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Wireless Utopia

The journey towards a free wireless world.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

We have relaunched CallGraph.Biz as Scribie.com. Scribie is an audio transcription outsourcing service which lets you easily outsource your audio transcription work to freelancers. You just have to upload your files and pay $0.80 per minute of audio in advance. After 1 business day you'll get back a high quality transcript of your audio file. Check it out!
posted by Rajiv, 12:57 PM | link | 9 comments |

OT: On Working Alone

Monday, December 22, 2008

One of the most frequently asked questions, in all the startup and entrepreneurship forums, is can you do it alone? Is it good? Lately a lot of attention is being paid to single person run ventures, eg Balsamiq and Twitpic. Its the new happening thing in town. Here's what I have to say about it.

I've been working out of my living room for the past 8 months. We closed down our office this March and Call Graph is a result of the security deposit that was left over. And it hasnt been that much of a bad experience at all. In fact, I'm loving it. Anna Sambar (rice and curry, the staple food of all the autowallas in Bangalore) has grown on me. For 12 bucks, its a great deal. I hated giving up Ultra Milds. But Gold Flake small is more nicotine at lesser price. And Old Monk! Need I say anything about it? Its been my favorite for a long time. Sadly this years budget meant that a quarter was two bucks dearer at Rs 40. Add to that the bills for rent and internet connection and it pretty much covers the essentials. Monthly cost comes to around 20 K. Not bad for Bangalore I would say.

On top of that, I've cut down on traveling. No MoMo's, no TiE's, no nothing. Not even the weekend late nighters with friends, much to their annoyance. Obviously I dont have a girlfriend and that helps too. If I ever have to head out, I take the bus. In Bangalore its a time sink. You never know how long its going to take. So I try to avoid going out as much as possible. Which of course means that my face to face interactions, the human touch quotient, has gone down drastically. Not a bad thing again, since I'm a born loner. I can live and work alone for extended periods of time.

The best thing about working alone though is the independence. You are pretty much free to do whatever you like. Nobody to convince, nobody breathing down your neck, no wasting of time. Thought of a kick ass feature? Get to work on it instantly. Works great if you happen to be the kind of person who's right most of the time. I happen to think I am. But you never know :). Yeah, I have messed up things once in a while. Big time in few cases.

So is it tough? You bet it is. There are highs and lows. Both the times you wish had someone to share it with. Plus software, by its nature, is a team game. You just cannot write great software alone. Or develop a technology alone. I hope that one day I can assemble a team around CG. The technology involved, spoken audio search, is really complex. And it will need a great team to pull off. That will take its own sweet time I guess.

The only question is, why keep doing it? We'll for starters, I have few paid customers and it kind of covers my costs. I'm not losing any money, if not making some. No harm in doing it I guess. Plus I am definitely having the best time of my life. No question about that. I've never loved my work so much. Never ever in those 8 years in the industry. That means something I guess. Also I have high hopes for the technology since its an unsolved problem out there. The best part however is, its not over yet. There's a lot of work left on CG. Remains to be seen whether I can make it or not. But for the time being, I'm enjoying every bit of it.

So there you have it. Startups are tough. Micro ISV's are the toughest. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Get a team. Its much better and healthier. It should always be the last option, the nuke option, if an option at all.
posted by Rajiv, 5:09 AM | link | 24 comments |

MoMo Monsoon

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Just a quick post to point that MoMo Monsoon event is coming up. This time instead of our usual event, we have organized a full day event which is full of interesting panel disucssions. Check out our brand new website for more.


So if you are in town and are interested to catch up with the happenings in the industry, do join us. As usual the event is free to attend.
posted by Rajiv, 4:46 AM | link | 5 comments |

Roti, Kapda, Makan and Social Networking

Friday, July 18, 2008

Social Networking is a bad word in entrepreneur circles these days. There are so many of them and apart from the FB's, Orkut's of the world, the rest are not really going anywhere. Still we see more and of these coming up. So everyone asks the question, how many social networks do we need? Isn't one FB or Orkut enough for the whole world?

I think no. Its definitely not. And that is for a very simple reason. Fundamentally all these social networking sites connect people. They solve one of the biggest human needs, the need to connect with each other, socialize. A need surpassed only by maybe our need for food, clothing and housing.

