Friday, January 26, 2007

YouTube Results surface on Google Videos

Nothing much for today, but yeah.. the effects of the acquisition of YouTube by Google are finally being seen. Google y'day announced that their Videos Search would now also include the videos from the YouTube archive.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Contextual Audio Search - another Step..

With every passing minute, the kind of exhaustive research that goes on in the field of 'search-on-the-net' has taken new dimensions. Pluggd, lauched in Feb'06 by a team of ex-Microsoft/BEA/Amazon/Trilogy folks takes it across a new domain - to search within a podcast. The State of the Union Smackdown between US President George W. Bush and the Democrats was the most talked about event in the last week. (well, even the international media has given considerable coverage to the same). The entire podcast has been put on Pluggd, but what is notable is that if you want to search for a specific word, say "gasoline", then Pluggd's HearHere technology generates a heat map that displays the results. But it isn't plain speech recognition that is used here. Its more of semantic analysis that goes into the entire heatmap generation, since there is no point just taking the user to the part of speech where the word has been used. Pluggd rather, tries to make the beginning and end of the discussion pertaining to that word..

You can just traverse to the highly heated points on the heatmap(the red areas) and just play the part which contains the usage of 'gasoline'. The trick for audio search lies in contextual search, since there are no words really to do a direct crawling search the way Google et al do. So suppose you are searching for 'Chicago Bulls' and ESPN has a podcast for it, then even if the podcast topic doesn't contain the phrase 'Chicago Bulls', it'll still display the result for you. Quite brilliant, must say. Needless, to say its again free registration(a matter of couple of minutes) and the easy-to-use user interface compel you to visit again. Other regulars do include review/rating the podcast and RSS feed.

P.S: Google/Amazon/Yahoo/Microsoft.. acquisition time, huh? ;). After all total revenue in the world's media and broadcast technology supply industry is valued at $11.6 billion and is predicted to grow 11.4% year per year.
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Taggin' the Batsmen Continues.. (Part II)

The tagging continues.. Phew, I had to complete this..

Flamboyance: defines it as 'strikingly bold or brilliant'. Flamboyance gets them noticed, but there have been times, when they have had to pay a huge price for the same. The off-field behavior definitely adds to the flambo exhibited on the field. Anyways, my picks in this category -

Herschelle Gibbs - Very few batsmen in contemporary cricket match his skills in batsmanship. Though the same can't be said about his statistics, but then flamboyance says - 'who cares?'. No one more than Gibbs fits in this category better. A terrific eye, with an equally brilliant hand eye co-ordination has seen him flay great bowling attacks all over the park. There is no shot beyond his compass, be it the hoik over extra cover for six, or a flat batted pull over mid wicket - he does it all. His disdainful 111 ball 175 in the 'cracker of the century' against the Aussies was a carnage, a "beautiful" carnage.. A terrific talent however shows an average of just under 36 in the limited edition of the game. Gibbs doesn't loose his dashing abilities in the longer format either. 14 centuries at an average of 43 odd is nothing special in this era of run machines. But Gibbs' contribution to the game is more than that. Aussies still rate him as the real danger, who's capable of changing the match with the bat or through his fielding. Be it the conditions, the opponent or the situation, this bloke does it everytime the same way. He gives it a dash and there have been numerous occasions he has let his team down. I still r'ber this in the match where they were chasing 434 - Gibbs murders Symonds over the deep mid wicket with not the best of timing. Tony Greig (on the mike) says, that Gibbs needs to be a bit careful and not just plain stupid goin' for his shots every ball. Next ball, Gibbs does the same, and again the ball sails for the maximum. He tries to do it the third time, and the result - he's gone. Well, there are few blokes you just can't do anythin' about.. and you can't do anything without.

Brian Charles Lara - Do I need to say anything about him? He's 37 and still plays pretty much the same way. Ball pitches on the off stump at good length, he shuffles a bit.. and whack.. it disappears over the cover fence. The bowler tries to compensate by bowling straighter. He shuffles again, goes on one leg, pulls it to backward square leg (he's got to have a patent for that, check the pic above). Errrrrrrr....... The bowler(by then in complete disarray) just bowls.. and guess what Lara gets out!! This has happened quite a few times, but takes away nothin' from arguably the best batsman of his generation. Yeah, arguably, coz I still say, Sach's the best.. Anyways, this is what I remember from a sequence of deliveries against the Aussies, I think in 96-97 at Adelaide - Warne bowls and Lara hits him on top of long on stands, next one goes the same way. Third one, Warne bowls a bouncer!! Fourth one goes again.. in the stands.. And all this happened, while the long on fielder was there!

Ricky Ponting - A run machine, he literally goes berserk when on song. Even being a skipper hasn't changed him a lot. Probably the way the entire Aussie team backs up goes in his favor. The audacious pull shot - probably there's never been anyone in the history of the game, who can pull it with such disdain. They say, Mohinder Amarnath was one belligerent player along with David Hookes, but then to do it for 10 odd years on a consistent basis is something special. Although he looks a bit out of place in this team of huge blokes, but this 1.78m dude (below avg by Aussie demographics) displays such outrageous strokeplay in the big games, that its virtually sweepstakes for anyone who bets on him to score runs. Be it his unbeaten 140 in the WC 2003 or his tally 576 runs in the recently concluded Ashes - He delivers it almost at will, and more so when his team needs it. But the most striking part is that, he delivers it with a panache that kills down the oppposition. His form of late.. well not late though - his form since the last world cup has been nothing short of miraculous. Ritchie Benaud says that the No. 3 position is the most important in any team in either format of the game. When Ponting strides out to the middle to bat, he makes it entirely his..

Chris Gayle, Dean Jones - The tall, lanky left hander just knows one thing. To hit the ball, and to hit it really hard. But I still feel he'd suit better to this category than the 'Cherry Hitters', coz he's got the technique and off late he's been showing that he's got the patience as well. Be it Glenn Mcgrath or Shaun Pollock, it just doesn't matter to him. He'd still step down the track and swat one over long on. Since a year or so, the consistency that Gayle has displayed makes him even more dangerous. Another name that comes into my mind is of Dean Jones - I saw him first in the 92 WC, and became an instant fan of his. A very busy player, who perhaps was not only the best runner between the wickets the cricketing world has ever seen, but he also had this ability to hit the ball really hard with grace. Possessing a fabulour technique, which helped him to score one of the best innings you'd ever see, a dare to death 210 against India, where he landed up in the hospital and was on saline drips. Going by the facts, how many cricketers off the 80s and the early 90s can boast of this combo - An avg of 47 in the tests and 45 in the ODIs. It won't be incorrect to say that he was probably the first in this generation of flamboyant batsment who literally toyed with the opposition. He made the game prettier to watch and was one the most influential figures, who changed the way cricket was played.

