Wireless Grids

[via Slashdot] IEEE Internet Computing has a lengthy report: “Wireless grids, a new type of resource-sharing network, connect sensors, mobile phones, and other edge devices with each other and with wired grids. Ad hoc distributed resource sharing allows these devices to offer new resources and locations of use for grid computing. This article places wireless grids in context, explains their basic requirements, and provides an example implementation that uses a wireless grid for distributed audio recording. Finally, it introduces articles in this special issue on wireless grid architectures and applications.”

A summary by Roland Piquepaille.

Blogs and the Developing World

Exceprts from an interview with Ethan Zuckerman:

In free market journalism you’re allowed to print whatever stories your audience wants to read. And because you know your audience is more interested in Michael Jackson than Jesse Jackson, you’re going to run fewer stories on policy and more on the abuse of boys on Neverland Ranch. Unless you get some extremely strong current of countervailing opinion, your coverage tends to fall towards the lowest common denominator. That’s why the international news hole in domestic television coverage has shrunk to almost nothing in recent years. The assumption is that no one’s interested.

That’s why a blogging community that pays attention to the rest of the world is so important. If bloggers talk about what’s happening in Africa, say, that not only means that more people have access to information about what’s going on there, it also means that there’s a countervailing force which shows the editors at the New York Times that people are interested enough in these issues to read about them.

One of the kinds of bridges I’d like to build is between talk radio and blogging. For much of the world, talk radio shows are their blogs: you have something to say, you find a platform to say it on, lots of people can hear you say it and they respond to it. Encouraging people to blog in Ghana is all well and good, but at the moment, most of the interesting debate there is happening on talk radio.

What’s interesting about digital technology is not just that it lets you create tools and hand them out to large audiences, but that once you figure out how to use those tools you’re able to build new tools for your own local, specific purposes, but in ways that contribute to the rest of the world as well. It’s not just about getting computers into hospitals and schools. What it’s really about is ensuring that we have software developers all over the world who can help those doctors and teachers design the tools they need.

Telecom Disruption

WSJ writes about how cable, Internet and wireless are hurting the phone networks and threatening their business model:

The Bells have lost some 28 million local phone lines since the end of 2000 — a drop of more than 18%. This is the first time since the Great Depression that phone companies have seen their lines decline. The Bells are now losing 4% of their residential lines a year.

Cablevision Systems Corp. signed up 115,000 phone subscribers in just over seven months in its New York region. Cox Communications Inc., the Atlanta-based cable company, is already the 12th-largest phone company in the country, with 1.1 million Internet and traditional phone customers. Comcast Corp., the nation’s biggest cable company, plans to offer Internet phone service to 40 million homes by the end of next year. And Internet phone start-ups like Vonage Holdings Corp. and Skype Technologies SA are signing up thousands of customers.

Behind the telephone earthquake is a giant force in business history: Just a few years after the Internet investment bubble spectacularly burst, the Web is now maturing and irrevocably transforming commerce. Today phone calls — just like music, photos, and video — can be turned into digital information and delivered much like e-mail over the Internet.

Marketing Book

Brad Feld writes about a book entitled “Your Marketing Sucks.”

This book reinforced a lot of messages around using that thing that I refer to as demand creation to generate value in your business. I knew I’d at least enjoy the book (even if it wasn’t good) when the first chapter started out with the rule that “Marketing is not about spending money on such things as advertising, direct mail, and P.R. Those are just tools. Marketing is about growing your business – its revenues, profit, and valuation.” Ok – well – duh – but it’s often overlooked. When the author started the next chapter with “Most companies make salesmanship the last step in the marketing process. Most companies are wrong: Salesmanship should have come first” I was hooked – at least for the hour it took me to read the book.

While the book has all the flaws of today’s typical business book (author platitudes followed up by mediocre and often self-serving examples, desperate need of a better editor, and reader fatigue after about 150 pages), it’s still a worthwhile book for a CEO struggling with demand creation (I mean marketing).

