Kuppam Webcam

I’m in Kuppam, Andhra Pradesh, India for the annual review of the Kuppam i-Community program. Here’s a view of the main street from the webcam on the roof of the local CIC (Computer Information Center), which is connected to the regional wireless broadband network that’s been deployed as part of the program.

The performance on the interior of the network is pretty reasonable, but access to the public internet can still be problematic, mostly due to high latency on a satellite link to the upstream provider. Typical ping times to the US are in the vicinity of 700ms. The proxy cache helps for most normal users here, though.

We’ll be travelling around the area to various program activity sites for the next couple of days, it will be interesting to see how things have progressed.

Google Earth

I’m semi-offline, travelling in India this week, but had a little time to check out Google Earth, which just launched. This is basically the Keyhole software, integrated with Google. It provides a 3-d interface to satellite imagery and GIS data for the whole earth, including terrain, 3-d building models in a few metro areas (such as San Francisco) and is free for personal use.

The main downside is that it’s a fat client (10MB to download), and requires an internet connection to log in on the image server. It’s great fun to play with though, and I can see a new round of interesting applications similar to the Google Maps hacks that have been emerging over the past few months.

South Indian mini meal at Poorna Veg

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Today’s lunch at the Poorna veg restaurant in Koramangala: South Indian mini meal (thali). Rice, curd, sambar, beans, and flat bread. Price = 18 rupees, or around 41 cents US. The least expensive lunch option was 8 rupees, the most expensive lunch on the menu was 30 rupees. This is a sort of fast food place, in that you place your order with the cashier, pick up your food from the cook counter, and eat while standing at one of the metal counters.

Bisi Bele Bath

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Lunch today at the Udupi Upahar restaurant in Koramangala after arriving this morning in Bangalore.

This is called Bisi Bele Bath:

Bisi = “Hot”
Bele = “Lentils”
Bath = Sauce mixed with rice

Experience riding SFO-NRT on ANA today

I usually fly on United Airlines, but today I ended up booked on ANA from San Francisco to Tokyo. I haven’t tried ANA in several years, so it was interesting to see how their service compared. On this trip I was also upgraded to business class at the last minute as the flight was oversold in coach. This flight was on a 777-200.

  • Liked the external TV camera on the in-flight entertainment system. These days it’s rare to get a view through the cockpit of a US-flagged commercial airplane, and I enjoyed seeing the view out the front rather than the side. There seem to be two cameras, one pointing forward, which is shown during takeoff, approach, and landing, and another downward facing camera for the rest. Most of the time it’s not very interesting (endless cloud banks or open ocean), but I did see a couple of other airliners well below us as we approached Japan.
  • The in-flight entertainment system is similar the IFE on Singapore Airlines, which is slightly nicer than the UA system. It provides individual programming to each seat, with a selection of on-demand movies, audio, and Nintendo video games. It’s nice to pause, fast forward, and rewind the movies. There are more movie choices than on UA, but fewer than on SQ. Also, the video game library is smaller than on SQ and does not include any Pokemon titles, which might be important to some.
  • At various points, I watched parts of : After the Sunset, Fistful of Dollars, Batman Returns, Million Dollar Baby, Lemony Snicket, Shall We Dance, Officer and a Gentleman, a video about Paris, Japanese music videos, and a Japanese version of VH1 showing US videos from the 80′s.
  • The audio programming includes “Premier Nature Sound 1 & 2″, which are “In the Raining Forest”, and “Relaxation Bird”. Both feature falling water and bird sounds.
  • I walked back in coach to see how things were set up, and each seat has its own display in the seatback in front of it, similar to SQ. The business class displays are slightly larger and swing up from the front of the seat. Interestingly, there are also CRT monitors overhead and a projection display at the front of the cabin, which show either the exterior camera view or the airshow map most of the time.
  • The business class headphones are more or less standard issue airline headphones, no noise reduction. I didn’t use them, as I carry my own (Sony MDR-NC20).
  • No passenger amenity kit, although ANA does supply slippers and blankets for each seat. There are also toothbrushes and other items available near the bathrooms.
  • The business class seats are OK but not great. They don’t recline as far as the UA business seats, and don’t have personal reading lights. They also don’t have the automatic lumbar support cycling mechanism. On the plus side, they’re reasonably comfortable, have a decent amount of cushion, and adequate legroom (for me). Despite the individualized IFE, there’s a reasonable amount of storage space under the seat in front of you, which is also handy if you’re in the middle row (which I was).
  • No hot nuts after takeoff. I brought my own snacks though.
  • The food was OK. I got a beef entree which was kind of tough, but some of the random Japanese side items were different and good.
  • They handed out bottles of water to everyone who wanted one, which was convenient. They also brought replacements promptly without having to hunt down a flight attendent. I got the impression that there were more crew on this flight than on a typical UA flight.
  • ANA is in Terminal 2 at Narita, while the UA flight I’m connecting to is in Terminal 1. So I got to take the shuttle bus from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1, which I haven’t done for a while. There weren’t any other passengers from Terminal 2 heading toward the shuttle stop at the time, so there was no line for the security rescreening. This was nice, since usually there’s a huge line for the security checkpoint for connecting flights within Terminal 1. I waited less than a minute for the shuttle, and the actual ride takes around 5 minutes. The shuttle drops you off at Gate 28, airside, so you don’t have to go through security again.
  • Now I’m back at the United Red Carpet Club in Terminal 1, which conveniently provides free (and massively insecure) wireless. There’s also at least a couple of misconfigured notebooks around somewhere, as I keep getting IP address conflict warnings. Not a place to run an unpatched system.