There are hundreds of Social Networking sites. But you can still see people who are lonely, looking for a life partner, or a date or just a friend. If Orkut and FB are doing it right then why hasn't this problem been completely eradicated yet? Obviously there's still a lot to be done. And if one of the new sites are trying to attack this, there's nothing wrong with it. Maybe they have just created a better mousetrap.

Agreed that most of these startups are not doing anything innovative, its the same run of the mill stuff. But me too sites are a reality on the internet. For every successful site, there are 100 clones of it. The guys with the best product win in the end. That's fair.

Lemme go on and cite some some examples of niche's of social networking. I am drawing from my own experiences here, so please bear with me. A typical case is of dating. In Bangalore you have guys who come out of top notch Engineering colleges where the sex ratio is something like 80:20 (mine's was even worse). These are hot shot software dev's who wanna date and dont mind spending for it. In Bangalore you also have a huge call center crowd, a significant part of whom are single girls on the lookout.

Right now what these guys do is register on Shaadi.com and try and find a date. The have no intentions of marrying, but they do not have a choice. Orkut and FB dont solve their problem. How come Shaadi, which was never meant to solve this problem in the first place, ends up eating up this pie? Its a great market segment to target; young, mobile, with disposable income. And the addressable market is huge since the same case can be applied to any metro city in India!

Maybe this sounds lame. But think about it. These are segments that you can target. The hard part is finding a business model around them. It cant be that plain old model of premium plans. Something different, something innovative, something whacky! But I'm sure if you can get these folks hooked on to your site, you will make money somehow. Because these guys are not squeamish about spending on the net. Maybe you can even do a Beacon on them!

The most perplexing thing about the Indian Soc. Net scene is that the old models are still there; pay and contact the girl. Nobody has managed to challenge them. Maybe I am biased because I need to actually get on these sites soon to find a girl for myself, but it still sucks. I dont wanna pay! I am sure there are hundreds of people like me. If someone comes up with a matrimonial/dating site which does not have this business model, people would flock to it.

So there's my defense of Social Networking. There's still a huge unaddressed market. And I am sure that we'll see more of these social networking sites. That is a good thing in my view.
posted by Rajiv, 9:34 AM | link | 5 comments |

New Blog @ Call Graph

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Since nobody is writing about us, we thought that we'll start writing about ourselves. So we started our own product blog at Call Graph. Pls. check it out here. We plan to regularly update is as we go along. Request you to add the feed to your RSS readers.
posted by Rajiv, 10:36 PM | link | 4 comments |

Call Graph Web Service Launched

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Blogging has been very light lately. The reason being a) Twitter has completely taken over my urge to put my thoughts online and b) I have been busy with the Call Graph Web Service. Its called CRIMS: Call Record Indexing and Managemnt Service and its done. We have opened it up for everyone now. :)

The purpose is simple. It give you storage, sharing, search and transcription services for your Skype Calls. Here's how it works. You first sign up for the service, then download our Skype call recording client, associate the client with the your account on CRIMS and magically all your Skype calls will start appearing on the site. You can do various things with it after that, the most useful being search and generate transcripts.

The search is done through our keyword mining technology. We process the call record and generate a list of keywords for the call. The call is then indexed with these keywords. So if you used the word "Wireless Utopia" several times during a call then both wireless and utopia would become a keywords for it. Few months down the line if you want to locate this particular call, you just search for wireless and you'll get it back.

The transcripts are a bit more tricky thing though. The first pass is through a Automatic Speech Recognition engine. It processes the call and generates an output. Then we manually proof read the transcripts and correct all the errors. Right now the manual effort required is very high but we are hoping that as we improve the system we will be able to gradually reduce this manual effort.

Its important to note that we do try and protect the confidentiality of the call records. Even though its being heard by a person, we ensure that a single person does not go through the whole call. We use various methods to ensure that. Also, till you order the transcripts the call record is machine processed. So you have a control on which call records can be heard and which one's cannot be.

Apart from these, you can also choose to just archive your call records and keep them with you. Or share them with one click if you want to. We provide these services for free for the time being. Read up on our FAQ to know more.

