Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cooliris, Firefox and Safari

Open Source does beat everything else to the game! I was looking through my unused add-ons in Firefox and realized that I had application called cooliris that had the capability of 3-D visualization within Firefox and that I had actually used it before!
So, I guess Firefox still rules! Bye bye Safari.

Aishwarya bombs .. yet again

What do you get when you take Aishwarya Rai and throw her into a movie with some degree of international favor?

A dud.

She has that effect. She can somehow jinx any movie that has non-indian actors in it. I am not a big fan of her acting skills or even believe that she should be acting - have you seen her in the movie "Mistress of Spices"? I have had the misery of watching the movie and realized I have been a fool all along. I had a trick to cure me of all my evils in my very own spice - green peppers!

Pink Panther 2 is the latest in a series of Aishwarya Rai achievements. I sincerely feel she was the cause of failure. I don't know if there is a rational process which drives this effect, but it works every time she stars in a non-indian movie. I pray that the James Bond franchise takes this into account if/when they consider her.

Further, the husband-wife bonding is too strong in Indian films. Mrs. Bachchan is playing the role of Sita to her husband's Ravana. I don't know what to make of their cinematic relationship. Did the director feel so compelled that they should act in a movie and decided to cast her somehow in the movie. Or is it just that he feels she is too beautiful to be a demon king's wife and that is why she is cast as Sita? Whatever the case maybe, I am sick of seeing the two of them together in movies.

Thoughts on Andhra Politics

As elections approach many Indian states including Andhra Pradesh are gearing up for tough battles between parties. Andhra is interesting for many reasons - the first and foremost being that Congress is at its strongest in this state when compared to any other state in India. Second, and not any less important is that Chiranjeevi, a very popular movie star is in the election foray this time around.

Many of the comments below may not be factual. All the usual legal mumbo jumbo and disclaimers apply. This is my blog and I choose to express my own opinion on it :)

Andhra had been Congress' bastion for many years up until 1983 when NTR launched his Telugu Desam party and forever changed the dynamics of the state's political landscape. Caste politics ruled the roost for many years with TDP being dominated by the kammas and the Congress by the reddys - the dominant castes in Andhra. The roots of the dominance of these two parties lies in their hold over land and trade in the state.

Kammas are very strong in the coastal andhra region whereas reddys are primarily entrenched in the rayalaseema region. After winning the 1984 elections, NTR lost them in 1989 due to the failure of his populist schemes. The following 5 years were of great instability and the Congress party was not able to find a good leader who can take the helm. In 1994, not surprisingly NTR swept to power only to see Chandra Babu Naidu pull a coup and wrest the power from his hands.

After being marooned in his house and seeing all his family members abandon him NTR passed away eventually, leaving a legacy of charisma, vision, and caste politics. The period from 1994-99 was reasonably good for the state and not surprisingly, Mr. Naidu was reelected to power for a second term. Mr. Naidu was able to place Andhra at the leading edge of growth in India and soon AP became part of an elite set of progressive states that included Gujarat, Maharashtra, TN and Karnataka.

However, Mr. Naidu's shortsighted approach that was biased against rural development largely led to his loss in the 2004 elections. YSR came to power on the promises of rural development and has been able to deliver at least partly on the promises that he had made before the election.

In Late 2008, Chiranjeevi announced the formation of a new political party - Praja Rajyam. backed by his fans and well-wishers he set up a non-caste platform and started focusing on the development of masses as a message. Films and politics have always been intertwined in Andhra. NTR's legacy has left an indelible mark with the presence of so many junior and senior artists in the state's assembly. It continues with Chiranjeevi's entry and the subsequent entry of Rajasekhar, Jeevitha, Roja and a lot of other actors and actresses.

I cannot understand why we need so many movie stars as representatives. The local news channels and newspapers have done a terrible job of keeping the people informed about the policy implications of the agenda of various parties. Chiranjeevi has started on a fresh platform and can make a difference if sets up the right campaign that focuses on the challenges that are faced by the state. However, his message has not been clear with so many melodramatic people involved in his campaign. His brother Pavan Kalyan seems to run a campaign almost independently of his brother's -at least in execution. Maybe his magnetism will pull a lot of fans - but in reality fans are not voters!

In a way, I like a third front to Congress and TDP in Andhra because it decimates the caste divide, a legacy of these two parties. The Left has never been a strong presence in Andhra, except in districts where Naxals have sympathizers, and BJP is weak at its best with almost no appeal in coastal areas. Maybe it is driven by the religious make-up of the state. Many of the state's residents do not have strong religious affiliations and the smartha tradition, a weaker version of brahmanism, has been widely prevalent in the state. Moreover, being close to Tamil Nadu the state also seems to have rubbed off a lot of dravidian influence as well and over centuries has been a platform for other religions such as Buddhism and Islam.

At the end of it, it seems these are exciting and nervous times for the state. As I have said before elsewhere in my blog, Chiranjeevi has a good opportunity by I see him scuttling it by not being coherent in his message. He has a clear opportunity to make a difference by adopting a free-market agenda driven by rational economic thought and refrain from adopting populist schemes. He has to build up a scalable political machine that is disciplined and does not resort to melodrama like TDP does. He will be useful to the state as a powerful third front that is secular and pro-markets even if not in power.

Safari, Apple and Crowdsourcing

I am a browser freak!  I have close to 5 browsers installed on my laptop and I religiously update and upgrade them as new releases come out.  And, based on my experience I must admit that Apple deserves a bow.

I stick to using firefox when I am on XP.  However, I realized that on Windows 7, Firefox has a lot of issues and I am not sure why it does not load at all after a couple of weeks !

I installed Safari on Win 7 as soon as the 4.0 came out and it is amazing.  They have taken ipod's user interface and built the browser capabilities around it. The way safari handles search history is simply beautiful - it presents the search pages and bookmarks as what they call "cover flow".  It is similar to viewing music album covers in ipod touch or apps in iphone.  The navigator bar has a smooth fell to it and reminds you of the flipping motion that has become so popular with ipod users.

Apple's strength lies in its ability to match user needs to its product features. What amazes me is how much attention they pay to detail and how fanatically they follow this policy to its depths.

I was at a conference recently where I presented a research paper on product development cycle and factors that influence these stages. Raji Srinivasan, a friend and a professor at UT- Austin pointed out that maybe the iphone apps store is similar in concept to open source community models. That got me thinking - yes I can see some common DNA between the two in the sense that Apple has a base platform on which it open up a few APIs so that developers can write apps and sell it online to users.  The simplicity of the pricing policy and the relatively low cost of the apps is not being a problem for entrepreneurs because the mobile platform itself, ipod or the iphone is selling in huge numbers.  Apple has managed to pull off a user-driven innovation model after losing out to the Microsoft model of licensing computer manufacturers to use its OS on their hardware.

In principle, it seems to me that many of the crowd sourcing ideas have some common DNA.  At the heart of it lies the notion that users of a product or a service can be harnessed for idea generation, creativity and product management.