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jugad's Journal

Vasudev Ram's blog on software innovation

jugad (Vasudev Ram)

Vasudev Ram's blog, tracking software innovation, worldwide.




October 19th, 2008

Saw a post about it on TechCrunch that indicates Bloglines may stop functioning.

The post is here.

In case that happens, and if you don't want to lose the blog feeds you had subscribed to, here's what you can do:

Export the RSS or Atom feeds of the blogs that you subscribe to, using the Bloglines feature called Export Subscriptions. Login to your Bloglines account and look for the feature at the bottom of the left pane. Click on it and save the generated OPML file somewhere.

Then import that OPML file into some other feed reader of your choice, using that reader's appropriate option to do so. (The option should be called something like Import Subscriptions or Import Feeds.) Most good feed readers, whether desktop or web-based, should have such an option.

Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises.

September 28th, 2008

Here's a useful one-liner that uses awk (and grep, sort and sed too), to kill a Firefox process that has hung.

Firefox hung just now on my machine - so I ran this command:

# kill -HUP ` ps -aef | grep -i firefox | sort -k 2 -r | sed 1d | awk ' { print $2 } ' `

NOTE: That's sed space one d in the line above, i.e. the digit "one", not the letter "ell".

The command does all of the following:

- Uses the ps command to get a list of all running processes; the list is written to standard output.

- Pipes that to grep -i firefox to identify all Firefox-related processes (this is needed because, on Ubuntu Linux, there is more than one such process (even for a single running Firefox instance), because the firefox command you run is a shell script which calls another script which finally calls the real firefox binary).

- Pipes that to sort -k 2 -r to sort the output in descending order by the process-id (2nd field of the ps output).

- Pipes that to sed 1d to delete the line of output that refers to the grep in the pipeline itself - otherwise I'd end up killing the grep as well (because grep -i firefox matches the line for the grep process as well as the actual Firefox-related processes).

NOTE: This part (using sed 1d to kill the grep) is based on knowing that the grep process is the process that currently has the highest-numbered process id (due to the preceding sort command), of all the processes that match the grep pattern. So it'll be the first line of output, so sed 1d deletes it (and passes all the other lines untouched, to the next command in the pipeline).

- Pipes that to awk ' { print $2 } ' to extract only the 2nd field, the process-id, from each line.

- And, since the entire part of the command after the HUP is enclosed in backward quotes (also called backticks or grave accents), what happens is that the final output of the commands between the backticks replaces the backticks and everything between them, so what the shell finally sees before it runs the kill command, is something like this:

kill -HUP 8849 8845 8833

- which results in automagically killing all (and only) the processes related to the single instance of Firefox that was running (but hung) on my machine.

WARNING: Don't try this command (exactly as shown) if you're on a Linux system with multiple users, since it would end up deleting all their running Firefox processes as well - and don't run it even if you yourself are running multiple instances of Firefox and only want to kill one of them.

NOTE: The sort command uses the -r option to list the processes in reverse numeric order by process-id, so that we kill each child before its parent, to avoid creating orphan processes.

Vasudev Ram.

September 18th, 2008

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September 13th, 2008

Testing that again ...

Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises.

September 12th, 2008

Ths is a test.
Creating a small sized post to see if LJ is blocking it.
Creating a small sized post to see if LJ is blocking it.
Creating a small sized post to see if LJ is blocking it.
Creating a small sized post to see if LJ is blocking it.
Creating a small sized post to see if LJ is blocking it.

September 11th, 2008

IGNORE THIS - Test post

Test post.

September 7th, 2008

Intel acquires OpenedHand

OpenedHand Ltd, based in London, UK, is a software company with products related to handheld computing devices. Interestingly, all their products seem to be open source.

About OpenedHand.

Intel has acquired OpenedHand.

[ I had blogged about the Moblin platform a few days ago. ]

Excerpts from the OpenedHand site:

"The OpenedHand team will join the Intel Open Source Technology Center and will focus on the development of the Moblin Software Platform, the optimized software stack for Intel Atom processors".

"OpenedHand has grown to a solid team of experienced open source developers with skills covering all areas of a device’s software stack".

They have products such as:

- Matchbox.

"Matchbox is an open source base environment for the X Window System on embedded platforms with limited screen size and system resources".

- Poky.

"Poky is a platform build tool to aid the design, development, building, debugging, simulation and testing of Linux based device software stacks".

- Pimlico.

"Pimlico is a suite of lightweight Personal Information Management (PIM) applications providing address book, task list, calendar and synchronisation software."

As they say on their site:

"One of our areas of focus is leveraging proven and popular desktop technologies to embedded platforms. This provides a widely tested and maintained base which we can use to build optimised systems".

This looks like an interesting and viable business model for some software companies - take an existing, mature, open source software product which is available for the desktop, and optimize and make it smaller for use on devices (which have less powerful CPUs and less RAM than desktop computers).

Vasudev Ram.

September 4th, 2008

This is a video from the development team on the thinking and features behind Google Chrome. Note: This is not the same as the video of the Google Chrome press release (which was features in posts on TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb, for instance).

Video below.

Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises.

Just got to know that a new book on Ruby and Rails is available. The book is Enterprise Recipes with Ruby and Rails (I'm calling it ER3 for short), written by Maik Schmidt, and published by The Pragmatic Programmers.

Maik Schmidt is also the author of an earlier book, also from The Pragmatic Programmers, called "Enterprise Integration with Ruby" (I'm calling it EIR for short); yes, I know - the names of both books are similar (see below for more on that). I had written a short review about EIR, here:


after buying the book and reading it.

To summarize, I think it (EIR) is one of the best Ruby books I've read (and also one of the better programming books overall that I've read).

