Friday, August 26, 2011

Angry Anna Fights Corruption

I was waiting for some game around the Anna Hazare led protests to make a splash. What came out was beyond even my imagination. An Angry Birds inspired Angry Anna Game…Conceptualized by Geek Mentors, a Noida based gaming group, the game has 4 levels only and is more to help inspire people to take up the cause.

angry_anna

Let me stop ranting and let you experience the game at AngryAnna.com

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Commercialism piggybacking on Anti Corruption movement?

I was a little perplexed when an odd looking ad jumped at me while browsing the Times of India website. It was a Google ad where an online retailer InkFruit was promoting a brand of T-shirt by latching onto the frenzy generated by the Anti Corruption movement led by Anna Hazare. For a moment I was aghast that somebody could be so brazenly commercial.

InkFruit - JokePal LokPal Bill Tees1

I followed the link and what I found had me divided in opinion. The advertised T-Shirt was a mockery of the Government’s version of the LokPal Bill. On the front the Tee proclaims that it is a “Bad Joke, Pal”. On the rear the Tee actually lists educates the reader on a few highlights of the government’s version of LokPal.

InkFruit - JokePal LokPal Bill Tees

So what is InkFruit upto? Taking part in the social cause in a innovative way or is it a quick money minting scheme. Not everything seems to be black and white. What do you feel?

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

College Students turn Wikipedia contributors

College of Engineering, Pune and Wikipedia announced recently that they are entering into a partnership where 843 students from the college would be trained by the Wikipedia India team and would in turn contribute to the crowd sourced encyclopedia movement that is Wikipedia.

As part of this initiative, mechanical, electrical, electronics and telecommunication, production, computer, information technology, and mathematics branch students would undergo a 6 month course following which they would need to contribute to the website. They would be given internal marks for these assignments.

WikiMedia, the arm of Wikipedia that is spearheading such initiatives in US and India plans to rope in 3 other colleges in Pune under the aegis of this program namely Symbiosis School of Economics, SNDT Women’s University and Modern College of Engineering.

I think this augurs well for Wikipedia where India specific information is low on content and quality. A lot of common India specific searches do not list Wikipedia among the top 10/20 results. While crowdsourcing is good, a lot of times crowd sourcing also is a time consuming event. Focused efforts over six months by student groups like this would propel Wikipedia quickly up the value chain for information seekers.

To give the reader an idea of areas where Wikipedia falls short, here are two queries I ran on Google. One search was on “Kannada literature personalities” where the Wikipedia entry came 5th and the other search was on “top b schools in India” where Wikipedia did not figure in the first result page at all.

wikipedia listed results for India - Part 1

wikipedia listed results for India - Part 2

Aspects like these are what the Wikipedia team plans to change and also as these students join main stream society they would be torch bearers for movements like Wikipedia. An interesting way by Wikipedia to cover a country as diverse as India and also to create a pool of WIki contributors

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

IBM’s Lessons for Indian IT Majors

Mark Dean, the Chief Technology Officer for IBM’s Middle East and Africa operations writes a piece that beautifully captures some succinct points that also serve as handy lessons that would augur well for the IT/ITES companies in India

Be Decisive when it comes to change: If you are at the vanguard of an emerging technology trend that seeks to displace your existing bread and butter business, you should seriously contemplate moving over to the new business; all the more so if your current revenue earning business is already a red ocean with lots of competition cutting into your profit margins.

IBM did this when they decided consciously to exit the PC business and sell of the entire division to Lenovo. Though this came for much criticism then, it gave IBM legroom to focus resources on newer areas.

Constant Transformation: IBM has been synonymous with change and it is characterized by its survival across multiple upheavals along its evolution. Be it the switch from Mainframe to PC business or the switch from being a systems integrator to taking on global IT services for customers or the exit from the PC business – IBM has been constantly reinventing itself.

