Thursday, November 25, 2010

Harry Potter - Deathly Hallows, Part I

We are a family of "Potterites" - I am sure like many others out there. We have contributed to Ms. Rowling's billions by purchasing the books, watching the movies and owning the DVDs/Blu-ray. We have, therefore, followed the orphan Harry from his cupboard, beneath the stairs of his uncle Vernon's house on Privet drive, to the heights of Hogwarts. I must say that we have enjoyed seeing the young wizard on his missions in preparation for the inevitable battle against the Dark Lord, Voldemort. The movies have turned out to be just as engrossing - doing justice to the larger than life productions and respectful to the book. That is, until this latest one. The biggest challenge in it is not whether Harry and his friends find the remaining horcruxes, but for the audience to sit through the movie.

I am sure the producers are wringing their hands over the choking of this cash cow - since Ms. Rowling chose to end the series with the seventh book. So, the marketing geniuses at Warner decided to stretch the last book into two parts. Now, they had to fill Part I with enough material. As a result, instead of scooting through, the movie wanders aimlessly in the middle in the pretext of Harry and Hermoine not-knowing-what-to-do-except-to-curse-Dumbledore-for-not-leaving-enough-clues.

The one bright spot in this movie is Emma Watson. Hermoine has a much bigger role here than any of the previous movies. She steps up and delivers - even in those boring tent scenes where the three teens are lost in the woods (along with their audience, I must add).

I am sure this review will not dissuade other "Potterites" from seeing the movie. Harry, Ron and Hermoine have given them much pleasure over the last 13 years and deserve their faithful company for one more visit - even if this one is long and boring.

I am also certain that us "Potterites" will see Part II when it comes out in July 2011 - so Warner does come out ahead, after all. However, no amount of magic potion can revive the ennui that sets in this yarn.

PS: Ironically, at Micello, we mapped out Hogwarts in preparation for the release of this movie. Turned out that Hogwarts is not featured in the movie :) Nevertheless, the map is available ...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

President Obama's visit to India

You can't turn anywhere these days without seeing another article about President Obama's upcoming visit to India - ranging from

Seems to me to be a reversal of roles in that Obama is the one who is seeking help from India. Note that he is traveling with a 250-member team that includes a who's-who of American business. These are heads of corporations whose revenues are higher than the GDP of several countries - including Jeff Immelt (GE), Jim McNerney (Boeing), Indira Nooyi (Pepsi), Terry McGraw (McGraw Hill), and others. Their mission is seek sales orders for everything from aircraft engines, to nuclear reactors, to power plants. The underlying message is, "Do not take our jobs, take our goods." Clearly, they are hoping that the tremendous opportunity for goods and services that India offers will make a dent in US unemployment.

My question is what are they offering in return ...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An Open Letter to Steve Jobs

The world heard your tirade against RIM and Android on Monday. I understand that you are nervous over the fact that Android Sales have overtaken iPhone. As any good sales person would, you injected some FUD to deflect the positive press that Android has been receiving.

But it is just that - Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Usually, this is a sign of weakness - conceding to the enemy and "retaliating" with FUD. Fundamentally, your rant can be distilled to two issues:
  1. Fragmentation of Android resulting in developers spending more time testing than adding features
  2. Multiple Android Markets making it confusing for end users and developers
As a developer who has applications on both iOS and Android, I can tell you that I do not have the issue of having to "port" my Android code to multiple Android platforms. My code runs as-is across all Android devices.

Now, regarding the issue of multiple Android Markets, I think this is an advantage for Android. As a developer, this gives me multiple channels to have my app get downloaded. It is a matter of time before these markets provide an svn repository for my "bundle" (which includes screen shots, descriptions and the .apk file) that I simply upload to the various markets. The end-user can find the app within their context (either GetJar or Amazon or Google). Moreover, this keeps Google on its toes to constantly innovate. Competition always brings the best out in people.

You have always eschewed "open" and taken the I-know-what-is-best-for-you approach. The success of Linux for desktops/severs did not necessarily raise your antennae because the "fight" was for a much smaller percentage (Windows owns 90+% of the market. Linux/MacOS and others were competing for the scraps). However, the world of Smart Phones is a new era and an opportunity for "world dominance". Things were going well until Android started gaining momentum and started eclipsing the iPhone. Thus, the need for the rant.

I continue to be in awe of your genius. Your ability to provide clear thinking to a befuddled marketplace is phenomenal. Your legacy to our world of technology is unparalleled. So, you can understand my bewilderment with your scare tactics.

