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Updated: 2018-03-06T10:45:32.791-08:00


My Blog, 2.0


I'm in the process of upgrading this blog. I'll move to my own domain, and most likely Wordpress, although I'm looking at Drupal and Joomla as well. Let me know what your experience has been with these CMS tools.

Posts will be few and far in between, so please bear with me and hang in there. I'm working hard to find a good theme and look and feel so you folks have a better experience.

This is the time to make your wishlist. Drop me a comment on what you'd like to see, or have me cover in this blog.

Google acquires Jaiku


Happened today, its likely that you have already read about it.

img courtesy: jaiku

Here's some FAQ&A on the deal and its implications.

Q: Why not Twitter?
A: Google probably thinks Twitter is overvalued (at USD 20 million). It is likely that they spent lesser on the Jaiku deal. Twitter recently closed a USD 5 million second round. And it is in Europe (read: ahead of the US on mobile technology adoption).

Q: But Twitter has more users, is more popular?
A: Sure, but Jaiku is more than just a micro-blogging or lifestreaming platform. It is an intelligent presence detection application, with their smart address book feature. Google is acquiring technology again, they can generate the user numbers, I suppose.

Q: Where does this all fit in the biG picture?
A: The New York Times reported yesterday that Google phone project is a mobile software project. So whether the Google offering competes with Microsoft (Windows Mobile) or Apple (iPhone) remains to be seen, but in the light of this, the Jaiku acquisition seems to make sense. A mobile software (platform, most likely) + mobile technology from Jaiku + mobile social network Zingku to promote it. All the right conditions for Google to continue to govern your life.

Q: Google, Social Networking? Remember Orkut, Dodgeball? Why will they take on Facebook and MySpace?
A: Because they are Google. Their social networking attempts have not taken off well - at least in the US - but there are rumors that there may be a third life (or should it be second, second life?) in the wings. Although Jaiku fits in nicely with their mobile strategy, its lifestreaming features is a ammunition for any Social Networking War (what an Oxymoron!) that it may be gearing up for.

Afterthought: MS should
really buy that stake in Facebook.

What do you think?

Sowmya Karmali on Agile Development


... that was what the title said. Yesterday, I had a talk at the .NET User Group in Monrovia on Agile Development. It was a 90 min session excluding the break, thats a long time for someone to be talking. Thanks to the great audience, it was a breeze. My slides:

Part I: the ten commandments for an agile developer

Part II: Agile tools for .NET Development

Here are some interesting points raised by the audience. I'd like to see your opinion too.

(On TDD) What if you are enhancing or maintaining an existing version of a product that doesn't have test cases written? How do you convince management that you need that extra time to write those test cases?

(On build scripts) If your testing required some data in the database, how do you include that into your build script?

(On estimation) How do you estimate for an agile project? Especially when you say you aren't going to freeze your requirements in the first place.

(On FDD & Iteration planning) If you have a product that requires some meta data modeling, how do you plan to do it iteratively? You need to complete the meta model in order to have a complete design.

There were all the usual elements of a geek meetup: pizza, coke, books, oversized t-shirts...I'm glad some things don't change.

My talk on Agile Development


On 19 September, I'm going to deliver a talk on Agile development and Agile .NET tools at the San Gabriel Valley .NET user group meeting. Here's a link to the details. (Note: this link will go bad in about a month's time -- you'll discover why when you click on it.)

The first part of the talk is based on my earlier blog post on the 10 Commandments for an Agile Developer.

If you or any of your friends are going to be around in around Los Angeles, do drop by for the pizza and coke ;).

My Web 2.0 Business Models presentation


I made this presentation at the Bangalore Barcamp 2 in Dec, 2006. I looked at the stats on slideshare.

(image) 2000+ views, favorited 12 times. I feel good.

This presentation is special for me because it made me break away from the "bullet point" way of creating slides and delivering talks. I realized - post fact- that I was more comfortable using the simple, freeform style in my slides. It makes me talk with more conviction. Here's to Zen.