Cherry Hitters - 'The Slam Bang.. Thank You Mam' folks.. The players who get the crowds goin' and the mexican waves rolling faster by the minute. No matter what the situation is, but if the ball is there to be hit(by their standards), it has to go. They might not portray the best of the averages, but then they keep the game simple. :)

Santh Jayasuriya - 23 hundreds at an incredible strike rate of 90 runs/100 balls speaks volumes of this man who has clearly demarcated the cricket period into a pre World Cup '96 era to a post World Cup '96 one. 50/0 in the first 15 overs was the goal before, it was considered a cardinal sin thereafter. There are a couple of shots which could probably be named as 'Sanath Specials' - the upper cut over point which more often than not sailed into the stands and the flick pull which yielded the same result, this time over square leg. He is now 37 and was looking done and out a year back, but the way he's come back has been nothing short of inspirational. As always, he's again the key if the Lankans wants to bring back the cup. Yeah, have talked nothin' 'bout his bowling which is more than handy, but then we are talkin' bout the batsmen, ain't we.. And yeah, don't go by his avg which stands at 33 in the ODIs.. Ask the bowlers, they'll tell you better. Moreover, this bloke like the others in this category has ample doses of temparament. An avg of 40 odd in the test matches with 14 hundreds pay testimony to this fact. Its simple get him out as soon as possible, or you'll be history.. Just a measure of his power - he's hit 222 6's in the ODIs!

Andrew Symonds - 'Roy' as he's known asE has been one of the umpteen talented cricketers produced by Australia. The way he's grown to become a reliable player over the years while still retaining his ultra attacking instincts has been one of the chief reasons in the Aussies doing so well in the limited overs version of the game. At 1.87m, and batting in the lower middle order, he appears to be a huge obstacle and any team is virtually 'prohibited' to relax while he's still there. Signature hit - A couple of steps down the track, and hoick it over wide long on. It doesn't just clear the ropes.. it goes 15 rows back. Earlier he used to be like a 'flash in the pan', now he's settled down and become increasingly consistent. Averaging a whopping 163 in the WC'03 was a turning point in his career. Aus 4/86 and in more than a spot of bother against the raging Pakistanis - earlier in the day, Shane Warne was already sent back to Australia facing doping charged.. Enter Symonds, and Aussies end up scoring 310, with 'Roy' contributing a career defining 143 off 125 balls. They won both the match and from there on the Cup in great style. But off late, he's been showing his abilities in the Test arena as well. In the Ashes he made a ruthless 156 and complete knocked out the Poms out of the game. Well, there were quite a few retirees during the mass exodus from their team this season, but then it doesn't matter.. Somehow from down under they just keep comin'..

Mark Greatbatch - I really don't know where he suddenly appeared in the Kiwi team of 92 WC, but he gets the nod here because he shocked one and all in that tournament. As though the Kerry Packer Pyjama cricket into the world cups for the first time wasn't revolutionary enough, Greatbatch contributed his bit as well. A short career of 84 ODIs with an average of 28.28, which is below par for an opener just doesn't justify his contribution to this game. I still remember, he wasn't in the squad for the first couple of matches. But thereafter he just stormed scoring 313 runs at an avg of 44. The crucial aspect of all these runs was the pace at which they were scored. He started the tradition of pinch hitting, which Jayasuriya elevated to an entirely new level. His counter attack left the bowlers running for cover and the captains shocked.

A couple of other tags also come along, but then I won't be commenting on them right now. They come close but again they have to extend their streak over a period of time to be counted amongst the best.

To Early to classify -
Michael Hussey (contender for doggedness)
Kevin Pietersen a.k.a KP (contender for flamboyance)
MS Dhoni(contender for Cherry Hitters)

A couple of guys for me need a special mention. Terrific talent, lets see how they come about -
AB DeVilliers - Is he the next Jonty for them? Extra special fielder + run-a-ball batsman?
Ross Taylor - Have the Kiwis finally found a special batting talent?

Enough of taggin' done. Well I'd keep my thinking cap on, and you keep your comments comin' and tag for yourself. This can get really interesting. :D
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Monday, January 22, 2007

Show me the Money..

Loads of analysis have been done by various experts over this - is the bubble returnin'? I am no expert, but since Web 2.0, there have been an upright increase in the number of services offered, most of them(if not all) based on Web 2.0. Well, its always great to have a plethora of services to choose from, but what sets a disconcerting pattern is that most of these companies don't have a business model to fall upon, i.e. no blueprint of how the revenue is going to be generated. Blogs (such as mine) are being written in huge numbers around the world, which try and keep track of the services being offered. What is notable here is that, these jazzy services are being offered for free. Further, its not that the innovators just launch these services of their own. They need the apparatus, say the high end systems, storage et al. They also need manpower to build these complicated and incredible systems, and more manpower which is required for their maintenance. But how do you afford such expenses - The answer comes from the investors. With a couple of laptops, a plan in mind and a prototype with a topping of brainvita, and voila.. they 'show you the money'.

Story goes on, the application is developed and given away for free. All's well, but then the investors soon start feeling the pinch, they want their money back and everything slowly starts going for a toss!

Of late, BitPass, a startup that gave people a way to make micropayments online died, although it took two rounds of funding and was able to generate $11.75 million. Another one, Endforce was sold to Sophos for a loss last week. The list goes on..

A couple of PhD aspirants from Stanford along with their faculty did pretty much the same. What started as an inquisitive project slowly was becoming a huge one. Soon they had to find their investors, and they did in Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins. Rest is history..

