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Wireless Utopia

The journey towards a free wireless world.

The Intangible Value

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Earlier this week, Cisco acquired Navini Networks for $330 Million. Navini is a WiMAX base station maker and an early pioneer of Beam Forming Antenna Technology. It is primarily a hardware company which sells its gear to Operators. The value of the company is tied to its assets, customers and its Intellectual Property. It was pretty much an open secret and I had blogged about it before here.

Today, Microsoft invested $240 Million in Facebook for a 1.6 % stake of the company. That gives Facebook a valuation of $15 Billion. Facebook is a social network. Its value is intangible. It derives its value from the personal networks between friends. It has no IP of its own and its assets are negligible. Last year Yahoo was willing to buy Facebook for $1 Billion. Today its fifteen times that value.

The contrast between these two deals cannot be more striking. A $15 billion valuation for a social networking company sounds nonsensical to us in this part of the world. We place much more value in real world relations than the virtual ones. But for those who do give value to the virtual communities, this deal would make a lot more sense. In those economies, the value proposition has moved away from manufacturing and IP to virtual goods.

This is the emergence of Facebook as the Google killer. Google has been steamrolling all competition in recent days and its good to see someone standing up to it. Maybe this also means the gradual transformation of Microsoft into a Internet Services company. Maybe Mark Zuckerburg is the next Bill Gates.

As for Google, they will have to compete with Facebook on their own turf. There have been news of Google opening up the API of Orkut. Orkut is a big ticket in Brazil and India. It still has to play catch up.

Tags: , , , ,
posted by Rajiv, 10:53 PM | link | 4 comments |

Gutsy Upgrade Problems

Saturday, October 20, 2007

On a day when everyone was decking up their cars and bikes with flowers and whatnot I decided to upgrade up my laptop with the shiny new Gutsy Gibbon. After spending a few hours at it, its finally done. So here's how it went.

My laptop is a Dell Inspiron E4105 also known as 640m. A standard configuration with Intel 945 GM graphics driver and Broadcom 43xx wireless card. I have been running Ubuntu on it since the last year, first Dapper Drake and then Fiesty Fawn. The upgrade to Fiesty was smooth. I only had to reinstall ndiswrapper on it to get the wireless working.

This time it was much more involved. The first thing which happened post install was that kernel 2.6.22 refused to boot with the error
dm-linear : Device lookup failed
After some Googling it turned out to be this bug. To fix it I had to remove the evms package.
sudo apt-get --purge remove evms
The next problem was the Broadcom 43xx driver. The restricted driver manager pointed out that a driver was available and after a warning that it is not free, allowed me to install the firmware. Had to reboot the laptop to get it working.

The third problem was very slow scrolling on Firefox and other apps. A bit of searching on Ubuntuforums led me to this. Removing xserver-xgl solved it for me.
apt-get remove xserver-xgl
I dont use Compiz usually. So this solution works for me.

The next issue was slow internet browsing speeds. The DNS lookup used to take ages. There seems to be no resolution to this problem yet although a lot of people are facing the issue. I tried disabling IPV6 in firefox and using Open DNS servers and now the speeds seem to be better. Had to manually edit the /etc/dhcp3/dhclient.conf file and add the Open DNS name servers to it. These two lines specifically before the request statement.
prepend domain-name-servers
prepend domain-name-servers

The last was a minor issue with fonts. Firefox fonts had changed as soon as I had upgraded. The issue was with msttcorefonts which I had installed for Fiesty. Had to remove the package before things started looking better. Its still is not as good as before though. But I can live with it. This didnt solve the font problem with console which had changed as well. Finally selected the Courier 10 pitch font after trying out all the 100 fonts on my system. Not many among them are usable though.

All this took up the entire day for me. If you are looking to upgrade to Gutsy, then keep a day aside for it. Right now its not all that stable enough. Or just wait for a few weeks more before the initial hiccups are sorted out.

Wishing everybody a very happy Dassera and the festival season. Enjoy!


To solve the fonts problem, I used this trick.

I discovered weird sound issues when it used to stop playing sometimes and speaker and headphone used to work together. To fix this, I had to update Alsa. Used the commands mentioned in the this thread.

Tags: , , ,
posted by Rajiv, 10:08 AM | link | 2 comments |

MoMo Oct

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Just a quick post for MoMo Bangalore. The October event is on next Monday, 22nd. The talk is on Software Defined Radios (SDR). SDR is one of the most promising technologies today and is heavily used in Military applications already. It hasnt yet come to our Mobile devices but Vanu is working on that! I already have my set of questions ready for this talk.

The demo is even more interesting. A lot of focus is on local languages and local content these days. Tachyon is one of the companies at the forefront of developing new technologies for Indian Language. Their product QuillPad is one of the best transliteration tools out there. The demo of QuillMobile will definitely be interesting.

So sign up for it now.