Zoho, Offline


I didn't intend to follow up one Zoho post with another, but this is too good to pass up.

Zoho docs are now available offline - a feature its competitor, Google docs & spreadsheets has yet to offer. Available on Zoho Writer, for now. Zoho's solution, ironically, uses Google Gears in its implementation. I think using Google gears is a super idea for 2 reasons:
1. Shorter release cycle -- don't re-invent the wheel (or gear, in this case)
2. Google Gears' universal appeal. If and when Google docs is available offline, they're likely to base it on Gears too.

Although the documents aren't editable offline for now, I'm told that the feature is just around the corner.

Zoho Writer has got more slick as well. You can now comment on portions of documents, and have a discussion style document review.

Nice going, guys!

Deep Dive: Zoho Office Suite


Zoho has been on my favourite companies list for a while now. This is a long promised deep dive into its popular online productivity tool set, called Zoho Office Suite.Zoho is a product from a Chennai-based company, AdventNet, whose other LoB is software services. The Zoho Office Suite has a range of products, from an online document creator (Zoho Writer) to a CRM Solution (Zoho CRM).The products are targeted towards small businesses and individual users - a segment thats rising in number. Zoho now has over 300,000 registered users, (Compare: Twitter has 200,000 registered users) and this number is increasing at a tremendous rate (Twitter's growing faster, of course). Whats really commendable is that Zoho's got there frugally.They operate with a "We do not want any Venture Capital" mentality - which translates thus1. All the development happens out of Chennai (quite expected)2. Most of the Marketing happens out of Chennai (really cool, when your primary market is the US)3. Very focused Promotions (Ads on some A-list bloggers, sponsoring key conferences, blogger evangelism)4. Virtually no sales organizationThis is why they can give away some products for free :), for individuals.I LikeI've used Zoho Writer (the word processor), Show (online presentation tool), Sheet (online spreadsheet) quite extensively. Featurewise, they do pack a lot of punch into the tools, and you can see some really smart AJAX at work. Like the drawing tools, for instance. Drag and Drop, Rotate, selecting a region full of drawing - all these are very neatly done. Not as full featured as MS Word or Open Office, but it is quite enough for "normal" usage. The fact that you can share & collaborate on the documents more than makes up for it. The right comparison to make is between Zoho and Google Docs and Spreadsheets. Featurewise they are neck to neck, but the Google brand drives more users its way.You must try out Zoho Creator. Its an online application creator. Means, you can have a simple UI+DB kind of application created within minutes (Did someone say MS Access? Nyaah!). Say you want your own expense tracker or maintain a record of who's borrowed your books, Zoho Creator is the thing for you. It also has a built in workflow engine. Thats a power pack!Zoho Notebook will remind you of MS One Note. Doesn't matter. Few people know about OneNote. Notebook is a great freeform scrapbook tool that helps you collect your pieces of research, take notes in a meeting, doodle -- do whatever you do with a physical notebook. Whats more, there's a Firefox plugin for Notebook. Lovely. Now you can take notes as you browse -- copy paste from a website and it will paste the URL too. How many of us need that? (I do, for sure.)Zoho was the first Office 2.0 vendor to open up its APIs to its users. The way they categorized their APIs makes complete business sense, and I think is a lesson for us Software Architects & Designers: They have one API set to access the Data alone, and one set to access the editor services. Neat.Zoho was also one of the first apps to integrate with Facebook, and was recently in TechCrunch's list of 10 Favourite Facebook Apps. I like these guys. They really have their eyes and ears open. Imagine the 20-somethings collaborating on their term papers within FaceBook.I WantI wish they were more keyboard shortcuts. These aren't tough to do. Users are used to Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V and other common shortcuts. It makes adoption so much easier. There are other features that require some loose ends to be tied up. (Why can't I change font size if I have clicked on a text area? Why do I have to explicitly select some text? Why can't I share my Slide Notes as well?)Zoho should market Show (the presentation tool) more agressively. There isnt a similar offering from Google, nor is there any clear leader in that space. Show could use better drawing capabilities, more slide layouts or templates. More third-pa[...]

