Saturday, September 29, 2007

Review: Shift Linux 0.5 - Neowin's Linux

I've been a linux user for 10+ years and have contributed a lot of code and bug reports to different distros (distributions) over time. Just lately, I heard about a new distro over at called ShiftLinux. It is a community effort from Neowin users to create a Linux distribution... And as soon as I heard, I wondered why another distribution? But soon realized, more people coming to the Linux world, would mean a better future for Linux.

From the Shift Linux website:
Neowin's Shift Linux is designed to give the user an experience of being part of the Neowin community as well as having a simple, easy-to-use Live CD that can be installed to your hard drive, if you enjoy the way our distribution works. Shift is a free, GPL-based Linux distribution that can be freely distributed or modified. There are no restrictions with Shift.
Shift Linux 0.5 (RC-2) includes three fully branded versions: KDE, Gnome, and Flux, all Live CDs. Included in this version are most of the most popular packages to include wireless support and a desktop installer. In addition, we have newly created packages such as:

  1. k3b (All Versions)
  2. Rhythmbox (All versions)
  3. Bluetooth Support (All versions)
  4. HP Printer Drivers (All versions)
  5. Power management and laptop detection (All versions)
  6. NTFS Read/Write support (All versions)
  7. Envy (All versions)
  8. New branding!
  9. Extremely fast...You'll forget it's a CD in 5 minutes.

Based on Morphix Linux, Shift is Debian based and I decided to try the latest ShiftLinux 0.5 RC2. Most stuff are going to be the same between this one and 0.5 Final to be released on 10th Nov,2007. I prefer to use KDE, and hence got the KDE version. The distro can be downloaded from Neowin's server or via Bittorrent. I used Bittorrent to download but to my dissapointment, found only 2 seeds. I was expecting a few more seeds (it's a yr old, so may be the initial excitement is over). But the download was pretty fast.

List of apps that non-KDE:
  1. Office: Gnumeric Spreadsheet, AbiWord Word Processor
  2. Multimedia: Audacity, Rhythmbox, VLC Player, XMMS, Xine
  3. Internet: Gaim Messenger, Icedove, Iceweasel, XChat
  4. Graphics: GIMP, Kooka Scan & OCR, XSane, xpdf
  5. Others: Python 2.4, Synaptic, Apt. For people with graphic cards, ShiftLinux uses Ubuntu's Envy Script for ATI and nVidia Graphics Driver.
Burned a CD and booted... Here is what the branding looks like (click on the images to see a larger version)

Shift Linux's Boot ScreenShift Linux Desktop
It boots to a nice looking screen and a ShiftLinux wallpaper. May be some info on those "2 arrows" from the logo would have been great since we aren't very familiar with this distro!! ShiftLinux uses a truly free, Firefox modified, IceWeasel browser. Uses Icedove as the mail client. Thus, ShiftLinux truly adheres to the "completely free" ideology of Debian!!

Shift Linux's BrowserShift Linux's HDD Installer
The LiveCD for ShiftLinux is excellent. Its Fast, Light & Zippy, Good Looking. Its quite fast and really doesn't feel like a LiveCD when running. Internet connection was working fine and so was my HP printer. But it seems so much like Morphix and I couldn't stop asking myself, is it Morphix-2 or ShiftLinux. The developers from Neowin have really not changed much...

Below you can see, streaming from another machine to VLC, running from ShiftLinux LiveCD... it was smooth, not a single stutter!! Happy with the LiveCD's performance, I thought to try the HDD install. There is a nice shortcut on the desktop and is simple for even newbies. Not much configuration to do other than the partitioner GUI. 1682Mb total on HDD. After the copying is completed, I created user accounts which was Step 6. But after that, it wouldn't show step 7 and the installer closes on its own. Tried booting from the HDD, but nothing happens. The HDD install needs some more work... ShiftLinux is still under heavy development and needs a lot of work, but the LiveCD rocks!!

Shift Linux's HDD File CopyShift Linux's VLC from Streaming


Simplicity and a great LiveCD are best points of ShiftLinux. But more than a year later, is it what the developers were expecting? Isn't yet comparable to other distros, but shows promise. May be a DVD-version will be released sometime like other distros. Another question comes to mind, if using a more popular PCLinuxOS would have been better compared to Morphix?

Good Points:
Fast, Easy and Neowin. Community Developed. LiveCD+Installable.
Could be improved: Better branding, Integration, Few Bug Fixes, HDD installer kept crashing, Some more Wallpapers, Themes, Icons related to neowin.

PS: is not a windows-user community like other reviewers have mentioned here. Users on the forum are highly technical, friendly and fun. The users are using Mac, Windows, Linux etc. and come from varied background.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Get An Email Address That Reflects Your Personality

Just found this interesting site from Microsoft which has a lot of interesting domain names to the email address they provide. You can have your city name (,, etc). Different star names, Different Personalities, Your Likes, and a lot more!! You even get funny stuff like pocketmaar, clickass...

