31 March, 2005

Phishers change bait as IM use grows -ZdNet:
Previous phishing attacks were based around luring a user to perform an action through social engineering, primarily through spoofed e-mail and Web sites. The use of IM to spoof companies and phish for information is becoming more frequent.

Yahoo last week confirmed that users of its Messenger software were being targeted by this type of attack. According to the search giant, attackers are sending members a message containing a link to a fake Web site. The fake site, which looks like an official Yahoo site, asks the user to log in by entering their Yahoo ID and password. The scam was more realistic because the incoming message appeared to originate from someone on the victim's contact list.

Phishing without a lure is now becoming more prevalent among attack styles. The most common is malicious code which either modifies your host's file to point commonly accessed sites to the fraudulent site. DNS cache poisoning is also an alternative means that can be used to resolve information to non-legitimate Web sites. The simplest form of cache poisoning is simply sending fake answers to someone's DNS server.

Check out this site for a funny analogy to cache poisoning.

30 March, 2005

Future of Microsoft -Sadagopan:
Apple, finally price competitive with PCs, and offering software used interchangeably with other programs, the company is staging a run.Apple, with its tight, integrated interfaces cinching hardware to software has proven powerfully resistant to viruses and spyware, the poisonous infections of the Internet. Apple is today on the upsurge because its personal computing systems have been vacuum-sealed, and because the company has – to the point of fetish – delighted in producing its own devices.

A new "browser war" has been launched in the form of Firefox. Firefox is to IE, What IE was to Netscape. This application creep happens so easily – like Google -providing a new and improved search engine, splices in a few well-targeted ads, and is now capitalized at $50bn. Microsoft, despite ‘owning’ the software on which the applications run, did not get here first.

Microsoft appears to be losing customer centricity and their cultural DNA seems to be moving away from incremental innovation –particularly with the windows platform and their inexplicable delay in rolling out Longhorn are clear indications of losing steam. Microsoft will take decades to be out of business as their product basket of offering is wide.
Move over India, Bulgaria is here- The Economic Times:
Beware India, Eastern European nations like Bulgaria, Latvia, Romania and Estonia have been declared the new tech outsourcing leaders of 2005. However, India and Russia still lead the list in total certifications, while California and Texas were the largest overall within the US.
Three Indians crack Google code jam- The Economic Times:
14,000 techies from six countries in South Asia participated in the online contest, only 500 qualified for the first round and 50 of them reached the final round. Three Indians are among the top five winners of a contest organised by Google.

"We were given three algorithms problems. The first was to find out the unique URLs (universal resource locators); the second was trying to find the shortest possible path and the third was to calculate the probable winner among the two in a competition," said fifth-placed Ramachandran. "These problems were challenging. We had to choose one among two languages – Java or C++ - and were given two hours to solve the problems. Speed of thinking was the key to winning," Ramachandran added.
Online gamer stabbed for selling cyber-sabre- The Economic Times:
Qiu Chengwei, 41, stabbed competitor Zhu Caoyuan repeatedly in the chest after he was told Zhu had sold his 'dragon sabre', used in the popular online game, 'Legend of Mir 3'. Qiu and a friend jointly won their weapon last February, and lent it to Zhu who then sold it for 7,200 yuan (US$870)

Qui went to the police to report the "theft" but was told the weapon was not real property protected by law. Zhu promised to hand over the cash but an angry Qui lost patience and attacked Zhu at his home, stabbing him in the left chest with great force and killing him. More and more online gamers were seeking justice through the courts over stolen weapons and credits. "The armour and swords in games should be deemed as private property as players have to spend money and time for them," Wang Zongyu, an associate law professor at Beijing's Renmin University of China, was quoted as saying.
TiVo & The Pop-Up Ads, Why? -Om Malik:
In the early days of digital video recorders when folks like Michael Lewis would write tomes in praise of TiVo and its ability to skip ads. We seem to have come a full circle - now TiVo is experimenting with pop-up advertisements. Funny - how life turns out! The way I see it, TiVo is saying, well my ads are better than network ads. Perhaps - but to me, if you are charging $12.95 a month for the TiVo service, I feel, ads are intrusion into my time and space.

