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Showing posts from 2010

I Can Run!

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This post is to brag on a mini milestone achievement - I can now complete the upcoming Whitefield Mid Night Marathon ( only the baby 4.2 Kms )!

Of the last 3 runs I have been consistently covering 4.2 kms plus.

Here are a few steps (woohoo managed to squeeze in a pun ) I took :

1. Shunned the iPod. The ear hurts after a while, the buds keep falling off, the wire keeps coming in the way - and the podcast / songs might get boring and I lose interest in running. So ditched the iPod and I can now run just with my thoughts.

2. Psyche myself on Diabetes. Genetically South Indians are programmed with this disease and shipped into the world. I sit and work 12 plus hours - almost 7 days a week. Office is just on the 1st floor. ( ahemm home is on 3rd floor but I am lazy ). Only way to beat diabetes is to exercise - no other way out.

3. Psyche myself on Personal Victory. This one is from Stephen Covey's 7 habit book. You should first win personal victories before you can win public victorie…

Thoughts on Goal

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Last month I was in Justbooks around the time they were closing so just picked 2 books as directed by my subconscious. Once I started reading I realised that I heard about this book  first in the 2007 Ooty Thoughtworks Awayday. Apparently the subconscious mind remembered about this book when I was going to randomly pick 2 books - amazing how neurons work
Goal was written by Dr.Eliyahu M.Goldratt as a marketing ploy to sell their software which did some scheduling. No one knows about the software - but the book became a roaring success - after rejects by 20 publishers. 
The book brings out some interesting concepts - even though it revolves around a manufacturing plant - it soon becomes apparent that the concepts can be applied against any industry or business.
What is the Goal?
Alex is the head of a production plant. Orders are always delayed and is a loss making plant. His boss gives him 3 months to turn it around or close the plant. Alex meets his high school physics teacher who mentors…

BootStrapping and VCs

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Last week I attended the Nasscom Product Conclave.  Lots of take aways.
Bootstrapping

I am reading Goal now ( a dedicated post is needed for the book ) and it taught me a new life lesson. Constraints are not a bad thing - they are the best thing that can ever happen to you. A few sessions reflected this thought process and brought some clarity.
For a Bootstrapped Startup - Cashflow / Money is the constraint. It shapes the way we think and act. Every Rupee that is spent is well thought out. Wastage is out of question. No unwanted feature creeps into the product - keeping the product spiffy and on its toes. The code / server is optimized to extract every ounce of performance as infrastructure is expensive and eats into the bottomline. 
I can keep adding lot other things - I appreciate the constraint bootstrapping provides - it is actually creating the character of the future company that has started shaping up.
VCs
This brings me to the other side of the coin. I felt bad for VCs - they got ba…

Viral Loop

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It has been a while since I finished reading Viral Loop by Adam Penenberg - which traces the story of Internet companies right from Netscape to Facebook and Twitter.

The book is sinking in slowly. Being in the .com business it was exciting and scary to read the history of various startups.

The book covers the journey of the following startups.

Netscape
Hotmail
Ebay
Paypal
Amazon
Hot or not
MySpace
Flickr
Bebo
Ning
Twitter
Facebook

And there is a recurring pattern in all of them

1. The founder is invariably a developer


All these are essentially Web applications - and having the founder-developer part of the nucleus is ideal . Things change at the speed of light - and the founder being at the helm can immediately sense the course corrections that are needed - and correct them himself - instead of having outsourced the core work, or giving instructions to a team of techies and waiting for them to create magic.

3 Cheers to Developers - we are the makers of the world!

Free Tip Warning :) :  If you are a deve…

Breaking the Reality Distortion Field!

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I did it !

I broke the Reality distortion field cobweb of Steveji and joined the Android Brigade! It has been more than a week since I bought my first smart phone - a Samsung Galaxy S ( on the left - yes it does look very iPhoneish ) and it is Enthiranistic ( hehe :) )

It was a tectonic mind shift for me. I love Apple products - my first laptop was an iBook. Then I bought iMac, iPods. When the 1st gen iPhone came I wanted it badly - but as a rule I never buy 1st Gen Apple products ( can't afford the Apple Tax ).