If you like interesting email address, then this one's for you. Go to and get an email address to showoff!!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Free Calling On iPhone Without Paying AT&T

iPhone was launched with AT&T and Apple made a promise that iPhone won't work on any other operator's network. But only a week later, people were using the iPhone on any cellular network across the globe. This phenomenon was called iPhone Unlocking!! I'm sure AT&T was tearing its hair off, but now there is more to be angry about.

Apple also didn't allow any other application to be installed on the iPhone. Apple warns that the warranties will be void on the iPhone, if any other 3rd party softwares are installed on the iPhone or if its been unlocked!! So Apple has tried its best to warn the users and keep AT&T happy, but today we have VoIP software maker, Truphone (which advertises itself as a Nokia VoIP app maker) demo'ed their application on an iPhone. You can watch a video of this here.

This means that its even more bad news for AT&T. Atleast they was expecting people who were not unlocking the iPhone to use their network and pay for the airtime charges. But now it seems that people will use the VoIP and just pay for the data services or even better use the office WiFi connections for free!! So, this app is really a pain for AT&T, but is good news for those iPhone owners who are scared of unlocking. Is it only the beginning of the end of the deal with AT&T, or does Apple do a firmware upgrade and change the runtime environment to stop those VoIP apps?? Do we in the near future see Skype for iPhone or YahooVoice Chat on iPhone?? It really isn't very tough to make a 1-1 voice chat software these days and I guided some under-grad students on a low-bandwidth VoIP project!! So may be you can make one for yourself and give people free calling on the iPhone!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Windows Server 2008 Released For Public Testing

I have been testing Windows Server 2008 for a long time now and have given quite a bit of feedback on that till date. After 10-12 months of testing, Microsoft's latest server operating system, Windows Server 2008 was released today for general public evaluation.

Windows Server 2008 was earlier known as Longhorn and is built on the same core as the desktop version, Windows Vista. Windows Server 2008 is a major upgrade to the server-line of operating system from Microsoft and comes nearly 4 years after the previous installment called Windows Server 2003.

You can go read, the press release here. Or if you don't like the PR blabber, then go evaluate the download from here.

Some of the interesting stuff from Windows Server 2008 are:
1.) Virtualization
2.) IIS 7.0
3.) PowerShell
4.) Network Access Protection
5.) Newer Clustering Features

Microsoft calls this release as Release Candidate 0 (RC0) and will have 2 other release candidates available for public testing before the final release on 27th Feb, 2008

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Future For Amit Paul - Indian Idol

Since I've got the highest comments on a post about Amit Paul, I thought let me forget the technical discussion for this another post...

Amit Paul didn't win the Indian Idol 3 ... So what?? Just got hot news from Amit's side that he's coming to Mumbai. Today at 3 pm, Amit along with his family came to Mumbai with the 4 judges of the Indian Idol. A lot of audience who watch the show know that Amit was the favorite of the judges. Amit will be signing playback for 4 films with Javed Akhtar and Anu Malik and others. So cheerup!! Amit will be going to Shillong, his hometown in Meghalaya in 4 days. He'll be performing there one more time for all his supporters.

In Mumbai, he's been gifted a flat and has been offered Rs.10 crore contract by a few people of the music industry. So we all know that Amit will be back!! Another observation that I made was that Amit was gifted the Maruti SX4, eventhough he did not win! So he's got a lot of people who love his voice!!

Personally, India has a lot of talent and enough audience for each talent. So let's support whomever you love and enjoy good music!!

Peek Into What's Cooking At Google Research

Before anyone asks me, let me tell you that I'm not working for Google, nor am I a Google PR!! This series of posts on Google started after I got the comment about Google's history and how Google got its name. This post is to give you an idea about what are the different research going on in Google. I wrote last time that Google has slowed down on innovation. This may be true, but with Google's growing employee size, the people who are doign research after joining Google has also increased.

Few topics that I found interesting taking place at Google: (You can read the full list here):
  • Ad Hoc Distributed Simulations, Richard Fujimoto, Michael Hunter, Jason Sirichoke, Mahesh Palekar, Hoe Kim, Wonhu Suh, 21st International Workshop on Principles of Advanced and Distributed Simulation (PADS'07), 2007, pp. 15-24.

There are many more research papers which Google employees have recent in 2007. Infact in 2007, 125 publications were written, whereas in 2006, 113 were written. Some other popular research at Google on Data Management, that is used by Google in Google Maps, Gmail are Chubby, Google File System, MapReduce and BigTable.

If you like to know stuff in A/V, you can also watch videos on Tech Talk at Google Here.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Has Google Slowed Down ?

Google has been the leader in internet innovation from the day it was formed. Even the worst critics (can you believe it??) of Google would agree that the internet would not be the same without Google. Infact "google" became the synonym for search in dictionaries. People have written manuscripts on Google. Enough articles in newspapers, magazines and journals to fill an entire building. "The Google Story", is one of the bestseller entrepreneur books on the shelf. According to Fortune magazine, Google is the #1 company to work for. Google is known for a lot of other things, and I really don't wanna write another epic on the big 'G'

But as the years go by, and the company grows big, and it buys a lot of other companies, Google has today become titanic of sorts. It has the best of everything!! Now what next?? That's the question in everyone's mind! Google grew so fast, that today we have to ask if it can grow and innovate even further and at the same rate?

