20 December, 2004

Game Industry Bigger Than Hollywood -Slashdot

The $10 billion video game industry, which generates more revenue than Hollywood, has never released so many highly anticipated blockbuster titles in a single season. It started in August with the game title Doom 3, followed by The Sims 2 in September, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in October, then Halo 2, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and Half-Life 2 last month.

18 December, 2004

Desktop search tools a virus writers' best friend -ZDNet :
Most viruses are designed to harvest e-mail addresses and other personal information from an infected system. Because desktop search tools can index and categorise that information, virus writers are likely to start exploiting the technology. Any change in the desktop environment can create new security vulnerabilities, so when companies decide to adopt a new product they should look beyond the user benefits.

16 December, 2004

Black Holes in Cyberspace -The Hindu Business Line

A shocking true story of sex and death on the Internet, as the subtitle of the Book says. The culprit is John Robinson, "a harmless, unassuming family man whose criminal history began with embezzlement and fraud". Arrested for "the savage murders of six women and his suspected involvement in at least five disappearances", his hunting ground was cyberspace where he "seduced his prey". The book is educational, notes the intro.
What is PlanetLab -The Hindu Business Line
The Internet is so useful that it draws everybody - including crooks. Intel aims to make the Net smarter and more secure through its PlanteLab initiative. Internet pioneer Vint Cerf cheefully says today's Internet is primitive: "I think we're still in the Stone Age when it comes to serious networking." Making fundamental changes to something as popular - and as commercially important - as the Internet is not easy. For example, look at the slow adoption of IPv6. So instead of changing the basics, PlanetLab builds on top of them.

Some of the most useful PlanteLab services measure and monitor the Internet, looking for problems that range from local failures to virus attacks. It turns out that 60% of viruses and 'denial of service' attacks typically come from just 10 sources. and it is this kind of information that can make all the difference.
On the horns of a dilemma -The Hindu Business Line
To outsource or not to outsource... Read on. Last April, a 41-year-old software engineer in California committed suicide, according to his father, because the bank he worked for offshored his job. Is there anything CIOs can do to prevent that kind of tragedy?

On `outsourcing,' again, there is something relevant in a recent issue of McKinsey Quarterly, under `economic studies' - how for every euro of corporate spending that German companies send offshore returns are "just euro 0.80 of value for Germany's economy." The US scenario is different - for every dollar of spending US companies transferred to India, there was new wealth of $1.46. Of this, 33 cents accrued to India in the form of wages, profit and taxes, while the US economy captured $1.13 "through cost savings to businesses, increased exports to India, repatriated earnings from offshore providers in which US companies have invested, and the additional economic output created when US workers are reemployed in other jobs."

Why are German companies not reaping similar benefits of offshoring? Because of language and culture differences, which in turn make it "more expensive to coordinate" .

It's to our credit -The Hindu Business Line
A BPO employee in Chennai tracks credit card frauds in the UK... that's a scene straight out of Xansa Inc's offshore centres in India. High-end BPO services are now coming home to roost.

Chargeback happens whenever a cardholder disputes a credit card purchase. There are a variety of reasons why a cardholder may dispute a charge. These include not receiving the item ordered; not getting what they thought they were buying; the credit card was stolen and the charge was not authorised; and someone simply taking unfair advantage of the chargeback clause. The incidence of chargeback on the Web are ten times higher than in the physical world, the bank report says.
Hatching big plans -The Hindu Business Line
Two Indian telecom players have invested in global telecom networks at considerable cost. Will their measure pay off, or is it a case of counting the chicks before they hatch? Reliance Infocomm acquired FLAG telecom network almost a year ago and VSNL recently signed an agreement to buy Tyco Global Network.

At a time when promoters in the developed western countries are moving out of this business, finding it too commoditised and miserly of margins to be sustained, Indian companies are moving in. Financially, international capacity is extremely cheap, for the next five years, there will be excess capacity. What are these companies planning to do that many international promoters cannot do, are not prepared to do, or failed to do (both Tyco and FLAG had run up losses)? Both these companies are betting on large demand for bandwidth from the information technology and BPO sectors in India.

Each says it bought assets worth a couple of billion dollars for just a couple of hundred million dollars. VSNL paid $130 million on its purchase of Tyco. Tyco spent $2.5 billion to put up its network. Currently of course, international bandwidth prices in India are said to be five times as much as those in the developed markets of the world. Part of the reason is that there is less demand, so the pricing is naturally higher to preserve margins.
Set off with your laptop -The Hindu Business Line
Checkout the story of Pathway world school in Gurgaon(India) where every student from sixth grade onwards carries a laptop and entire school is wi-fi enabled.
Where's the money -The Hindu Business Line
Wi-Fi lets you surf the Net from poolside or coffee shop. Its hotspots are mushrooming, like dotcoms, but with no clear revenue model. A look at the economics of technology.