I had a quick look at the contents of this new book, ER3, by Maik. The fact that it is written by him, plus the table of contents, is what makes me think that this book is likely to be quite good too - despite the fact that, going by the table of contents, some of the topics in the two books seem the same (however, it could be that there is more material in the new book on any given topic). But of course, I'll have to actually buy and read it to know for sure.

Here is the full table of contents of the ER3 book. It's a Beta book, so the exact content may change.

UPDATE: I read the full table of contents for the book; it looks like ER3 has quite a few more topics than EIR has. I suspect the format of the book may be a bit different from EIR, too, in that each topic may be shorter (since they use the words "Recipe" in the book title), whereas many or most of the topics in EIR were covered at some length, with the author showing the evolution of improved versions of the software in some cases.

Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises
Google Chrome has, as expected, generated a lot of interest in quite a short period.

I'm sharing some of the interesting ones I've come across so far:

Comment Of The Day: Chrome, Android, and the Cloud on Fred Wilson's blog - A VC.

Chrome, Android, and The Cloud, also on Fred's blog.

The Chrome Comic Book, where the first news about Chrome was released by Google, apparently a little too early, by mistake. Though it actually is a comic book, it seems that it's one of the good place to learn more about Chrome's features and the reasons why Google created Chrome.

Download link for Chrome - it's live now.

Inside Chrome - very interesting article on Wired.com with some of the background about the Chrome project, going back to the start of it. The article is by Steven Levy, who wrote the book "Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution" - a very interesting read about the original computer programming pioneers over the first few decades of computers. He also wrote some other books including "Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer That Changed Everything".

Google V8 JavaScript Engine, which is used in Chrome. Supposed to be one of the reasons for Chrome's claimed much higher performance that previous browsers. It's still early days for independent reports, but some of the reports indicate that it is at least a good amount faster. Google identified Danish computer scientist Lars Bak, an expert on virtual machine development, to develop the V8 JavaScript engine.

A review of Chrome by Scott Berkun, who was at Microsoft and worked on Internet Explorer versions 1 through 5, and currently uses Firefox 3.

The cloud's Chrome lining, a post by Nicholas Carr. He gives his views about some of the real reasons why Google is developing Chrome. Seems to make sense ...

Finally, here is a Google Blogoscoped review of Chrome.

Blogoscoped was where a lot of people first heard about Chrome.

Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises

September 2nd, 2008

The new Python 2.6 module called multiprocessing looks innovative and useful - I'm going to check it out.

It's a large module with many features, so I'm not going to write more about it until I've checked it out, but on a first look of the above documentation and code examples, I think it has a lot of possibilities.

Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises.

Referring to my previous post, it turns out that it is true - I re-checked the Blogoscoped post and saw an update - a link to a blog post by Google about Chrome: A fresh take on the browser.

It's going to be released tomorrow - Tuesday, 2nd September 2008.

Chrome is going to be open source.

Excerpts from Google's post about Chrome:

"We will be launching the beta version of Google Chrome tomorrow in more than 100 countries.".

"So why are we launching Google Chrome? Because we believe we can add value for users and, at the same time, help drive innovation on the web.".

"All of us at Google spend much of our time working inside a browser.".

"Under the hood, we were able to build the foundation of a browser that runs today's complex web applications much better. By keeping each tab in an isolated "sandbox", we were able to prevent one tab from crashing another and provide improved protection from rogue sites. We improved speed and responsiveness across the board.".

"We're releasing this beta for Windows to start the broader discussion and hear from you as quickly as possible. We're hard at work building versions for Mac and Linux too, and will continue to make it even faster and more robust.".

If all the claims are true, it surely seems like good news - let's hope so ...

Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises

This looks interesting - just saw it on the Google Blogoscoped blog:

Google Chrome, Google's Browser Project

If true, it looks like a potentially very good development.

Though some of the commenters on the Blogoscoped post grumbled about it meaning more work for them - to need to test their apps against one more browser, overall, I think its likely to be a good thing for web users.

I won't write any more - will leave it for you to check out for yourself.

Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises

JQuery is a new kind of JavaScript library. It has been around for a while and got popular fairly soon after it was first released.

According to the JQuery site (see bottom of its home page), users of JQuery include Google, Dell, Bank of America, Digg.com, Technorati.com, mozilla.org and many others.

Excerpt from the site:

"jQuery is a fast and concise JavaScript Library that simplifies HTML document traversing, event handling, animating, and Ajax interactions for rapid web development. jQuery is designed to change the way that you write JavaScript."

I just saw this - looks useful for JQuery developers:

Visual JQuery Magazine Issue 1

Apart from the technical articles, it also has an interview with John Resig, original creator of JQuery.

The magazine issue is freely downloadable; look for the words "download it here" at the above link, or directly get it here.

Vasudev Ram.

August 30th, 2008

This looks like an opportunity for mobile Internet startups ...

MobLin.org is "an open source community for sharing software technologies, ideas, projects, code, and applications to create an untethered computing experience across Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs), Netbooks, and embedded devices."

Its meant for Intel's Atom Processor technology, which requires software optimized for low power, low footprint, high performance, wireless, and graphics. They have a Moblin Core Linux Stack on top of which you can build applications to run on Mobile Internet Devices.

Here is a video of Dirk Hohndel, Chief Open Source Strategist, talking about MobLin.

The MobLin Resource Center has lots of links to learn more about MobLin, including papers, presentations, articles, videos, demos, a mailing list, a FAQ, downloads.

Intel® Capital's Open Source Incubator Program is a venture funding program for MobLin applications.

There's an Intel® C++ Software Development Tool Suite 1.0 for Linux OS Supporting Mobile.

Excerpt about it:

"The Intel® C++ Software Development Tool Suite for Linux* OS Supporting Mobile Internet Devices (MID) is a complete tools solution set to address MID software performance requirements, and to enhance the productivity and experience of the Linux-based MID system and application development process.