Recently I decided ( the power above approved rather :) ) to go for a smartphone and my obvious choice was an iPhone. Despite the attenagate I wanted to buy the iPhone 4. However I started reading more and more on the iPhone vs Android wars and found how closed Apple had become.

In the iconic 1984 Super Bowl Ad when Apple introduced PCs to the IBM masses - a lady with a hammer hurls it on the Big (Blue) Brother who preaches :
"Our Unification of Thoughts is more powe…

Release elsewhere vs Release in a Startup

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In August we had 4 Major Releases and 8 Minor releases. I was  thinking how the Releases were in my previous life ( few in a year ) and how it is now ( few in a month ).

Things are much more demanding in a startup - the developer's job is not done by just pushing things to Prod and making sure things are fine. He has to do lot of follow up work. Looks like lot of fun isn't it! :)

Stay away from Microsoft Fonts for Ubuntu

I installed Microsoft fonts by mistake ( msttcorefonts ) and forgot all about it. However it messed up the entire system. These fonts are not anti-aliased or smoothened and they are razor sharp.


If you have installed - just remove them sudo apt-get remove msttcorefonts and sanity will be restored.

The One vs The Many Heroes

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I started reading a Sci Fi novel - Dune by Frank Herbert. I have not even crossed 30 pages and already the characters in the book are analyzing if the hero ( a kid as of now ) is the one? It kind of put me off a bit..but I will persist with the book. Curious to know if he is the one ;)

Coming from an eastern civilization where there is really no "one hero" it does sound a bit funny initially. There are 1+ million Gods, in Mahabharata there are 5 heros, and there is a hero who is part of the dark side too ( Karna ), in Ramayana actually the bad guy is projected to be on the good side ( Rama - who else.. haha ;) he plots the downfall of one of the monkey kings, suspects poor Deepika...better known as Sita and burns her etc. ).

Switch to the Western world - there is Matrix. After snazzy graphics, exploding cars and trucks, and 3 parts - it is determined that Neo is the One. In Lord of the rings the ring chooses a sad looking Elijah Woods as the One. In the latest movie too, Av…

Cure for the Common Cold

"If you take medicine the cold will go away in 7 days, if you do not it will go away in 1 week" - My 12th Std Biology teacher. That was the only time I smiled in his class, rest of the time I would be sleeping or keeping myself awake dreaming of college just a few months away and how liberating it would be.

Anyway this post is about my cold. It always hits me when I least want ( as if anyone will want to get cold ). A big release, an important interview, a vacation, a family get together - it is always there to give me company.  I have tinnitus ( like everyone's hero Guy Kawasaki ) and it gets worse during cold - meaning - 1.5 of my hearing will be out of service for this period.

I have tried all things. Pranayama, Running, Walking, Japanese shower, Orange juice, Nuts, Fruits, quit smoking ( even though I don't smoke ;) ) - and also doing none of these - still the cold gives me a visit without fail. I have been fighting this battle since my earliest memory - still no…

IQ, EQ, CQ, PQ

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After reading Malcolm Gladwell's book - Outliers - I have started looking at things with a different perspective. Here is my hypothesis on the elements that can make one successful in life. 
IQ
Whenever we see someone who has "arrived in life" we presume they have a high IQ - but this is not the only criteria. Having cart loads of IQ is good to have, but it does not guarantee success if the below 3 are not present in good measure
EQ
Emotional Quotient :  The person who laughs at the face of danger; the one who lost badly but has the courage to try once again, or take a different path; the go-to guy at work when the experts give up and report sick on crisis situations; this is the guy every project manager wants in his team. EQ is a must have - not just a good to have. 
CQ
Creative Quotient :  The guys with a high CQ spruce up dull meetings; their emails are all a joy to read; their stand-up updates are fun - and the team tries hard to match him - and the whole team bonds &…

Penguin Zindaabaad - Ubuntu 10.04 review

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They : Is this Apple?
Me : No. This is Ubuntu !
They : Huh? 
Me : Yep! 
The above conversation happened yesterday when I had gone to give a demo to an Association Committee.  Half an hour we were discussing on Ubuntu and then I realized I have come here to sell my product and not Ubuntu - and went on with the demo! 

That's the screenshot of my desktop - on Ubuntu 10.04. Very minimal, OS Xish, smooth, fast, snappy, extremely responsive - and a conversation piece at every demo.