Analysis through Google Labs:

In my last post, I looked into Google Labs for their transliteration software. A thing of notice here was that the number of projects that google is showing off has decreased. In 2006, Google has 9 projects, where as till now in 2007 Google has just 1 project. This may be completely incorrect analysis because google has a lot more products now that are out of beta, and new innovation is being done in those and hence don't find mention on the Labs webpage. Also, Google has Labs from different places like Google Labs India. Innovations in Blogger, YouTube, Analytics, Orkut etc, which were google buys are not shown in Google Labs. Even Google's biggest money-making machines, Adsense & AdWords have seen increased revenue and innovation which are not reflected in Labs.

Analysis through Google Trends:

So how do we compare? Lets look at another Google software called Google Trends. A picture speaks a thousand words, so here are the images comparing Google all-time and Google last 12 months: (click to see a larger version or go here and type your own trend)

A pretty steep slope for Google in all-time and decreased in the last 12 months. May be even Google Trends is an incorrect data source for analysis. I mean, who would search for Google on Google right?? You just use the great services from Google and enjoy life, right?

In reality, there could be various ways to look into the data I have presented and its may be a very incomplete picture of the whole thing. But then, as Google grows older obviously the innovations will decrease. I think even Google realizes this and hence they are buying so many companies to remain fresh and innovative.

Google Transliteration: Write Hindi In English

Yeah, you heard me right!! You can type English alphabets and get corresponding Hindi text. Its called transliteration and should not be mixed with translation. Translation in this case would mean, finding a Hindi word which has the same meaning as an English word, whereas transliteration means, finding a Hindi word which sounds like the English word. Go here if you wish to play (and work) with Google's Indic Transliteration Web Application.

Google released this application for Indians to play with about a month back, and I saw it about 2 days after launch. But a lot of people who use other indian language typing softwares, still don't know about it. I thought this post will help them, since I find this application extremely useful and use it quite often!! Congratulations & praise to Google for making this application. Its really not easy to make such an application, and it works nearly perfectly. And they gave it free!! Dont we all love google for their free stuff !!??

The good part about this application is that you can copy-paste the output to any html file. It really can't get any simpler than this. No copying fonts, no complex software, no clicking on an on-screen keyboard, just type and see the output. For me its a winner application and I see in my blogger account that Google is using the same application with blogger as well. Its a javascript that they are using to render into the textarea. So its simple to import into any other application Google wishes to.

PS: Does anyone know if you can use this javascript in your own webpage or application?? (With Google's permission obviously). I've tried the FAQ as well as had a hard time trying to understand the Google TOS.

Wimax May Not Be The Future Broadband For India

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology of India declared 2007 as the year of broadband internet and promised broadband access to majority of Indians. BSNL played a major role as a government company to fulfill this promise. It started 2Mbps plans at a value price and this led private players to become more competitive. But all this is history!!

India has cleared the spectrum for Wimax (read more on Wimax) and it seems India is banking on Wimax to reach its 20million target by 2010. But the problem is not in the technology for Wimax. Its an excellent long range and efficient wireless internet technology. It has coverage of 30miles from the tower and offers speed as much as ADSL modems provide.

The problem:
Broadband in India is very different from countries like US, U.K, Japan. In these countries, broadband access means unlimited downloads and faster access needed for video streaming and conferencing. But in India, unlimited data usage is something that's unavailable at higher speeds. No ISP provides unlimited access at speeds of 512Kbps at an acceptable price. There are night unlimited plans (8-10hrs), but then what about the day time?? Hathway's (a DOCSIS cable ISP) in Mumbai provides night unlimited at 512Kbps, but with a lot of users using this plan, speeds have dropped to less than 128Kbps during the night hours. Its been close to 2 months now that the speeds have dropped, so it seems unless someone sues Hathway for slow speeds, they are not going to buy some more bandwidth for its users.

Without unlimited data connection does broadband make sense?? Yes, it does for people who access in the internet for a short duration and want quick work done. But for the majority, the speed improvement means more work can be done. So any broadband connection should mean unlimited data usage atleast at 512Kbps speeds. If you don't think its required, try viewing 10 youtube videos per day, and you'll realize how much data access you need.

Even if Wimax is deployed by major ISPs, the biggest hinderance is going to be price and data usage. There are very less chances that Wimax will be cheaper in cities where already the ISPs have invested in wired networks. The major application for Wimax should be in places where wired network hasn't been laid down or where its costlier to maintain wired networks. But, for its success UNLIMITED DATA access is of utmost importance!!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Google Makes A Digg-like Service

Google has started a new service called "Sharing Stuff". Its just like a host of other internet bookmarking/website sharing sites like Digg,, Reddit etc... The site has a very basic look and is simple in its interface. Unlike Digg which is becoming a social networking site with its latest update, google's sharing is still just sharing!! Google provides a "javascript shareit", which can be dragged to a browser and when you click on that link, the current site which is open gets shared.

Neat, simple sharing. If you are into sharing your internet escapades with other people, this is something you'd want to look into. Go here and share your stuff!!

