and software related that could be modified in the future with an upgrade, which only speaks to the solidity of its specifications.
There you go! That should serve as a good list for now. On the whole, the phone is not bad. But if this going to be the future of the touch platform for Nokia, then the platform needs a lot of work. And platform is not just on the phone (i.e., the user interface and the touch enabled S60 V5), but also the community and application universe developed around the application. By all accounts, the buzz around the 5800 has been phenomenal. Now the ball is in Nokia's court.
I have had my new Nokia 5800 for about 3 months now, having bought it in January 2009. During the period, it has gone through two firmware upgrades - first from v11.0.08 to v20.0.012, and the second one from v20.0.012 to v21.0.025. The first updated clocked in at about 133 MB and was available only via their NSU (Nokia Software Update) service the second one weighed in at only 4 MB and was available OTA (Over the Air).
Of the two, the second one seemed to have worked its magic on the phone, really making the interface more responsive, while the first one delivered the bulk of the enhancements. With two major upgrades in less than 3 months, it is ample proof that Nokia is indeed looking to the Nokia 5800 as a testbed to iron out any and all problems with its touch platform, before it start rolling out the big guns - the E series and the N series. That said, back to the question at hand - what really works with this phone.
In short, the biggest positives of the phone are its capabilities - the sheer hardware capabilities and the underlying S60 software. Which leaves the interface components and applications. Coming up in the next post - where the Nokia 5800 definitely needs a little help.
The Nokia 5800 has been my primary phone for the last three months or so. My earlier phone, the Sony Ericsson T610, was getting old and was in need of a massive update (retirement). Being a Sony Ericsson user, the idea of switching to Nokia seemed pretty unimaginable to me at the time. But try as I might, there wasn't a SE phone that seemed to fit the bill. Having delayed my purchase of a smartphone, my list of requirements seemed to be growing all the time.
When I started looking for a phone in late 2007, my list of requirements was driven by the phones at the time, particularly, the iPhone. On a number of levels, the iPhone was almost a no-no from the beginning. I never saw myself buying an Apple product - I adore them, just don't agree with the approach and philosophy of the company. Anyways, driven partly by the iPhone and the other phones at the time, this was a list of parameters I had come up with for my first smartphone.
The phones I was reviewing, at the time, were a wide variety. But they boiled down the the following:
It was neck and neck between these phones (though the Omnia went to the bottom of the pile pretty early) and it seemed just a matter of which price point I was comfortable with. As time went by, the Diamond seemed to slowly but surely rise to the top. XPeria was priced too high, and the screen of the Diamond beat that of the Touch hands down. Until the Nokia 5800 came along. If you look back at the list of requirements I had, you can see how well the 5800 stacks up. Next post - what I love about my 5800.
It has been almost three years since the last post. There is a reason for it, three years long. The bottom line is that for the last three years I had opted to let work take over all my time, choosing to put the rest of my life on hold. Virtually, pressing a super-pause button
That is all over now. Now it is time to move on, revive some of the old and start some more of the new. The world has changed tremendously in these last three years. I have too! Three years ago, blogging was fringe. Today it seems everyone does it. Three years ago, social networking was a fad. Today it is mainstream - threatening to make television a fad. A few years ago, doing a new post, meant an outside chance that I would get an audience. Today the audience seems stretched too thin.
Within that context, it seems I am back. To continue to make this a sort of thought-blog with ideas, rants and opinions across a wide-range of topics.
To kick it all off, we have a new blog name - email@example.com as opposed to the old quaxzarron.blogspot.com (That old name is now more or less defunct). It is now hosted on my own domain and website. And finally the website and the blog now share a new, common look and feel. The site now sports a new template, cleaner XHTML, css based design. The aim is, at some point, to achieve XHTML document compliance.
Here's to welcoming myself back!