The Harry Potter Mania Fossil


3 days to go. I can't wait to lay my hands on the last book. I have so many theories - as would anyone who's read the series so far - whether Sirius Black is really dead, Harry is a horcrux, what Aunt Petunia got to do with all this. It doesn't matter whether I am going to be proven right or wrong, its so much fun thinking about all the pieces of the story. Kids who will grow up to read Harry Potter would miss out on this fun. For instance, when my son (who's just over 1 yr) is old enough to read the book, he'll probably have a hard-bound boxed set, but the overall story will be well known. Readers like us have the pleasure (or otherwise, if you think) of ruminating over each part (i mean, each book), spewing out our own theories and reasoning, asking irrelevant questions with enthusiasm. In short, my son will probably read the Harry Potter series like I read the Lord of the Rings or the Hitchhikers Guide - where the intervals of suspense are shorter.
Reading the first 6 books after this one's out, knowing what is going to happen in the end is likely to be a completely different experience. Just try reading the Prisoner of Azkaban now that we know Peter Pettigrew helps Voldemort regain his powers. I'm going to miss the feeling of having so many unanswered questions.

Note to Self: Hyperlink all the terminology to the appropriate wikipedia pages.

Note to Reader: If you don't see a hyperlink, please look up the word on wikipedia.

At Code Camp, San Diego


Got bitten by the BarCamp bug again. I spent the last weekend at the Rock and Roll Code Camp at San Diego. This was one unconference that covered a lot of MS technologies. I got my fill of Silverlight, CardSpace, and some refresher/updates on WCF and WPF. I also saw an good demo of TeamCity. This is a build management tool (quite comprehensive) from Jetbrains, the same guys who make Idea, my favorite Java IDE.

My presentation on "The Ten Commandments for an Agile Developer", was based on a post I wrote earlier. My slides:

src="" name="10 Commandments for an Agile Developer" frameborder="0" height="335" scrolling="no" width="450">

This was one unconference that made the speakers feel extra special. A speakers' room, bags and t-shirts as audience giveways, and even a speakers badge! I'm saving mine :), I've never seen it in an unconference before.

Barcamp Bangalore... never too late to write about it


This article on Barcamp Bangalore 3 appeared in the Hindu (an Indian newspaper), Bangalore Edition on 17 March, almost a month and a half after the actual event took place. That's me in the photograph, presenting my talk on Mifos. Barcamp Bangalore will happen once every quarter (just need a reason to gang up, talk geek and drink beer) - the next one is slated for July. Dates not finalized yet. I'm not going to be able to make it to BCBs for some time.

I relocated to Irvine, California earlier this month. Luckily for me, Barcamp San Diego is happening on the weekend of Jun 2/3. More details here. Drop me a note if you are going to be there.

Nike's 1st Cricket Ad (Lyrics here)


This is Nike's first cricket ad, first internationally (meaning, non US) made ad, and right on the money to capture the cricket crazy nation that is India. A small strip of space and a ball is all you need to get started.
Its a rather long ad, so they're dishing out a lot of moolah everytime they air this, but its got people's attention. For those not living in India, here's the video.

(object) (embed)

The song in the ad is a Konkani song, and a few people I know were looking for the lyrics of the song, so here goes. I grew up in Goa, so I understand a fair bit of Konkani.

[Literal translation (intended meaning)]

Rao, Patrao, Rao
[Wait, boss/partner, wait]
Khelu mhaka di muntao
[Let me play]
Khelu mhaka di na zaalyaar tuze photelle toklao
[If you don't let me play I will break your head (I'll chase you down)]

Kheluch amche osle
[Our game is like this only]
kenna-ch raunk nasle
[never waited (to think)]
Undeer-Maazraache khelu kosle
[like a cat and mouse game]
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
We didn't quite catch the lyrics at this line, can someone help?

Moraun dhoraun podaun sonkol
[fighting, pulling, falling]
Noseeb mhoje kosle
[my fate's caught in it]

Lyrics courtesy Aditya, Goan-to-the-core. (Will someone tell him to stop singing it all day?!)

