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Wireless Utopia

The journey towards a free wireless world.

Feature Overload?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Just coming back from another MoMo event today. This time the topic was Location Based Services on the mobile. The mobile is truly becoming the convergence device. More and more applications and features are being packed into it making it much more than the phone. Apart from doing the voice part, it can also act as a Digital Camera, Organizer, Watch, Compass, Tracking Device, Secure Token, Credit Card, Matchmaker and what not. The sky is the limit! At this pace, it will one day even do all the work for you. You'll just need to sit back and relax.

Contrast this with the latest offering from Motorola: a high tech dumb phone. Ironic! Its a bare bones phone which conserves your battery power, improves signal quality, can be charged easily, has big UI fonts, has voice activated menus and is cheap. Its meant for the emerging markets where the biggest factor are usability and cost. This seems to be the successor of the groundbreaking C115 handset. And they have put in a lot of work to create this simple phone.

So if you are suffering feature fatigue due to your mobile phone, there is some hope for you. Somebody out there wants to sell you just a phone.

posted by Rajiv, 12:04 PM | link | 0 comments |

The Open Source Brand

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I recently read the book Primal Branding by Patrick Hanlon. It is a nice read and is replete with numerous tales of companies, brands, community building etc. It proposes a theory: brands are belief systems which have seven primal code embedded within them. The Creation Story, the Creed, the Icons, the Rituals, the Sacred Words, the Pagans and finally the Leader(s). The author goes on the cite examples of existing brands which have all of the seven pieces of code and hence are successful brands (eg. Nike, Starbucks, UPS, Microsoft). There are several which do not and according to the author they are not as strong.

Reading the book it struck me how the FOSS movement has each of the seven pieces of the code. The term Open Source however is never used in the book. So here goes my analysis of the Open Source brand.

The Creation Story: It all started when RMS found that he is not able to modify his printers source code to make it work as he wants. It picked up steam when Linus decided to write a unix like kernel for the Intel x86 processor. And thus Linux was born. For a concise history, go here.

The Creed: Undoubtedly the four freedoms. The freedom to execute for any purpose, study the source code, modify if required and redistribute. They are the cornerstone of the open source movement.

The Icons: A number of them. The most identifiable being the Tux which is the mascot of Linux. The Open Source Trademark is also a popular icon. Individual projects have their own icons as well.

The Rituals: Depends upon who you are. For the user, its the downloading a tar ball, extracting it and executing the configure, make and make install steps. For the programmer its accessing the cvs or svn repository. Postings on mailing lists, forums, the LUG's are also a ritual. Even the Vi vs Emacs flamewars on slashdot is a ritual.

The Sacred Words: Again lots of them. FOSS, FLOSS, OSS are commonly used acronyms. On the mailing lists flamewar, trolling, top posting are the words one has to learn to become a part of the community. For the programmers and hackers, the acronyms get even more arcane.

The Pagans: All Microsoft'ites in general. Even within the community there are some naysayers. The recent debate of GPL v3 has brought them out in the open. The FUD practices of Microsoft is also an example.

The Leader: Depends upon which camp you are in. If you are in the FSF then its RMS. If you are more secular, its Linus. Individual project have their own leaders.

Going by the theory of primal branding, the open source brand therefore is fundamentally very strong. And its here to stay. Hence its proven. :)

Technorati Tags: Brand, Primal Branding, FOSS, Open Source, Linux.
posted by Rajiv, 3:01 AM | link | 1 comments |

OT: Observation's on Rails

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I travelled on a train after a gap of about three years. Train journeys are always memorable for some reason or the other. Its a good option if you want to take a break, see the countryside, do some reading, enjoy music, socialize with unaquainted fellow passengers and just break the monotony of day to day life. This journey was all that. Hopefully the journey back will be better.