The Tool Suite covers the entire cycle of software development: coding, compiling, debugging, and analyzing performance. All included tools are Linux hosted and compatible with GNU tools.

The Tool Suite is available for free download".

Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises.

August 28th, 2008

Just read about this on Hacker News. Looks quite interesting and potentially useful for doing vector graphics on the Web.

What is Raphaël? Excerpt from the site:

Raphaël is a small JavaScript library that should simplify your work with vector graphics on the web. In case you want to create your own specific chart or image crop-n-rotate widget, you can simply achieve it with this library.

The creator of the Raphaël library is Dmitry Baranovskiy who works at Atlassian. (His site gives a "Bandwidth Limit Exceeded" error right now - maybe due to a lot of people accessing it.)

I did a quick search and found these related links:

Painless cross browser vector graphics with Dmitry Baranovskiy’s Raphael Javascript Library, a post on the Web Directions blog.

Announcement of Raphael on Dmitry's Tumblr.

As a quick test, I copied and modified an example from the Raphael site; the code below shows how easy Raphael is for basic use:

Just include the library raphael.js betwen the opening and closing head tags of your HTML; then this code in the HTML body will draw an image with three colored circles diagonally across and down the screen:
 // Creates canvas 320 × 200 at 10, 50
 var paper = Raphael(10, 50, 320, 200);

 // Creates circle at x = 50, y = 40, with radius 10
 var circle1 = paper.circle(20, 20, 15);
 // Sets the fill attribute of the circle to red (#f00)
 circle1.attr("fill", "#f00");
 // Sets the stroke attribute of the circle to white (#fff)
 circle1.attr("stroke", "#fff"); 

 var circle2 = paper.circle(70, 50, 30);
 circle2.attr("fill", "#0f0");
 circle2.attr("stroke", "#fff"); 

 var circle3 = paper.circle(140, 90, 45);
 circle3.attr("fill", "#00f");
 circle3.attr("stroke", "#fff"); 

And here's the resulting output:

Neat, no?

Vasudev Ram

August 27th, 2008

A new Python book is coming soon from Packt Publishing.

Blog post about it by the author, Tarek Ziade.

Packt page about the book.

About the book - in detail

- Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises.

Came across this interesting post just now.

Making XML-RPC calls from a Google App Engine application.

Looks like a useful technique. Google App Engine (GAE) doesn't support sockets, so anything that requires them, doesn't work - at least out of the box. XML-RPC is one such thing.

The blog author, Brian M. Clapper, shows how to use the urlfetch.fetch routine (of GAE), to make XML-RPC work on GAE, and then uses it in a blogging app that runs on Google App Engine.

Vasudev Ram

August 26th, 2008

Just read about this ..

Infosys Technologies, my former employer, is going to make a big acquisition.

Here is the official press release from them:

Infosys announces its plans to acquire Axon Group plc.

Excerpt from the above release:

"Infosys Technologies Limited (NASDAQ: INFY) is pleased to announce that it has agreed terms for a recommended cash offer for a leading UK-based SAP consulting company, Axon Group plc (LSE: AXO), in a deal valued at £407.1 million (INR33.1 billion; US$753.1 million".

After reading various articles about the news, it seems that this is a good deal for Infosys as well as for Axon. It should enable more marketing and financial resources to promote Axon's services, and hence larger revenues for the combined entity, as well as bolster Infosys's strength in the SAP consulting space. Unlike some of the other large Indian IT services providers, Infosys has not made all that many acquisitions to date, but it looks like they've made a good move with this one.

More comments about the deal, from various sources:

The Hindu Online.

From Bloomberg.

Excerpt from above link:

"The proposed takeover is the largest ever by an Indian technology company, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.".

From CIOL.com.

From the Wall Street Journal Online.

From LiveMint.com.

From Times Online of the UK.

Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises.

August 24th, 2008

I really liked this, because it says what its all about for him nowadays:

Vinod Khosla:

"I have set aside the idea of being called a Venture Capitalist, because I am not in the financial business. I am in the Venture Assistant business. My goal is to be the best assistant there is for anybody trying to build a large technology oriented company."

The above quote is from the left side of this page on his web site.

A video of him talking about ethanol as biofuel.

His current venture firm.

Some more links about him:

Wikipedia entry about Vinod Khosla.

Catching Up with Vinod Khosla

Vasudev Ram

August 21st, 2008

Google has released KeyCzar - an easier to use and potentially safer to use cryptographic toolkit, as open source under the Apache License 2.0.

Key points (pun intended :) I could gather about KeyCzar (from reading some of the links about it below), are:

- Since cryptography is a complex subject, one of the main goals of KeyCzar is to make at least some of the common crypto operations easier for developers - this is a good idea, IMO.

- It has a simple API

- Uses some safe defaults

- Has support for Python and Java, with C++ support coming

- Supports authentication and encryption with both symmetric and asymmetric keys

- It is not meant to replace some of the existing cryptographic libraries such as OpenSSL, PyCrypto, and the Java JCE libraries, but builds upon them. I've always felt that this is one way in which many developers can add value in software - build something upon something that already exists. Of course, this already happens all the time when anyone uses a library in their app, but what I mean here is something like what Google has done with KeyCzar - they've built another toolkit upon existing crypto toolkits, to add some value in terms of easier and safer use for the average developer who is not a crypto expert.

- It was originally developed by members of the Google Security Team.

Here is their blog post about it.

So this looks like a good move by Google and should help many developers who need to include cryptographic capabilities in their apps.

Here are some links about it:

The KeyCzar.org site.

KeyCzar on the Google Code site

An article on CNET's News.com:

Google's Keyczar designed to make cryptography easier.

- Vasudev Ram

August 11th, 2008

While browsing Hacker News, I came across this post by Jonathan Rockway:

Why I stick with Perl

I found it was interesting - not so much for the points he makes about Perl (although those were interesting too), but for what he says about libraries.