Anyways, what are the options one has when a startup needs to 'show the money' -

1. Still keep offering services for free - parallely try and devise a revenue model. Well currently it seems there isn't one apart from clicks-per-ad. Although this model was already there before Google came into being, but it really became the 'master model' when they built on top of it by giving more value to the advertisers. They still offer their search for free, and the revenues generated from the ads alone are so huge that now its not just the search, but a whole lot of other services that they have started to offer.

2. Initial Public Offering - Not all startups can have their IPO at $85, which is why the IPO isn't the 'all so easy' option for generating money. The reason it worked for Google, was the incredible revenue it had generated before the IPO itself.

3. Get Sold - Well, this is probably the most lucrative option for them. Flickr, developed by Ludicorp, a vancouver based company is one of the most prominent example. But then, Flickr was one of the earliest Web 2.0 applications, and again for free. Moreover, not a lot of such applications had come by then, and in the age of social networking the 'first' of its kind had to work. The key here is to do it first, and do it really well. Since then there have been quite a few in the same genre, but none other than Riya, have been able to create any news. Riya again worked probably because of its unique service. I mean it is quite cool, to just enter your name and a pic of yours pops up from nowhere. Moreover, it was not just taggin' in Web 2.0. What really goes in Riya's favor is the use of some core concepts of Computer Science(read Image and Pattern Recognition) - that gels really well with their jazzy concept.

Of late, I commented about quite a few of startups offering services like virtual trading of words, to social networking, free news, et al.. But the question always pops up - for how long can they sustain? In this age of mashups, how long can they live? Three things come to my mind -

1. either be the first one to do the job
2. be the second one. but it has to be significantly better thant the first one
3. be the third one, but u've got to be a forceful established player so that you get noticed

No one probably knows the answer. Such was the case during the 'Great bubble' period as well. Dotcoms were everywhere. Everyone was creating loads of free dotcoms and Silicon Valley was 'the' buzzword. We know what happened thereafter. Pundits say that since then, both the investors and the creators have wisened. But then off late, I somehow feel that its all happening again. Dion HinchCliffe, a Technology writer, tries to devise this model on Monetizing Web 2.0. Read more here..Well, if you can figure it out, here it is represented in a schematic form.

Meanwhile, keep sending in your comments on the same. The quest goes on..
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Friday, January 19, 2007

Tagging Batsmen.. Chapter I

Well, one of the biggest buzzwords in Web 2.0 is the 'Tag Cloud' which shows the various tags under which the information under consideration can be classified. Well thinking on those terms I just wanted to create a similar tag of batsmen, who have been stellar performers for their respective nations during the period when I have been watched(ing) this game. I wanted to put forth my kind of tagged cloud which would be as follows -

Elegance: Classy not just in the strokeplay but also while dead defending a delivery. A gentle whip of the legs or an effortless cover drive. The folks for me under this for me fall in the following order -

Mark E. Waugh - The E which stands for Edwards can very well be replaced with Elegant. He had this word written all over his batting. Playing with a feather weight bat.. yeah feather weight, coz when one of my friend's dude had gone to UK, he did visit the Slazenger store where the folks proudly displayed the V-500 bat saying that Mark Waugh indeed uses that one. This dude just swished the bat through the air and he could indeed feel it. Anyways, be it the gentle but super effective flick to a ball pitched on the off.. or cutting the ball on the off side to a slightly short ball pitched on the middle stump - he was the God of Elegance. Probably this elegance of his made him really effective against both spin and pace. I say this, coz one can be Elegant only when one has time to play or in other words when one plays late. This is well evident from his records - he's performed well on both the low turners of the subcontinent (his 153* against India in Calcutta was a masterpiece) as well as the bouncy turfs of Australia and South Africa. For me, its simple - I have not seen anyone having so much time to play against Allan Donald on assisting pitches. Remember his match saving innings against the Proteas.. alright, yeah.. I indeed don't want to remember the hit wicket incident in that match. Incidentally, he replaced bro Steve in the Ashes and on top of it.. hit a magnificent 138 in his very first outing.. thats indeed big, ain't it?
P.S: My personal fav, notice the pic the offside cut was somethin' special.

Carl Hooper - He ranks just next to Mark for me. A terrific talent and had the potential of toying with any attack in the world. But as he would himself admit, he never really stamped himself for a long time. A test average of 36..Was it the pressure - Probably the captaincy did it for him, or may be that he was among the unlucky ones who arrived at the scene when the Windies were at their decline. Whatever, but then how many contemporary batsmen could charge down the wicket and thwat the bowler over the sightscreen 'effortlessly'. Nah, haven't seen anyone do better than Hooper. As with Mark Waugh, he too was at ease against the spinners as well as against the faster breed.

Kumar Sangakkara - Its a well known fact that left handers are born elegant. But this bloke's special. Rising to the ranks, he's literally Sri Lanka's most dependable batsman. For a subcontinent bloke, he's just too good off his backfoot. Signature shot - Standing tall and a slight punch to a ball of the backfoot and off it races away to the cover boundary. All you can do is applaud. Yeah, one might say that almost everyone does this well on subcontinent pitches where the balls don't seam and they hardly swing. But doing the same in New Zealand is no joke. Traditionally the best batsmen from all over the world have struggled on Kiwi wickets. The ball seams prodigiously and the tennis ball bounce doesn't make things easier for the batters. To name a few who have struggled - Tendulkar, Lara, Kallis all have a pretty average record there. To the cricketing fraternity, who are well aware of the cricket happenings, I need not tell what Sangakkara did there. He was just brilliant and probably the difference between the two teams. An avg of 134 can't be a fluke. Add to this fact that he keeps the wickets(well, almost), well thats definitely brownie points for him.

Dogged: When the goin' gets tough, the tough gets goin', huh? These folks take on almost every role - be it trying to save the match under ill batting conditions, or be it tryin' to the face the music when the bowlers are spitting venom.. no one knows better than them and on top of that, they hardly get the credit when the team wins, coz generally its a cameo that someone plays which helps the teams win that takes all the credit. These guys are the playmakers for their teams. Period.