    First day of camp


    95 year old sets new record for 100m

    95 year old Kozo Haraguchi sets 100m world record of 22.04 seconds
    Awesome. I love reading about people like Kozo Haraguchi. Most people would feel pretty good just making it to 95. I hope I’m able to run at all when/if I live as long as this guy, who just set a record in the 95-99 year old male running bracket. Plugging his 22.04 second 100m time into McMillan’s equivalent pace calculator, he would be doing something like 92-second 400m or 7:28 miles or a 4:12 marathon, which is around what I did in my first marathon a couple of years ago.

    From Sports Illustrated:

    “It was the first time for me to run in the rain and as I was thinking to myself, ‘I mustn’t fall, I mustn’t fall,’ I made it across the goal,” Haraguchi told reporters.

    Japanese media reports Monday said that Haraguchi had beaten the world record of 24.01 seconds for the 95 to 99 age group set by Hawaii-resident Erwin Jaskulski in May 1999.

    updated 2005-08-07 11:57:27 to fix broken image link. This one’s from the Sydney Morning Herald.

    Pros and Cons of Stealth Mode Startups

    Point and counterpoint around Mark Fletcher’s (CEO of Bloglines) post last week, “Stealth Startups Suck“.

    Here’s a sample of Mark’s post:

    Why go fast? Many reasons:

  • First mover advantage is important.
  • There is no such thing as a unique idea. I guarantee that someone else has already thought of your wonderful web service, and is probably way ahead of you. Get over yourself.
  • It forces you to focus on the key functionality of the site.
  • Being perfect at launch is an impossible (and unnecessary and even probably detrimental) goal, so don’t bother trying to achieve it. Ship early, ship often.
  • The sooner you get something out there, the sooner you’ll start getting feedback from users.

  • Some people think that they need to stay in stealth mode as long as possible to protect their exciting new idea. I hate to break the news to you, but unless you’re Einstein or Gallileo, your idea probably isn’t new. I have this theory. The success of a web service is inversely proportional to the secrecy that surrounded its development. There are exceptions of course. But I also think this can be applied to other things. Segway, anyone?

    Paul Kedrosky (Ventures West and UCSD) has written a good counterpoint, “Stealth Mode Startups Don’t Suck“.

    But you have to keep the role of stealth in context. It is a rational response to a marketplace with too much risk capital, low barriers to entry, and many entrepreneurial teams looking for ideas. Saying that many people will come to variants of the same idea at the same time is not the same thing as saying you should ring a bell and invite everyone and their favorite VCs to come and feast on your nascent startup.

    More from Mark Fletcher here, also see Russell Beatty’s Yeah, They Are Nice People

    Anyway, it’s not like 24 Hour Laundry needed any more buzz. But the discussion about the value of collaborative development, marketing and validating with early users, vs. handing over precooked plans to a competing team illustrates some tradeoffs that are especially pronounced for new web businesses.