[ BTW, Jonathan is one of the Catalyst Core Team members. Catalyst is a web application development framework for Perl, which is similar to Ruby on Rails in some ways. He's also the author of this book about Catalyst. ]

One such point of his:

"But it irritates me when I need to get at gpg from a web application, and can't just use a "libgpg". I have to fork a gpg process, setup file descriptors just right, write input to a pipe, wait for input on another pipe, and then parse the result -- all for what amounts to a few XOR operations and bit shifts. How could anyone think this is a good idea? (There is libgpgme, but this just hides the fork inside a library. There is still tons of totally unnecessary work going on.)"

I strongly agree with that. I really think most programs (even if ultimately meant to run standalone), should be written, not as monolithic apps, but as one or more libraries in the first place. And one should then just write a main function or main class, that calls those libraries, to do the bulk of the work for one's app. This idea applies even more for open source apps. If the developer of gpg had written a libgpg as Jonathan says above (and had then used libgpg to write gpg), Jonathan (and anyone else in the world) could use libgpg in their own work without reinventing the wheel. They would thereby improve their productivity a lot - for that particular piece of code that needed the libgpg (or other) functionality. Multiply this by tens of thousands of such cases and you can see how much time could be saved, overall. Not to mention that (if the libraries in question were of high-quality), a lot more time would be saved by not having to fix errors that often get added during cut-and-paste, as any programmer knows: "Oops, I copied that function, but forgot to copy its declaration into the header file" (for C or C++ - substitute any other language and type of error here), etc.

The point is not so much the errors themselves (which are often easy to fix, though not always), but the fact that, since they have been introduced, YOU NOW HAVE THE NEED TO FIX THEM, when you may not have needed to at all (because they might not exist) if you just had to call a library function or three and pass some arguments. Basically, more code leads to more errors, and less code to less errors (in general) and cut-and-paste leads to more errors (in particular).

Even in proprietary software shops, this point still makes sense - because the developers on the same team or other teams in the same shop, can reuse that code much more easily later if it's a well designed, modularized and refactored library, rather than having to cut-and-paste the necessary parts from out of one huge (monolithic) app, or blog :-) - as Jonathan says in the case of Rails programmers (*). And I've seen this advice being followed in the breach (i.e. not being followed) even in some big companies.

(*) Jonathan is off the mark, though, when he claims that MOST Rails programmers cut-and-paste code from blogs. That has to be a generalization without enough data to back it up. I'd say that, across the board, good programmers try to find or write libraries.

This concept is actually similar to this rule in The Art of UNIX Programming by Eric Raymond, the Rule of Separation: Separate policy from mechanism; separate interfaces from engines.

I disagree about this, though:

"If you are like me, most programming you do is about gluing things together with libraries."

I'd say it depends, on a case-by-case basis.

Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises

August 9th, 2008

This may be known to many people, but not to many others. And it is a potentially big business opportunity for both startups and established companies, both software companies and other kinds, so I'm writing about it:

The world's fastest growing mobile market may be India; and it has been growing very fast for some time now.

Here are some links that indicate that:

When in doubt, focus on the core customer from the "Corporate Dossier" supplement of Friday's edition of The Eonomic Times of India.

That article above was the inspiration for this post. However, I've been seeing news items about this factoid for many months now. The article is about how Nokia is doing well including in India, although it also covers other companies.


"This success has seen the company’s market share rise to more than 70 percent currently from 46 percent in March 2003. So how did Nokia do it?

One key reason was its ability to obtain fast and accurate customer insights, which is the new basis for true and lasting competitive advantage".

India World’s Fastest Growing Mobile Market on Stuart Henshall's blog.

India becomes the fastest growing Mobile Market in the World

Gartner: India’s mobile services market to surpass $37 billion by 2012

India, fastest growing mobile phone market, on Rediff.com, quoting a report by Boston-based Pyramid Research.

Also, the iPhone 3G is coming to India; see:

Airtel To Launch 3G iPhone In October on ContentSutra, which says that the iPhone 3G will be available via Airtel and Vodafone.


Apple iPhone 3G will be Available in India via Bharti Airtel

And, of course, apps for the iPhone 3G are already selling well in the short time since the phone was launched, such as this crossword puzzle game by Eliza Block. Interestingly, Eliza developed that game while working on it part time :)

Vasudev Ram

August 7th, 2008

The Well-Grounded Rubyist is a forthcoming book by David Black, about the Ruby programming language, covering Ruby 1.9. The publisher is Manning.

It's likely to be a good Ruby book - here's why I think so.

David Black also earlier wrote the book Ruby for Rails which is popular and sold well. I own a copy of it - thought it was quite good. I recommend it (as one good Ruby book, not the only one), to anyone who asks me for suggestions for Ruby books, even for Ruby on Rails development, because:

a) there is a popular misconception that you can work well with Rails without knowing Ruby well - which is simply wrong - Rails IS Ruby - Rails is a web application development framework written in Ruby - so if you want to debug or just view the Rails source code (sometimes you need to do that to figure out what's wrong in your Rails app), you need to know Ruby quite well, and more important, to even do any programming in Rails, you basically have to program in Ruby;

b) Ruby for Rails is a good book explaining both general topics about Ruby, that are independent of Rails, as well as specific topics that show how to use Ruby for Rails development.

Of interest: the foreword to the Ruby on Rails book by David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of Ruby on Rails.

Related links:

An interview of David Black on InfoQ.com

David Black's Ruby and Ruby on Rails consulting and training company, Ruby Power and Light

A review of the Ruby for Rails book on Vitamin, a popular web development portal.

Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises

August 3rd, 2008

Update: I read somewhere that the Gmail team uses some of these tools.