Stephen R Waugh - The R here can probably be replaced by Relentless. Picture this - Aussies 3/10.. Curtly Ambrose to Waugh - well bowled, the ball here kicked off the wicket and hits Waugh on the elbow really hard. Waugh doesn't flinch an eye muscle. Ambrose walks to Waugh.. eye to eye.. Waugh again doesn't flinch... This was pretty much the norm of the time when he played. Often out on the pitch when the Aussies were really strugglin', he delivered.. time after time, he did deliver. His 200 in Jamaica in 1994-95 against the likes of Walsh, Ambrose, Benjamin was one helluva innings which turned the table around for the Aussies. Waugh averaged 107 for the series and Aussies beat the Windies for the first time in Carribean in 30 years. For the time he played, although the Aussies had build up their batting line up with the likes of Ponting, Gilchrist, Hayden, Martyn et al, but Waugh was the undoubted thorn for the bowlers, coz when e'one else failed, Waugh would put his hands up and bail them out of trouble. Its probably coz of him, that the others could afford to be flamboyant. His doggedness earned them the World Cup 99. Even in the ODIs, he wasn't one of those who'd come in and smash them around. He'd rather take time and eventually slog sweep almost e'one out of the attack. Even when the Aussies had come to India trying to conquer the final frontier, one of the turning points was the hit wicket for Waugh, and eventually e'one else succumbed to Harbhajan. India was back. He was the Rocky Balboa for them.

Gary Kirsten - Simple analogy.. Steve Waugh:Aussies::Kirsten:Proteas. Sounds correct, right? He did one of the toughest jobs in world cricket, to pad up and go first up there and face the new cherry. When no one knew how the ball would behave, he'd go and show them the way. A little shuffle across the stumps and it would be either of the 2 options -
1. Leave the ball
2. Flay it through the off side
He'd be almost flawless in either..He was a brilliant example, of what one might do with the toughness of the mind, albeit limited talent. He would never be the prettiest sights on the cricket field.. moreover the game probably won't be at its entertaing best when he's down there.. but he'd do the job.. a man who could have walked into any team. South Africa hasn't had the best of specialist batting talent in their ranks since their re-entry, folks who could hold one fort while others rally around them. Kirsten, Kallis, Hudson.. thats it probably, which is what makes him that much special, that even though they didn't have a plethora of batting talent, insspite of that they still were the toughest teams to beat, and a large proportion of the credit goes to this chap for this.

Rahul Dravid - Many refer to him as 'The Wall', for me he's probably more than that. He's the saving grace of Indian cricket. Records and statistics say that whenever he hasn't delivered India has failed to win a test.. especially abroad. Be it Port of Spain, Headingley or Adelaide - he's done it all. When he sprung onto the international scene, for once I had a feeling that his over-concern of correctness of technique might result him in fading away like his predecessor Sanjay Manjarekar. He suffered from 'unable-to-find-gaps' 'o phobia, but things started changing with his hundred at Taupo(NZ) against the Kiwis. His 123 there started his transition to an extremely efficient one-day player as well. Then came the world cup, where he emerged as the highest run aggregator and the rest is history. The tour down under in the 1999-00 season was a bit of a disaster for him, and people started claiming that he can't play Shane Warne. Well things did change big time in the historic series when the Aussies visited India in the next season. His masterful 180 at the Eden Gardens was overshowed by the 'Very Very Special' 281, but from there on, he's taken on the mantle of Indian Batting.

Mike Atherton, Jimmy Adams and Andy Flower - All three of them didn't possess any special talent like Rahul Dravid, but they do fall under this category because their careers flourished while their teams didn't. Atherton while being the skipper, opened the batting for the Poms and his match saving unbeaten 185 against the White Lightning and Co. at Jo'burg has to be one of the most dogged innings in the past few years. Jimmy Adams was yet another example and so was Andy Flower. In a team struggling all the while, Andy Flower was one batsman who could fit into any team. Adams was a very defensive player, and his ability to make huge scores can be judged by this fact - after 12 matches, only Sir Don had an avg better than him. Scoring 520 runs at a staggering average of 173 against Indians on low turners helped the Windies draw level the test series. Few have handled Muralitharan with such ineptness as Flower. His ability to stay at the crease for eternity while the lesser mortal would fall at the other end was exemplary and most of all it started to instill self belief in the rest of them seeing Flower fight at the other end. His dogged batting also reflected in his general perception towards life, when he along with Henry Olonga launched a public protest against Robert Mugabe during the WC 2003. Consequently his international career also sadly came to an end.

Part II of this article would feature the Flamboyant folks and the guys who the spectators fear - yeah.. the Cherry Hitters.. :)
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Thursday, January 18, 2007

BlinkList - More than plain Bookmarking..

On my wild surfin' streak, I did stumble upon BlinkList - nothing but a bookmarking tool, which allows you to access your bookmarked pages/videos/articles et al from any location.
According to BlinkList folks -

BlinkList is a very fast, powerful and easy to use your online bookmarking manager. Screw folders, BlinkList works the same way the human mind operates. So, the next time you want to save a link to a great site, article, or blog, just blink it and tag it (mark it with multiple keywords and phrases) so you can quickly find your information again. Using tagging, a tag manager, and the ability to star your favorites (tags, links and users) and links, BlinkList offers a far superior way to save, share, and access all the content you discover online.

Although at first glance it looks nothing but like a normal bookmarking tool provided by almost every other browser, but once I dug in deeper I did find that there is more to it. Blinklist allows you to tag your bookmarks and share it with friends or with everyone else who is also connected to Blinklist. So if you find some interesting enough site and you bookmark it, its almost immediately available on the blinklist site for others to see and have a look at your links. The premise does sound to the famous Digg thingy, and it does work well in doin' so.

Blinklist is pretty simple to add to your browser. In the case of Opera(which I use), all I had to do was to drag an icon to my toolbar, and it was there. Further, any web page/article et al which you want to bookmark, all that is required is to click on that 'blink icon' in your toolbar. A dialog then pops up where the details can be filled (if required) and thats it. The link then gets added to your blinklist account. So from any location, you can just access your blinklist account and get to your bookmarks.

The best thing that works in its favor is the simple look and feel, pretty user friendly and all in all a useful tool.