Tags: MoMo, SDR, Transliteration, Bangalore, India
posted by Rajiv, 1:47 AM | link | 0 comments |


Monday, October 15, 2007

VoIP services these days are all about low cost calling services. But once in a while you do see an innovative application. TringMe is one such service. I guess a disclaimer is due here: I happen to know the founder for some time and relate to his passion about VoIP. So this might be a biased view. But here is what TC had to say about it. Here is a VoIP Guide article. The key differentiator is that there is no software to download, nor a phone required to make a call. It can be initiated from the web browser itself.

Here is how it works. It provides you with a embeddable widget (much like Jaxtr) which can be put up on your blog or your profile page. Anyone who clicks there can talk to you on your phone or GTalk or send a voice mail (currently the only option supported). So all you need is a browser and a headset (maybe). Right now phones to US, UK and Canada are supported. The cool part of the application is really integration with GTalk. It works flawlessly. I think that would be a killer application. Wish they could add Skype support as well.

There are obvious issues with Spam but not very hard to solve it. And questions about business models. But its not very hard to imagine it would be very useful to replace those 1 800 support numbers you see on websites. Much better than publishing the phone numbers. It would also be useful to bloggers who want to be reachable. Or maybe it can even evolve into a voice based comments system. There are just so many possibilities.

With Flash 9 with H.264 and VoIP support on the way, things are going to get better and more competitive. Lookout for more such services in the near future. It would be pretty frustrating for Ribbit I guess. They have been working on such a system for quite some time. Makes you wonder about the wisdom of the "release early, release frequent" paradigm!

Drop me a line if you need invites.

posted by Rajiv, 2:38 AM | link | 4 comments |

OLPC in India

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Via Alootechie. Reliance Communications is going to bring OLPC to India priced at $180. I never knew that OLPC is available for commercial use as well. Till now their focus was to strike deals with governments and distribute through them. Nevertheless this is great news. Given that Reliance is expanding into the rural areas, this becomes important.

Over the time I have been a big supporter of the OLPC project even though it got bashed in the Indian Blogosphere. Its an amazing project. And I firmly believe that technologies derived from OLPC will make a significant impact. Not only the inbuilt mesh.

India and other emerging economies are a ripe market for OLPC like devices. I guess after this others are going to follow as well!

Tags: OLPC, India, Reliance.
posted by Rajiv, 9:03 AM | link | 0 comments |

MoMo Sept: Rural Kiosks, Mobitop Launch

Saturday, October 13, 2007

This has been a long pending post. MoMo Sept event happened on 24th last month as usual. Unfortunately it clashed with the Twenty20 final between India and Pakistan and the attendance was pretty thin. But we all managed to catch the last moments, thanks to a TV in the OnMobile cafeteria. Here's a short summary of the event.

Our speaker was Ashim Roy of Comat Technologies. Comat is a Social Enterprise based out of Bangalore which provides e-Governance solutions targeting the BoP segment. Interest in rural consumer is increasing in India. Several big names are expanding their footprint in rural areas and coming up with services and products which can be marketed to them. ITC's E-Choupal is one such example. Reliance is another big name in this sector.

Comat is one such company which has set up kiosks in rural areas which provide consumers access to information technology products and services. The talk was about how these kiosks can be used by other entrepreneurs for offering their services. They are looking for concepts and solutions which can be rolled out as additional services. It is one of the biggest challenge as well as opportunity in India today. If you have read the Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid you'll agree. So if you have a bright idea, get in touch with Ashim. Find the presentation here (pdf).

The demo was from one of the regulars of the Mobile Startup scene in Bangalore, Mobisy. Lalit presented their flagship product called Mobitop. Mobitop is an application development platform for Smartphones. The language is HTML and Javascript and the platform provides device access. It supports S60 currently and over a period of time they plan to support all major Smartphone OS's. They also take care of signing and certification process. It attempts to solve one of the biggest pain point for mobile application developer: the diverse OS platforms. Usually an application needs to be ported for each one of them separately. With Mobitop you dont have to worry about porting.

Another interesting part of Mobitop is that it enables rapid development of Mashups for mobile devices. Since its Javascript, any web based API can be accessed from the phone over GPRS or a WiFi connection. An example, which they cited, is product search using the mobile phone camera and the Like API. It also opens up the possibility of using Ads. to generate revenues for mobile application. Right now the only ways you can earn through a mobile application is to either deploy it using an operator and signing a revenue sharing deal with them or selling it directly to the customer. Both of these have severe issues. With Mobitop you can have an ad based business model! So if you are thinking of a mobile application, Mobitop is worth a shot! Slides can be found here.

Another nice MoMo event. Even though everybody's mind was on the score, we participated actively. In fact, Ashim stopped in between the talk and asked for the score as well :).

Rajan covered it for Livemint. Read it here. And if you are in town on 22nd Oct, do drop in. The announcement will be up by Monday on our blog.

posted by Rajiv, 3:27 AM | link | 1 comments |