Thursday, July 16, 2009

Just an Update


What have I been up to over the last couple of days? Well I was trying to understand the ASP.NET MVC framework and how it works. I have been hearing a lot about (seeing/reading a lot about?) the ASP.NET MVC framework and wanted to gauge whether I should switch over to MVC framework for my latest project. After all, its supposed to be more maintainable, supports TDD and gives you greater control over the html which is generated. Plus my friend who will be helping me with this project is a java developer and the web application to him means MVC.

However, having seen a couple of videos where a sample data driven application was built using MVC, I realized that for now I am sticking with webforms. I am just so used to it that it will take time to switch. And I don't have the time. Not right now! Switching over to MVC has its obvious advantages, but the time taken to learn it just outweighs those advantages. So webforms it is for the time being.

Now that I decided on webforms, I started getting my hands dirty doing database design. A part of it is proving to be more challenging than I initially thought. Anyway I have decided on the db and now plan to upload some data to validate the design. This is a real pain. The data is available as static text and I need to manually recognize various fields from that text and write (cut and paste) those values in a spreadsheet. This is such a pain. I wish I did not have to do it manually, but cant help it. Of course I am looking at ways to automate the whole process but I think it will take time. Right now I just need to get the data in the database so I can continue building my app.

Of course I will also need to build a utility to upload data to the db from excel. Reminds me of the pdm_upload utility that came with Service Desk. That experience of bulk data uploading is going to come handy now :). So I got my hands full for the time being. That's good! There are a whole lot of other things to take care of as well.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Which Development Model To Use?


One of the first things that you are taught as a fresher in a IT Services company is the Software Development Life Cycle, popularly know in the industry as SDLC. You are taught various models that companies follow while developing software, the Waterfall model probably being the most common of them. It is a slow and heavy model, pretty much like an IL-76 transport aircraft - Good when you are transporting heavy stuff (similar to good when you are developing huge applications). But if you are a startup or a lone developer you really don't need the IL-76 to get where you want. What you really need is a Sukhoi 30!

Looking at various Agile Development Models, I stumbled upon SCRUM. I read about it in Wikipedia and then did some more research on it by googling it. The way the whole model has been explained is very simple and I developed a liking for it when I read it the first time. Simple and clear, no bullshit!

The interesting part was that the typical team size for the development team was 5-9 people. I wondered whether I should try my hands at this because my team right now is pretty much me. However, knowing the importance of documentation and how it will help later when the team size grows, I thought of giving it a try. I started writing the product backlog.

A couple of days into writing the product backlog I realized I was wasting precious time. What was important at this point was to get the first stage of the product ready. Documentation can be done whenever I get the time but the focus has to be on developing the prototype of the product. No wonder they mentioned a typical team size. So until my team reaches that size, I will be loosely following the SCRUM model. That is to say, I will be simply deciding what I am going to do in the next 15 days and then do it. Simple.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

So it begins!


Yesterday was my last working day at HSC, the place where I started my career, just over three years ago. I still remember very well my first day. Its like it was just yesterday, but it wasn't. It was three years ago. It is said Einstein explained his Theory of Relativity to a lay person thus: If you are sitting for an hour on a park bench with someone you love, it seems like a minute; If you are sitting for a minute with someone you hate, it seems like an hour! How quickly these three years passed is unbelievable, so I guess I was having a nice time there.

So what now? Where to next? That only time will tell, but hopefully I will be able to achieve something of what I set out to achieve. Whatever it is, it is going to be the ride of a lifetime. You really can't take risks when you got other things to take care of. But I don't right now. So even if I hurt myself, which seems a very likely possibility, its fine. I can bounce back.  But lets hope I don't hurt myself that badly.

Whatever the case, I am going to write about it here! Share my experience of starting up, so that it may help and perhaps inspire others to take the leap of faith. Just like reading others' experience inspired me to. Hopefully it will be helpful.

I have a request for you though! If you read a post, please do  comment something. It motivates me to write when I know people are reading it. Plus, now I don't have company gossip or coffee breaks or office communicator to reach out to people. Starting can be get really lonely at times (more on that in another post). So please do comment and keep the interaction going.

To end, there were a lot of people who said/mailed a lot of "all the best" to me but there were two that will motivate me the most in the dark times.

They said:



Hope all your dreams come true. Good luck!

May the force be with you!


and the other one --


I would like to share a saying I came cross last week

“Life is a profound book. Other’s notes cannot replace your own understanding. May you find and create something new in it.”


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Where are we headed anyway?


Have you played Warcraft or Age of Empires? Not that I am a big fan of Strategy games but I have played them and pretty much liked them. So if you have played one of these strategy games, then you surely must have mined gold. I mean one of the things that you do in these games is explore territory and find new sources of wealth. Warcraft mostly used to have gold-mines and as soon as a new map starts, you would start exploring it looking for sources of wealth. Invariably, the mine that you started at beginning of the stage would collapse in the middle and if you hadn't found the next gold-mine it was pretty much game over. The good thing was that the people who designed the game made sure that there were enough mines in a map for you to survive and cross that particular stage.

But is that the case in our world? Have the designers of this game put enough resources on our planet for us to keep going on and on? China and India are the two most populous nations in the world. They are also the the two of the fastest growing economies of the world. The United States is the benchmark of prosperity for the world. But it is also the biggest consumer in the world. China, India and the others are expected to catch up with the US in the next 20-30 years. So the most populous nations in this world are going to catch up with the nation which consumes the most resources of our planet. God help our natural resources!