    Stealth mode can be a lame excuse for not shipping to real customers, but it can also keep your worked-out user web interaction model from being used as the engineering model for a team of offshore coders that otherwise wouldn’t be able to put together the design spec. On the marketing and alliances side, it’s less useful to be in true stealth mode, since you’ve pretty much got to tell your prospective partners and customers what you’re about if you want to sell with them.

    update 2005-06-20 14:34 comments from Jeff Clavier, plus the Slashdot crowd weighs in.

    update 2005-10-04 17:12 PDT 24 Hour Laundry is Ning

    Google Maps upgrade adds limited world coverage

    Google Maps has added a limited outline view and wide area satellite imagery of the world outside North America. A summary of changes is posted here. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more detailed coverage before too long. Google is apparently already working with Map24 in Europe. (via Slashdot)

    Extisp.icio.us – map of del.icio.us tags with images

    From the Extisp.icio.us site by Kevan Davis:

    extisp.icio.us images displays a random Yahoo images search result for each of a user’s tag words (excluding those which they’ve only ever used once). Despite the best intentions of the Yahoo API, and extisp.icio.us’s further attempts at filtering, however, some tags will occasionally be assigned images which are not work safe.

    See extisp.ici.o.us and a corresponding Flickr group.

    Seattle BusMonster – bus tracking on Google Maps

    Another interesting service strapped onto Google Maps, building on transportation tracking services built at the University of Washington Intelligent Transportation Systems Research Program .

    BusMonster builds on the ITS services which in turn rely on various sensors and system monitors which already exist in Seattle, so this isn’t something that can easily be rolled out for an existing, uninstrumented transportation system, but it shows some of what is possible.

    via Jeff Nolan

    Gyeonggi Korean Cultural Night

    Gyeonggi Korean Cultural Night 

    Gyeonggi Korean Cultural Night, June 16, 8:00pm at Elizabeth Theater, Santa Clara Convention Center,

    From the event program:

    Sponsored by the Kyunggi Province Bureau of Tourism and The Korea Times, San Francisco. The performance includes traditional dance and music featuring Ansung City Farmer’s Band as well as performances by popular singer Eun Jung Oh and actor Jun Ho Chung, Kyunggi Province official P.R. Ambassador. The event will be MC’d by “Popeye” (Sangyong Lee).

    Took a while to get through the celebrity introductions and Korean tourism pitch at the beginning, but I did enjoy the traditional farmer’s dance ensemble. A bit like taiko drumming crossed with marching bands and break dancing with a ribbon attached to a swiveling car antenna on your hat, with a few spinning plate tricks thrown in for good measure. Loud and exciting, my ears are still ringing.

    Here’s a better explaination of what’s going on here (poongmul). (Alternate formatting here.)

    YubNub – a command line for the web

    YubNub provides a user-extendable command line for the web. The site is presently a bit opaque and buggy for non-geeks, but embodies some interesting ideas about combining existing web services. It’s also interesting to see what tasks people have defined as commands, the near-immediate arrival of spammers, and the conversation about how to go about building this sort of service.

    This is another example of the “taking small steps” model for exploring new application spaces.

    via Batelle:

    The idea of search as the command line for the web is well established, this takes the idea one step (or more) further, letting you set up commands in the search line itself. You can use the search line as a single point of reference for searching just about any web resource, and you can add your own, if you’re geeky enough (others will do it for you if you’re challenged like I am).

    MS RAW thumbnail viewer = 47MB

    47MB and it can’t export to JPEG?

    This utility provides for viewing of Canon (CRW & CR2) RAW and Nikon (NEF) RAW files as well as TIFF images and other standard image formats (BMP, GIF, PNG, JPEG etc.). The utility is split into a Windows XP shell extension which provides preview / edit / print commands for RAW files as well as a RAW viewer application

    A few days ago Microsoft announced future support for RAW digital camera files. This is a welcome step toward pushing RAW access into the mainstream, but 47MB is enough to package up the entire Canon and Nikon OEM software bundles and then some. WinXP already has JPEG and TIFF support, so maybe this is driven by some temporarily legal / licensing or support issue for now (pure speculation on my part).

    See also: comments on Microsoft support for RAW format at OpenRAW.org.

    Yahoo buys Blo.gs, Dialpad

    Couple of interesting announcements on the infrastructure and services front at Yahoo today.

    Jim Winstead (founder / operator of blo.gs) writes:

    the sale of blo.gs has been completed, and i’m proud to announce that yahoo! has acquired the service. as of right now, give or take a few minutes, yahoo! is running blo.gs.

    this is the sort of good home that i was looking for — yahoo! obviously has the resources to run and improve blo.gs in pace with the incredible growth of blogs (and syndication in general), and in talking with them it was also clear that we had some of the same vision for the future of the service and the ping/notification infrastructure.