At WikiCamp


Unconferences are bad for my body clock. I woke up early - on a Sunday, that too - to catch a flight to Chennai for the WikiCamp. When I reached Tidel Park (the venue), Jimmy Wales had started his talk on wikipedia, wikia. He clarified to all of us that Wikipedia was not running out of money as was reported. He'd meant that they had 4 months of money in the bank, and only if they didn't receive a cent in donations for 4 months running (which is highly unlikely) they would be in a crisis.I met with some of the key Indian contributors to WikipediaBhadani, the Grand Old Indian of Wikipedia, is No. 45 in the list of worldwide contributors. This banker from Pondicherry humbles all of us. Ganesh K (is ganesh a bot or a human?), Sundar, the guy behind the Tamil wikipedia, and an admin on Wikipedia.Arun R and Atul Chitnis, contributors . I spoke in the afternoon. My slides:Atul Chitnis spoke about how to use a wiki as a website, using as an example. Very cool. Until then I didn't know that was a wiki site. Some clever scripting done.In the afternoon, I moderated a BoF (Birds of a Feather) session that was hitherto unplanned. Hey, its an unconference, so all this works. We went through multiple rounds of reorganizing sessions till we had something that was agreeable to all. While we were doing it, we were the fancy of many a photographer. Photo courtesy: SiddhiSo, back to the BoF. We got all the guys I mentioned above plus Jimmy Wales on a panel, and shot questions at them.Photo Courtesy: ArvindAshwin was liveblogging the BoF until (he and) his laptop ran out of battery. There were some guys who were doing a documentary on wikis, and they captured the whole discussion. I'll link to them as soon as I can get their info. Moot pointsKiruba was formally dressed (he had to, he was the organizer)Someone actually asked Jimmy Wales "So, when is Wikipedia going to list on NASDAQ?". Jimmy had the patience and grace to answer it. (No, I'm not going into the lengthy explanation here.)Atul Chitnis got pelted with squeeze balls for exceeding his talk-time to provide the media a "story" (read his comment below). Geeks have bad aim -- only 2 of them hit their target, and Atul is hard to miss. No wonder software projects have so many bugs.Red Bull was one of the sponsors, so we all had wings in the afternoonChennai was cooler than Bangalore that day.More photos from Arun and Vinod. Search flickr for "wikicamp" to get the whole lot.More coverage on this event in the Blogosphere (comment or contact me to add your link here)ArvindAshwinPrathulHimanshu[...]

Veni, Vedi, Wiki(Camp)


The first-of-its-kind-in-India gathering of Wiki-people is happening in Tidel Park, Chennai on 25th February. If you like/use/want to know about Wikis, then be sure to attend WikiCamp. From the list of topics I see, its all about the guts, the gashes, the gore and glory of using Wikis.


Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, is going to be there. It is an unconference, so speak up and participate. Let me know if anyone of you reading this is also going to be there, will be glad to catch up. See you on Sunday.

If you cannot make it for some reason, you can come back here and read about it for sure.

How-to: Create a dual boot laptop with Ubuntu and Windows XP


A few months ago, I configured my laptop to dual boot into Windows and Ubuntu. This post is dedicated to spreading the Ubuntu love :), and comes at the advice of a friend.

System Configuration
My laptop is a Dell Latitude D620, and came pre-installed with Windows XP Professional (+SP2). I also had a Ubuntu 6.10 CD (Edgy Eft) (I'd previously ordered it). You can alternately download it and burn an ISO. Note: Ubuntu comes with GNOME desktop, if you want KDE, you should download kubuntu.

Create the partitions
Mine was a fresh Windows install (the laptop was new), but if your's isn't, you should run defrag to free up any disk space before creating any partitions.

Using the Windows XP administration tool, I created 4 (roughly equal) partitions on my 80GB HDD: 1 for the Windows OS install, 2 NTFS partitions for my data and Windows programs, and 1 "blank" (unallocated) partition, for Ubuntu.