Intel Interactive Ads Are Fun

A lot of us have adBlock installed on our computers because we think ads are good and waste out bandwidth. But there's always a rose among the thorns, and Intel's Interactive Ads are something of that sorts. I have been looking at Intel's ads (not those stupid T.V ads) that are seen on different hardware sites. I have to say the ad makers have really done an amazing job with these ads!! If you haven't seen these interactive ads, then you really don't know what I'm talking of. May be a screenshot will help, but then playing with the real thing is something fun!!

The fun part of the ads are that they are interactive and in the screenshot you can see how that "agent" has caught my mouse (broke it, stamped it :(( when I tried to get close to the guarded Intel laptop. Other similar Intel ad campaigns that were present earlier had dogs in them, which would angrily bite the mouse if you brought it any closer to the Intel machines!! :-) I have seen a few interactive ads on the internet, but none of those were from big companies and nor were they as perfect graphically as these intel ads.

If you want to play with these ads, look at tech sites like , , Really an awesome job from the designers of these ads!! May be in the future we'll see many more interactive ads from other companies as well!!

Note: Remove the adBlocks if you wanna see those ads

Thursday, September 20, 2007

MPSC Website Defaced

The Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) which selects the best brains from Maharashtra for government jobs had their site defaced on the 18th Sep, 2007. The government of Maharashtra owns the website and hosts a lot of different content on it. Different government documents along with student results for new jobs and job posting are also hosted on this website.

The MPSC website: as of writing this post, is not working and was not reachable. Although the clean up work was done(by cleanup I mean, stopping access), it could not escape the hands of Google's cache. The smaller screenshot of the naughty work by the Saudi hackers is below. You can go bonkers by seeing a larger, clearer version from google's cache!!

The Maharashtra Government has recently been pushing a lot of e-governance, which means government officials are asked to leave their big paper books and get on the computer. This has resulted in a large number of people accessing computers for their daily work in government offices. The irony of the matter is that Mumbai, which is the state capital of Maharashtra boasts of having India's very powerful cyber cell, which looks to prevent cyber crime as well as book cyber criminals. But lately it has been only giving directives to cyber cafes how to monitor people on what they are doing!! Basically, they just want to easvesdrop on people's privacy. Instead of doing that, if they would have invested in basics of network security and better safegaurding of government servers, such incidents would not happen.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How Intel Got Its Name

Have a friend of mine who's attending the IDF and got some news on Intel history, that I thought I should write down. Intel is a very big brand in itself and the name is synonymous with desktop computing. We all know how popular their "Intel Inside" branding was. But just a small history on how Intel got its name Intel was revealed by the founder Gordon Moore at IDF 2007.
Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce left Fairchild Semiconductor, since Fairchild didn't believe in the future of integrated circuits as much as Noyce or Moore. So, when they started this new company, they named it Moore & Noyce. They did the paper work with this name for the first 8 weeks, but didn't think this name was catchy or it gave an idea about the company. Then, a while later Noyce's daughter, Penny Noyce suggest the name Intel (INtegrated ELectronics). This name was liked by both Noyce and Moore and they changed the name to Intel. And now, as we all know its the biggest manufacturer of x86 processors.

So now you know, how Intel got its name!! Some history lesson ha!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Indian Film Giant YashRaj Films To Use SilverLight

I recently noted in my other post, that Microsoft's SilverLight could become a real competitor to Flash, but only if it is widely installed on client machines. That shouldn't be much of a problem for Windows, since Microsoft could provide an automatic update or service pack part for installing the SilverLight CLR. But another thing that will determine its success is video quality, and it'll be only known to the general public when the first Expression Encoder is released.

Silverlight uses Windows Media Video which incorporates the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers’ VC-1 video standard. It can also incorporate DRM in the video, so that video cannot be distributed freely. These are probably the reasons why YashRaj Films, one of the biggest film banners of India will be moving to SilverLight on their website.

“We chose Silverlight as we wanted to deliver rich interactive applications for our viewers. It is an end-to-end solution that will enable us to reach multiple platforms,” said Anand Gurnani, Senior Manager, Internet and New Media, Yash Raj Films.

Wins like this from big film companies could help SilverLight become a real competitor to Flash Video (flv) used by YouTube as well as many other online video sites!!

Does It Make Sense To Take Gmail Offline?

About a week back, when I was working with an intern on a project which required AJAX in an Java application. I showed him a few sample codes on using GWT (Google Web Toolkit) and he left. About an hour later, he called me up and told me about Google Gears. Somehow I missed the news announcement on 30th May and had heard it for the first time from this intern. I downloaded it and installed it on windows machine and realized it was so much like GWT, but without Java and a lot simpler. Google Gears was handling the database and AJAX easily, while doing it in my Java app required GWT and JDBC. Google Gears was slightly slower in performance, but then was simpler to implement. I know that GWT is more for apps and Gears is for webapps, but I really compared it that way since that was my first look at Gears. After that I checked out Google Reader, a nice app from google that uses Google Gears and I was pretty excited about this API!!