24 March, 2005

Banks eye bootable Linux CDs -ZDNet:
Australian company Cybersource says it's currently talking to two domestic banks about providing Linux-based bootable CDs to consumers to ensure Internet banking security.

The company yesterday released information about its Online Banking Coastguard solution. Coastguard is based upon Knoppix, a Linux distribution which boots entirely from CD and is known for its automatic hardware detection features. Cybersource has included Mozilla Firefox as the sole browser for Internet banking.

15 March, 2005

Bnoopy: The long tail of software. Millions of Markets of Dozens.:
In Excite’s heyday, we were handling millions of searches a day. While the top 10 searches were thousands of times more popular than the average search, these top-10 searches represented only 3% of our total volume. 97% of our traffic came from the “long tail” – queries asked a little over once a day.

You know the real reason Excite went out of business? We couldn’t figure out how to make money from 97% of our traffic. We couldn’t figure out how to make money from the long tail – from those queries asked only once a day. Overture figured it out, Google perfected it and we all know what happened from there. Those guys figured out something revolutionary -- the long tail of search was a advertising marketplace. But it wasn’t a traditional advertising marketplace like television, where a handful of large advertisers reached out to a handful of very large markets. It was a special kind of marketplace where small advertisers could reach small markets efficiently.

Let’s look at the Amazon example. This graph shows that Amazon sells roughly 2.3M books and that the average Barnes and Noble retail store stocks 139,000 books. So, Amazon stocks roughly 2.2M more books that Barnes and Noble. 57% of Amazon’s sales come from books you can’t even buy at a Barnes and Noble. This runs totally counter to the traditional 80/20 rule in retailing – that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your inventory. In Amazon’s case, 57% of their book revenue comes from 0% of Barnes and Nobles inventory.

iTunes has over one million songs in it’s catalog.You know how many have been bought at least once? - Every one. Completely counter to the traditional 80/20 rule, every iTunes song has been purchased at least once.

What all these data points mean to me(and to most folks who are interested in long-tail stuff) is that the most interesting, transformative businesses that have been built over the last decade and that will be built over the next one are going to operate in and make money from the long tail. Google, eBay, Amazon, Rhapsody, Netflix, iTunes. What do they all have in common? They all work the long tail and they’re all radically changing the dynamics of their more traditional businesses.

The market doesn’t like a vacuum and people do solve their software needs in the long tail. They do it using two basic tools: Microsoft Excel and email. I’ve seen so many business that run on Excel+email. While normal users don’t think of it this way, what they’re really building is an long-tail application – a custom application, built by the end user and networked over email.

Excel and email are the wrong tools for software in the tail and we all know it. It’s really easy to start with, which is fantastic, but it suffers from.

1. Versionitis. We all know what happens with spreadsheets like these. You create it, you mail it to 10 people. One of them changes and mails it back out. Rinse, lather, repeat until everyone’s inbox is full of this thing and no one knows who has the latest version.
2. Updates. You only know the sheet has changed is when someone emails it to you.
3. No integration. What about the stuff that doesn’t fit in the grid? – the email and documents that go along with these spreadsheets?

That’s where JotSpot comes in. JotSpot is a company that is building a platform to make it easy and affordable to build long-tail software applications.To take those Excel spreadsheets and turn them into real web-based applications where you don’t have versionitis, where updates find you instead of you looking for them and where you can integrate data in your hard drive with data from the web, email and other applications.