Came across some of these recently - a few tools that are useful for web development / HTTP and network debugging:

Wireshark (formerly called Ethereal).

It's a packet sniffer computer application - it shows you the content of network packets in the network traffic you want to monitor, for example, incoming and outgoing HTTP traffic (a.k.a. HTTP requests and responses) of your web application.

From the Wireshark site:

"Wireshark is an award-winning network protocol analyzer developed by an international team of networking experts."

I've used Wireshark a bit myself while debugging network traffic of a web application - it's very powerful and can do a lot of things to help debug network traffic at different levels of the network stack (TCP/IP stack), such as HTTP, IP, etc.


From the HTTPWatch site:

"HttpWatch is an HTTP viewer and debugger that integrates with Internet Explorer to provide seamless HTTP and HTTPS monitoring without leaving the browser window."


From the Fiddler site:

"Fiddler is a HTTP Debugging Proxy which logs all HTTP traffic between your computer and the Internet. Fiddler allows you to inspect all HTTP Traffic, set breakpoints, and "fiddle" with incoming or outgoing data. Fiddler includes a powerful event-based scripting subsystem, and can be extended using any .NET language.

Fiddler is freeware and can debug traffic from virtually any application, including Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and thousands more."

Vasudev Ram

August 2nd, 2008

Balsamiq, a software product startup, has released a product called Mockups for Desktop, and also related products (as plugins) for some wiki and other web software (Confluence, JIRA and Twiki).

The products allow you to create software mockups in minutes, and iterate over them with your team.

Balsamiq is a company run by Giacomo Guilizzoni (people call him Peldi).

(*) It actually works for any organization or person, not just for startups :-)

The products have received many good testimonials.

Also, Peldi is offering a free license of Mockups to anyone who either:

- is an open source developer (I got a free license from him for Mockups for Desktop by this route)

- or who is a blogger and writes a blog post about his products.

Since I haven't had a chance to take Mockups for a test drive yet, I'm not writing anything about the features here right now. But since there are many good reviews for the product, and also he has had good sales of them, you may want to check the product out. It also has a free trial during which there are some limitations in the features, like not being able to save files created with it. Those limitations go away when you get a license for it.

Once I try out Mockups, I'll blog more about it.

Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises
Did you ever wish you could start a magazine of your own? on any topic - in some area where you have skills or knowledge, on a personal hobby area? Or on any topic at all?

Now you can - all you need to be able to do is to create a PDF of the content.

MagCloud.com is a cool new startup by Hewlett-Packard that enables you to publish your own magazine.

Anyone can create a MagCloud reader/subscriber account. This type of account only allows you to view previews of magazines on the site, and to subscribe to magazines (which are delivered to you by post).

You need a MagCloud publisher account to create magazines. Publisher accounts are by invitation as of now, but anyone can apply. All you have to do is upload a PDF of your magazine to their site. The rest - printing, mailing, subscription management - is taken care of by them. (At present they only deliver to U.S. locations, but are planning to ship to other areas too.)

Magazines are printed and posted to you by MagCloud. They use their own HP  Indigo printers to Print On Demand (POD).

They have some stipulations about the way your PDF should be created:

- One is using high resolution images, of 300 dpi (dots per inch).

- Another is that you have to use a specific size of "bleed" - a printing technical term - its something like margins around the edges of the content - in your PDF.

At the least, Adobe InDesign and Scribus (a free and open source desktop publishing software that can output to PDF) are supported as software to create PDFs. Other software may work too.

And, if your magazine is text-only, you may find my xtopdf toolkit for PDF creation, which is free software, to be one of the quickest and easiest ways of creating a PDF for your magazine (at least if you are a little computer-savvy and can use a command-line - you don't have to be a programmer).

All you need in order to use xtopdf is Python and the open source version of the ReportLab toolkit (version 1.17 or higher, but use the 1.x series, as xtopdf is not yet tested with the 2.x series of ReportLab).

Download Python from here (version 2.2 or higher).

Here is a guide to installing and using xtopdf on Windows. xtopdf works well on Linux too (in fact it was developed on Linux, and only later tested on Windows). Basically, all you have to do, on either Windows or Linux, is these steps (in brief):

- Install Python if not installed already
- Install the ReportLab toolkit; follow the instructions given in its README or INSTALL or similarly-named file to see how to install it, and to make it visible to Python.
- Install xtopdf (see its README file for how).

Then you can try out the individual programs that come with xtopdf (such as PDFBook.py mentioned below).

xtopdf even comes with a program (written using its own API), to create simple PDF books - look for the program called PDFBook.py in the xtopdf download .zip or .tar.gz file. PDFBook.py lets you create a PDF book from a set of text files, each of which could represent one chapter of the book (though it is not a restriction that each separate file should represent one chapter). So you could use it to create a PDF for your magazine for MagCloud, that consists of a set of text files, where each file contains an article created by one contributor. As long as you can ensure that all their articles follow the same layout decided by you, the end result will look consistent.

Based on my initial interaction with MagCloud, they seem to be quite enthusiastic and responsive to potential issues or questions of users. For example, some initial questions that I had were answered quite quickly.

Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises

July 26th, 2008

Yes, it's true:

Microsoft is now a Platinum Sponsor of the Apache Software Foundation.

Sam Ramji of Port 25 (*) announced the sponsorship at OSCON 2008, the O'Reilly Open Source Convention 2008.

The announcement is worth reading ...

Port 25 is "home to the open source community at Microsoft", as per the site. I had blogged about Port 25 quite a while ago, soon after it had first started.

(*) The name Port 25 is a play on words ( or rather, numbers :-); it is the number of the TCP/IP port used for Internet email (SMTP email).

UPDATE: Here are a couple of other articles about this news:

from The Register

from NetworkWorld.com

- Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises

June 1st, 2008


Great logo :)

Scaling (or the lack of it) is one of the most commonly cited potential issues with Ruby (and hence with Ruby on Rails, which has otherwise gained a huge amount of traction in the industry as a rapid web app development framework).