I'd urge you to try out the service and let us know what you think of it. A lot of effort has gone into this and a lot more needs to be done. With your feedback and help we can surely improve it.

Tags: Call Graph, Recording, Audio Search, Transcripts
posted by Rajiv, 12:54 AM | link | 7 comments |

MoMo Bangalore April Event

Monday, April 21, 2008

Like me, are you having a BCB hangover? Dont worry, help is at hand. We have announced the MoMo Bangalore April event. Its about innovation in future mobile services and the speaker is Ashish Thomas of SingTel. The demo is from our own MyDuniya team. This looks to be a promising event. So please sign up for it now.

Tags: momobangalore, momo, mobile, india
posted by Rajiv, 11:05 PM | link | 0 comments |

The Un-Conference

Warning: This is a very passionate post.

This post is a direct response to Vijay "PROTO.IN" Anand's post. Its a "howto" on Barcamps. In one sentence "impose some rules". Which begs the question: why?

I have been an avid barcamper. Starting from BCB1 to BCB6. I skipped BCB5 since I got thrashed by the un-organizers on when I suggested that collectives dont work. It pissed me off big time. But BCB6 went back to its original roots. The good old paper wiki and a better second day crowd. And damn.. i loved it. There was this session conducted by our own Prof. Suresh, on Startup Pains. He asked for a show of hand on how many people wanted to startoff on their own. Allmost all the hands in the room went up. And mind you, people were standing and sitting on the stairs. The energy there was incredible.

I loved the in feeling there. So you are a CEO. So what? So you are a hot chick. So what? So you are a avid barcamper. So fucking what? You do not deserve a t-shirt or a mug if you have attended all the rest of them. You are just as good as others.

Who makes rules in barcamps? Who has the right to do it? If you are an organizer, or as my good friend Werner says it, "organ-raiser", can you impose rules? I dont think so. Barcamp is like the linux kernel. To borrow Greg Korah Hartman's words, its not intelligent design: its evolution.

So beware. Stay away from those Barcamps which impose rules on you. You are the barcamper. You decide whats going to happen. Not some moron who's intent is to make the world more friendlier.

Tags: barcamp, barcampbangalore, barcampbangalore6, bcb6
posted by Rajiv, 11:53 AM | link | 4 comments |

VoIP In India

I conducted a session on VoIP in India at BCB6. The focus was the legality of VoIP in India and what can be done about it. VoIP is regulated in India and interconnections between a VoIP network and lanline/mobile network is not allowed. The primary reason is to protect the monopoly on International termination fees/rates. The security issue is more of an excuse than a real reason.

The end result is that we as consumers lose out. We are not allowed the benifits of VoIP: lower tarrif, more services etc. And cannot create businesses around it. Any VoIP startup in India ultimately runs into the wall of legality in India. And VoIP is one of the hottest technologies out there today. It is disrupting the Telco business model and we cannot participate in it.

India is still in the stone age as far as VoIP is concerned. Our economy is growing fast and we are supposed to overtake US by 2050. If we do not sit up and take notice, then the status quo will remain. Join our discussion group and tell everyone that you know about it.
posted by Rajiv, 3:58 AM | link | 7 comments |

Toktumi: The Skype killer?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

There's a new VoIP kid on the block: Toktumi. I have been using it since it came out of private beta few weeks back. To put it in easy terms, its Skype + a free SkypeIn number + free voicemail. There's something similar to SkypeOut as well but the pricing is more like a monthly rental + call charges. The call charges are not laid out (5cents to most phones) so a side by side comparison cannot be done. But it should be competitive, given the state of VoIP minutes market. Whats more, it provides a USB adapter to which you can connect your normal phone to.

Their system is differs significantly from Skype though. The website claims that its P2P PBX which sounds like a bunch of Asterisk servers which are peered together on the internet for load balancing. Looks like that the PC is not invovled in routing other's traffic through your system. Contrast that to Skype where any PC can become a super node if its in a good bandwidth environment. The other thing about this approach is that QoS can be monitored closely. Which eventually improves the call quality. The approach certainly has mertis on its own. But can it be cost effective is the question.

