BlogStreet Visual Neighborhood

We’ve just launched the Visual Neighborhood on BlogStreet. It helps you to visualise the neighborhood of related blogs in a graphical manner. It can be browsed recursively and helps you map the inter-linkages between blogs.

Visual Neighborhood is powered by TouchGraph technology. After Blog Importance Quotient, it is the latest in the series of new features we are launching as part of BlogStreet 3.0.

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Return to Bayes

News.com has a fascinating article on how the mathematical theories (especially in probability) propounded by Thomas Bayes in the 18th century are becoming a new force in computing.

[Developers are] building programs designed to automatically manage the deluge of data that gets thrown at people each day via e-mail, cell phones, instant messaging programs and the like.

The appeal of the Bayesian technique is its deceptive simplicity. The predictions are based completely on data culled from reality–the more data obtained, the better it works. Another advantage is that Bayesian models are self-correcting, meaning that when data changes, so do the results.

Microsoft, Google, Autonomy and Intel are among the companies which use Bayes’ algorithms.

Xandros Linux Desktop

Excerpts from an interview with depth interview with Xandros’ Chairman Frederick Berenstein and VP of software development, Ming Poon:

We reviewed studies of why firms were not adopting the Linux desktop. We found three barriers to entry: difficult installation; no bridge to the current Microsoft environment; and a lack of familiar, well functioning applications to perform basic office tasks. We didn’t release the Xandros Desktop until all of these issues were resolved.

The typical enterprise user needs a word processor, a spreadsheet program, a way to view and edit other people’s files, an e-mail program and a web browser. A few users need other special programs for, say, graphics, but the majority does not. The Xandros Desktop offers solid solutions for those needs. There is the OpenOffice.org productivity suite which has matured into a full-featured set of applications. We also offer the open source Mozilla web browser.

The home market is secondary to us for the time being but we are not ignoring it. It is mostly based on OEM sales bundled with new PCs. The major pivot point for the massive migration of home users is when they can buy and play the latest games on their PC — not games that are a couple of years old. We see corporate desktops as the first phase of the Desktop Linux migration.

With the number of countries that are standardizing on Linux, there will soon be hundreds of millions of students who will be used to using a Linux based PC, and they will feel most comfortable with that when they get a computer to use at home. Their parents, who will be using Linux based PCs at work will also want them at home. This was one major reason that Windows trickled into home PCs, and I feel certain that the same will be true for the Xandros Desktop.

The real opportunity for Linux on the desktop lies in (a) emerging markets and new users (b) running it off the server on low-cost client desktops, costing USD 100-200.

Cognitive Radios

Radios are going to be an integral part of our future – right from RFIDs to wireless. They are getting smarter and more software-driven. Writes Newsfactor:

A personal digital assistant (PDA) falls from its owner’s pocket during lunch. After a little while on the restaurant floor, it awakens, calls home, and notifies its owner that it has been left behind. That’s all in a day’s work for a “cognitive radio,” a wireless device that’s aware of its environment and learns from its user.

Cognitive radios don’t exist yet. But Joseph Mitola, a computer scientist at Mitre, in Bedford, MA, aims to make them a reality by exploiting the added processing power that will be built into tomorrow’s wireless devices. Mitola is one of the pioneers of “software radio,” which gives users of cell phones and other two-way radios the ability to use a single device to communicate over a range of frequencies.

Now Mitola is thinking about other applications — such as artificial-intelligence — based learning for wireless devices stuffed with software. “A cognitive radio learns the preferences of its user without being explicitly programmed,” Mitola says.

Reuters’ Problems

It is sad when much-admired companies run into problems. Reuters is one such company. They seemed quite visionary in the early days of the Internet. But the past few years have not been good. WSJ writes about Reuter’s problems:

In the 1970s and 1980s, Reuters was among the few companies with both access to financial data and the technological ability to deliver it instantly to trading floors around the world. Many traders simply couldn’t have done their jobs without a Reuters terminal. But the Internet made it much easier for start-ups to gather and repackage all kinds of data on the cheap. Their arrival split the data market in two: the high-end, dominated by Bloomberg, with its fancy technology and instant messaging; and the commodity business, served by low-cost suppliers. Reuters, bureaucratic and riven into fiefs, was left floundering in the middle.

TECH TALK: The Rs 5,000 PC Ecosystem: Telecentres (Part 3)

The key question is: how to make the Telecentres economically viable? The Rs 5,000 PC (5KPC) only helps to make the Telecentre less expensive to set-up. But a 10-15 computer centre will cost about Rs 200,000 (USD 4,000) to set-up and about Rs 20,000 (USD 400) monthly to manage (people, space, bandwidth and maintenance costs). The two questions that we need to address. Where will be the initial set-up costs come from? What are the sources of income?

The initial investment can come from three possible sources: local banks and financing organisations (for example, World Bank, microcredit institutions), the community members themselves who would set the telecentre as a co-operative, or individuals and corporates who would invest in telecentres by providing microfinance at the location of their choice. Telecentres could also be set up institutions like post offices, banks, railways (at their stations), hospitals, schools and colleges.

Each telecentre should be run as a profit centre, with the objective of providing returns to the investors over a period of time. If we were to look to a three-year payback of the principle amount with interest, the additional revenue that would need to generated each month is about Rs 7,000. Thus, we need a business model that generates about Rs 27,000 each month at a minimum, or about Rs 1,000 per day. If we assume there are 10 computers, we are looking at an income of Rs 100 per computer per day. Taking it one level further, if the computer is used for about 5 hours a day (50% utilisation), we are looking at generating Rs 20 per computer per hour.

Cybercafes in India today charge between Rs 15-40 per hour, with the median being about Rs 20. So, in theory, just be offering cybercafe services, it should be possible to generate enough revenues for break-even. But over time, as telecentres (or cybercafes) proliferate, the hourly rate is likely to come down to Rs 10. That is what we need to assume. This means the additional set of services that are on offer need to generate the balance Rs 10 per hour.

By offering value-added services like eLearning, printing of documents and forms, storage space for documents, access to specialised software applications and neighbourhood wireless access services, it should be possible to bridge the revenue gap and create an economic model for the telecentres which is self-financing. As individuals and enterprises discover the value of the Internet and computing, they will want more services, and this can create a positive feedback loop as entrepreneurs come in to create these offerings.

The telecentre can be thought of as a platform which bridges the digital divide, by offering equal access and opportunities to people across the emerging markets. For example, they can use a site like eBay to market their crafts globally, as entrepreneurs in Ecuador are doing. In India, ITCs e-Choupal program is helping provide the latest prices for agricultural products through Internet kiosks across villages. The telecentre can be a positive disruptive force for the next users, because it breaks down the barriers imposed by geography through centuries. By bringing information, computing and communications to the mass-market, the telecentre is the disruptive bridge that the emerging markets and their people need to create new opportunities and open up new horizons.

Tomorrow: Homes

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