I believe there is room for two players in the market (three if RIM gets their act together quickly). Windows 7 is probably late to the party. However, if RIM does not watch out, the third player could well be Windows Phone 7. So, my request to you is to leave Android alone and focus on things that you have control over improving:
  • Reduce (or even remove) the approval time for apps on iTunes
  • Add recommendations to the iTunes store (similar to Amazon) including percentage of people who download the app, percentage of people who bought other apps, etc.
With Best Wishes,

Friday, October 15, 2010

NO on Proposition 23

Proposition 23 suspends the implementation of Air Pollution Control Law (AB 32) that requires major sources of emissions to report and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, until unemployment drops to 5.5% or less for a full year.

Excuse me! I am surprised that they even allowed this to get on the ballot!

Who in their right minds can support a proposition that threatens public health and kills clean energy and air pollution standards. The only people benefiting from Prop 23 are the Texas Oil companies - because a YES on 23 would increase our dependence on their costly oil.

Here is a link to an Open Letter from over 100 leading economists, including Nobel Laureate Kenneth Arrow, warning against any delay in the implementation of California's Clean Energy policies.

On November 2nd, please vote NO on Prop 23.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

HP vs Oracle Round 3

Round 1: August 6th 2010 - HP Fires Mark Hurd for fiscal improprieties. Larry Ellison calls this "the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago."

Round 2: September 6th 2010 - Oracle hires ousted HP Chief Mark Hurd. HP responds with a law suit that "in the course of his duties with Oracle, Hurd will inevitably disclose HP's trade secrets and confidential information."

Round 3. October 1st 2010 - The Silicon Valley Soap Opera took another bizarre turn with the appointment of Leo Apotheker as the new HP CEO. Larry Ellison says publicly that he is "speechless" that HP "picked a guy who was recently fired because he did such a bad job running SAP."

Will somebody please stand up and tell Larry Ellison that *he* hired a guy who was recently fired from HP because he did not stand up to HP's ethical standards (which are also the standards normally practiced by the rest of us). Who is "speechless" now?

HP really hit it where it hurds the most (sorry, could not resist that!) with the appointment of Ray Lane as the non-executive chairman. Ray Lane has a storied history with Larry Ellison. It will be interesting to see who makes the next move.

I was disappointed with Chris O'Brien's piece in the Mercury News earlier today. He starts off very well building the case for why the other stories (Apple vs Adobe and Google vs Apple) pale in comparison to this one. It was his conclusion on "How can this get better?" that was disappointing. Chris O'Brien opted to take the trite path to possible conclusions.

I think the battlefield is now the marketplace. HP and Oracle are going after the same customers in the Enterprise Data Center. Oracle had the upper hand with Enterprise Software. HP closed that gap with the hiring of Leo Apotheker. With HP's recent acquisitions of 3Par, ArcSight and Fortify they are filling critical holes. I believe that they have the right person at the helm to lead them. I applaud HPs Board in having the courage to hire a rank outsider to help them effectively combat Oracle - an advantage that an insider would not have given them.

We are nearing the end of the first quarter and, by my score, HP is leading by a field goal - with each team having scored a touchdown. We have three more quarters left in the game. The Bay Area is already abuzz with all the activity that has happened so far. Hold on to your seat belts folks. The game has just begun!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Oracle Open World

I was at the GlassFish Community Event at Oracle Open World earlier this evening. The theme for Oracle Open World Conference this year is "Hardware and Software. Engineered to Work Together". The entire block of Howard Street was blocked off by a huge tent for the event. A Half Pipe with the "Future of Java" is the first sight that greets you as you make the left turn into Howard Street from 4th Street.

Other than this blue, the area was swathed in a sea of Oracle Red. I have been attending JavaOne conferences at Moscone for the last 15 years. I have not seen the area transformed in this fashion.
As you enter the Moscone Convention Center, the first thing you see is the America's Cup trophy - with two guards stationed to ensure that it stays there! The crowds were quite huge. I was not surprised when Judith Sim (Oracle CMO) announced that there were 41,000 people in attendance. The Opening keynote of the conference was delivered by HP Exec VP Ann Livermore. I am not sure if I was the only uncomfortable person in the room when she was introduced. Here are two companies that are bitterly feuding out in the open. Her introduction might as well have been , "HP paid mucho bucks to sponsor this conference. There was no backing off their keynote slot. So here is Ann Livermore." Ms. Livermore made the mistake of asking the audience how many people used Oracle solutions on HP hardware. About a dozen people raised their hands. Usually, when the audience is asked a question, the lights go brighter and the camera is turned towards the audience. Luckily (for HP) the logistics folks at Moscone realized the disastrous response and quickly dimmed the lights. Ms. Livermore recovered glibly and unconvincingly said, "Good. That is a sizable number". The rest of her talk focused on the HP panoply of solutions.