    News.com, see also Dialpad Q&A and more at News.com:

    Internet portal giant Yahoo has acquired Dialpad, a 6-year-old provider of Internet phone services. The acquisition, which was announced on Dialpad’s Web site, will place Yahoo in direct competition with traditional phone companies such as SBC, as well as Net phone providers like Skype and Vonage.

    …it’s unclear what the Dialpad acquisition means to Yahoo’s longstanding relationship with regional dial-up and broadband service provider SBC. Yahoo and SBC have a partnership providing Yahoo-branded broadband access through SBC’s telephone lines. With Yahoo now offering voice calling services, it will be competing with SBC in the voice market–over SBC’s own phone lines.

    No terms disclosed for either deal. Dialpad has around 40 employees, blo.gs is just Jim on his own(!). I suspect blo.gs will become a lot more usable and turn up in some interesting applications soon at its new home.

    Update 2005-06-15 21:24: more on Dialpad at Om Malik’s

    Update 2005-06-15 21:58: comments and links on blo.gs from Scoble

    Small steps versus theorizing, Reboot7

    Lot of interesting posts and presentations coming from last week’s Reboot7 conference in Copenhagen. The attendees are predominantly involved with new internet applications such as blogging, tagging, peer-to-peer, voice over IP, social software, and collaborative development, all of which are new, fluid, evolving, and somewhat incompatible with existing business and social models. Progress in new and evolving fields can sometimes get bogged down in “Vision” or “Strategy”, so I’m happy to see this observation about the need and value of small steps from Johnnie Moore:

    A theme that seemed to run through Reboot7 was the advocacy of taking small steps over theorising. David Heinemeier Hansson, who built web application Ruby on Rails, stressed the advantage of getting something basic up and running fast. In a presentation on The Skype Brand, Malthe Sigurdsson talked about getting out frequent, small revisions.

    Along similar lines, Scoble writes:

    I’m stuck with some images coming out of the Reboot conference last week: the power of being small.

    Lots of people were talking about the shipping power of small teams. Mostly due to Jason Fried’s talk.

    He’s turning out to be one influential developer. Why? Cause he, and two other coworkers, are churning out new features at a torrid pace. Here’s an example of his thinking about development teams: don’t write a functional spec. Whoa. I love his idea for what to do instead: write a one-page story.

    In a emerging, largely undefined area, taking small, concrete steps (albeit sometimes at a rapid pace) in a general direction can often uncover more “ground truth” more quickly, with less resource, than a fully investigated, heavily staffed program. Unfortunately, it’s often easier to explain a more comprehensive program, even though the size and overhead of the activity may place a fundamental handicap on it, making it less likely to succeed. There’s also a tendency to want to systematize everything at the outset, to try for the “grand unified theory of everything”, which can become crippling (the early days of XML and CORBA comes to mind). In a new or emerging market, the “Great” can easily become the enemy of the “Good”, or “Useful”. Bear in mind, if it really is new, there’s a good chance it’s not going to be right on the first few tries, so best spend your resources wisely rather than making a wild bet that you’ve found the One True Answer.

    Within various corporate R&D and business planning settings, I’ve repeatedly seen that small, motivated teams (1-10 people) can often make substantial headway in new business areas by finding equally motivated customers and solving their needs quickly, frequently without official support (or oversight) from their management. These efforts are often crippled when they do gain “official” status, thus adding the need to be externally explainable in the team’s decision making process, and sometimes also gaining a requirement for a roadmap for world domination. If they survive this stage, most of these small, fast teams are crushed by the subsequent addition of dozens or hundreds of new people and the associated management overhead, organizational empire building, and huge burn rate, all added in an effort to staff up and implement the premature plan for world domination. The team is no longer fast and burns through huge resources committed to an inflexible and obsolete plan in an emerging market space. Oops.

    See also: Seth Godin’s Small is the New Big

    Caveat: Established markets really do need scale and structure. Sometimes Big is the New Big, too.

    Update 2005-06-16 10:16: Great Enough! (more from Seth Godin)

    If you don’t ship, it’s not really worth doing. More important, we’ve only got a finite amount of time and resources to invest in anything (thanks, Chris Morris). The real issue is this: when do we stop working on something (because it’s good enough) and work on some other element of the offering.

    Proxim Wireless assets sold to Moseley Associates

    Proxim has been struggling financially for a while, and today announced the sale of all assets to Moseley Associates.

    Proxim is the current home of the former Lucent / Agere / Orinoco 802.11 product line, which were ubiquitous a few years ago as wireless LANs became popular and before “WiFi” was a marketing buzzword for a notebook computer feature. They also own the former Western Multiplex Tsunami point-to-point wireless product line, after merging with them a few years ago.