So, my tip for entrepreneurs? It’s all about the long tail. Whatever business your starting, think about how to serve millions of markets of dozens instead of dozens of markets of millions. Serving the head isn’t a bad strategy. You can build a great business. But, figure out how to serve the tail of your market efficiently and you’ve got a blockbuster.
Poker Sites under Blogger Attack -Threadwatch.org:
In the last two weeks there has been a campaign amongst bloggers to googlebomb for the Online Poker Wiki page. Their stated goal is comment spam. Spammers normally leave comments in blogs which inturn increase their page rank. Spamming 'Online Poker' is one of this and this is called Comment Spam. So, bloggers are now taking revenge by linking 'Online Poker' to Wikipedia which explains the legality of online poker.

Google must not be happy about this. Making a Wiki #1 will not serve a user searching for online poker. If a Google user searches for online poker they probably want to play online poker. They do not want to read the history or legality of online poker. Spammers may not be liked but at least they understand this point. You want to give the searcher what they want so they will convert and generate money. In addition it will also publicize the fact that Google can be so easily manipulated (which is not good for stock prices). I wonder if Google will take any action or make any statement on this.

13 March, 2005

How to Start a Startup -Paul Graham:

This is by far the best article I have ever read related to a Startup. It's a tad big, but it's worth taking a look at. Shown below are excerpts from the article. The complete article is available at the link above -Rahul

You need three things to create a successful startup: to start with good people, to make something customers actually want, and to spend as little money as possible. Most startups that fail do it because they fail at one of these. A startup that does all three will probably succeed.

What matters is not ideas, but the people who have them. Good people can fix bad ideas, but good ideas can't save bad people. What do I mean by good people? One of the best tricks I learned during our startup was a rule for deciding who to hire. Could you describe the person as an animal? It means someone who takes their work a little too seriously; someone who does what they do so well that they pass right through professional and cross over into obsessive. Call the person's image to mind and imagine the sentence "so-and-so is an animal." If you laugh, they're not.

For programmers we had three additional tests. Was the person genuinely smart? If so, could they actually get things done? And finally, since a few good hackers have unbearable personalities, could we stand to have them around? That last test filters out surprisingly few people. We could bear any amount of nerdiness if someone was truly smart. What we couldn't stand were people with a lot of attitude.When nerds are unbearable it's usually because they're trying too hard to seem smart. But the smarter they are, the less pressure they feel to act smart. So as a rule you can recognize genuinely smart people by their ability to say things like "I don't know," "Maybe you're right," and "I don't understand x well enough."

Like most startups, ours began with a group of friends, and it was through personal contacts that we got most of the people we hired. This is a crucial difference between startups and big companies. Being friends with someone for even a couple days will tell you more than companies could ever learn in interviews.It's no coincidence that startups start around universities, because that's where smart people meet. It's not what people learn in classes at MIT and Stanford that has made technology companies spring up around them. What you should do in college is work on your own projects. Don't force things; just work on stuff you like with people you like.

Ideally you want between two and four founders. It would be hard to start with just one. One person would find the moral weight of starting a company hard to bear. Even Bill Gates, who seems to be able to bear a good deal of moral weight, had to have a co-founder. But you don't want so many founders that the company starts to look like a group photo. Partly because you don't need a lot of people at first, but mainly because the more founders you have, the worse disagreements you'll have. When there are just two or three founders, you know you have to resolve disputes immediately or perish. If there are seven or eight, disagreements can linger and harden into factions. You don't want mere voting; you need unanimity.

In a technology startup, which most startups are, the founders should include technical people. Business people are bad at deciding what to do with technology, because they don't know what the options are, or which kinds of problems are hard and which are easy.Do the founders of a startup have to include business people? what I discovered was that business was no great mystery. It's not something like physics or medicine that requires extensive study. You just try to get people to pay you for stuff.