Install Ubuntu
First, I changed my BIOS boot sequence to boot from the CD drive before the HDD. Then inserted the Ubuntu CD, and booted into Ubuntu. I chose the Install Ubuntu option, and followed the steps in the wizard. At some point, the installation prompted me to create my partitions. I chose to "Manually edit partition table" and found my 4 partitions listed there.
I left the windows partitions as is - they show up as as sda* (*=1,2,3 depending on how many Windows partitions are there). Of the unallocated space, I created two partitions.
1. Linux swap, of 2GB (rule of thumb says that your swap partition should be about twice your RAM)
2. Linux (OS) partition, of all the remaining space.

Note: A lot of people forget to create the swap partition.

Almost done, just Reboot
I just continued and completed the installation process, removed the CD and rebooted, and I was ready-to-go. GRUB installed automatically, and figured out its config based on the partitions. It made Linux the default boot partition, which suited me fine. You can always change the GRUB configuration if you want to change the order.

I configured my network connections, including wireless connections using the network configuration utility, and it all worked fine. Amen.

If what I described doesn't happen to you :), this is a good place to look for help. In fact, I read the whole article before I dual boot-ed my laptop just for some perspective.

The Creativity Manifesto


Two things happened today:
1. I got a mail - out of the blue - from a friend about my blog
2. I read Hugh MacLeod's (yeah, the same guy whose cartoons appear on my blog) manifesto called "How to be Creative". It is actually an old article, first showed up in his blog. Somehow, I missed reading it until now.

I don't know exactly what connections my brain hooked up, but it propelled me out of my bloggers' block. So Happy New Year and Compliments of the Season :).

If you have an hour to spare, read the manifesto. If you don't, make that one hour. Hugh's work is very intriguing. It slaps you in the face and then gives you a shoulder to lean on. Ever had the truth written down in your face in a size 48 font? As I read it, I felt rebellious and depressed, ecstatic and angry, enlightened and dumbfounded, empty and inspired.

Some things that stuck, and my reactions to it (hopefully, this will encourage you to read the whole article)

Guard your freedom. Rather, define what freedom means to you and guard it with your life (and career).

In what Hugh calls the "Sex and Cash" theory, he says creative people have 2 kinds of jobs (at the same time) - one has sex appeal, the other pays the bills. Reading that sorted out my theory of an Ideal Job (that there is no such thing) - it showed me another way to think about it.

Everyone has his/her Big Dream - their Mount Everest to climb. Admit yours, and make a serious attempt to make it happen - before you have all the time to regret not doing it. And when you do it, make sure you put in those hours. Its hard work and pain - deal with it.

Avoid the "run-of-the-mill", "another-brick-in-the-wall" kind of people, what Hugh calls the Watercooler Gang. I agree with his reasoning - we're mired in mediocrity, allow the mediocre mindset to creep into our behavior and ambition. Everyone has the ability to think differently - your mind is your fingerprint.

Do it for yourself. Not for money or fame or to impress someone. If you have any talent and passion, you have this innate need for accomplishment - something only you can define, that transcends most imposed boundaries. Sounds like a spiritual lecture. Partly true.

Moral of the story: Sing in your own voice - and put your heart into it.

An Ode to Extreme Programming (XP)


For those who admire XP (eXtreme Programming) or are intrigued by it, here's a music video from a team who seems to have done it - and lived to tell the tale. Its a wonderful way to drive messaging within a group or company.

If you sift out the grammatical disruptiveness of the translation, you will realize that the latter part of the song is quite profound. Life is all about improving yourself, breaking out of self-imposed barriers for a better tomorrow.

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Simple and inspiring. This song's been playing in my head all day long.

Yahoo v/s Google: Who has the right Answers?


Google announced that it is shutting down its Answers service. Yahoo Answers, on the other hand seems to get more popular by the day. The chart below from hitwise says it all.


Yahoo Answers relies on the community to provide answers (like Wikipedia), whereas Google had researchers answer them. Look at which one was more popular: the wisdom of the crowds. This seems counter intuitive - getting an answer from an expert at a subject should be more valuable. The bazaar style prevails again.