TrueCrypt - An efficient Disk Encryption Software

Wondering 'bout how to encrypt the files in the most efficient manner possible? Well, I cannot really say that this is the most efficient, since there is nothing as the 'best' in the technology sector. Well, I came across this free-bee called TrueCrypt and it indeed does try and remain true to its name of providing one of the most efficient ways of crypting data that I have seen. However, it is not just a simple password protection mechanism that it is all about. According to TrueCrypt -

TrueCrypt is a software system for establishing and maintaining an on-the-fly-encrypted volume (data storage device). On-the-fly encryption means that data are automatically encrypted or decrypted right before they are loaded or saved, without any user intervention. No data stored on an encrypted volume can be read (decrypted) without using the correct password/keyfile(s) or correct encryption keys. Entire file system is encrypted (e.g.., file names, folder names, contents of every file, free space, meta data, etc).

There is a huge document in place for the kind of algorithms used here (yeah, there are multiple algos from which the geek in you can choose which one to use from), but I'll just provide a short account of what needs to be done for 'true-cryping' your data.

1. The entire process begins by first creating a TrueCrypt volume, which is password protected and the encryption algorithm can be as wierd as .. trying to move your mouse in a random manner, the more random the movement of the mouse, the better the encryption!
2. The truecrypt volume created can then be mounted onto one of the various virtual drives that would be listed in the Truecrypt software system list.
3. After mounting, the data can then be moved/copied to this virtual drive and voila.. it gets encrypted.

Well, might sound pretty complicated, but here comes the best part. TrueCrypt, in the huge document also specifies other tricks in a pretty exhaustive manner. These things include stuff like how to encrypt data in the form of a hidden volume within the TrueCrypt volume, so that even if someone forces you to reveal the password he/she couldn't even get to know that such data exists! Difficult to describe the 105 page document in a jist here, but folks who do store some real sensitive data can use it. As I said, its indeed for free.

Pros - A very complete tool, with no loose ends in implementation and niether in the documentation. Features like the 'hidden volume' fundamental being given away for free, choosing the algo to your liking, interesting encrypting ways.

Cons - A bit complicated, not as simple as just providing a password to (un)lock the document, data.

Overall, its a brilliant tool, although a touch complicated, but am sure once you get a feel of it, there won't be any problems further. Moreover, even using the tool won't be a problem coz of the exhaustive documentation provided which is very systematic and to the point.

Download here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Wikiseek launched..

Last week, SearchMe launched Wikiseek - a search engine for the exhaustive Wikipedia. Wikiseek works as a search engine to look for pages in Wikipedia. Any search string entered in Wikiseek, returns the wiki pages found (if any) for that string. In their own words,

The contents of Wikiseek are restricted to Wikipedia pages and only those sites which are referenced within Wikipedia, making it an authoritative source of information less subject to spam and SEO schemes.

Wikiseek utilizes Searchme's category refinement technology, providing suggested search refinements based on user tagging and categorization within Wikipedia, making results more relevant than conventional search engines.

Note that, Wikipedia already provides an option to search in the Wikipedia page. However, the new Wikiseek has significant advantages over the former -
  • The search string in wikipedia returns not only the links for the wiki pages for that string, but also the world wide web links for the same. These links are probably from the 'External Links' segment which is present in all wiki pages. The layout of the results is pretty simple (goog way), and it clearly demarcates between the wiki results and the external results.
  • Further, the tags are provided, which signifies that the search string entered, can fall into any of the tag categories. You can choose among the tags and the wiki pages containing the string but falling under those categories will then be listed. This is definitely exhaustive. For instance, if I searched "Kate Moss" and was displayed with tags like 'Drug Rehabilitation', 'English Models', blah blah. The wiki page results changed to the corresponding category once I clicked on these tags, and pages under this category containing Kate Moss were then listed. Comprehensive indeed.

SearchMe is yet another Palo Alto based startup (funding from Sequoia Capital, does it ring any bells?) which is falls under the search engines creation category. They entered into an agreement with Wikipedia and its only with their permission did they come up with Wikiseek. Obviously, the business model for this is again the ad based clicks - the Google way.

Further, it also provides downloadable plug-ins for various browsers (notable IE 7), where the wikiseek search toolbar can be added to the browser toolbar. Cool, so atleast now I do have an alternative in Wikiseek, rather than entering wikipedia+Kate Moss in my Google toolbar.

But wasn't the Ashes over..

An email that I recorded a few minutes back.. Well, read on.. no words for it..

Some would say watching the English play (or try to play) cricket is humor enough, but of course in this day and age it doesn’t take long for the English Cricket jokes to be doing the email rounds. If you haven’t been sent them yet, here are some that hit my email today:

Q. What do Geraint Jones and Michael Jackson have in common?
A. They both wear gloves for no apparent reason.

Q. What is the height of optimism?
A. An English batsman applying sunscreen.

Q. What does Ashley Giles put in his hands to make sure the next ball almost always takes a wicket?
A. A bat.

Q. What would Glen McGrath be if he was an Englishman?
A. An allrounder.

Q. What advantage do Kevin Pieterson, Andrew Strauss and Geraint Jones have over the rest of their team-mates?
A. At least they can say they’re not really English.

Q. What is the English version of a hat-trick?
A. Three runs in three balls.

Q. What do you call an Englishman with 100 runs against his name?
A. A bowler.

Q. What is the most proficient form of footwork displayed by English batsmen?
A. The walk back to the pavilion.

Q. Who has the easiest job in the English squad?
A. The guy who removes the red ball marks from the bats.

Q. Why is Andrew Flintoff the unluckiest English player?
A. Because he was born in England.

Q. What does "Ashes" stand for?
A. Another Sad Horrific English Series.

Q. What’s the English version of LBW?
A. Lost, Beaten, Walloped.

Q. Who spends the most time on the crease of anyone in the English team?
A. The person who ironed the cricket whites.

P.S: Well, I had to put this here. Too many expectations from these Ashes, I did waste a lot of time watching it.. and then readin' about it and brooding over it. Damn, it was so pathetic. And yeah, a word of sympathy for the likes of Star Network, which finally did manage to show some international cricket, but what the heck - they must be kickin' themselves for taking the rights for Ashes.. (after the disastrous SA tour by the Indians). Hard Luck..

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Kate Moss or Sharapova in your Portfolio!