The next thing I was doing was sending emails to other interns from that project. While doing that I read few discussions, how gmail could be used offline and read this today. I think it'll be pretty easy for google to port gmail using Google Gears and will be the next step from the Gmail developers. We know that everyone uses an email client at work or home to send/receive emails. But then with broadband getting popular and people connected 24hrs to the internet, how much does an offline email app be a requirement. I don't understand why I use Outlook to send emails, when I could do everything with gmail open in a browser window all the time. The reason I do it is that my work email is not a gmail account and everyone at office uses the office domain email. I guess a lot of Outlook users use it only for sending/receiving the company email. So I really don't think it makes much sense to have Gmail Offline. But yes, I also need to think about dialup users, who can have their phone lines connected all the time.

The main killer application I think for Google Gears are Mobile Devices or "Really Thin Clients". You could have web applications like Sales CRM, Survey Systems, Poll Agents etc. that run on mobile phones / Thin Clints where network access is unavailable, and whenever a network is available it synchronizes with the server and updates the changes. I think I'm gonna try to implement my Mobile Reminder Application as a pilot using Google Gears now and see the results for myself!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Two Solutions To Save Ram Setu

Recently I have read comments here and here regarding the debate on Ram Setu or Adam's Bridge. Historians from all around the world are debating now, if the Ram Setu is a man-made (ape-made) structure or has it been naturally made. Whatever it may be, man-made or otherwise, it has sentiments of hindus and Indian culture intervowen with it. Ramayan is a prevalent story (history) across not only India, but across countries like Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, SriLanka and many other countries from South-East Asia. So, it is never a good idea to question someone's faith and especially not when you have so many people in a belief.

People who do not know what the Sethusamudaram Project that the government has proposed is, this explanation is for them. Currently ships traveling from the East coast of India to the West Coast have to travel across Srilanka (see figure below). The Government of Tamil Nadu and the Government of India proposes a new route which will decrease the travel time by 10-30 hrs. For this the ocean has to be dredged and the total cost of the project is Rs 2,427. So there's a development issue to it as well. The project will save on the costs of travel as well as improve navigation. So the big issue today is should faith/belief/religion come in between progress/technological development??


My idea is that we should find an in-between solution to the problem. Most of the debate happening around the world is not resulting in a solution. So, I thought how about giving out 2 solutions that can be implemented in this case.

The First Solution (Easiest and Cheapest):
We already have a land bridge between Pamban island which is used by cars to travel from Ramanathapuram to Rameshwaram. The height of this bridge should be increased, so that ships can travel from below this bridge. Additional dredging needs to be done across the sea bed, but it would be cheaper and easier compared to dredging the whole area near the Ram Setu.(see figure below). There are few examples around the world where such things have been done before, so shouldn't be a technical problem.


The Second Solution: (An Engineering feat to make India Proud)

India could build a canal bridge, something like done in Germany at Wasserstrassenkreuz. India has to build a similar bridge over the Ram Setu and it could be a great engineering feat. It would be a little costly, but India could take toll on the travel of ships for the maintenance of this bridge. It will be great achievement if India could pull this one off. The bridge can be 3km long since the width of the Ram Setu is less than a few hundred meters. The sea surface is not very deep and hence building such a thing will be easy. The Panama Canal and Suez Canal's architecture for water logging could be used to fill the bridge with water. (View the bridge here)

I have just proposed 2 solutions to this issue. There are many more solutions to the problem. Please leave your comments if you have any other solutions. Also, it would make many Indians happy if politicians could provide solutions rather than make noise on the issue.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Amit Paul Wins Indian Idol 3

Update 2: 24th Sep, 2007 ==> The Future For Amit Paul. Read here the story about update on what's he doing after Indian Idol

Update: 23rd Sep, 2007 23:14hrs ==> Prashant Tamang is actually declared the Indian Idol.

Amit Paul wins Indian Idol 3!! Yeah, so all fans start dancing!!... After some hard dancing, a few tired individuals come to me and ask, the results aren't out yet, so why r we dancing??... how do you know Amit wins??.. and a few readers ask, what's Indian Idol doing at a Tech Blog!!??

For those who don't know what's the Indian Idol ==> Indian Idol is a remake of American Idol for Indian participants and Indian audience, with a similar format and voting techniques. And the point of voting brings us to technology. Voting to Indian Idol requires you to either send SMS, Call phone numbers, Go to their website!! All of these voting techniques use technology. It's an easy and great way to connect to your audience, but not the most reliable way to get votes!! And when I say unreliable, believe me, the Indian Idol 3 voting system is a complete junk (Don't ask what I mean by junk, do some R&D to find out) !! Check Indian Idol voting site and you'll know what I mean. They supposedly charge Rs.2/- per vote, but I haven't paid a single penny till now!! Think about the SMS system. SMS is basically a technology of sending text messages and there are different ways to send it. Not just from phones, but also other ways. Indian Idol may have restricted web SMS, but then still there are numerous ways to breach the SMS system. I've personally done a few over the years, and sure that others know many more SMS hacking techniques than I do!!

The entire voting procedure is so much dependent on different telecom companies and you can never be sure what's happening in those telecom offices. Why couldn't you just bribe some telecom technician and walk your way to victory?? Indian Idol 3 or for that matter Saregamapa 2007 (another singing show judged by public voting) during the last episodes becomes a competition between states/cities. The contestants receive support from politicians, corporates, social activists and from the local residents. It becomes a prestige issue for an entire state and when this happens, you know what the politicians can do with public telecom companies!! Jammed Lines, Network Congestion are some common problems with technology being used in such a voting system. So when there's a network failure in a participant's home ground, injustice happens to him!!