So this news about MagLev, a new Ruby VM that's supposed to be very fast, is of definite interest.

Saw this news on Antonio Cangiano's blog.

It's a new Ruby VM from Gemstone, an enterprise software company that has been around for a while and already has some other enterprise products.

The Gemstone executive team seems to have a good background.

Obie Fernandez, a well-known Ruby developer, thinks its big news. Here's what he has to say about it.

The speed improvements mentioned for MagLev over the standard Ruby interpreter, MRI (Matz's Ruby Interpreter) are claimed to be of the order of 8x to 60x.

It has "an object persistence model that can hold up to 17 Petabytes (17 Million Gigabytes)" of data.

An interesting point about it, is that it may bypass the relational model and hence the well-known object-relational impedance mismatch, to overcome which, ORM (Object-Relational Mapping) software such as ActiveRecord (used in Ruby on Rails) and many others have been developed, for various languages.

Which would also mean, probably, no SQL can be used. Instead you'd probably have to use their proprietary object-persistence API's that can let you read and write data between memory and persistent storage.

A couple of potential cons, at least as of now:

- MagLev's implementation of the Ruby language is not complete, as per Antonio's post.

- It's not going to be either fully open source (though parts of it might be), or free (except maybe in a limited version).

- Another point some bloggers have mentioned that using it would mean dependence on a single vendor, Gemstone.

Whatever the case may be, it should be interesting to see how it turns out, and whether MagLev gains industry adoption.

Vasudev Ram

Pingdom come :-) *

Pingdom.com is a cool web-based web site monitoring tool that I saw some time ago. They provide multiple checks such as the overall time for your web page to load, the time for each object in the page (such as the main HTML page itself, each image, etc.) to load, and so on. An interesting and useful service, methinks ...

They also have a free Full Page Test that "loads a complete HTML page including all objects (images, CSS, JavaScripts, RSS, Flash and frames/iframes)". It mimics the way a page is loaded in a web browser, and gives a nice report on the load time of each object, and the overall load time.

Plus, there's another tool called Ping and TraceRoute test

On a related note, I had written a small network monitoring tool - I had called it pinger.sh :-), some time back when I was working at Infosys Technologies. Wrote it in a combination of C, sh and Perl, to run on UNIX. This was in response to a request from some Infosys system administrator friends of mine for such a tool. It was just a simple tool - all it did was ping a given server (host) or servers repeatedly at some given interval, parse (with regular expressions) the ping output, and then log the parsed output, but it was useful - they deployed it on many servers in the Infosys network and later told me that it was of help.

Though it was simple, one somewhat neat feature of it was that it would do the ping every n seconds, exactly on the second (where n was usually some number of minutes, like 5 or 10) - this being a request from the administrators, for better looking output to show to their bosses :-) - I had to spend a little time figuring out how to do that; ended up rolling my own solution to it, in C code (hence the need for C - all the rest was done in sh and Perl) - though I later learned that it might have been more easily doable using the gettimeofday UNIX system call. Good fun ...

I also published an article about pinger.sh in the internal Infosys knowledge management system, called the Body of Knowledge (BOK).

* The subject used for this post - "Pingdom come" - is a play on words - referring to the phrase "till kingdom come" - which I've read in a few places, but not sure what the exact allusion is to.

Their company blog's name is another nice play on words - Royal Pingdom :-)

Vasudev Ram

May 28th, 2008

Just saw this on programming.reddit.com - its from the ReadWriteWeb site:

New York Times API coming


' The New York Times newspaper is working on an API that aims to make the entire newspaper "programmable." '

' In addition to the API, New York Times CTO Marc Frons told mediabistro.com that internal developers at the paper will use the platform to organize structured data on the site. Following that, the paper plans to offer developer keys to the API allowing programmers to more easily mash up the paper's structured content -- reviews, event listings, recipes, etc. "The plan is definitely to open [the code] up," Frons said. "How far we don't know." '

Sounds interesting - this could open up many new possibilities. such as mashups, analysis, etc. Also seems to be in line with the trend of more and more things becoming open nowadays, spurred by the Internet, of course.

On a side note, but related, I've been of the opinion, for a while now - as I said here (see the comments on that post), that almost all software should be written to be programmable, right from the start. That is, the software, even if is is a large subsystem or a full application, should be written to be callable (by other code, as a subroutine).

Then write a caller routine to call that subsystem, full app, or smaller module, whatever it is. Though there are bound to be counter-arguments to this (mainly, that it'll take more time), there are clear benefits - the additional code will usually only take a little time, and the advantages to be gained are:

- the code can much more easily be reused for other purposes (and anyone who's being programming for more than a short time knows that most software gets used for other purposes, and lives longer than you expect (if its any good at all, that is)

- the code can more easily be called from a test harness for testing purposes

- Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises

May 22nd, 2008

This is recent - Microsoft reportedly proposes to give back some money to users who search via its sites, going by the CPA model (Click Per Action), i.e. after they actually end up buying something via clicking on one of the ads they get to see during the search.

There's been a wide range of reactions to this move, on the Net, from quite negative to positive. Here are some:

Alley Insider

Search Engine Land and Search Engine Land again

CNet News.com


Forbes.com's Wendy Tanaka

TechCrunch's latest post on it - they had a few before - see the links in above post.

As this Bob Marley song goes (video below), "time alone will tell" whether it's a good move or not ...

Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises

May 18th, 2008

I just blogged here (on my Tumblelog *) about Asus planning to release 1 million Linux-based motherboards a month with the "instant-booting" Splashtop Linux distribution embedded in those motherboards. (BTW, Asus calls Splashtop "Express Gate".)

The Splashtop site.