The soft client is breeze to install and use. The interface is more traditional compared to Skype which is more IM'ish. After using it for a few weeks, it found some annoyances about it though. For example, it does not startup minimized: you have to close it and then click ok on the message box which pops up. Another feature lacking is that there's no way to set the ringer to your PC's speaker. So if you are using a headset and a call come's in, you are in a bit of trouble if you are not on your PC.

So can it really take on Skype? Skype is superstar of VoIP services today. It has been going through a bad patch recently, with troubles at the top. But a little competition in this market would not do any harm. As the founder of Toktumi, Peter Sission says on his blog, entrepreneurs can still challenge Skype. It remains to be seen whether Toktumi can be as viral a hit as Skype was. But I would still recommend this service. Especially if you are small buiness owner or working out of home. Or if you are looking for a free US number as me. :)

Tags: Toktumi, Skype, VoIP, Asterisk.
posted by Rajiv, 2:03 AM | link | 0 comments |

Howto Record Skype Calls

Friday, March 14, 2008

A video tutorial on howto record Skype calls using Call Graph.

You can download the application from here.


Its completely free and without any restrictions. Happy recording!

Tags: CallGraph, Skype, Beta Software, Howto, Tutorial.
posted by Rajiv, 5:53 AM | link | 4 comments |

Wireless In Goa

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I recently took off to Goa for a break. I was visiting after a gap of two years and was alone this time around. Here're some notes I made during the trip.

Twitter is definitely a great tool for lonely travelers. Here's my archive. I used it throughout the trip to post updates. The only thing it lacked was a easy way to upload your photos directly from the phone. Would have been great! Still I could not figure out why its the hottest thing right now in the valley. Maybe because its one way traffic for me. With more friends following and more interaction, I can see the point.

The GPRS service worked flawlessly through out. I used Airtel Mobile Office. The last time I was in Goa, Airtel did not have its own network. It used Idea's network there. And the SMS's I sent to activate the service would not reach Airtel since I was roaming. This time it just worked. It was slow and painful, but it worked. Even in the beach shacks. And into the sea. I was missing my Nokia Tablet. Would have been perfect for the trip.

The surprising thing was that GPRS never broke down on the road! I took a bus (KSRTC Volvo) and I was checking my mails from some obscure places deep in South India. Gives you a kick when you can do that. And speaks volumes on how the mobile operators are moving aggressively into the rural areas in India. Good job Airtel!

Another interesting this was the availability of Cell Id everywhere. It kind of gave me an sense of where I was on the road. And I had an eureka moment. How about a mashup between Google Maps and an mobile app which records the Cell Id as you go along. I would be able to trace the route of the journey which I'd really like to because the bus made the trip in 14 hours flat (fastest ever in all my 5 trips till date) and I want to know the route. It would also be able to tell me how far I am from the destination next time around. And it would also record which places I had been to during my trip which again would be a nice thing to show off to my friends. Better still have a Facebook app for it, spam your friends with it and get back at them for ditching me. :) Would be a nice weekend hacking project. Anyone up for it?

I am really glad that I have integrated all my mail id's (around 5 in total) into Gmail with mail fetcher. It was a lifesaver. The J2ME app for GMail worked flawlessly I was able to check all my accounts at one place. Thank you Google.

Goa is still a very cheap deal. For a comparison a KF pint is for 40 bucks. So is Old Monk quarter. The food in the shacks is just great, especially the sea food. Reasonably priced. The Condolim, Calangute, Baga stretch must have over 200 beach shacks. So lots of choice.

Surprisingly I saw very few iPod's or iPhones in Goa. Most of the tourists in Goa were European. But still no iPods at all. Forget about laptops. Did not sight a single one. Maybe because of complete lack of WiFi hotspots. But this time I did find a place which offers WiFi. Its called The Indian Kitchen (98221 49615), off Calangute Baga Road. Five minutes walk from the beach and not very expensive. They had a broadband connection and charges were Rs. 100 per day for WiFi. So thats where I'm gonna stay the next time. :)

Finally, the KSRTC Volvo bus service rocks! I recommend it highly.

The only thing I did in there was drink, eat and sleep. In that order. And man, it was soooo good. Its the best place to unwind and relax.

Tags: Goa, Wireless, Travel
posted by Rajiv, 7:50 AM | link | 5 comments |