So what do you do to solve the problems?? Accept only one vote per week from one phone. But that would mean less revenue for the TV channels and Telecom companies. They are running a business with these shows, and very less chance that such a thing will happen. Build more secure websites for public voting. "Anything that is built can be broken", but then I expect at least a tough time for the person breaking the system. You could stop public voting and let the judges decide whose best. But then I think the essence and beauty of democracy is something special!!

When winning and losing depends upon technology, it is not a very healthy thing for talent. You can easily manipulate your votes, and I know for sure it has been manipulated in the past and will be manipulated in the future. I have been voting for Amit Paul from the beginning of the contest, but you never know how technology has been bent. I'm not saying that Prashant doesn't have the fan following. May be his fans are more fanatic. But I'm saying that technology is not completely perfect like a lot of other things in life!!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Why should Apple sell OSX?

I know this has been discussed to death and talked for the last 10+ years, but recently I didnt hear much rant about it. So I start the discussion again!! I was recently using my friend's new MacBook Pro and it was just great. What is it that makes Macs so awesome?? Other than the sleek beauties that all Apple products are popular for, Mac is special because of the OS and applications that comes preinstalled on it. Just check out the iLife '08 and the GarageBand, iPhoto, iMovie etc. and you'll know that it's something different to use the Mac. So, why don't we see a larger market share for OSX?? I dont think that Macs are overly priced in the US, they have OSX and other quality softwares installed. But in other countries like India, China, Brazil, South Africa... compared to other computers a Mac is insanely costly. Probably you could get 2 similar performing hardwares for a single Mac!!

So, coming to the point of discussion, why doesn't Apple a.k.a Steve Jobs sell the OSX and the Applications without the hardware?? Why doesn't he really beat Microsoft where it really hurts?? Why doesn't he become "Edison" and "improve the world"?? Why is he acting like Karl Marx and Neem Kairolie Baba and only appealing to a niche?? (If you didn't understand the last 2 questions, read this about Steve's life). Here's the short comparison on what are the pros and cons I could think of, if Apple started selling the OSX and applications without the hardware

1.) Operating System Market: The OS market is a very huge one and has a lot of money involved. Linux distribution companies are making money from it, although giving it for free!! This shows how much money is at stake. OSX currently holds a small market, but then even getting 5% more than what it currently holds would mean somewhere around 1 billion mark or even more!(source). People have multiple OS installed these days and revenue should be even higher than that. But other than the money involved, the intuitiveness and beauty of OSX is something that will help improve the world. Lot more people will get aesthethic happiness !! ;-)

2.) Hardware Sales: A lot of people say Apple hardware sells because of OSX. I completely disagree with them because just look at an iMac or MacBook. Very few systems can match the beauty of design of the Mac. Apple could easily offer coupons for upgrades or special applications to those who buy Apple hardware. This will make buying Apple hardware even more tempting. Say if 30% people, bought Mac for OSX and don't buy it after OSX is released for any x86 hardware, then Apple looses only 600 million.(source).

3.) Technical Aspects: Apple already has an Intel x86 OS running on Mac with Intel chips. So just releasing the package to the shops with a Vista competitive pricing is required. Leopard is also natively 64-bit, which also is an added advantage. So basically Apple could also earn more from the different brandings of 32-bit and 64-bit OS. You could have viruses and malicious code coming in if the market share increases, but I think Apple has the kernel and permission system, good enough to deal with it.

4.) Apple's Server Market: Apple has also a server OS which has some wonderful specialized applications like XSan. The server hardware may be great. But if the server OS is released, other hardware vendors could easily bundle it with their servers. Xserve really doesn't sell much, so Apple really doesn't have much to loose. I think the best part would be if apple could sell support for their OS, just like Red Hat does with RHEL. It really has some money involved!! I couldn't find the dollar numbers, but I know for sure, its quite a lot more than what Apple is earning from selling the Xserve.

5.) Market scenario: Vista hasn't worked enough for Microsoft and isn't new enough for a lot of users. Im not say Vista isn't good, but people are happy with XP. In contrast, when people see the OSX, they find it refreshingly new. They would want to buy it!!

6.) Beat the Hackers: There are a lot of people who are already using OSX on their non-Mac x86 computers. When Apple releases OSX, it'll mean no-more-work for these hackers. These hackers will then automatically move to make some newer application softwares ;-) (some optimism from my side maybe), and in turn we'll have lot more applications to choose from.

7.) Accessory stuff: Apple could really start selling specialized professional softwares like iLife, Final Cut, Aperture to a larger audience of professionals. Thus bringing more revenue.

I may have missed a few other points (please comment them here and not mail, I'll add them), but I think these are enough for Apple to release OSX without the hardware. Leopard is probably the best time to do it!! The iPhone is doing great and so is the iPod. With the OSX released, it could make Apple grow into a very big giant (it already has the respect, how about some money) of the computer industry. And history says that NEXTSTEP and OpenStep ran on x86 hardware... Will history repeat itself?? Only Steve Jobs or time can answer that!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Does Barcelona / Phenom really help AMD ??