In May 2009 - a year back I installed Ubuntu 9.04 with dual boot with Vista ( http://venkat2.blogspot.com/2009/05/finally-switched-from-vista-to-ubuntu-9.html). Now after a year - in may 2010 - I clean formatted the laptop and have gifted the entire hard drive, boot sector et all to Ubuntu 10.04. I am confident / convinced that Windows is not needed any more.

In fact I am very grateful to Microsoft for having produced a crappy OS. If Vista was a little better I would have lived with it - how I lived through Win 98, …

After reading Outliers I write a time-travel letter to myself

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I finished reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell a couple of days back and lots of thoughts have been churning in my head. Putting them down as a letter to myself - a letter I would write to the 20 year old Venkat whose career is just beginning ( also applicable to anyone who is in college right now ).

Hi Venkat,

How are you doing? How is your new college? Here are some tips for you.

1. Eat Breakfast. 

This is not from Outliers - but my personal advice. I never ate breakfast in college - slept late, woke up late and would miss breakfast. Just by eating your breakfast daily you will get a better grade. Trust me.

2. Work hard.

You see your class topper ace in all the subjects. You think he has got an extra chunk of grey matter. Take a peek into his life - he works hard and works effectively. Takes notes in class, brushes through the chapter before coming to class, and he practices the problems. His parents taught him the right methodology to study, perhaps he had a cousin who taught him early …

Flow - The Psychology of Optimal Experience

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This is a very interesting book by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Have you ever wondered the difference between pleasure and enjoyment?

Pleasure : 


When you are involved in a pleasurable activity - it takes your mind out of the worries you are having ( watching TV to escape from stress ) and satisfies the needs of the moment ( drinking coke to quench thirst ).

Enjoyment : 

An "enjoyable" activity, not only gives you pleasure - but gives you the feeling of fulfilment, the feeling of joy and living life.

You need to put some effort to "enjoy". Playing a guitar, compiling linux, playing badminton - all these are very enjoyable activities. It takes effort, requires skill, practise and is extremely rewarding in the end.

There needs to be clear goals and feedback in such activities. 0 errors, 0 warnings is the reward in the end - till then you should keep tweaking,do more research, try different approaches.

You lose your self-consciousness and sense of time. Your entire concentration…

How to handle Developers!

Here are a few tips if you get pushed to managing a team of code monkeys..err..developers.

1. Deadline is 8 hours away and they are whiling away time by reading Joel Sposky or watching a South Indian actor dancing in a superman costume.

Ignore this - they are just warming up.

2. After the above intellectual stimulation they go for coffee.

Again, be patient. They are refueling.

3. Call them for a meeting to explain how grave the situation is. Only 6 hours is left.

Stop stop. Don't call them for a meeting now, it will just drain the warm up and caffeine effect they are having now. They are about to enter their "zone" where things will start "flowing".

4. How to know what the status is?

Hmm..it is a difficult thing. If you send an IM or an email it will interrupt their flow which will make them very angry, or they might mistake you for micro managing things. Wait for one of the developers to go for a bathroom break and follow them there. Of course you should be of the sam…

Earth hour is a sick joke on us

So you participated in the Earth Hour? Good for you - this will encourage Bescom ( or TNEB or whatever entity ) to give more power cuts - Oh so our customers don't want power - lets cut some more. 
There are so many power cuts in a day for varying durations. Our office UPS beeps almost the entire day - and I have started getting "flow" when I hear the beeps. At times when the beep stops ( because power is back ) I start browsing and cannot concentrate on my work.
We have placed an order for one more home and lighting UPS - Jan Feb we were able to manage without a fan, but now it is unbearably hot. The term "sweat equity" takes a different meaning for us! 
Anyway, I applaud the western world to interrupt the power for an hour in a year. Great. I wish they do it every week. And also they switch off the AC and lighting on weekends when they leave office. 
And we Indians - let us see how to increase power production. I initially thought I will go with the flow and part…

