24 December, 2010

Nice Concept - Nest Rest: Huge Hanging Birdhouse

Tree house meets bird house, with a dash of hammock thrown into the mix. While it is not large enough to house the amenities of a true tree home, it is certainly a step up from a simple outdoor couch or recliner – and can be hung at a variety of heights.

07 November, 2010

Eco Warriors

Today's Times of India has an interesting article on people who try to do their bit to preserve the environment in innovative ways. Excerpts.

Happiness in Innerwear
Quite hooked to the idea of ayur vastra, former journalist Rajiv Rai Sachdev launched his organic range of clothes that contain extracts of neem, basil leaves and flecks of silver to keep the wearer safe from bacterial infections. Based on the age-old principles of natural healing by improving the body’s aura and balancing of chakras, Sachdev’s clothing range, including underwear are designed to boost the body’s
natural resistance and healing powers. Says Sachdev, “Demand from the US and Europe is huge, but sadly, in my own country, people spend huge amounts on cosmetics and medicines, if only they realised that wearing the right fabric would solve half the problems.”

Cool Pool
While battling the concrete jungle to reach office in his friends’ cars, Bangalore based software developer Vipul Kasera realised how smooth and carbon-free his
city would be if people decided car pool. Thus Commute Easy, an online car pool campaign, was launched three years ago. Kasera today has 15,000 users in Bangalore itself who look for car pool services. He has tied up with corporate offices and schools, wherein professionals and children from the same locality can commute together.

Merry Potter
Mansukh Prajapati, a clay potter from Gujarat, invented a first-of-a-kind refrigerator that is made out of terracotta, works without electricity, costs around Rs 2,500! Called Mitti Cool, it keeps food, vegetables, even milk, fresh for days.
Prajapati’s bigger success is his Rs 45 nonstick frying pan made of clay. A crusader for awareness, Prajapati has enriched the world with common-sense products.

10 years of life aboard International Space Station -The Hindu

Next week, Nasa will commemorate 10 years of life on the space station (the first residents arrived on 2 November 2000), but fewer than 200 people have first-hand knowledge of life on board. The longer the stint, the closer these veterans come to perfecting the art of life in freefall.

There is a subtle art to moving around without crashing into anything — or, more annoyingly, others — knocking computers, equipment and other objects off the walls to which they are attached with Velcro pads. The ability to form a mental map of the space station — and then rotate it in 3D to suit your perspective — is a priceless skill for an astronaut.

Each of the crew has a closet-like cabin where they can hook a sleeping bag to the wall and settle down for the night. Some strap pillows to their heads to make it feel more like lying down. Unsurprisingly, falling asleep can take some getting used to. Just as you are nodding off, you can feel as though you've fallen off a 10—storey building. One Russian crew member is renowned for doing without a sleeping bag and falling asleep wherever he ends the day.

01 November, 2010

Future Indian Internet Users

Even though right now only 1% of mobile phone users are using the Internet. India is going to be different than what we’ve seen in mature markets but also in emerging markets. It’s going to be predominantly a mobile experience since the PC penetration is low compared to mobile.

The report also talks about the language and literacy barriers -Global sites that want to keep the edge they already have in India, compared to some other emerging markets, will have to Indianize more than they have so far.

An interesting insight that the report said about 73% of people who go online in India spend time job hunting and the other thing that’s big there is matrimonial which is a very unique Indian thing.

Making money from Indians on the Internet? That’s an even harder proposition. Internet users are much more likely to pay for online services than for content though Indian and Indonesian users are quite reluctant to pay at all, said the report.

Read the full report

15 October, 2010

Must Watch Film - Udaan

Udaan is one of the best films I have relished in recent times. One of the few films which leaves a lasting impression... The film absorbed me completely thanks to its sensitive and gripping storyline, impressive performances and music that just gels too well with the film.

And this is one of my first 'original' post :p

12 October, 2010

Design without Designers by Don Norman

Two Types of Innovation: Incremental Improvements and New Concepts
In design - and almost all innovation, for that matter—there are at least two distinct forms. One is incremental improvement. The manufacturing of products, companies assume that unit costs will continually decrease through continual, incremental improvements. This is what companies call "their cash cow": a product line that requires very little new development cost while being profitable year after year.