Here are some observations.
  • Mobile Phones are ubiquitous. Everyone has one. There was this guy who was conducting his business while travelling on the train. The Indian Railways has responded in kind, by installing charging points on the berths. They should do that in the Sleeper Class as well though.
  • The network has spread. The last time only the bigger cities and towns were covered. This time only some interior rural areas did not have it. Its also amazing to see your phone work on the road.
  • Laptops are a craze. There were dozens of young people, presumeably executives, carrying laptops. Some were watching movies and others doing some work on the move. (How about internet access? The Indian Railways should think about it. Maybe a good idea for a startup to pursue. Wireless Broadband on Rails.)
  • No iPods! People had music players with them, but nobody was carrying the iPod.
  • Laloo Prasad Yadav is a hero in people's eyes. He has created a presonality myth around himself. I realise that he might have a decent shot at Prime Ministership down the line. Unbelieveable! Here's is the guy who invented vote bank politics, destroyed Bihar economically, introduced criminals into politics and amassed personal wealth doing all that. And he is the darling of masses nowadays!
  • Vijay Mallya on the other hand is an icon for the youth. He is a successful man and is very rich. Plus is always surrounded by good looking chicks. No wonder he's seen as the embodiment of success in today's world.
In summary, it was good fun. Its back to work now!

A very happy and prosperous Diwali to everybody.

Technorati Tags: Indian Railways, India.
posted by Rajiv, 9:58 AM | link | 1 comments |

Open Source WiFi Mesh

Friday, October 13, 2006

Fascinating stuff! It took hackers from the Silicon Valley to implement India's first WiFi mesh network project. The Dharamshala WiFi mesh is made up of Linksys WRT54G routers loaded with a OpenWRT and an implementation of OLSR. It includes over 30 nodes and serves around 2000 computers. It is integrated with Asterisk VoIP PBX and provides voice services using ATA's. Unfortunately in India termination of VoIP calls to local PSTN is still illegal. Hence the network is used only to terminate VoIP calls.

They are taking the wraps off this project at the Air Jaldi summit. RMS is going to be there. Some of my friends are going to be there. Lucky guys! It is a once in a lifetime chance for nerds, hackers and Open Source evangelists in India to meet their couterparts. A perfect example of how Open Source empowers local small communities.

Technorati Tags: WiFi Mesh, Muni WiFi, WRT54G, OpenWRT, OLSR, AirJaldi, Dharamshala, India, Tibbet.
posted by Rajiv, 8:32 PM | link | 1 comments |

Telco. Bashing

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I guess everybody must have read this by now. GigaOM nicely summarizes the content here. Put this in perspective with Mike's thoughts on the same topic. Even I have indulged in some. Nevertheless, there still no one who can guarantee the level of service a Telco. gives. You have to give it to them: they know how to make voice work. But voice is so so oldish. Can they repeat the same for data? I wont bet on it.

Still, Telco. bashing is fun. :)

Technorati Tags: , , , ,
posted by Rajiv, 7:46 PM | link | 2 comments |


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

DEMO is coming to India. As PROTO.IN. Few enterprising blogcamp'ers from Chennai have decided to bring the DEMO style conference to India and provide a platform for cutting edge homegrown innovation. If you are in India and have a product startup, then its the right place for you. You can showcase your product to an informed audience, get feedback, pitch to VC's, maybe even sign up beta testers amongst the techie crowd, or give a sneak peak of future lifestyles. In short, its the place soak in the second wave of Indian Entrepreneurship.

To find out more, go here, here and here. Drop in a line to Vijay Anand if you have queries.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,
posted by Rajiv, 12:55 AM | link | 2 comments |

Zune's WiFi Mesh

Monday, October 02, 2006

Engadget reports that Zune is WiFi challenged. It cannot connect to a WiFi hotspot or AP. The only thing it can do is to connect to other Zune devices nearby. That is only possibile if it supports Ad Hoc Mesh Networking. Ad Hoc Mesh Networking is supported inherently supported in WiFi. The cards can be configured to connect to a AP or to another card in a AdHoc mode. There is also a better version in the works known as the 802.11s standard. It enables the devices to be connected to each other through the AP's and creates a self configuring multi hop network.

The most popular topology of WiFi today is one to one connection between the clients and the Access Point. Due to this the AdHoc part of WiFi has gone relatively unnoticed although all commercial devices support it. It was put in with the intention that in the absence of an AP, which was likely in the early days, the devices can at least form a peer-to-peer mesh. If the reports about Zune are true, it would become the first major consumer electronics device to implement a pure WiFi mesh. But as the norm with Microsoft, I suspect that it would be a propreitary implementation.

Still a worthwhile experiment. Lets see if it takes off or not.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,
posted by Rajiv, 11:26 PM | link | 2 comments |