While reading Inq Charlie's post - having lunch with AMD, I got this idea that AMD is in some deep trouble!! AMD launched it's Barcelona processor (3rd generation server CPU - Opteron) on Sep 10th, 2007 with a lot of excitement and with a hope to become competitive with Intel's (Clovertown) Xeon processors. And frankly, it does bring a lot of performance improvement by increasing the IPC, and gives better power usage. An overall 124% improvement compared to the previous generation of Opterons. Clock-vs-Clock AMD beats Intel hands down!! Everything seems to be perfect for AMD... Doesn't it??

But on launch, Barcelona doesn't beat Clovertown in the benchmarks. Know why?? B'Coz the Barcelona is clocked at 2Ghz while the Clovertown is at 3Ghz. But that's truely not the bad news for AMD. By the end of 2007 AMD may have a processor clocked at 2.4Ghz and will then beat or equal Intel's new Xeons at 3.2Ghz. So really the clock-speed is a short-term issue!! So do AMD fanbois start dancing??... No, there is another problem and this one is bigger and a long-term problem. Its not related to the server processor (Opteron), but to the desktop-variant of the Barcelona called Phenom X4.

Since Intel released the Core 2 lineup in 2006, the Athlon64 X2 has failed miserably. The result is that AMD today sells the Athlon64 X2 at very low margins and Intel hasn't helped AMD's cause by creating a regular price war. This means AMD doesn't make profits as much as it should to run the R&D and fab maintainance/upgrade.

AMD's desktop-variant, PhenomX4 will be released by year-end and will have to compete with Intel's Peryn CPU. The Peryn is not much of an upgrade but is a die-shrink of current Core2 Quad to 45nm (basically means smaller processor size i.e. die size). On the other hand, if we look at PhenomX4, its actually quite large compared to the current Athlon64 X2. In the processor world, larger the die-size, its generally accepted that the cost to manufacture is higher. This means that the cost to manufacture PhenomX4 will be higher than the current Athlon64 X2, while the cost to manufacture Peryn will be lesser compared to Core2 Quad. Now ask AMD to get into a price war with Intel!! Let's try to sell PhenomX4 at the price of Peryn!! For AMD, it'll mean even smaller margins than today while Intel can still keep its current margins for selling the CPUs.

The reason why this is a long-term issue for AMD because Intel is moving really fast in upgrading it's fabrication plants (processor manufacturing plants) to a smaller process, while AMD has already mentioned it needs some more time to upgrade. AMD also has a cash crunch, which means for the next upgrade, it needs some more time until its coffers fill again. So AMD is really not helping itself by releasing a larger-sized processor, but it may be the only option to survive the Intel performance assault!! Goodluck AMD!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Virtualization rocks!!

With the VMworld 2007 at San Fransisco just started, I wanted to tell you about how the VmWare ESX Server 3 is working and what's in store for the future. I am a big fan of Virtualization Technology and we all know that VmWare is leading brand in the virtualization business. You can read about the new features in ESX 3.1 here. Interesting to note are the technologies like AMD's Rapid Virtualization Technology (using nested paging tables - NPT) which is part of AMD's Barcelona CPU, Site Recovery Manager (for easier automated disaster recovery) and new security features.

ESX 3i which was announced just today by Diane Greene will be available for download in a few weeks at This comes as a surprise since most people thought that it'll be released only by OEMs. I have heard a lot of people wanting to use virtualization but don't understand the technicalities in such implementations. They get confused between VmWare workstation and ESX. So here's some input from someone whose used virtualization products from Vmware, Microsoft and participated at XenSource for more than 4 years.

There are basically 3 ways in which virtualization can be done on today's hardware.

1.) Running one/many OS simultaneously on another OS. The OS on which the other OS runs is called the Host and the other OS is called the guest. VmWare workstation is one such product, although there are a host of other products. Suppose you have Windows XP installed and you want to check your application on Windows 2000, Windows Vista and Windows 2003, then you can install VmWare Workstation on XP and install Win2000, Vista and Win2003 as the guest OS. This will allow you to run the guest OS in a window inside XP. You can share your internet connection of your host with the guest OS using NAT or bridge. All this can be done without any reboots or partitioning. The guest OS only creates a file on the host OS and inside the guest OS, you see this as a partition. This product works on CPUs that do not support Virtualization (VT/AMD-V)

2.) Running one/many OS on a emulator/hypervisor server. This product does not require a pre-installed operating system. It is a Linux-like kernel called the vmkernel and is a proprietary product. On this, you can installed different OS and play with them simultaneously. The ESX has enhanced performance as the guest OS do not have to go through the host's file system, resources or drivers. The ESX also emulates hardware separately for each guest OS, which means that they can be virtualized to be different platforms on the same hardware. The ESX Server is more robust and secure as the guest OS do not crash together even if the one guest OS fails. This requires CPU to support VT/AMD-V for optimal performance

3.) Virtualization appliances: Just like you have washing machines and microwaves, you can have guest OS on separate standalone devices. Generally rack mounted, these are thin servers that can be added to support different guest OS as and when required. These are specialized hardware and give the best performance. These can also be shared by thin-clients or diskless machines, where the OS is located inside the appliance and the monitor on the client machine is remotely using the OS. VmWare Server (GSX Server earlier) is one example of such a product.