I think the reason I made such a mystery of business was that I was disgusted by the idea of doing it. I wanted to work in the pure, intellectual world of software, not deal with customers' mundane problems. People who don't want to get dragged into some kind of work often develop a protective incompetence at it.

f you work your way down the Forbes 400 making an x next to the name of each person with an MBA, you'll learn something important about business school. You don't even hit an MBA till number 22, Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike. There are only four MBAs in the top 50. What you notice in the Forbes 400 are a lot of people with technical backgrounds. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Jeff Bezos, Gordon Moore. The rulers of the technology business tend to come from technology, not business. So if you want to invest two years in something that will help you succeed in business, the evidence suggests you'd do better to learn how to hack than get an MBA.

Look at restaurants. A large percentage fail, about a quarter in the first year. But can you think of one restaurant that had really good food and went out of business? In nearly every failed startup, the real problem was that customers didn't want the product. The only way to make something customers want is to get a prototype in front of them and refine it based on their reactions.In a startup, your initial plans are almost certain to be wrong in some way, and your first priority should be to figure out where. The only way to do that is to try implementing them.

It's worth trying very, very hard to make technology easy to use. Hackers are so used to computers that they have no idea how horrifying software seems to normal people. Stephen Hawking's editor told him that every equation he included in his book would cut sales in half. When you work on making technology easier to use, you're riding that curve up instead of down. A 10% improvement in ease of use doesn't just increase your sales 10%. It's more likely to double your sales.

When most people think of startups, they think of companies like Apple or Google. Everyone knows these, because they're big consumer brands. But for every startup like that, there are twenty more that operate in niche markets or live quietly down in the infrastructure. So if you start a successful startup, odds are you'll start one of those. Another way to say that is, if you try to start the kind of startup that has to be a big consumer brand, the odds against succeeding are steeper. The best odds are in niche markets. Since startups make money by offering people something better than they had before, the best opportunities are where things suck most. You would not believe the amount of money companies spend on software, and the crap they get in return. This imbalance equals opportunity.

In technology, the low end always eats the high end. It's easier to make an inexpensive product more powerful than to make a powerful product cheaper. So the products that start as cheap, simple options tend to gradually grow more powerful till, like water rising in a room, they squash the "high-end" products against the ceiling. Sun did this to mainframes, and Intel is doing it to Sun. Microsoft Word did it to desktop publishing software like Interleaf and Framemaker. Mass-market digital cameras are doing it to the expensive models made for professionals.

At sales I was not very good. I was persistent, but I didn't have the smoothness of a good salesman.My message to potential customers was: you'd be stupid not to sell online, and if you sell online you'd be stupid to use anyone else's software. Both statements were true, but that's not the way to convince people.

I was great at customer support though. Imagine talking to a customer support person who not only knew everything about the product, but would apologize abjectly if there was a bug, and then fix it immediately, while you were on the phone with them. Customers loved us. And we loved them, because when you're growing slow by word of mouth, your first batch of users are the ones who were smart enough to find you by themselves. There is nothing more valuable, in the early stages of a startup, than smart users. If you listen to them, they'll tell you exactly how to make a winning product. And not only will they give you this advice for free, they'll pay you.

Google understands a few other things most Web companies still don't. The most important is that you should put users before advertisers, even though the advertisers are paying and users aren't. "Get all the users, and the advertisers will follow." More generally, design your product to please users first, and then think about how to make money from it. If you don't put users first, you leave a gap for competitors who do.

The other reason to spend money slowly is to encourage a culture of cheapness. That's something Yahoo did understand. David Filo's title was "Chief Yahoo," but he was proud that his unofficial title was "Cheap Yahoo." Soon after we arrived at Yahoo, we got an email from Filo, who had been crawling around our directory hierarchy, asking if it was really necessary to store so much of our data on expensive RAID drives. I was impressed by that. Yahoo's market cap then was already in the billions, and they were still worrying about wasting a few gigs of disk space. When you get a couple million dollars from a VC firm, you tend to feel rich. It's important to realize you're not. A rich company is one with large revenues. This money isn't revenue. It's money investors have given you in the hope you'll be able to generate revenues. So despite those millions in the bank, you're still poor.