Fidel Castro or Condolezza Rice? Federrer or Roddick? The Swiss would cost you 58.75 and the American would cost you 14.27 ! Damn, what are we talkin' about.. errrrrrrrrrrr.. Apologies ;) but Trendio allows you to do just that! Launched last year, Trendio is an online stock market where you can build portfolios, buy/sell your stocks and monitor your growth. Ofcourse folks, it is a fantasy game, and yeah.. you definitely dont play with real money.
An awesome user interface which would intrigue you to the core to explore this site further, Trendio is actually an online stock market for trading of words. You buy/sell words and the cost of the words are (de) escalated based on how frequently do they appear in the news media around the world. The trendio systems are continously scanning the media around the world and based on their results, the value of the words a.k.a your stocks vary. For instance, if pictures of Paris Hilton embroiled in yet another scandal captured, then its worth to buy Ms. Hilton (oh com'on.. the word), since her name is bound to be flashed in the media soon after. Soon, you go into profit !!

Its quite some fun, I registered today and would be participating in the contest starting tomorrow, lets see how good I turn out to be. There are various site sponsored contests that take place based on Entertainment, Politics, Sports et al. You can monitor the profit/loss in your portfolio, view the top gainers/losers, keep an eye on the newsfeed which displays the headlines that they keep flashing containing one of those listed words which are open for trade.
The currency here is Trendillions :) . Have seen the top rankers gross as much as upto 2.5M of those. The question then pops up - what is real here? Well, this is more of a fantasy fun site, but then there a few goodies that can be won here. There are at times gifts that can be won, or even the Trendillions that you have can be converted into real money at times. Now com'on, you can expect a million dollars in case you have 1M Trendillions.
A super cool interface does work in Trendio's favor, but then the big question is always there - how long will it be able to attract users without showing them the real money? Well, considering that Trendio was started as a hobby project last year by Jens Agerberg, it has come a long way to still be able to attract quite a few souls to test their predicting abilities. It is continuing in the same vein and would be interesting to know what its creators have in mind for the future.

P.S: Now please don't think about its business model, coz I have thought a lot and I guess they ain't have one. Its a fun fantasy site, which is probably still carried over in the hobby mode. Meanwhile, it did get me excited, which is evident in the jazzy combination of font colors that I have used in this post. Well, visit Trendio and have a look yourself. Happy Trading !!

ping ping.. yeah I'll take Kate Moss.. :))

Sunday, January 14, 2007

World Cup SweepStakes - II

Windies - Lara's last world cup, and he'll leave nothing to try and make it a memorable one. The team has gelled well under his renewed captaincy and with Chris Gayle hitting top form, the top 3 (Gayle, Chanderpaul and Lara) in this team has the capacity to bludgeon any attack in the world. But the middle order has been a let down for them since quite sometime. Sarwan hasn't made full use of his talent and the rest are yet to find their feet in the team. The bowling also lacks consistency, but the pace trio of Fidel Edwards, Collymore and Taylor do exhibit a certain degree of class at times. The real guys to watch out in this team are Dwayne Bravo and Gayle. Bravo is more than handy with the bat, and his subtle change of pace has troubled quite a few batsmen. The way the team has fared against India(when they were in top form) and in the Champions Trophy shows the abilities of this team. Further, playing at home does give them a few brownie points ahead of the other teams.
POINTS - 6/10

Pakis - I am not sure if anyone can really predict anything for this team. A super talented team but how often have they justified themselves? Seldom. Controversies and injuries never part from this team, and its often been the undoing for them. Mohammed Yousuf has been in the form of his life, but his consistency of late in the shorter format of the game is a bit debatable. Inzy still holds the key to the batting of this team. However, with the emergence of Younis Khan, they do possess one of the strongest middle orders among all the teams. The bowling department though has an element of similarity. Apart from Shoaib (and we know he won't play the whole tournament, don't we), Mohammed Asif is the only bowler who the opposition has to watch out for. The team hasn't been able to find a replacement for Saqlain Mushtaq, and which can cost them pretty dearly against top teams. The fielding is another aspect which this team has to catch on. Even though Inzy's still the pillar for them, the player to watch out for is Younis Khan. A terrific temparament and ability to bat at any position - this guy has got a damn cool head which will be in huge demand in this premier competition.
POINTS - 6/10

Kiwis - A team which knows to make the best out of the limited talent that they have, and have always been a force to reckon with. But since the retirement of Christopher Cairns, they still haven't been able to find a replacement, which could bring the X factor into this team. Scott Styris was proving to be more than handy, but injury has kept him out for too long now and it would be asking too much from him to come out and perform straigtaway on the big stage. Fleming still is the batting backbone, and with Astle struggling with consistency, I am not too sure who else can carry the bat through. The new bloke aboard, Ross Taylor looks to be a pretty promising talent, but one cannot put money on him to perform, moreover since he has never played overseas for them. In the bowling department, Shane Bond still holds the key, but in the limited form of the game, one cannot bowl more than 10 overs. What after that? Generally the Kiwi bowlers rely on swing and seam movement, and there isn't going to be a lot of it in the Carribean for sure.
POINTS - 5.5/10

Poms - No point writing 'bout them. They have been terrible, and inspite of Michael Vaughan returning, in my view, they just don't stand a chance. Harsh words for a team which has Freddie Flintoff and KP in the middle order, but 2 guys can't carry a team on every day. Their bowling attack is below par with Harmison who's nothing short of horrible when he performs away from home.
POINTS - Not Applicable

Guess, need not comment on the rest of the teams like Zimbabwe, Netherlands et al. They probably can contest in a cup of their own. Nothing against them, but guess the ICC need to look at other options on how to globalize this game.

ChaCha - Outsource your Search !!

Well, today I had a look at a search engine, which works on a different model. Imagine, you are looking for something to search on and then you delegate it to someone else to do the job for you and return back with the results.. without being charged with a penny. Does that give a feel of an outsourcing kind of a business model. Well, ChaCha works on this premise.

I did enter the string 'spinal cord specialist bangalore', and then I was transferred to a guide who was doing the work for me. I saw this chat session in a parallel frame where the updates were being delivered to me. However, the entire experience was probably a waste of time, both mine and her. She couldn't really zero in on the result and then transferred me to yet another guide till I was updated with this - Guide not located. Aarrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhh.. Well, the guide was never located and I was returned with a pretty ordinary list of links. Disappointing to say the least. But Its still in the Beta version, so there's still some way to go for them.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

World Cup SweepStakes..