Early adopters of hotspots, the coffee chain giant Starbucks and McDonalds don't charge their customers for accessing the Net. These companies offer Wi-Fi as a means to enhance the customer experience of visiting their outlets, though they are not sure whether having a hotspot is attracting more customers.

A survey has found that though the growth in hotspot numbers in the world has been beyond analysts' expectations - there were about 40,000 in 2003 as compared to a few hundreds in 2000 - the number of users was not very high. Another report said though about 70% of online consumers were aware of Wi-Fi availability, only 15% actually used it, and just 1% paid for the service directly. Such small numbers have already made many wonder whether hotspots are going the dotcom way: mushrooming all over, but no clear revenue model in sight.

Different combinations are now being worked out the in the US to address the issue of Wi-Fi economics. For instance, some service providers are clubbing their cellular, GPS and hotspot offerings. Also, service providers are joining hands with each other to offer roaming Wi-Fi services.
Might is right -The Hindu Business Line
The operative word is poach. Much like the food chain, where the small are gobbled up by the large, and the large by the larger, IT firms are fighting it dirty in the talent pool... "Nobody can stop these guys," says the HR manager. "Small firms are the sufferers, losing good people to larger firms even before they (employees) can settle down in the company," he says. He has this to say about attrition: "Don't talk about it. It is unmanageable. Losing people is routine in small firms, and if nobody leaves on a day, it is celebration time."

Some employees quit for frivolous reasons. For instance, a project leader quit this small company because his parents happened to remark that many software professionals of his age in their neighbourhood had gone abroad while he hadn't. So he quit his company and joined a bigger one in the hope of an overseas trip after a few months. Employee attrition, a big cause for concern for small software firms, ranges between 15 per cent and 20 per cent.

"Small software companies are today a good place for big players to poach on trained employees. We sow the seeds, and they (the big players) enjoy the fruits," says the HR manager. Then how do these small firms attract and retain people? "It is like a food chain. As big players poach on our employees, we poach on smaller firms and start-ups. We also poach on computer operators from non-software firms and groom them into software professionals with a few months of training. Also, the larger players have two factors in their favour — brand name, and, in most cases, an office in Bangalore. Both are difficult to compete with." he says.

While a certain percentage of manpower turnover is desirable to keep fresh blood coming in, and removing dead wood, higher percentages are definitely not good indicators of an organisation's culture and people practices. The concept of `bench' (employees without a project) is almost alien to smaller firms. Here, talented people get spotted faster, are nurtured better, and become important team members faster. This, often, makes ordinary people perform extraordinary work. And since, despite the extraordinary work, they do not have deep pockets, they are susceptible to migration.

Some small companies service very demanding and discerning clients who expect nothing but the best of talent. This is something that even larger companies do not insist on, at times. Many a time, there is migration from bigger companies to smaller companies too, mainly because of the prestige associated with a certain project or a particular client. Contrary to popular perception, several small IT companies are, in some cases, even better paymasters than larger brands.

A fair start -The Hindu Business Line
NIIT is helping students in government schools to get tech-savvy so they run the race from the same starting point as everyone else, though not for a philanthropic cause, but a commercial deal with a social cause. Some excertps...

"NIIT's computer education movement covers over 2000 educational institutions in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam. What makes the Karnataka case somewhat unique is that 10 villages got power and telephone connections, along with the computer centre, as a result of the IT initiative."

"There is a great deal of motivation in these initiatives. Specially as the excitement of having a computer around also increases attendance of students in different schools. On the whole, the objective is to equip Government school students outside metros with an IT edge that could open windows to future career opportunities."
Recess - The Hindu Business Line
1. Name the game from Traffic Games, launched on the 41st anniversary of a famous assassination on November 22, that has raised a controversy.
  • 'JFK Reloaded' that re-creaes Kennedy assassination.
2. In technical support lingo, what is 'PEBCAK'?
  • Problem Exisists between Chair and Keyborad.

3. World's lightest helicopter

Japanese electronics company Seiko Epson has developed the world's lightest helicopter "Micro Flying Robot II" - 85mm in ht, 136mm in diameter of rotors, and weighing only 8.6g. The flying robot is equipped with micro-actuators to drive rotors, a gyro-sensor to stabilise the machine, and a CMOS camera with blue-tooth unit to transmit images of circumstance.

08 December, 2004

Technology Review: Portable Projectors
Chances are you can’t remember the last time you hauled a projector out of the attic to look at slides or movies. But, says Ramesh Raskar, you may soon carry one with you everywhere you go. Raskar, a research scientist at Cambridge, MA’s Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories, sees tiny projectors as the solution to one of the fundamental problems with our ever shrinking cell phones...Raskar’s team has developed hardware and software that can project digital images onto whatever surface is handy—the wall, say, or a desktop—and make them look good even if the impromptu screen isn’t nice and smooth. Check out the site for some pics..