The lowlight of the evening was Larry Ellison's keynote. Perhaps my expectations were too high. I had gone there to hear an industry visionary provide a state-of-the-industry, an Oracle-State-of-the-Union, where-is-technology-headed, state-of-feud-with-HP. Instead, we got a dull, boring, sales pitch on Oracle's new Exalogic Cloud server. I was curious to check if it was just me who was uninspired. Just about everyone I checked with afterwards gave a resounding, unequivocal thumbs down. In my opinion, here are the mistakes Mr. Ellison did:
  • Beating up and Marc Benioff openly. Also, Mr. Ellison made some simplistic assumptions on and started bashing this mythical entity.
  • Insulting the IQ of his audience by repeating just about everything he said not once, not twice, but at least three times. We got it the first time you said it, Mr. Ellison.
  • At one point in his drone, Mr. Ellison said, "They asked me not to add this information." "They" suggested that for a good reason, Larry. By putting it up and reading it out loud (as if by rote), you did not help yourself.
At around 8:00 pm (the keynote was already 15 minutes past the scheduled end time), I could not take it anymore and walked out. I looked back and most of the seats were empty ...

Oh! and as I was explaining what Micello does to a few folks at the conference, the unanimous response was, "I could totally have used that at this conference". Especially this year, where JavaOne, Oracle Open World and Oracle Develop are all combined into a single event!

Sunday, August 8, 2010


[Full Disclosure: I own HPQ stock. The following blog post, however, is not written from a shareholder perspective. These opinions, as the others in my blog, are solely my own]

I mean WOW! In my blogging past, I have heaped praise on two CEO's:
  1. Ramalinga Raju and
  2. Mark Hurd
Ramalinga Raju is currently in Hyderabad's Chanchalguda jail and Mark Hurd has been unceremoniously dismissed as the CEO of HP. I wonder what drives these (and other) talented individuals to such grave deeds of misconduct (I provide an POV later in this posting)

Sexual misconduct/ethical lapses and Corporate world are certainly not strangers. Recently, IBM's Robert Moffat resigned on an insider-trading charge after "becoming intimate" with tipster Danielle Chiesi. I agree with Chris O'Brien that the circumstances of Hurd's dismissal are mysterious - especially with the comment that Hurd would keep $20,000 in his shoe :) However, I disagree with Chris in wondering if Hurd had to go. Curiously, it was the same Hurd that spoke not too long ago of the ethical challenges that he faces in running a large, global company :) If there is one thing I admired about the leadership at Sun it was the high moral ground maintained by its executives (Sun won the award for the World's Most Ethical Company). They may have been recognized as the worst leaders in American History (for the record, I do not share that opinion), but they did their jobs ethically :)

Given the increased scrutiny in a post Enron world, you wonder what were Hurd, Moffat, et al thinking? We are not talking about minor reckless driving incidents before they became the CEO of large corporations. We are also not talking about improprieties by sports figures. After all, the only one affected in this case is their family (not that it condones the despicable and dastardly behavior!).

There is a certain responsibility that comes with running the world's largest computer company - to the 300,000+ employees and shareholders. Words used by Tiger Woods in his apology come to mind, "I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to". History is replete with examples of moral hypocrisy from absolute power.

Lord Acton's dictum of "absolute power corrupting absolutely" has been proven time and time again ...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Micello Indoor Maps v1.1 now available ...

v1.1 of Micello Indoor Maps became available in the iTunes AppStore earlier this morning.

In this version, we have integrated the compass (available on the iPhone 3GS) that will allow the indoor map to rotate and align the orientation of the map with the real world. On the picture to the left, the user was outside the "Sino" store at Santana Row (in San Jose) walking towards "Left Bank Brassiere". As I have mentioned before, we are able to add these innovations to the indoor maps because Micello's maps are accurate and ge0-coded.

In addition, this version has much smoother scrolling and panning of the maps and some performance improvements. So non-iPhone 3GS users will also benefit from upgrading to v1.1

Monday, February 15, 2010

Micello Indoor Maps unique features ...

In an earlier post, I introduced the Micello Indoor Maps application that is available at Apple's iTunes AppStore. I had mentioned a few of the unique features of the app that are not available in other applications that offer indoor maps. Here, I will talk about a few more unique features of Micello's maps.