The most important way to not spend money is by not hiring people. They slow you down: instead of sticking your head in someone's office and checking out an idea with them, eight people have to have a meeting about it. So the fewer people you can hire, the better.During the Bubble a lot of startups had the opposite policy. They wanted to get "staffed up" as soon as possible, as if you couldn't get anything done unless there was someone with the corresponding job title.The only reason to hire someone is to do something you'd like to do but can't.If hiring unnecessary people is expensive and slows you down, why do nearly all companies do it? I think the main reason is that people like the idea of having a lot of people working for them. This weakness often extends right up to the CEO.

So who should start a startup? Someone who is a good hacker, between about 23 and 38, and who wants to solve the money problem in one shot instead of getting paid gradually over a conventional working life. I put the lower bound at 23 not because there's something that doesn't happen to your brain till then, but because you need to see what it's like in an existing business before you try running your own.The other reason it's hard to start a company before 23 is that people won't take you seriously.The other cutoff, 38, has a lot more play in it. One reason I put it there is that I don't think many people have the physical stamina much past that age. Also, startups are a big risk financially. If you try something that blows up and leaves you broke at 26, big deal; a lot of 26 year olds are broke. By 38 you can't take so many risks-- especially if you have kids.

I don't think the amount of bullshit you have to deal with in a startup is more than you'd endure in an ordinary working life. It's probably less, in fact; it just seems like a lot because it's compressed into a short period. So mainly what a startup buys you is time. That's the way to think about it if you're trying to decide whether to start one. If you're the sort of person who would like to solve the money problem once and for all instead of working for a salary for 40 years, then a startup makes sense.

If you want to do it, do it. Starting a startup is not the great mystery it seems from outside. It's not something you have to know about "business" to do. Build something users love, and spend less than you make. How hard is that?
Mobile phones to bridge digital divide -Emergic.org :
Rather than trying to close the divide for the sake of it, the more sensible goal is to determine how best to use technology to promote bottom-up development. And the answer to that question turns out to be remarkably clear: by promoting the spread not of PCs and the internet, but of mobile phones.

Plenty of evidence suggests that the mobile phone is the technology with the greatest impact on development.And when it comes to mobile phones, there is no need for intervention or funding from the UN: even the world's poorest people are already rushing to embrace mobile phones, because their economic benefits are so apparent. Mobile phones do not rely on a permanent electricity supply and can be used by people who cannot read or write.
1gb SIM card -Emergic.org :
..The majority of the world will first experience the internet through their mobile phones. We sometimes forget that 10 times as many people bought handsets last year as PC's...we'll see 1 GigaBYTE SIM cards by years end - that's right, a Gig on an interchangeable SIM card.
IT boom opens bubbly for allied biz -The Economic Times:
The IT industry’s growth is having a significant multiplier effect on India because of a rising class of younger consumers with high disposable incomes, says a study. The IT-ITES industries growth in metros as well as Tier 2 cities has also led to a surge in demand for real estate and construction and account for an estimated 26% of hotel room occupancy in the metro cities and over 18% of all airline capacity – higher than any other single sector of the economy. The Indian IT industry employs over 850,000 professionals.

09 March, 2005

Intel outside, Patel inside!
"If the world's best engineers are produced in India or Singapore, that is where our companies will go," Barrett says ex-CEO of Intel. "This is the reality in the modern world. We locate facilities where we can find or import talent. Intel will go where it will find talent. But I worry for the United States and I worry for my grandchildren."

Which is why, already, India has become Intel's third largest stomping ground - after the United States, where it employs over 50,000 people, and Israel, where it has nearly 5000 - and is ramping up at speed. Intel's India head count has already crossed 2000, not counting the thousands who work in Intel facilities in 45 countries, a prevalence that had led to the insider joke "Intel Outside, Patel Inside."