At Bangalore Barcamp


I spent the better part of my weekend at the barcamp in Bangalore, held at the ThoughtWorks office. Day 1 had about 200 people. I haven't woken up this early on a Saturday morning in a long time, but I had to get there to book my speaker slot. Mine was the first presentation for the morning, on Web 2.0 Business models (or, where's the money, honey?). I was flattered when I saw the room full of people, and even more so when the organizers decided to move me (and my audience) into a bigger room to make place for everyone who wanted to attend. I had a great audience, so there was some discussion around whether online advertising is a really sustainable revenue model, what value propositions would really work, and whether we are looking at a Bubble 2.0 in the making.

My slideshow


Me presenting (Photo Courtesy: Arun)


Day 2 had lesser people, the "more serious crowd", according to someone. There were more informal gatherings, people hacking at something, blogging, podcasting, everyone airing their opinions. This is what you get if you get some geeks together on a weekend and give them enough food to eat.

Some interesting sessions I attended

  • Jon Boutelle's talk on building scalable web applications with ruby and s3
  • Marco's talk on Agile Software Project Management
  • Kiruba's talk on
  • Card walls and Dancing by Deven Tolia
  • Building Ajax web applications using GWT
  • YourTube: Create your own video sharing site using OSS by Pradeep (motu)

More shared media:

Slides for (some) sessions here and here.

The flickr photo pool here.

One problem I commonly face at events is getting oversized T-shirts. I have a size L. Anyone who wants to trade a size M for a size L please let me know :)

A couple of sessions I attended deserve separate posts, those are coming up in a bit.

Will the real Zoho please stand up?


While browsing today, I found a site called, that claims to be a mobile social networking site. Make new friends and find old ones by sending them sms. Novel idea, although I personally think it is very intrusive. But thats not the reason I'm writing this. Look at the name! Sounds way too much like Zoho, a company I admire and have blogged about in the past. Dont do this, guys! You're damaging the brand value of both companies. I mean, if you are serious about your business, do not choose to be a me-too (name-wise). It is so un-cool, almost parasitic in nature.

I wonder if the Zoho guys know about this, and if they do, are they doing anything about it?

Update: Apparently they do. Arvind from Zoho sent me mail that their legal department is going to send them an anti-cybersquatting cease and desist notice shortly. I will update this post as this develops further.

Further Update: Zohho is now renamed to Wohho. The name issue got resolved quite quickly and amicably. also redirects to Wohho. Now I do not mind linking to their website.

Busy Weekends Ahead: and Bangalore Barcamp


Two very interesting events coming up in the next two weeks (weekends, really). and Bangalore Barcamp.

For the uninitiated, is a gathering (literally - there are scores of people) of people interested and/or associated with Free and Open Source Software in India. It is happening this week: 24-26 November. I went there last year - thats where I got hooked onto Ruby on Rails. Let me see what bites me this year. There's an Andrew Cowie session, that I will attend for sure. Be sure to register if you are interested.

The Barcamp is happening on 2-3 Dec, look here for more details. Barcamp is strictly for noisy, opinionated geeks. All participants, no attendees, they say. Piece of trivia: The name Barcamp came up as a response to O' Reilly's annual, by invitation meet called FooCamp. The House of Lords and the House of Commons, if you will. Pass the word around for the commoners to meet, and ask them to register here.

Another piece of trivia: foobar, acme corp are called Metasyntactic Variables. Wow, I didnt know it had a name. Think of all the people I could have confused via my design document or spec.