Sharad Sharma's talk in Bangalore OCC - Mar 21

Today I attended the Bangalore Open Coffee Club's meeting in an interesting venue called Jaaga. Before I  jump into Mr.Sharad Sharma's speech / adrenaline shot - will talk a little about Jaaga. It is spear headed by Freeman Murray and Archana Prasad. They have identified an unused piece of land - and has built this structure with minimal and eco-friendly materials. This space can be used by NGOs or communities who want a place to get together, startups can come and plug in etc.  They call it the Urban Community Art Architecutre Experiment - http://jaaga.wikidot.com/start. Brilliant concept and I am sure you will be visiting this place sometime in future - it is going to take off well. 
Now to the Orbit Change Catalyst's lecture ( thats his twitter bio  http://twitter.com/sharads ) 
Mr.Sharad Sharma took us through his entrepreneurial journey and kept giving his insights and his learning peppered with lot of interesting anecdotes.
1. Innovation Blow back
Innovations are happeni…

What the doctor ordered!

AI - Ad Industry
Doc - The Wise Doc

AI : Doc - we need a way to show ads on prime time.
Doc : Ok?

AI : We need to show ads every 2 minutes
Doc : Hmm.

AI : Is it even possible or are we greedy?
Doc : Any thing is possible my dear AI. There is a religion worshipped by Indians that we can exploit. It is called Cricket. Let us come up with a 20 over format and force the players to play fast - so you can show ads every 2 minutes - between the overs. Also encourage the batsmen to treat their wickets with scant respect - so they will get out quicker - and you can show more ads during that time.

AI : What about replays?
Doc : Screw the replays - no one will care how the batsman got out - either he will be clean bowled or caught somewhere on the boundary line.

AI : That is wonderful. God bless your wisdom tooth.
Doc : You are welcome my dear friend. Even though you did not ask I will give you one more opportunity to show more ads - introduce a "strategic time-out". The viewer will now wait eage…

Review of What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

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In summary - it is another brilliant book by Malcolm Gladwell. A little difficult to read - he uses so many names, numbers and you have to skip them while reading. Hi Malcolm here is a suggestion - use footnotes next time - your book will be half its size and will sell well.

Here are some interesting snapshots from the book I still remember.

Ketchup and Spaghetti sauce



This chapter is a follow up to his TED talk where he explains how there is no one perfect "taste" but there are perfect "tastes". There are so many spaghetti sauce varieties in the market and here is an enterprising person who tries to apply the same model to Ketchup and tries to go against Heinz - the market leader. However he is not as successful.

What I learnt from this chapter is that each product / market is different - what works in one will not work in another. When the inventor of "tastes" model was asked why it did not work for Ketchup he shrugged off saying "Ketchup is different&…

Entrepreneurship ka side effects

Here is a light hearted look at what a journey as an entrepreneur brings to you !

1. Sleeplessness

"Dreams are not what you have when you sleep, dreams are those that don't let you sleep." - Dr. Abdul Kalam

You would lay awake the night before meeting your first customer, day before product launch or because of one of the many excitements this journey brings. It is like when you are in love or you have spoken to your crush. And if you start getting a good nights sleep continuously - you should be worried - it is a lull before a storm!

2. Fatigue

You work really hard day in and day out, days at a stretch. And you would hit the wall. You cannot browse, go out, read a book or listen to music. Your brain will just refuse to co-operate. Solution is to just veg out - switch on the idiot box, make yourself comfortable and watch something that will not tax your brain. It will last an evening or a day max - see it through and you will be energised for another long run.

3. Ideas

Suddenly…

Debug PHP in IntelliJ IDEA

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IntelliJ IDEA 9.0.1 has support for PHP. And the fine folks at JetBrains have given debug support which is awesome squared !
In just a few minutes you can get debug going on for your PHP applications.
Note : These instructions are for the ultimate edition of IDEA ( not the community edition which does not have php support ), and Ubuntu 10.04.
1. Install xdebug :
sudo apt-get install php5-xdebug
2. Add xdebug configuration at the end of php.ini
sudo vi /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini
Append these lines at the end
xdebug.remote_enable=On xdebug.remote_host="localhost" xdebug.remote_port=9000 xdebug.remote_handler="dbgp"
3. Restart apache
sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 restart
4. In IntelliJ here is how I have configured. It is quite simple actually.

Here is the Run configuration

Here is the PHP Setting. Point the server root to your folders.



5. Now put a break point in your code and click on the debug button. A new browser window will be launched, navigate to the page you are testing and voila -…