Internet TV? No Thanks.

01_Cord_Cut

Thus ended the ill-fated Roku 4 experiment in exactly 4 days.

It was also the 4th Internet TV gizmo I tried that did not live up to the hype and expectations. It just made it clear as a cloudless day that cord-cutting is still wishful thinking for folks like me. But, that’s not what the tech media would like us to believe. So, what did I do wrong? Turns out, not much.

Technically, my first foray into the Internet TV world began with a Mac Mini when I decided to live with just Netflix and Youtube, but let’s let the desperate student life slide, shall we? After we moved to The City, I started with a cable subscription and it quickly became apparent that we were just throwing monies on Messrs. Time & Warner. So, we cut cable for the first time and went with a Mac Mini and Samsung Smart TV combo. We did persist with this combo for quite some time, but that’s when we were discovering the phenomenon of binge-watching.

My first Internet TV device was the Boxee Box, which promised much and looked like a thousand bucks. It had a great user interface, but it became apparent very soon that this was hardly the Promised Land. There wasn’t much one could do with it after exploring the now-ubiquitous Netflix and a few other apps. To make matters worse, the company behind Boxee folded soon after I bought the device and I was left with a dud that costed $150.

Continue reading

NRN – Messiah 2.0?

Why do I think that NRN coming back to Infosys is a desperate move by the company?

First and foremost, we have to accept and digest the fact that it was Infosys’ game to lose, in the first place. They were ahead in the race, had mostly everything going for them (including world figures like Thomas Friedman giving free (paid?) advertisements), and, at that point, the best value system and the best street-cred among all the other competitors. And they came tumbling down from such a position to where they are now – a good deal due to great execution and some nimble manoeuvres by the competition, but a great deal due to their own internal issues. In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons is their refusal to acknowledge the shifts in the industry and their adamancy in sticking to the same principles, which ironically were conceived and shaped by NRN himself.

So, now Infy is getting NRN to come back for another stint at the helm, exactly like Sunil Gavaskar coming back out of his retirement to save Indian batting, and like Kamaraj coming out of his grave for another term as Chief Minister – except that those two things didn’t actually happen.
Continue reading

Peru Trip – A photographer’s note

Canon-EF-Lens-Collection

What is the ideal camera kit for a vacation? Depending on who you are, the answers might vary from a simple smartphone camera to what you see above.

Of course, the nature of your vacation would also drive the kind of gear you would want to carry. Some vacations are so chilled out, one has time for tripods, multiple lenses and a zillion different filters. But some other vacations involve a lot of activities forcing minimal amount of equipment. We had planned for primarily two outdoor activities during our trip – the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and a 6-day visit to the Amazon rainforest in Manu National Park, Peru. So, we certainly had to travel light. I am certainly not so camera-nerdy to carry around stuff like in the picture above. But, as a photography enthusiast, I had to plan a little bit so that we had the right ingredients to ensure good photographs without having to look like bazooka-wielding Terminators.
Continue reading

The best tablet device out there – 1

tablets

I have reserved my judgment so far on which is the best tablet device out there. I think that is only fair. Tablets, being such nascent technology (with all due respect to Mr. Gates), it is not right to jump the gun and announce a winner after 15 minutes of random hands-on usage, as many tech blogs are wont to do (Interestingly, it is one such tech blog that actually made me write this post today).

Some of you might know that I own an Android Honeycomb tablet (Asus Eeepad Transformer) and a HP Touchpad. Mayuraa has an iPad2, which means I do get periodic access to it. So, over the past few months I have had enough opportunities to try out most of the standard tablet features and use cases across these devices. In the process, I also have had a few interesting/useful observations. I haven’t put fingers to keyboard on this topic and I can safely blame my laziness for that.
Continue reading

The Death March of HP TouchPad – The case-study of a thousand screw-ups

240px-HP_TouchPad

When Leo Apotheker announced that HP would discontinue TouchPad, a tablet that was released with much fanfare just 49 days back, it was met with a general sympathy for the OS that had so much potential and a general sarcasm about one of the most screwed up product executions of all time. General agreement was that the tablet and its unlucky OS will fade away into oblivion much like the other doomed DOA products (Kin, I am looking at you). TouchPad, it seemed, was set for a path of slow and silent death. Someone up in HP though (with a terribly evil sense of humor), had other plans. They chose a path of mayhem and destruction, a 21-st century equivalent of setting fire to a hundred thousand TouchPads. The crash and burn was gloriously spectacular to watch and in the process, it also threw up a few noteworthy lessons.
Continue reading

Is Google Waving – Yes!

It was always on the cards. Google had to move along. Search is cool, rocking and all that is fine. But their business model could no longer be a one-trick pony (search-based advertising). Not for eternity. Business world has so many examples of such one-trick ponies who were leaders in their business, but went down eventually since their primary product and business model were proved redundant (Polaroid films, Western Union telegrams).