Google and AIM

Apple-X.net has a post on how Google could overthrow AOL’s Instant Messenger with its own solution built around Jabber:

[Jabber] is an open-source messaging protocol that can do basically everything that AIM can do, except that no large companies have really endorsed it yet, so it hasn’t caught on that much (a mixed blessing). Like other ways of communicating online, like email and IRC, Jabber doesn’t strictly depend on a particular server. Most Jabber IDs are @jabber.org, but they don’t have to be.

An important feature of Joogle would have to be contact list portability and file transfer behind NAT, neither of which Jabber can really provide. Thus, Google could implement such features in their own client, which would also display a text ad in the contact list.
And it would work, even if users could choose to use a different Jabber client that didn’t display an ad and was even more customisable, for the same reason more AIM users don’t use Gaim.

What else would it need? Audio chats are important in modern IMing, so this is a must. Optimally, Joogle’s audio chats would be compatible with other VoIP software, like Skype and iChat. Also, since AIM maintains some public chatrooms, Google would be obligated to provide these as well. The difference? AIM’s are totally unmoderated, which allows bots to clog the rooms (there are often ten bots per user in these rooms). Google could moderate their own rooms, filtering out the constant droning of COME SEE MY WEBCAM, enabling users to carry on, at least, semi-intelligent conversations.

In the end, what would this accomplish? It’d hand the world of real-time messaging back to the public (there are dozens of different Jabber clients), end client incompatibility once and for all (assuming many people switched over to Jabber), and stop companies like AOL, which are arguably very evil, from monopolising a very fundamental ability and use of the internet.

TECH TALK: An American Journey: August Travel and Meetings

Ever since I returned to India after my MS and a couple years work experience in 1992, a visit to the US has been a time for introspection and looking forward. I have been back about 8 times since then. Travelling and meeting people has always helped me refine some of my thinking, and in many cases, extended it. There is something about the US (or maybe it is just being away from India!) which has helped inspire me.

My most recent trip in August was no different. I was there with my colleague, Atanu Dey, to discuss about our Emergic vision to reinvent computing as a utility for the emerging markets, and meet up with companies which may have some elements of technology which we could use to build upon.

In many ways, this trip reminded me of the one I undertook almost exactly a decade ago. Then too, I crisscrossed the country talking and thinking about IndiaWorld. (At that time, I remember Delta Airlines had an option of unlimited standby travel for a fixed price.) This time around, it was a much more planned trip which resulted in over 60 meetings in about 15 days with plenty of points to mull over.

In some ways, meetings are mirrors they help reflect what one is thinking. It hones the presentation. Most importantly, one gets the wisdom of crowds (to borrow the title of a new book by James Surowiecki). Each meeting has something unique based on what people respond do, a different set of hyperlinks is followed. It is possible to distill insights both at a micro- and a macro-level.

The other thing I like about travelling is that it gives me chunky time to think. This is much harder to do sitting in the office here in Mumbai. Airports and flights are particularly good places to switch off from the world around and think through issues which may have arisen from the meetings, or just read a book and ponder its learnings.

On this trip, Atanu and I also drove down route 1 in California for the better part of the journey from the Bay Area to Los Angeles. (We spent an almost equal time on 1, 101 and LA traffic!) Our return journey was on route 5. Going down to LA, we discussed how education could be transformed in emerging markets with the low-cost computing platform that we are building. On the way back, Atanu talked about how southern California had been transformed by the Central Valley Project which brought water to what was essentially a desert area.

I couldnt help but think about the analogy about what we wanted to: we wanted to irrigate the technological wastelands and deserts of India. Someone looked at the Central Valley in California and saw not a desert, but a fertile agricultural belt. Someone had the vision to see a network of roads and a grid of water pipelines. We have to similarly build the grids of tomorrow built around computing and communications.

Theres nothing like a few days of travel in foreign lands to invigorate the mind and help distill the vision for tomorrow. Thats what our travel and meetings did. And in the process, there were some other learnings and observations.

Tomorrow: Road Warrior