Sowmya's favourite "new" companies


Startups are in fashion again - thanks to Web 2.0, the second wave of the Internet or whatever you want to call it. Everyday my RSS feeds throw up links to companies I've never heard about before. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite new (I deliberately refrain from calling them Web 2.0 – I don’t want to spark off that debate.) companies. I am curious as to where these companies are headed. I admire the guts, worry about revenue models, marvel at the idea, love the underlying technology, and wish for growth. I hope they just don’t get acquired and merged (some are, but continue to retain their identity), but continue to challenge the Goliaths. I suppose some will, but Dear God, not all of them. This list is in no particular order, doesn’t contain detailed product or company reviews. I’m just declaring my love for them. Six Apart: These are the guys who make Typepad, MovableType, Vox and LiveJournal. I personally think Typepad is the best blogging engine available, if you are a professional blogger. Any corporate looking for a hosted blogging engine should seriously consider Typepad/MovableType. I just signed up to Vox for my personal blog. Combining blogging and social networking is quite powerful for an individual as well as for a community of users. That’s what makes Vox promising. 37Signals: Just creating a framework like Rails is enough to get me all ga-ga about these folks. For a living, they create productivity software tools for small businesses and individuals: the Fortune Long Tail, if I may call it. BaseCamp is the flagship product: it’s a web-based project management tool. They follow it up with more lightweight, collaborative and cheap tools like a collaborative Writeboard, and a chat tool (Campfire). The DNA of these tools: lightweight (web based), collaborative and simple. ROOT Markets: In the Gold Rush, it was the toolmakers that made the money. Take Levi’s for example. ROOT Markets is a company focused on Attention. (If you aren’t aware of what Attention is, in the internet sense, then you should read this article.) They have an exchange called ROOT Exchange which is like a trading platform for online leads. This is one company that could make it big, as a platform provider. Pluck: I love my Pluck RSS reader. It’s tucked into my browser (IE and FF), has a client side install that subtly informs me of new feeds, and helps me categorize my feeds. I see my list of subscriptions in a neat tree on the left and the feeds (summaries) on the right. Google Reader now does something similar, but I’ve been using Pluck for almost a year and a half, and I haven’t got a reason to move, until now. [See update at the end of the post.] Zillow: Started by ex-Expedia employees, this company recently received 25 million USD in second round funding, (a total of 57MM till date). They provide free estimate (or Zestimate, as they’d like to call it) for property buyers and sellers in the US. At first, I thought that what Expedia did to travel agents, Zillow was attempting to do to real estate agents. Apparently not. They think of real estate agents as one of their consumer group, because a real estate decision is a more calculated one than a travel decision. This is the best part: revenue generation is through online advertising. Will they be a billion dollar (value) company by making money through ads? Zoho: With a name derived from “SOHO”, this company creates office productivity tools with an aim to create affordable software for bus[...]

@ 95th percentile of Nerdiness


I just took this fun test that calculates how nerdy I am, compared to the others who took the test. Well, turns out that I hit 95th percentile. Just because I know my computer's IP address, know some chemistry, have a messy room and can recognize Isaac Newton. I admit I am a bit of a geek, but 95th percentile is a little unbelieveable. I've deduced that not enough people are taking this test (for the statistics buffs: sample size not large enough), so a little propaganda wouldn't hurt. I'll re-take the test 3 months later and see if I get the same scores. I got a cute little badge to show off, though. Here it is.

I'm going to put it up as part of my profile and see if that scares people away ;). Thanks to ashwin for pointing me to this one.


My Blogger Template, Rehashed


Anyone who's edited his/her blogger template will identify with the sense of achievement I'm going through right now having edited mine. Here's whats new (and credits to people who I took help from).

I moved to a 3 column layout, thanks to some help from my friend Ashish. From there I got to Pam's site, where I also found the basic code to get me started.

I liked some of the styles that were in my previous template "TicTac Blue" (available on the blogger templates page), so I re-used some of them. Credits to Dan Cederholm for the images I still continue to use.

Many Blogger users crib about the lack of support for Categories. There are plenty of hacks available as a workaround till we see Blogger support it. I liked the one from David's site. Its simple to integrate and use. Until the new Blogger arrives, at least.

For those who prefer reading email to feeds: I signed up to FeedBlitz so you can subscribe to my blog. Every time I add a new post, you'll get a mail, with the full content. There's also a link in the email that takes you to the comments page.

TODO in my next iteration of template editing: Add my Blogroll. Search. Directly add my site feed to commonly used feed readers.