    I’ve always liked their gear, but the WLAN market is totally commoditized now (Linksys, D-Link, and assorted white label manufacturers), the enterprise solutions seem to be moving toward solutions such as Aruba and Trango, and the longer haul point-to-point market hasn’t really taken off, partially due to all the noise about WiMax (which has yet to become a deployable solution).

    Here’s what Proxim had to say to their customers about Moseley on their web site:

    Moseley, the parent company of Microwave Data Systems (MDS), Axxcelera Broadband Wireless, CarrierComm, and Moseley Broadcast, provides industry-leading wireless solutions for both point-to-point and point-to-multipoint applications for the industrial (SCADA), broadcast, broadband enterprise and carrier marketplaces. Combining our product lines will enable us to offer a differentiated portfolio of products covering spectrum from 900 MHz to 38 GHz, bringing us much closer to number one position in the market with both licensed and unlicensed broadband, Wi-Fi, and WiMAX technology for an extremely broad spectrum range.

    Well, that plus not totally going out of business. Hope they find a niche with some traction.

    update 2005-07-20 15:47 Hmm. Terabeam is ending up with Proxim instead.

    Korean Food at Myung Dong Tofu Cabin

    IMG_1663 IMG_1666

    Went out for lunch yesterday at Myung Dong Tofu Cabin in Santa Clara. For a while I had lunch there at nearly every week, but haven’t been there for a while. As the name suggests, they specialize in tofu, specifically soon du bu, which is sort of a tofu stew served in a very hot stone bowl.

    Many people are only familiar with bulgogi (sliced BBQ beef) or kalbi (BBQ short ribs), plus the ubiquitous kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage), and don’t have any sense of what else might be available at a Korean restaurant.

    Korean meals at restaurants normally come with a variety of small side dishes, collectively called banchan. The specific dishes will vary, but will usually include one or more sorts of kimchi, and various, mostly vegetable dishes.

    Soon du bu is usually served in a boiling hot pot from the oven, and you typically crack an egg into it and mix it up before eating. You can get it in permutations of beef, pork, seafood, vegetarian, spicy, and other varieties. In contrast, nang myun is Korean buckwheat noodles in cold broth with a boiled egg and thin slices of beef, radish, and other vegetables. The server will often carry a pair of cooking scissors to cut up the noodles if you’d like. Most people also add vinegar and mustard.

    The food here is pretty good at a reasonable price, most items are currently around $7 to $9 (including banchan and rice). If you’ve never had Korean food other than bulgogi or kalbi, you might give this a try.

    Update 2005-06-23 06:46:50: A lot of people seem to be finding this post around lunch and dinner time, so here’s the address and phone number:

    Myung Dong Tofu Cabin
    1484 Halford Avenue (at El Camino near Lawrence Expressway)
    Santa Clara, California 95051
    (408) 246-1484 (map)

    The Missing Mobile Device: A GPS Camera Phone

    Continuing on the topic of converged GPS/camera/phone devices, here’s a post from Wade Roush (writer for Technology Review) calling for the cellular operators to open up location information for 3rd party applications, and detailing some of the business and cultural reasons why this is taking a while.

    There are a lot of interesting technical hacks being strung together to cobble together location-aware and geotagged services, but the wireless phone carriers already have a lot of the infrastructure for this, and a near-total absence of applications.

    5 megapixel camera phone with flash

    This is the first camera phone I’ve seen so far that looks plausible for general photography. The Samsung SPH-V7800 has a 5 megapixel sensor, 3x optical zoom and a built-in flash, along with other standard point-and-shoot features. (via Engadget)

    This phone is probably too large for me personally to carry around. But it would also be nice to see a built in flash with the more common fixed focus camera phones, to turn them into digital equivalents of the disposable film cameras. A 1 megapixel camera is perfectly adequate for snapshots, but without a flash they’re nearly useless indoors and in the evening.

    I suspect that the experience is more like carrying a camera around all the time rather than a phone. If you’re already carrying a phone and a camera this would eliminate one device. Given the design tradeoff (bulk, short battery life) assumed for this device, it would be interesting to see if a future version could include GPS and/or cell phone based location information, since the power requirements of a GPS chipset probably wouldn’t make quite as large a dent in the power budget / run time / cost of this device as a “normal” phone. We probably won’t get the chance to try these in the US for a while, though, this looks like it’s targeted for the Korean CDMA (EV-DO) market, it could make its way to Sprint or Verizon eventually.

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