Anyone (if at all), who's a regular at this blog - Nah, me not shifting domain from tech to sports and cricket, but the postings here would comprise of tech stuff along with sports et al. Organize the stuff that you are interested in using the labels. Thanks.
With the Cup being exactly a couple of months away, and such a lot of hoopla goin' on with the 30 men provisional squads being announced every other day by various teams across the world (what the heck, they r just.. what, 13, yeah - countin' the teams like Bermuda, et al), much comes to mind as to who's gonna take the sweepstakes. A common unbiased proposition would be the Aussies for sure, with the kind of cricket they have played, elevating the game to an entire different level.
But then one day cricket is like sweepstakes, ain't it? Things do go wrong at times, though only 'at times'.

Aussies - Mate, they are the best. I have no doubts at all, that Hayden and GilChrist are gonna open, and with the exception of Damien Martyn their batting order looks pretty much the same as they were in 2003. Well, but for Mr. Cricket a.k.a Michael Hussey. Now I don't need to say much about him. With a stunning average of 77 odd in 46 games, I am not sure that Martyn is gonna be missed. There might be some talks of getting in Phil Jacques to open, but I really don't think he can replace Matt Hayden right now. The bowling department, well nothing needs to be said 'bout Glen McGrath, a proven genius with the red/white cherry. But for me the trump card's gonna be Stuart Clark and Nathan Bracken. Clark might show an avg of 33 odd in ODIs, but make no mistake, at times the line and length with the ability to pitch the bowl on the seam - that he has displayed in the middle overs would probably prove very crucial when the batsmen are looking to accelerate.
Nathan Bracken has been a revelation, especially with his ability to run the fingers on the ball with the wicket keeper standing up. The lanky left armer has a brilliant average of 20.33 in ODIs, at a strike rate of 27. A slight tweak back into memory lane should play this fact - he took 5 for 67, in which the South Africans chased 434.
POINTS - 9.5/10 -- wouldn't be ethical to give 10/10

Sri Lankans - The lions are roaring again. They were all gone for no money a couple of yrs back but then have since shown tremendous resilience under Mahela Jayawardene. A 5 nil drubbing for England in the away series marked the beginning of the purple patch for them. I still feel they were a little complacent in the Champions Trophy, but they they would have learnt it by now. A great showing in New Zealand in both the tests and ODIs should augur well for them. The batting is exemplary with the top order comprising of Sanath Jayasuriya, Tharanga and the super sublime Sangakkara. The way Jayasuriya has rocked back into form probably should be seen by our own Master Blaster. Tharanga has been getting increasingly solid with every outing.
Sangakkara for me is probably the most elegant batsman in contemporary cricket. Left handers have this tendency of being elegant, but this bloke takes it to a new level. The bowling with Vaas and Murali is probably the most lethal combination right now. Add to that Lasitha Malinga, well his slings are giving problems a plenty to the batsmen.
POINTS - 8.0/10 - The reason why I feel SL is gonna do well, is coz of the nature of Carribean
wickets. Slow and low bounce, well what else do they need?

South Africans - It looks as though they have taken over the tag of being 'unpredictable' from Pakistan. In the home series against Australia, they once shot the might champions for 93, and then chased a mammoth 434 in that incredible match. Worthy at the cup, one might say. But a sad display in the series against Australia down-under didn't do them any good. And if anyone's saying that their 4-0 drubbing of the Indians should put them under serious contention - I am still not sure. With a fragile batting order at the top (read Gibbs, Smith), it will be huge test for Jacques Kallis to carry SA in almost every match. The trump card in this team for me is A B DeVilliers - a class act, who's probably a touch short in temperament. A couple of words from Michael Bevan would probably do him a world of good. Needless to say, his fielding abilities are probably a touch higher than most australians, if not all. Moreover, the Africans have to think about how to get their 30 overs bowled without conceding too many. Yeah, I took the other 20 from Ntini and Pollock out. But I have my reservations against the likes of Nel and co. - am not sure but the likes of Ponting and GilChrist would probably be touch too good for them.
POINTS - 7/10

Indians - I have no clue about them. The team's in a critical state right now, but history says that India has done well in the world cup whenever they have been in mess just before it. Interesting, huh? Well have a look at the '83 Cup and the '03 Cup. The wickets should suit them, but then the 1-4 drubbing earlier this year against the regrouping West Indies was unnecessary.
Tendulkar looks pretty much out of sorts, but we still bank on him to come out well in the big league. Dravid looks a bit tattered too and the bruises of South Africa tour will haunt him for a while. The team is still isn't sure about their batting order, with the likelyhood of Sehwag playing and doin' well being a complicated mathematical equation, the result of which somehow always tends to zero. Ganguly makes a comeback, but that doesn't solve a lot of questions. Middle order is also fragile with Dhoni not havin' the best of years with the bat. Yuvraj Singh was in sublime form early last year, but that still remains to be seen as to how will he cope up with the rigours of international cricket after his injury. Bowling also looks pretty critical, but with the re-emergence of Zaheer Khan, there might be a bit of hope.
POINTS - 6/10 - Arguably the most versatile, talented team on the circuit, it still remains to be seen if they can get their act together. The pitches should suit them and going with a bit of history, a 6 pointer shouldn't be unjustified.

Miracles do happen!

Not the regular techie blogs, but then this was a miracle that I am kinda forced to put it as a blog at 0030 hrs IST.
Yeah.. Roger Federer has been beaten.. in Tennis! Can you believe it?  And it took a certain Mr. Andy Roddick to play out of his skins to beat the Swiss, arguably the best tennis player the world has ever seen. The drama unfolded at Kooyong final where Roddick beat Federer 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. The irony however, is that this match won't go into the official records, since it was meant to be an exhibition encounter. How much Roddick can take from this match while going into the first grandslam of the year, the Australian open, time will only tell.

Notice the Swiss Champion in the background in the above picture, sayin' as though, "Mate, you can take the honors here. I'll see you at Melbourne.. " :D

Come for the recipes.. Stay for the conversation..