Yesterday was Valentine's Day. Outside of the Holiday Season (Thanksgiving and Christmas), this day is one of the biggest shopping days in the year. Micello celebrated Valentine's Day by applying a special color theme to its maps. The screen shot to the left shows the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania. It shows the stores that are highlighted from a search result for "Shoes" (Nordstorm, American Eagle Outfitters, Forever 21, Wet Seal). It also shows "The North Face" as a selected store. Finally, it shows Ralph Lauren and Tiffany & Co. as favorite stores. Notice the stair icon is highlighted in Blue. This indicates that this is a 2-story mall and there are search results in other floors too.

Another unique feature in Micello's Maps is the ability to provide a "best fit" of the store name within the store outline. When the map is zoomed out, the entity names are not displayed. As you start zooming in, the store names start appearing within the store outline in a manner that can be best fitted.

There are additional capabilities that we will unveil within the next few days. You will have to stay tuned for that ...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Micello Indoor Maps now available ...

The Micello Indoor Maps application is now available for download from the iTunes AppStore. We wanted to wait until v1.0 to provide a rich experience to our users. Once you download the app, you will agree that it was worth the wait.

We have started receiving some good reviews:
Recently when Google announced Nexus One, they showed navigation to IKEA. We wanted to show that you could go into IKEA with the Micello App. The idea was not to misrepresent that the Micello App is available on Android, but to inform that Micello is extending the navigation metaphor to "Go Inside". Here is the video:

Here are a few unique features in the App:

  • The only app that provides your location on a map that is not an outdoor map. We are able to do this because our maps are more than just "pretty pictures". They are accurate and are geo-coded. In the above picture, the blue-dot indicates the user's position inside the community.
  • The maps are personalized and interactive - so you can set your own favorites (the yellow entites above are this user's favorites)
  • The maps provide iPod Touch users a rich experience by doing intelligent caching and not requiring a data connection all the time
  • Multi-level communities are handled intuitively - with a "stair icon" to navigate between levels using a thumbnail sketch of the level
There are even more unique features. I will save that for the next post.

If you own and iPhone/iPod touch, download the app and give it a spin - even if there are no maps for communities in your neighborhood. You can experience the interface and then give us feedback on the maps that you would like to see become available.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Implementing SOA with Java EE Book

The book (that I co-authored with BV Kumar and Tony Ng almost two years ago) has finally published.

It actually released (on Borders, Barnes and Noble and Amazon) on December 31st 2009. I waited until it got some additional visibility before I posted about the book here. On Friday, Jan 15th, the book got mentioned in

I would like to thank Greg Doench for his tireless effort and determinedness to push the book through. Many times in the last year I would ask him, "Greg, are we really going through with this. I am not seeing things moving forward." He would calmly reply, "I am working on it." There is a companion site to the book that provides a sneak peek into the book. We will be using this site to provide updates, samples and take your comments.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Avatar - Why I liked this movie

This movie is about humans attempting to take over an alien world - an earth-like moon, Pandora, in search of Unobtanium. The story line is familiar - one that we have known since the beginning of civilization - whether it is the British conquering India or Europeans settling in North, Central and South America. They came, they took whatever they wanted and displaced and marginalised the indigenous people. If anything, James Cameron (the director) is saying that human tendencies don't change.

The indigenous people, the Na'vi, are one with nature in Pandora - a lush, tropical paradise. This planet, with its floating mountains, is especially beautiful at night when the flora and fauna catch the light of a nearby gas planet and the rainforest glows. Seeing this is 3D is a visual treat.

I liked this movie for its creative use of Computer Graphics and cutting-edge digital technology. We have seen all kinds of techniques used to make humans look like aliens - including rubber masks and make up. This is inherently limiting because the proportions of the body and the size and spacing of the eyes and cannot be changed. We have also seen the other extreme - where dinosaurs (Juarassic Park) and characters (Toy Story) are completely computer generated.

The Na'vi characters in Avatar are Computer Generated - thus allowing for fundamentally different proportions. However, they resemble the actors who play them - including capturing their facial expressions accurately. This was accomplished by using an "image-based facial performance capture" system - thus making the characters more believable.

So ... don't go to see this movie for stimulating dialogues or interesting characters. In fact, the main characters in Avatar are as stereotypical as they get - Colonel Quaritch could have walked out of a Marvel comic from the 1960s. See it to appreciate the use of digital techniques to transform us into a make-believe world.

Just as Star Wars ushered in a new era in film making back in 1977, look for Avatar to spawn a new generation of digital movies.