The second form of design is what is generally taught in design, engineering and MBA courses on "breakthrough product innovation." Here is where new concepts get invented, new products defined, and new businesses formed. This is the fun part of innovation. As a result, it is the arena that most designers and inventors wish to inhabit. But the risks are great: most new innovations fail. Successful innovations can take decades to become accepted. As a result, the people who create the innovation are not necessarily the people who profit from it.

Both forms of innovation are necessary. The fight over data-driven design is misleading in that it uses the power of one method to deny the importance of the second. Data-driven design through testing is indeed effective at improving existing products. But where did the idea for the product come from in the first place? From someone's creative mind. Testing is effective at enhancing an idea, but creative designers and inventors are required to come up with the idea.

Design without designers? Those who dislike the ambiguity and uncertainty of human judgments, with its uncertain track record and contradictory statements will try to abolish the human element in favor of the certainty that numbers and data appear to offer. But those who want the big gains that creative judgment can produce will follow their own judgment. The first case will bring about the small, continual improvements that have contributed greatly to the increased productivity and lowering of costs of our technologies. The second case will be rewarded with great failures and occasional great success. But those great successes will transform the world.

16 August, 2010

Transitions, Wow moments & Endings

Ever read a great book? What do you remember about it? Maybe a few dramatic moments, some wild story twists, and most definitely the ending. Your product is just like a book. You’re telling a story to your customers and they’ll remember only a select few moments from what you tell them. What are these moments?

You know how when you type a city into Google Earth and watch the globe spin around to the country it is in and then zoom into the city? That transition is what you probably mentioned to others when you first described the app.

‘Wow!’ moments

Remember the first time you used Picasa? The first promise Picasa had was: “Find all the photos you forgot you had.” The first run experience delivered exactly that for a disorganized user like me. I rediscovered all sorts of ‘lost’ photos, like an unexpected walk down memory lane.

Good ending: You click Google Docs Save and Close button and know that: “Certainty I won’t lose my doc!”
Bad ending: You click the Close button on a cloud app doc and are not sure if your changes were saved.

Full article here

06 August, 2010

Apple's problem: Too much cash

Apple Inc Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer faces a dilemma that perhaps every finance chief wishes to have: obscene amounts of cash and nowhere to put it.

The iPhone, iPad, iPod and Mac computer maker has accumulated a cash pile that totals nearly $46 billion, the biggest cash hoard among U.S. tech companies and equivalent to one-fifth of Apple's market capitalization.

And yet, due to an ultra-conservative investment strategy and low interest rates, that cash is earning next to nothing for Apple, which rarely makes acquisitions and does not pay a regular dividend or buy back stock. Analysts say Apple's near-death experience in the 1990s helps explain why it likes to remain liquid by investing in safe but low-yielding U.S. Treasury and agency debt.

Oppenheimer's cautious approach dates from his time at Automatic Data Processing Inc, but Apple's conservatism is also driven by Chief Executive Steve Jobs.

Both Jobs, 55, and Oppenheimer, 47, subscribe to the Silicon Valley maxim that "only the paranoid survive," he said.

They remember the dark days when Apple was struggling to stay alive and had to lay off thousands to cut costs. When Oppenheimer joined the company in 1996 as its controller for the Americas, a series of bad management decisions had eroded profits and sent its share price diving to less than $5.

Things got so bad that one of the first things Jobs did when he returned to Apple was take a lifeline in the form of a $150 million investment from Microsoft Corp in 1997.

Although Apple is famous for innovation, research and development costs only account for 3 percent of revenue - far lower than at Microsoft and Cisco Systems Inc, due in part to Apple's narrow product portfolio.

Apple does not appear to pay especially high salaries, either. According to career website glassdoor.com, which relies on anonymous users sharing their salary data, an Apple software engineer earns around $100,000 per year, roughly the same as engineers at Google Inc.

While many top tech companies are awash in cash, unlike Apple, they tend to put excess cash to use. For example, Intel Corp and Microsoft pay dividends; Cisco and International Business Machines Corp buy back big chunks of stock; and Hewlett-Packard Co and Oracle Corp are serial acquirers.Apple makes few acquisitions because it develops products internally, and pays little for what it does buy.

Full article here