Looking for suggestions and feedback.


Acquicor gets Jazzy


Acquicor (AMEX: AQR) in the news again. Woz and gang have agreed to buy Jazz Semiconductor for $260 million, in an all cash deal. Gil Amelio will be CEO of the merged entity. This deal will be put up for approval by the shareholders, and will be completed only if at least 80% votes are in its favour. Jazz Semiconductor, incubated in 2002, is a CMOS wafer manufacturing firm. Numbers: The valuation comes at an EBITDA multiple of 19. Jazz had a net loss of ~15 million in the first half of 2006, hence the EBITDA rather than the P/E.

Acquicor had a webinar conference (recording available on its website) to discuss the merger, in which Jazz claims the main objective behined the acquisition is the access to Acquicor founders' network and to public markets. Gil also touched upon the non GAAP financial measures (adjusted EBITDA) to do the valuation.

I'd posted earlier on Acquicor, just about the time it went IPO. I'm going to watch this company for a while, so you may see more posts about this. My main objective is to understand the functioning of a blank check company, rather than comment on the valuations and other deal aspects.

This 260 million will come partly from Acquicor's trust, part from a line of credit (65M) and part from the selling shareholders (80M) if necessary. This means that Acquicor will have to part with about $ 115 million from its trust account, that had around $ 160 million. Will Acquicor go back to the market to raise more funds, or will it make a smaller acquisition next? This company is definitely on my watchlist.


The Ten commandments for an Agile Developer


I'm not playing God, just being Moses.I'm putting down things that I feel are important for any developer in an Agile project. For me, any project that involves iterative planning and continuous integration is agile enough to begin with. One can see enormous benefits just by following principles like feature-driven development (FDD) and test- driven development (TDD). You dont have to go from zero to XP or Scrum to be agile. In fact, I think agility is a continuum and each project needs to find its sweet spot on it.A lot is said and written about the need for self-managed development teams in an agile project. I interpret "self-managed" in a psychological way - I think it is a frame of mind that you need to be in, day in and day out, throughout the project. It requires rigour and a sense of self discipline. This may raise the hackles of developers who think discipline chokes innovation, and it takes out the "cool"-ness out of programming; I'll turn the argument on its head and say that to be truly innovative, you have to be disciplined about your fundamentals.The rest of this article is about those ground rules. I'm not advocating any Agile process over another - follow whatever processes your project has decided to. This list is a daily to-do list. Over time, these things will be next to breathing for you as a developer (Do you realize how many times you hit Ctrl-S in 5 minutes?). They're really so simple, I should have called this the Zen way of agile development. I've seen its benefits, and more importantly, seen the mayhem caused when these rules arent strictly followed.Write tests before code. Use a testing framework - there's one available for your language. Writing tests first ensures that you write just enough for the functionality of your program to work, nothing more. We often spend a lot of time writing that one extra method with that one extra parameter just in case you need to use it tomorrow. None of this happens if you first write a unit test before actually writing the code. How many tests should you write? The minimum required to make the code feature complete and secure. Use test suites liberally to create user scenarios involving a set of features. Execute these in your coffee break (Heck, why does the computer need a break?!).Build from source on your local machine. Every day, before you start work, take the build from the build server (you should have one, btw). Treat every checkin as sacred, especially when fixing a bug. Gone is the era when you could say "it works on my machine". They dont even joke about it these days. Before you checkin, make sure you run the build scripts locally. If it takes too long to make a build, it is the build process that needs fixing (good ruse to ask your manager for a better machine ;) ).Be lazy (automate everything you can). I mean, thats what the computer is supposed to do, right? Take the repetitiveness out of a job. So, please put the computer to work at the True Purpose for which it was invented. You can build, deploy, test, report bugs, clean-up just by pressing some shortcut key combination. There are plenty of tools available to do this - lots of them are open source too, so there's no limit to how lazy you can afford to get. I'm not going to go into details of how to automate a project (too long, and out of scope for this article), but here's an excellent book that tells you how to: Pragmatic Project Automation.A [...]