Reinventing Disk Drives

Robert Cringely writes about the venture he is involved in:

Two old friends of mine, Anil Nigam and Jim White, and their company, Antek Peripherals, Inc., had been working for years on technology for a sort of hyper-floppy drive using metal foil for the recording medium. At the time they were aiming their work toward digital cameras, but I asked if the same technology could be used in a non-removable form inside a computer disk drive? And if it could be used that way, what would be the effect on price, performance, reliability, and energy consumption? The answers were stunning: they could design new families of disk drives that held up to three times as much data in the same space, were more reliable, actually cheaper to build, and used 70-95 percent less energy to run than the current state of the art.

For a data center operator, simply swapping disk drives could increase storage by three times while decreasing total energy consumption by a third. This is a huge attraction for big businesses and big hosting companies, not just because it lowers their electric bills but because it may mean they can avoid building more data centers entirely.

YouTube’s Early Days

GigaOm writes about a video talk by Jawed Karim:

Problem was, nobody used YouTube. Karim shows another video of the YouTube boys sitting around pondering their existence. Nobodys going to watch this, they complain; This is lame. To try to attract viewers, the three figured the best thing would do would be to get hot chicks involved. So, Karim recounts, they posted an ad on Craigslist in Los Angeles promising attractive females $100 if theyd post 10 videos on YouTube. They got not a single reply.

In June 2005, YouTube revamped, adding the four essential features that jump-started viral growth. 1) related video recommendations, 2) one-click emailing to spam a friend about a video, 3) more social networking and user interaction tools like video comments, and 4) an external video player.

That sharp uptick of growth (which, included in todays YouTube traffic chart of the last two years, shows up as part of the flatline days) made it possible for YouTube to raise $3.5 million in November 2005.

The Philippines and SMS

textually.org writes:

“The Philippines has become the first country in the world where mobile users spend more on data services than on voice, according to a leading research company,” reports The Guardian via Smart Mobs.

“The average data revenue per subscription in the Philippines now stands at $3.90 (2.08) a month, compared with $3.50 a month for voice – meaning that data accounts for 53% of the total.

The main reason for the Philippines figures is that texting is very cheap compared to voice calls, so subscribers use texts as their main means of communication and their spending on voice calls is very low. A text costs only about 1 peso (1.1p) compared to about 20 pesos per minute for prepaid voice calls.”

MySpace Local Ads

The Courier-Journal writes:

A growing number of Louisville businesses are turning to the social-networking Web site MySpace.com to connect with customers, promote events and, ultimately, make money.

Taverns, clothing stores and gift shops — many of them independently owned — are creating virtual profiles of themselves on the site as an informal approach to free online advertising.

Mobile Banking

The Economist writes about South Africa:

About half a million South Africans now use their mobile phones as a bank. Besides sending money to relatives and paying for goods, they can check balances, buy mobile airtime and settle utility bills. Traditional banks offer mobile banking as an added service to existing customers, most of whom are quite well off. But Wizzit, and to some extent First National Bank (FNB) and MTN Banking (a joint venture between Standard Bank and a mobile-phone network), are chasing another market: the 16m South Africans, over half of the adult population, with no bank account. Significantly, 30% of these people do have mobile phones. Wizzit hired and trained over 2,000 unemployed people, known as Wizzkids, to drum up business. It worked: eight out of ten Wizzit customers previously had no bank account and had never used an ATM.

If the transfer of money by mobile phonebetween countries as well as within themtakes off, it could have implications far beyond the salons of Soweto. In 2005, according to the United Nations, global migrants remitted $232 billion, of which up to 20% was lost on the way, mostly in bank charges or fraud. If cellular transfers could slash that figure, mobile banking would prove to be a good call.

TECH TALK: Good Books: In Spite of the Gods (Part 2)

The Guardian reviewed Edward Luces book in August:

Several recent books have examined the savage inequalities between the country’s burgeoning, educated, urban elite and the shockingly poor who live in the vast hinterlands. Luce’s thoughtful and thorough book – ‘an unsentimental evaluation of contemporary India against the backdrop of its widely expected ascent to great power status in the 21st century’ – fits right into this category.
He suggests the dichotomy of India in the book’s subtitle and later calls India’s rise ‘strange’ because, while becoming an important political and economic force, it has remained ‘an intensely religious, spiritual and, in some ways, superstitious society’.

It is always difficult to structure a book like this one, but Luce manages well by breaking up the narrative into neat chapters, each dealing with a different theme and each capable of standing on its own feet. We are offered accounts of India’s ‘schizophrenic’ flourishing economy; its state machinery; its caste conflicts; the rise of Hindu nationalism; the dynastic nature of its politics; its relationship with Pakistan and its Muslim minority; its relationship with the US and China; the country’s experience of grappling with modernity and urbanisation.

The Hindu Business Line had a detailed review of Luces book:
The book concludes with a discussion of `India’s huge opportunities and challenges in the twenty-first century’. Judging by the living conditions of ordinary Indians, rather than by `the drama of national events,’ Luce is of the view that the country is moving forward `on a remarkably stable trajectory’. And, as opposed to China, India has given a higher priority to stability than it has to efficiency.

“India is like a lorry with twelve wheels. If one or two puncture, it doesn’t go into the ditch,” is a quote of Myron Weiner that he cites. That way, China may have fewer wheels so it can travel faster, but “people far beyond China’s borders worry about what would happen if a wheel came off,” notes Luce, extending Weiner’s analogy.

Though investors are deterred by the babus, institutional advantages such as `an independent judiciary and a free media’ may make India the proverbial tortoise that can overtake the Chinese hare, postulates the author. “India can also draw on a deep well of intellectual capital.”

Yet, for those closer home, a word of caution is not to take our economic strengths for granted. “As the joke goes, `India never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity’. It is also suffering from a premature spirit of triumphalism,” alerts Luce.

Indias rise has just begun. There are a lot of things that can still go wrong. But I feel that for the first time, there is an optimism in people that tomorrow will be better than today. And that can make all the difference. My advice to those taking a flight to India this winter: pick a copy of Luces book and read it en route. It will help you understand India better.

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