This post here has more about that news.

Splashtop is by a company called DeviceVM. (They have a URL but it seems to redirect back to the Splashtop site.)

The management seems to have a good background and they're funded to about $20 million by multiple venture capitalists:

"In August 2006, DeviceVM raised more than $10 million in a Series A, backed by Storm Ventures, DFJ Dragon Fund, Tim Draper, Asus, iD Innovation (started by Acer founder Stan Shih), Harbinger Ventures (started by Mitac-Synnex Group Chairman Matthew Miau), and strategic angel investors affiliated with major PC manufacturers (Intel, Lenovo, HP, eMachines / Gateway, Packard Bell, Foxconn, Quanta, Compal, etc.) In October 2007, DeviceVM raised additional $10 million, with existing investors, as well as new strategic investors from HTC, Merus Capital, Presidio(Sumitomo) and WR Hambrecht."

Their board of advisors has some well-known people, like:

Larry Augustin – former CEO of VA Linux (SourceForge / Slashdot / Linux.com)

Gokul Rajaram – former Director of Product Management for Google AdSense

Salman Ullah – former Vice President of Corporate Development at Google

Haven't seen any PC's yet with the Splashtop-enabled motherboards. But if it works as advertised (they claim it boots in 5 seconds or less), I'd say it would definitely be a useful and innovative product, and I'll check it out and consider buying a PC with it, once available.

[ BTW, I recently started blogging more frequently on my Tumblelog. The plan is to make frequent short posts there, and continue making regular posts on this LiveJournal blog (jugad.livejournal.com). Sometimes I may start with a short post on some topic on my Tumblelog, and follow it up (as in this case) with a more detailed, longer post here, on the same topic, if I feel it makes sense.

My Tumblelog is here and its RSS feed is here. ]

Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises
What connection can there be between a waterfall and OpenOffice.org?
There is one ...

GullFoss is Europe's largest waterfall, in Iceland.

Click image below for bigger view
Tip: then click on the resulting image again :) (your browser should support it, though), and make sure to scroll around both vertically and horizontally to see the full picture ...

GullFoss is also the name of the OpenOffice.org Engineering team at Sun.

They recently released ODFDOM.


"ODFDOM is the new opensource (LGPLv3), multi-layered, lightweight, OpenDocument centric API with a Java 5 reference implementation."

[ It's the successor of Odf4j.

The odf4j project's objective is to provide an API for reading, writing and manipulating ODF documents directly in Java applications.

ODFDOM seems worth checking out ...

Vasudev Ram

May 17th, 2008

This is a big deal all right.

Here's the official announcement by HP on May 13, 2008:

HP to Acquire EDS for $13.9 Billion

Related links about the deal:

Ostatic.com open source people on the deal, and how it may relate to open source

[ OStatic.com is a member site of the Giga Omni Media Network. Here's what they (the people at OStatic.com) think about open source:

After decades of collective experience writing and consuming software, we remain excited by the power and liberation that Open Source Software provides. It harnesses the wisdom of brilliant minds and unleashes the creativity of individuals like never before. We agree with the pundits who believe that the Open Source Software movement is the single most disruptive trend in the $750B IT software and services industry since the emergence of the Internet."


Vinnie Mirchandani of Deal Architect on the deal

Om Malik of GigaOm on the deal

Some Indian perspective:

The Times of India on the deal

The Financial Express on the deal

CIOL on the deal

Let's see how this one works out ...

Maybe more comments later as things evolve.

Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises

April 8th, 2008

For some developers, this could be quite big news ...

First saw it on TechCrunch:


"... Google App Engine, an ambitious new project that offers a full-stack, hosted, automatically scalable web application platform consisting of Python application servers, BigTable database access and GFS data store service ..."

Google App Engine

According to Mike Arrington, the Google App Engine site is down till it launches.

See the Google Blogoscoped post about it for some more information ...

Vasudev Ram

February 2nd, 2008

First saw this earlier today on TechCrunch and Mashable.

Microsoft offers to buy Yahoo! for 44.6 billion dollars

First TechCrunch post about it.

First Mashable post about it.

Of course the entire blogosphere and (netosphere:-) is buzzing about it.

Apart from the predictable positive and negative reactions, the anti-trust and suchlike regulators in the U.S. and Europe are going to examine this potential deal closely, according to at least one report.

This one should be really interesting, as it has the potential to affect almost all of us Net users for better or worse, depending on how things turn out. That is, if the deal does go through at all, of course - it's not a given that it will.

So if I come across any interesting news about this event, I'll post about it here.

Anyway, for a start, here is Sramana Mitra's first post on this news".

Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises

January 29th, 2008

Saw this recently.

Nokia to acquire Trolltech

This BusinessWeek article about it (as well as some of the other Net sites that reported this news), says that the acquisition for $153 million.

Don't have much of an idea about the pros and cons of this acquisition, but the author of the BusinessWeek article above seems to think its a good move by Nokia.

Trolltech seems to be a good company - I had blogged about one of their main products, Qt, some time back, and had tried it out some. It's very good. Qt is considered by many to be a very good cross-platform GUI toolkit (for C++, now also has Java support via Jambi), and a good example of a well-designed object-oriented library. They also have another similar product for mobile devices, Qtopia, which was developed after, and based a lot upon, Qt, and Nokia is probably acquiring Trolltech because of both products and the synergy between them (because of the common codebase and probably similar API's, its likely that Qt apps can easily be ported to Qtopia and vice versa, which will make for cost savings and faster development time).

Some of the articles about this Nokia acquisition mention that Google Earth and the Skype client, among other products, are developed using Qt. I think I read somewhere that Adobe Photoshop is also developed using Qt.

Vasudev Ram

January 17th, 2008

First saw this last night on TechCrunch. By now the news has probably spread all over the Net :)

Yes, its true - Sun is buying MySQL for $1 billion.