Bakespace.. another addition to one of those ever growing social networking sites, but this one's with a difference.. and a big one at that. As the name suggests, it presents with a networking arena, where folks can exchange recipes between them. Sounds simple, ain't it?

With a free registration and an outlook similar to the generic networking sites like Orkut, hi5.. Bakespace still manages to create a niche for itself. The friends, or rather Chefs, chat rooms a.k.a Tea Rooms - all make up for an interesting meeting point for folks who love to cook. One can give
Brownie Points to his/her fellow Chefs in case they love their recipe. The layout of the site is pretty simple, which makes it easy to navigate and find Chefs easily.  After all, it can actually provide some good stuff which suits your palate.. and all this while making new friends on the run. Then there is BakeSpace’s Global Cook Book, which lists the recipe of the day. Aha, I ain't got least bit of interest in cookin' but still Bakespace did manage to get my attention.

Google.. Yet another innovation - this time for its Employees!!

Google plans to introduce yet another option for its employees to redeem value for their stock options. Currently there are two ways that an employee can make money out of their stocks -
1. On completion of the vested period, exercise them once they have vested and sell them at the current trading price, and pay back the company for their so-called grant price.
2. or hold on to them after exercising them.

However, a third option now is coming for the employees who have joined google much later than their stock prices had started to climb. Google co-founder Sergey Brin was an early proponent of the auction system, which he saw as a way to improve the fairness of the options system for newer employees whose strike prices are much higher than people even hired shortly before them, said Allan Brown, director of recognition and human resource systems at Google.

According to the auction system, pre-approved financial institutions can get into an online bid with the employees for the options that they hold. Suppose the grant price per stock was $400, and trading price is $500, the financial institution in such a case can offer something like $150 to the employee, in which case the employee would have still made $50 extra as compared if he would have sold it directly according to the trading price.

However, there still are a couple of questions -
1. How long can the financial institutions keep assuming that the stock prices are gonna continue to increase?
2. Employees would probably tend to hold on to the stocks rather than falling for such auctions - this has been the trend till now atleast.

The program is unprecedented, Google said. Microsoft and Comcast have offered one-time auction transactions to a single bidder, whereas Google's program is ongoing and involves multiple bidders, Google said.

Daylife - Novel Concept

Upendra Shardanand, the founder, originally describes this idea "like IMDb for the news" -- a way to browse through histories and connections of the people, places, and topics that make up news stories. Daylife, a news portal trying to bring up the global news all bundled up was launched last
week. A novel concept, which apart from putting all the news together provides -
1. A daily cover - which is pretty analogous to the concept of say, TIME Cover - focussing on a particular item.
2. Tagged Related News - For every news item, the relations are shown in terms of places, people, et al and you can subsequently browse news related to such tags.
3. MyWorld - where you can label the news items which can be read later and they'd be placed in your MyWorld folder. Understandably, one needs to register to use this feature.
4. Quoted - Flip through quotes by the people involved in each story.
5. Timeline - See how a specific topic has come in and out of the news over time.

However, going through daylife, I still felt that something was missing. How can a site whose aim is to deliver global news not provide a RSS facility. Well, how many of us go to buy the newspaper everyday, rather than getting it delievered at our doorsteps? Doesn't make much sense to me..

Further, sometimes folks while designing a site, try and put out way too much information, more than what's required and at times it does feel out of place. Well, relevant information is understandable, but it was intriguing what 'Al-Qaeda' was doing in the related stories when I did a simple query on 'Australia England Cricket'.. interesting.. or rather irritating.

Another premise which is debatable, is the utmost flashy look to the entire thing. You know what, the first thing I liked about Google News was the simplicity with which they provided the news. Its just one page, and you have the prime news for all the genres, be it political, sports, entertainment or technology. First thing that I do and probably most of us, is to browse through the entire page at once to see what is interesting, rather than going to different tabs to get the related news.

Well, Daylife is indeed a nobel concept, the fundamental idea of bundling related news is pretty fresh. Considering its still in the beta version, I'd have my eyes set on it to see what comes up in the future. Guys keep it simple - is all I can say..

Thursday, January 11, 2007

50 or over? Get Crankier!!

Concept applications seldom arrive. In the era of Web 2.0 and mashups, we generally see loads of hybrid applications coming everyday. However, Jeff Taylor (the fame) is in the process of coming up with a concept search engine for a different demographic category.
"Our research found that people 50 and over are confused about searching on the Web," said Taylor, who runs Eons, a Boston-based startup devoted to creating products aimed at the graying baby-boom generation born from 1946 through 1964. "It's hard for them to understand all the results."
Launched earlier this week, Cranky ( is trying to simplify things by showing just four Web sites in the non-advertising section of each results page and making the sparser listings more relevant to its target audience. Google and Yahoo, by comparison, usually list at least 10 sites per results page.
Teaming up with Compete Inc, an internet research firm, Taylor and team identified 500,000 most 'hit' websites and then narrowed the list to top 5000 destinations. The reviewers then wrote descriptions about the content and tried to ensure the index contained more direct links to the most meaningful information.

The tags - expand, narrow and related make up for some interesting tagged information. Guess the Google folks might be looking into it.. :D

The Suing Business continues..

Its been just a day since the so called next generation, out of the world (read universe) -- iPhones have hogged the limelight and Stevie Jobs probably might still be wondering as to whether OS X would finally achieve what Mac couldn't.. and bang -- its Cisco Systems, this time who have filed a lawsuit against Apple for infringing its iPhone trademark. Apparently, Cisco obtained the iPhone trademark in the year 2000 after it acquired a company called Infogear, which previously owned the mark and sold iPhone products for several years. Last heard, Cisco is seeking injunctive relief to prevent Apple from copying Cisco's iPhone trademark, the company said. 

Com'on.. so is the legacy of Jobs and Co. naming their products as i-xyz gonna discontinue, or probably the 'xyz' might have to be replaced with another zingo term. The question is, does it matter? The product looks to be cool, and all we can hope is that comes to Asia before next year.

Late to the party..

Well,  have been wondering to devise methods to kill some time.. and finally made up my mind to push in some irrelevant and iconsequent blogs like the millions others are doing round the world. It ain't gonna be easy though to push myself every other day to text in a blog, lets see how far I am able to go with this...