So, the focus on Google apps and building a business model around such web-based productivity tools was an essential move. Google apps is a great offering to start with, but still Google has to go a long way before they can claim to have one of the best productivity suites in business. Google Wave is exactly the right step in that direction.

I was skeptical in the beginning. In fact, after skimming through couple of articles in Mashable and ReadWriteWeb, I was almost planning on throwing up just a tweet saying something like “yet another collaboration tool”. But, then I decided to just watch the developer preview video and learn a little bit before passing on a judgment. That proved to be a very wise decision, as I am now quite happy to be proved wrong.

So, if it is just a collaboration tool, why would I want to change my judgment? Because, I have a feeling that this tool strikes the right chords somehow. When I see the demo of the tool in the preview, I see it working the way it is supposed to. I see myself using this tool. Not just because of some of the cool features, but because it seems to have the right mix and just the right amount of complexity for well-meaning users to pick and start using it.

One of my primary complaints with many of the collaboration tools, version control systems and productivity suites is that they are overly complex, have separate interfaces for activities and have many features which I am disinclined to use. Projects these days are run with lean mechanics as the primary focus. The collaboration and communication processes and tools should be as simple and non-intrusive as possible.

The simplest form of collaboration should happen right from my Inbox, right in front of my eyes and should have the simplest form of content possible: basic rich text, basic diagrams, images and hyperlinks. Collaborative editing and commenting on others’ work should look and feel intuitive. Versioning should not scare people. Access control should be simple, yet powerful. Invoking and interacting with other tools should be right inside the primary interface and should blend in seamlessly. Exactly the kind of visual experience I got from the developer preview video of Google Wave. Throw in a cool API, an open protocol, a great platform for building extensions and a vibrant development community (hopefully) – you have a winner!

So far, I have spoken about the conventional usage of Wave. But, it can turn out to be much more than that. With a uber-cool collaboration interface, it can easily double up as a powerful social media. Can it be a Twitter killer? Can it replace Facebook? Is this the end of FriendFeed? Twitter is already teeming with speculations and creative thoughts.

The video itself is a self-sufficient introduction to the efficiency and effectiveness that could be achieved from Wave. So, I encourage readers to watch it in free time (about 1.5 hours). I would not go to the extreme and say this is path-breaking before actually using it. But, I am looking forward to using it once it comes out later in the year. I wish this was out when I was managing my IT capstone project last semester. It would have been one hell of a handy tool then!

The presentation by the Google team was engaging and it is evident that they had pulled in a lot of patchwork to bring this video on time for the Google I/O conference. That is their story for the external world. I suspect the real story is to make sure they share as much online-buzz as possible with another seemingly heavyweight introduction yesterday, Chandler…er…sorry…Bing :D

Bing’s introduction is gaseous enough to be termed a true Microsoft product launch and has enough buzzwords (decision engine, categorization, reviews etc) to pique my interest. Is it a google-killer? Not likely. But, if it does what it promises, it would sure lure a good bunch of people into trying it.

On a personal note, I am getting more and more annoyed that I haven’t had my hands dirty in Java or one of PHP/Perl/Python in a long long time. A lot of new things are happening around me where I can contribute real solid, which are based out of these technologies. I guess it is time for me to break out a little from the .NET playground and try out some new gimmicks :)

The ‘joy’ of iPhone programming – The story of a disillusioned developer

How hard can it be? iPhone is the in-thing. Thousands of developers are scrambling to spit out iPhone apps and earn fast bucks. It is apple after all. They design all these sexy-looking but simple to use products. Fair enough, right? Well well well…

I thought it was fairly decent to expect a comfortable, if not rapid, programming experience with the iPhone SDK. Buying a flawless-looking Mac Mini, I was quite excited to get into such a happening technology. The initial steps were pretty interesting. Objective-C is a funny-looking language, with a totally offbeat way of doing even simple things like calling a method or creating an object. No big deal. After all, it is a new language right?

Then came the step of building UI, and something called an Interface builder was introduced. Now, that was a dicey thing. The interface was not smooth or intuitive and everywhere on the net, there was this talk about it introducing a lot of unnecessary baggage. I am used to baggage-building since I am an ASP.NET developer, but the interface really put me off and I resorted to tried and tested hand-coded interface. Felt a bit like good old Java AWT days (Button b = new Button. Button.blah blah blah). Afterall, a 480*320 interface. What’s the big deal?

After a few views and a few dozens of controls, it became a big deal :| But, that’s not the end of it.

Then came the biggest pain of all: Invoking Web Services. Apple sucks! BIG TIME! They cannot provide a decent API/Library support to invoke web services? Holy mother of God! Now, I am not getting into the SOAP vs REST face-off here. I have a WCF service built in .NET which serves as the back-end for an ASP.NET web application and that combination has been working pretty fine. So, it is going to be SOAP/WSDL for me at this point. So, assuming that it is a requirement, what do I find for client-side coding in the iPhone/Cocoa SDK?