Something that will be of immense interest to a lot of Indian IT majors like TCS, Infosys, Wipro, HCL, Patni, Mindtree, Cognizant, etc., for whom the need to diversify their revenue sources, focus on non-linear growth, move up the value chain are all big ticket challenges they need to solve to reinvent themselves

Elevate the Game: IBM’s Smarter Planet is a strategy that it adopted 3 years back and all their efforts are towards solving the larger challenges of mankind on the planet. It motivates the employees given that whatever they do is directly impacting the quality of life on the planet.

This positioning itself elevates IBM to a different level compared to peers. It is as though they have invented a blue ocean out of nowhere.

Be on the lookout for the next big thing: IBM with its Smarter Planet drive has focused on a few technologies that it is putting its bet on. Big Data crunching, Machine to Machine (M2M) are a few that are being closely researched on by the technology behemoth. Again cloud computing, miniaturization, cognitive computing are all emerging areas that should be on the radar of Indian IT companies not just from the perspective of immediate customer needs, but also to help themselves drive to become the vanguard in these nascent spaces.

History is replete with examples where eventually such vanguard positions helped companies make the switch. A missed opportunity was the app ecosystem around smart devices. The wave of change came so suddenly that companies had missed the opportunity even before they could contemplate studying it further. iPhone appstore, Android marketplace or the Google Chrome webstore is teeming with startups or individuals who have populated these stores with apps.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

6 Top Google Chrome Apps for Kids

Google Chrome is my personal favorite displacing Firefox since August of last year. While the slick minimalistic interface was a turn on, what really has got me tied down is the Google Chrome WebStore. The apps available for productivity benefits, fun, lifestyle are all great, my strongest recommendation would be the Kids related apps.

I am sure a lot of readers of this blog will have kids/nephews/nieces between 2 and 10 years of age. Google Chrome opens up a whole new world for kids right from the comfort of the browser. I strongly suggest you open up this new world to them.

6 of my favorite (or should I say, my daughter’s favorite’s ) are
Chrome_webstore_kids


Rubbish BooksA kids book site that allows for the pages to be flipped as though in a real book. With 3 characters namely Patrick, Aarty and Kevin being central, each story is told vividly via brightly colored pictures and bold fonts that kids will find it easy to read. 
rubbish_books
I read out the sentence in English to my daughter and then translate the sentence to her in a language and context she can relate to to the picture being shown on the page. The best part of all – she loves the page flipping effect that she insists on doing herself using the mouse.


Coloris: A cool coloring site that teaches kids the art of colors as well as the art of handling the mouse.
coloris
While the emphasis is not on making clean brush strokes, it is more on assigning a color to each segmented zone in a outlined picture. The app also allows parents or elders to post the colored picture to Facebook or other photo sites.


In the Nick of Rhyme: A cool app that teaches kids the fun in identifying words that rhyme.
in_the_nick_of_rhyme
A superman like character drops in dramatically and asks a kid what he has lost. The kid mentions an object and suggests it might be on the roof. The superman character then goes to fetch it and discovers that there is no object as mentioned by the kid. He then decides to bring back the object that rhymes with the object the kid mentioned. The app then prompts us to select the rhyming object….
My kid still loves it for the dramatic drop effects of the superman, The rhyming concept is something that will take some time before my 2 year old starts appreciating it.


Kidoz TV: Another cool YouTube powered app that aggregates the best of kid content from across YouTube and provides a safe video streaming session.
kidozTV
An absolute must to keep a kid occupied for several hours.


Kid Mode for Chrome: A favorite of my daughter. This is like the window to a whole lot of kids websites liked up under one common interface. You do not need to bookmark or remember a whole lot of kids websites.
KidMode_for_Chrome
The Kid Mode comes bundled and pre-configured to deliver the best and popular kids games, flash content, puzzles, etc. through its all encompassing interface.


Sesame Street: Sounds around the Town: A noisy app but a delightful one. Kids get to see different noise generating sources like animals, man made objects, etc. passing by the street. Kids get the moving characters to stop and make some noise every time they press on the keyboard.
sounds_around_town
My daughter loves it so much that her computer session starts and ends with this app

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

India–A Geek Nation Unfurling

A chance stumbling of an interesting piece of non-fiction from a Indian origin British author Angela Saini got me interested. Titled “Geek Nation – How Indian Science is Taking Over The World”, the book focuses on theme of India on the path to achieving technological supremacy over the next few decades.