Asian colleges now produce six times the number of engineering degrees produced in the US. For the first time, other nations are about to produce more patents per year than the US.

08 March, 2005

Do 1 or 2 things really well! -Dave Pollard:
The Idea: If you want to make a difference in this world, you need to know yourself, to perfect what you do well until you're brilliant at it, to focus your energies, and to show others courageously that nobody does it better.

Have the courage to assess what you're really good at (or if you're still young, work at something until you're really good at it. I mean brilliant. If there's more than two things you're not focused enough. Then work harder and practice longer until you're even better at those one or two things, world class, in a class by yourself.

That will mean not doing a lot of things that are fun, or interesting, or which you're merely competent at. That will mean not juggling, just going all out knowing that if you fail at these one or two things you're going to have to start over. Very scary, but absolutely necessary. It may even mean abandoning your writing and reading of online journals, which, if you're like me, takes just too much time out of the day (though a better pastime than television).

Please. Don't be like me. Do one or two things really well. The future of the world depends on it.

I would like to give the exact same advice to others, else you will end up like me -Jack of all, Master of none! -Rahul

Militants Planned Attack On Indian Software Firms in Bangalore

Bangalore is starting to appear on the radar of militant groups, Indian police warned this weekend, after uncovering a terrorist plan to target IT companies in the city widely regarded as the country's technology hub. Leading IT companies in Bangalore that handle outsourced jobs from American clients often maintain disaster recovery centers at offshore locations, as well as in other Indian cities.

The militants visited Bangalore in December last year and surveyed the location of several software companies there. Apart from maps of call centres police also recovered 100 kilos of dynamite, 10.5 kilos of RDX explosive, 450 detonators, three AK-56 rifles and a satellite phone.

Delhi police said on Sunday Indian police claim the men were members of Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Source: ZdNetIndia , Sify

07 March, 2005

Envisioning a leapfrogged world -Rajesh Jain:
Leapfrogging... is the idea that countries without basic infrastructure like universal telecommunications can go directly to the best, most fitting solutions without having labor through the developmental struggle of telegraph, manually-switched telephony, direct-dial, brick-sized cell phones, analog cell phones, 3G digital. They just hop straight to 3G, piggybacking off the enormous human and capital investements it took to get there.

Leapfrogging is said to be a great equalizing force because the rich nations have already paid the price of developing these technologies, competition among companies in those nations keeps the technologies cheap, and the world's poor gets the benefits. The poster-child for Leapfrogging is the the cellphone.
Indian BPOs to hire 1 lakh more in '05- The Economic Times:
Indian call centres are all set to add another 100,000 seats this year, much higher than the 70,000 seats that the country added in 2004. On the cost front too, Indian centres are ranked the most competitive among the four countries - India, China, Korea and Philippines - with salaries paid to agents in India being even cheaper than Philippines. Considering the dollar-converted rates, the report stated that Indians are paid $ 0.30 per transaction, the lowest in the region covered, whereas Koreans get paid the most at $1.26.
Firefox in need of hackers
Mike Connor, one of the core Firefox developers, is raising a flag concerning the Mozilla Firefox methodology of development. From his blog: "In nearly three years, we haven't built up a community of hackers around Firefox, for a myriad of reasons, and now I think were in trouble.

04 March, 2005

A “brain pacemaker’’ that can make depressed people happy again -TOI

Scientists have conducted a successful trial of a “brain pacemaker’’ that can make depressed people happy again by electronically stimulating the brain. The experiment is thought to be the first true demonstration of electronic mood control. Those behind it emphasise more trials are needed but hope it could offer a drug-free therapy for millions suffering long-lasting clinical depression.

Dr Helen Mayberg, who led the research, said "I see depression as a brain disease, not as a chemical imbalance like most psychiatrists. The brain is not a bowl of soup. You cannot just add a chemical and stir. It is a very intricate wiring system. Some circuits were not working for these people. Once we turned on the stimulator the changes were astounding."