They have this shitty WSMakeStubs which is a console-based apology of a tool, which can attempt creating classes for WSDLs as long as they do not go beyond the realm of HelloWorld, which again is part of the iPhone simulator, but not part of the iPhone OS libraries. So much for consistency. Else, we need to construct our own SOAP request and invoke the service through HTTP POST manually and parse, I repeat, parse the resulting XML output! The last I did that was in circa 2002.

It is appalling to see an SDK and an IDE that does not provide seamless support to web services consumption. It doesn’t make sense. I am not chicken to parsing XML. But, I find it a terrible waste of my time to write plumbing code when I could be writing some meaningful business logic.There is an open source replacement to WSMakeStubs called WSDL2ObjC which I am trying to get to work. Another automatic class generator. My first impressions have been far from satisfactory. Lets see!

I am used to the Visual Studio.NET world. I agree that it has pampered me and has made me a lazy bum. But, come on! Rapid application development is the order of the day. No one is going to prove a point by writing supercool plumbing code. Thats lame. I would want an IDE that comes at least an order of magnitude close to the seamless beautiful experience of ‘Add Service Reference’ and ‘Update Service Reference’ which Visual Studio provides. In this aspect, Microsoft certainly knew their stuff. They still continue to provide the best experience when it comes to web services development and consumption.

An MIS Graduate in the making…

graduate

Update: This is certainly not about me :)

  • I do not want to code.
  • I am not a technical person.
  • I did not want to do an MBA.
  • CAT is tough. My friends are still writing it, year after year!
  • See, if I don’t want to do coding and I don’t want to do an MBA, then I am a good fit for MIS right?
  • I am a fresher. I hate coding. I am an ideal fit for MIS right?
  • I want to leverage my experience.
  • What have I learnt? come on man…how can that be explained?
  • I have ‘x’ years experience. So, I have a better fit as MIS professional right?
  • I have ‘x’ years experience. But, what is the difference between me and that fresher? I am not able to find any.
  • Infy/TCS/CTS/Wipro/XYZ sucks man! Who would want to do that shitty work?
  • I want to be in a position where I can solve business problems.
  • What exactly is a business problem?
  • I want to be a Consultant.
  • How do we get placed in McKinsey?
  • No. I don’t want to do an MBA. I told you right?
  • IT consultant? See, I have heard of these terms, okay. But, come on…what’s the difference? I want to be consultant. Thats all.
  • I want to be a Business Analyst.
  • See, you have Business Analyst position in Bank of America, Deutsche Bank etc right? I want to be in that position.
  • Who knows! As long as it is not coding, I am fine.
  • Who will do application development?
  • I am allergic towards Data Structures and Algorithms.
  • I want to do design, not coding.
  • See, how can I explain how do I design? It is part of Life Cycle. I know Life Cycle.
  • Systems requirements? Write something man. Whats the big deal?
  • What methodology? All that software engineering stuff, I remember seeing in college. Forgot long back, dude.
  • OOP was such a long time ago. I remember classes, objects. What? Virtual functions? Hey, thats a tough one, okay!
  • I hate UML. Who wants to write all those use cases and diagrams?
  • I hate documentation.
  • I hate testing. Testing is for dumb people who do not know anything.
  • I did a lot of testing during my experience. It was so boring and stupid!
  • What is automated testing?
  • My PL used to allocate all work and then waste his time on excel sheets.
  • Is it necessary that we have to follow the scheduling that we did using MS Project?
  • Oh, we used to do estimation. Some stupid excel sheet will be there and we will fill it.
  • I do not want to do all this Information Systems theory. It is at such a high level. I want something practical.
  • Why are you asking such detailed questions? You should focus on high-level concepts as an MIS professional.
  • I want to take managerial subjects from the Business School only.
  • Hey, they have so many prerequisites. I am not an MBA student. Why should I be expected to know all these?
  • That course has project man. Who would want to do that? I am dropping it right away!
  • The professor is a nut case. The course is a tough nut. I am dropping it right away!
  • This course is so cool. Professor gives A to most of them it seems. Let’s take this one!
  • You came here to study! Now, that a good one. Dude, everyone comes for the job. What learning you are talking about?
  • Dude, who will apply for all these technical positions!
  • I hate these companies which ask technical questions. I am an MIS person. They should ask me specific MIS stuff.
  • They are asking such vague questions! “Tell me one challenging issue that you resolved”. How should I remember!
  • There are not many positions for MIS folks man! This sucks!
  • Case interviews should be okay mate.
  • Oh, do they ask all of that! How should I know all that man? I am not a consultant right now!
  • Man, this behavioral interviews! I hate them. I have no clue what they expect.
  • We came in a bad time. It is just sheer hard luck!
  • I thought I would be able to make the cut. Who expected things to become so bad!
  • Only technical firms left. This sucks!
  • Language? My company project was in ‘x’. But, I was not exactly working with the code.
  • They are asking data structures man! Did I come here to again get back to coding?