Here's the official post about it from Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz.

As lots of others have commented, including of course, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch and Sramana Mitra, among others, this is good news for customers in general and the open source movement in particular, and looks like a good fit for both companies.

My first reaction (confirmed a few hours later by reading the details in Jonathan's post above) were that Sun and MySQL can now optimize Solaris and the MySQL database to work for better performance, etc. - just as Oracle had done with Linux, starting a few years ago (though there was no acquisition involved there). Leveraging things like ZFS can probably improve MySQL response, scalability, etc. Jonathan's post mentions quite a few other ways in which he thinks all stakeholders (not just Sun, MySQL, and their customers, but also Sun's OEM partners) will benefit. Of course it depends on how well they execute on the intended goals.

[ Make sure to read the post about "OEM partners" above - a pretty interesting one by Jonathan again. I love this sentence of his from that post:

"As I said to a journalist today after the announcement, vendors that don't offer choice can only serve customers that don't want choice... while IBM and Sun can serve the rest."


Vasudev Ram

P.S. The other news in Sramana's post above (titled "Today's Two Big Acquisitions"), is about
Oracle acquiring BEA Systems for $8.5 billion - which, though a much bigger sum, and may well be similarly synergistic, is not potentially as game-changing as the Sun acquisition, at least IMO ...
The stuff below may not work - work in progress ...

Testing newly created account:


Vasudev Ram

January 15th, 2008

Seen on Mashable

Metaweb Gets $42 Million; There’s Hope Yet For Semantic Web

From their site: Freebase is an open, shared database of the world's knowledge.

$42 million is a somewhat large amount - may be a good sign for MetaWeb and FreeBase that the investors are putting in that much. (For comparison, IIRC, Google got $25 million in their first round of funding - from KPCB and Sequioa, two of Silicon Valley's top venture capital firms, and they were a very hot startup then. But obviously, this doesn't necessarily mean that MetaWeb is going to become as big and successful as Google :).

I read about that (Google's funding) in the book The Google Story which I recently finished reading - a pretty interesting book, all about Google's start and subsequent growth).

Might blog a bit about that book later, commenting on some of the points that particularly interested me.

I had come across FreeBase a while ago, and signed up. (Anyone can sign up to collaborate on adding information to FreeBase.)
Entered a few items into it. Should be interesting to see how it evolves over time, and how useful an information resource it becomes. It's value will depend a lot upon inputs by users, so if you're interested in seeing it become more useful, contribute (unbiased) information to it, and spread the word ...

Vasudev Ram

December 31st, 2007

GNU PDF is good news!

Saw about this a few days ago ...

GNU PDF - a High-priority project of the FSF

From the main page:

The goal of the GNU PDF project is to develop and provide a free, high-quality, complete and portable set of libraries and programs to manage the PDF file format, and associated technologies.

Adobe's page about PDF

Excerpt from above page:

"Invented by Adobe Systems and perfected over 15 years, Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) lets you capture and view robust information—from any application, on any computer system—and share it with anyone around the world. Individuals, businesses, and government agencies everywhere trust and rely on Adobe® PDF to communicate their ideas and vision."

About Adobe

Wikipedia entry for Portable Document Format

Exciting days ahead, and I'm gonna be a part of the action.

I'll be writing a few more posts about these developments in the coming days, so stay tuned if they interest you.

Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises

December 26th, 2007

Interesting-looking company/product/site ... for creating web mashups.

Kapow Technologies

They claim to be "one of the fastest-growing software firms in the world" with many customers, including Global 2000 companies and Web 2.0 startups.


openkapow looks like a site by them for developers, where anyone can sign up to create mashups using their software.

Vasudev Ram

December 24th, 2007

Another good article seen on programming.reddit.com:


"... open-source tool based at the University of Washington, won first prize in the scientific software division of Les Trophées du Libre, an international competition for free software."

[ I googled for Les Trophées du Libre (site must be in French, by the name) and found this English version of the site as well. ]

"'I think we can be better than the commercial versions,' he said. 'I really want it to be the best mathematical software in the world.'

"Sage research and student support is made possible by grants from the National Science Foundation. The Sage meetings are supported by various mathematical associations. The project has also received several thousand dollars in private donations. "

Free software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics

Vasudev Ram
A lot of people would have heard of the famous quote by Alan Kay:

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."

Came across ( via programming.reddit.com ) the speech (at the Stanford Computer Forum) in which he said that:

Predicting The Future

Great speech ... check it out ...

Vasudev Ram

December 23rd, 2007

"PDF is everywhere",

says Joshua Marinacci of Sun Microsystems on his blog.

Joshua is on the Swing team at Sun; he recently co-authored O'Reilly's Swing Hacks.

Flying Saucer looks cool

He also leads Flying Saucer, a very interesting looking project for PDF generation. Flying Saucer is a Java library that lets you generate PDF from XHTML and CSS inputs. I'm planning to check it out for possible use in my xtopdf toolkit. I took a look at the code for the Flying Saucer examples, its quite small for what it does - looks like a well-written library.

Vasudev Ram

AddThis.com looks hot

Got to know about it recently and signed up.


Their Alexa and Technorati ranks look high (as per the graphs on their site).

Rohit Bhargava, VP of Interactive Marketing at Ogilvy PR Worldwide, recommends AddThis (again, according to the AddThis site).

I signed up. They have cool widgets that you can put on:

1) a web page (the bookmark widget)

2) a blog (the feed widget)

Check out the bottom of the home page of my site - DancingBison.com - for an example of the bookmark widget.

Vasudev Ram

December 19th, 2007

My TechDirt Insight Community badges - test post.


Vasudev Ram - Techdirt Insight Community Expert


Vasudev Ram - Techdirt Insight Community Expert

Vasudev Ram
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