Just like Warcraft though, we would also move out to other areas in search of resources. India was already talking of mining the moon for some isotope of Helium, when our first moon mission went ahead last year. So once we have exhausted the resources on earth, we would move to the moon, mars and god knows where else just to keep ourselves going. Surely that is the way forward for the progressive human race.

You must have seen the blockbuster movie of the 90's, INDEPENDENCE DAY, starring Bill Pullman as the president of the United States. In one of the scenes, the president is communicating with one of the captured aliens. He explains to his associates, "They move from planet to planet. They consume all the resources in one planet and then they move on to the next. They don't want peace."  Well, makes me wonder whether the president of some alien planet is going to say the same thing about invading humans in the future.

The way we are going about things is disgusting at times. Take the development of around Delhi for instance. Concrete Jungles coming in every place. That alone increases the temperature of of the already hot city. What do we do keep it cool then? We install air-conditioners. Earlier only a few people could afford it, but now thanks to our prosperity almost everyone wants an AC. And how do we power up these ACs? We burn more and more fossil fuels to produce electricity and in the process produce a lot more C02. Well one fine day there won't be anymore fuels to burn and if we haven't found an alternative source of energy, cities like Delhi would be pretty much inhospitable. The current power situation in Delhi is a warning for what could be in store. It is what actually triggered this post.

Scientists and engineers came up with the air-conditioner as an answer to the heating and cooling problems of your home. But it is not a solution which we can use on a mass scale. So over the years they have been working on alternatives and one very impressive alternative is Passive Solar Building Design. I saw a program on Discovery Channel which showcased a company which was implementing such techniques in New York City.

Perhaps we shouldn't be worried about it after all. Somebody will surely come up with an answer. There is a certain degree of uncertainty involved there. What if no one did? In a very short span of time on this planet, we humans have had the most impact on it. No doubt then that we are part of the problem. However if there is a solution then it has to come for us.

So what does the future hold for us? Where are we headed? I guess only time will tell!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fighting the Pandemic

Well, finally some thoughts have turned into action. Started this website providing information on who to contact, procedure at hospital etc. in case you are suspected to have swine flu. Realized getting this information is a big hassle when my room-mate was suspected to have contracted the h1n1 virus. All turned out to be ok, but we decided to come up with the site. Do give it a spin. Its called Swinefluindia ! Send you comments to swinefluindia <at> gmail dot com.


PS: The site still has a few rough edges, but we're working on it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

How advertising inadvertently sometimes sends the wrong message

I dont't know how many of you have seen the latest ad of IE8. It shows a hot chick enjoying her ice cream and a guy sitting at a distance enjoying the sight and apparently fantasizing. However, a fat man comes and stands in the middle and and the guy sitting cannot see the girl anymore and is understandably disgusted. Fantasies can crash - the message is flashed. An IE8 popup saying "Your last browsing session ended unexpectedly", with the options "Restore Session" and "Go to Home Page", is shown. Obviously the "Restore Session" option is chosen and the guy can see the girl smiling at him. He heaves a sigh of relief. Automatic Crash Recovery in the next generation Internet Explorer 8. Let's you start from where you stopped.
The ad is trying to showcase a new feature in IE8 - Automatic Crash Recovery. The way the ad has been shot will surely get your attention. And then you get to know about the new feature in IE8. Cool way to advertise - or should I say hot?
Well,  I happened to upgrade my IE7 to IE8 a few days back. But as soon as I started with IE8, it crashed. Of course the crash recovery option came up when i restarted and it promptly restored my session, which was nothing but my facebook homepage. But guess what, it crashed again and I restored the session again and it crashed again. This went on and on for a couple of minutes after which I switched back to Chrome and Firefox. Smooth sailing, no more crashes. So when this morning I saw that ad and the message "Fantasies can crash", I was like "Sure they can crash! If you are using IE. If you dont want them to crash, use something else!"
The interesting point here was I perceived the ad in a completely different way because I had a previous negative experience. But my question is, should one advertise such a feature? I don't see it as a nice feature because it reminds me that this piece of software crashes. All software do, including Firefox and Chrome, but why highlight it? By advertising the Automatic Crash Recovery you are in a way highlighting the fact that your software crashes. As a user I see this as a negative rather than a positive feature.
Is such advertising good? What do you think?

Packaging Your Product/Service

Towards the end of the first edition of the IPL, it was clear that the Bangalore team would finish in the bottom half of the table. One of my friends was booking tickets for the last match to be played at Chinnaswamy stadium and asked if I wanted to come. "What's the use? Anyway RCB are going to lose!" was my response. "Who is going to watch cricket? I am going to watch the cheerleaders" That was an example of how successful had the marketing of IPL been. They attracted customers not just for cricket (the core focus)but for the cheerleaders (add ons) as well!

Discussing the launch of bing, a friend said she had made Bing her homepage because she loved the scenic background pictures of the bing page. The background pictures on the bing page change every few hours, prompting her to visit it every now and then. Here Microsoft used the changing background (add on) to attract customers to search using bing (core focus).

While building a great product or service (core focus) is important in the long run,  innovative packaging of your product or service can help you create the initial buzz.

Do you feel such a strategy could prove useful for start-ups? What do you think?