The author has meticulously gathered nuggets of information during the course of personal travel across India, meetings with scientists, researchers across the nation that has left her convinced that India is on a fast track to becoming a Geek Nation. She also corroborates her findings with regular reports that we hear - bastions of technology like IT where India is the go-to destination, cutting edge research, top notch educational institutes, the amount of doctors and engineers the country’s colleges churn out each year, the geeky Indian kids who form an essential part of any class in nations like USA and UK

Recommend you to read an interview of the author here conducted by FastCompany

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Monday, August 08, 2011

Can Indian IT/ITES digest the US Govt. Credit Rating Downgrade?

Quite a debate provoking question I should say, given the passion with which a few colleagues of mine were enlisting points supporting both sides. One thing is certain, It is an epochal event that will have a say on all aspects that adorn the sidelines of progress.

Short Term Impact: I would say none or minimal, purely because the credit rating downgrade is for the US government and not of a particular corporation or a segment of industries. A lot of US companies are doing well and have cash heavy chests. (Read Apple has more cash than US government and Microsoft has higher credit rating than U.S. government). The second report also mentions 3 other companies namely Exxon Mobile, Johnson & Johnson, Automatic Data Processing (ADP) with AAA credit rating. Their spending will continue without any short term slamming on the brakes. This augurs well for the Indian IT/ITES industry.

Long Term Impact: This will depend to a large extent on how the 2nd generation economic reforms are pushed through in India. If the government chooses to take advantage of the prevailing global economic situation and unleash the 2nd generation of economic reforms quickly, FDI and FII might be tempted to reallocate their portfolio of funds in favor of India. This will also drive up IT/ITES activity by creating strong domestic as well as non-US demand. Today, the USA is the biggest consumer of IT/ITES services from India. This will have to balance out with demand coming from other areas too. Government itself can fuel this in a huge wave via the e-governance wave that can usher in more IT/ITES centric projects like Aadhar (Biometric Identity System for citizens).

The other side of the story is what the US government might do in wake of this development. While the pressure to internally create jobs has been fierce on the Obama administration, the market forces seem bent on looking in the opposite direction. There will be no quick pill for ailing Uncle Sam, but if the government starts a drive to set right the fundamentals, we might see a resurgent US over the next 2-3 decades with core R&D work still being retained in-house (in complete contrast to what I claimed in the post India’s 2nd moment of reckoning…) and Indian IT/ITES companies having to pursue other channels to move up the value chain and expand business

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Friday, August 05, 2011

Missed alighting at your train station? Let your cellphone help

 

An interesting service thatI came across from an Indian company Ideophone that allows long distance train travellers to seek a call on their phones to remind them to get off at their stations.

With Indian railways running close to 11,000 trains a day and 7000 exclusively dedicated to passengers, this service might just fulfill an untapped and unsaid need felt by commuters. On long distance trains and overnight journey trains, a lot of passengers need to alight at stations post midnight when the trains halts for brief periods. With uncertain arrival times, setting a local alarm on the cellphone can only help so much.

However the new service named Pyka from Ideophone tries resolving this. The company allows you to send a SMS to its servers mentioning the Train No and the station code you need to alight at. Pyka then calls back your phone 15 minutes prior to the station’s arrival. Pyka bases this timing by constantly checking with Indian railway servers for updated arrival times and makes changes accordingly.

All you need to do, to give this service a try is this

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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Angry Birds finds place in Chennai’s Corporate Olympiad 2011

 

It was a pleasant surprise since my article covering the rising popularity of Angry Birds in India, to find that Angry Birds is one of the corporate sports events where employees from top corporate houses across Chennai will vie with each other to prove their skills at Angry Birds.

A screen capture from an official mailer announcing the event from one of the corporates is below.

Corporate Olympiad 2011

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