Virtualization will play a very vital role in the future as more and more cores get built into the CPU. Many operating systems need to be used at a time for development and testing purposes and having separate hardware for each, is a cost. Virtualization thus not only saves cost, but also makes optimal use of available hardware.

PS: Funny that my firefox spell checker could find virtualize or virtualization in its dictionary!!

Monday, September 10, 2007

TIFR scientists create Bose-Einstein Condensate

Researchers at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai-India have created Bose-Einstein Condensate for the first-time in India. Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC) is referred to as the 5th state of matter and was first proposed by India scientist Satyendranath Bose and later worked on by Albert Einstein in 1925. The irony of this latest creation in someway is that although it was proposed by an Indian scientist, it took about 82years to be practically demonstrated in India. Scientists Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman from the University of Colorado at Boulder NIST created the BEC for the first time in 1995 and were awarded the Nobel prize for physics in 2001 with scientist of MIT.

But this great achievement in India is no mean task. Very few researchers from around the world have been able to create it. The Phd. students Saptarishi Chaudhury (my first name rocks!!) and Sanjunkta Roy along with Prof. CS Unnikrishnan were involved in this development and we should congratulate them that Satyendranath Bose's soul would be very proud of them today. Some of their initial research papers are as old as 2005 and shows the amount of hard work they have done to achieve this extraordinary feat.
Check out their personal homepages (by clicking on their names above) for their personal research and resumes. Their team page is here

From their earlier abstract on MOT:

Design, construction and characterization of a source of intense, cold and tunable neutral atomic beam will be discussed. These atoms are then captured and further cooled in a high-density Magneto-Optical trap (MOT), making the system a favourable starting point for production of Bose-Einstein condensate in an all optical dipole trap. In this talk we shall present the general principles and experimental techniques to trap and cool tens of billions of atoms to micro-Kelvin temperature using appropriate laser light and magnetic field. At these ultra-low temperatures, several routes to precision experiments using neutral atoms open up. For example, novel experiments to study quantum electrodynamics of atoms strongly coupled to cavities are possible and atom-surface and atom-cavity interactions can be studied in a near ideal condition. As a specific example, we shall discuss behaviour of cold atoms moving through a high-finesse cavity. Quantum degeneracy and atomic Bose-Einstein condensates are produced starting from a cloud of ultra-cold atoms in a MOT. These cold atoms can also be trapped in a micro-optical lattice, making it possible to do quantum measurements on single atom. This talk is meant to be a general introduction to the topic of Laser Cooling and Trapping of Neutral Atoms along with a brief description of a state-of-the-art experimental set-up built here facilitating high precision experiments.

The scientists used lasers to cool atoms of Rubidium to temperature nearing absolute zero to create the BEC. The result is a superconductive material which in the future may be applied to fields of nanotechnology. Read here, the press release given to Press Trust Of India

Sunday, September 9, 2007

ATI's upcoming hardware leaked

ATI's Catalyst 7.9 beta driver has been released at Guru3D and you can go ahead and download it, if you wish to play "Enemy Territory: Quake Wars" sometime in the near future or the demo which can be downloaded from here.

What is interesting to note, in the driver's inf file is the list of cards that are supported. We see all the common cards, but also find references to some hardware that isn't released yet!! These are some interesting lines you can find:

"ATI Radeon HD 2900 PRO" = ati2mtag_R600,PCI\VEN_1002&DEV_9400&SUBSYS_30001002
"ATI Radeon HD 2900 PRO " = ati2mtag_R600, PCI\VEN_1002&DEV_9403

"ATI Radeon HD 2350 Series" = ati2mtag_RV610, PCI\VEN_1002&DEV_94C3&SUBSYS_30001025

"ATI Radeon HD 2600 X2 Series" = ati2mtag_RV630, PCI\VEN_1002&DEV_958A

These are references to some of the cards that are going to be released by ATI sometime in November.

We have a Radeon HD2900 Pro which will be performing a little less than the power hungry HD2900XT, but with lot less power consumption.

The next in-line is the HD2600 X2. This one has 2 GPUs on one graphics cards. These are 2 HD2600 GPUs, which has been selling good lately because of its price-performance advantage. Sapphire announced this previously here and it's an interesting thing, just like the X1950 XT.

The last one is the HD2350 which is a cut-down version of the not-so-good-performing HD2400. Although a lot of Tier-I PC manufacturers are using the HD2400, this one I think is more geared towards cheap PCs that want some kinda Hi-Def video playing capacity.

That's it from me... Enjoy the Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and smoke 'em!!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

What's new in .NET Framework 3.5

My post on Visual Studio 2008 Vs netBeans 6.0 was pretty well accepted by a lot of developers, but then they told that I was a little biased towards Java. Even friends those who know that I'm an unbiased devotee of programming, and not programming languages thought that I had shifted to the evil-side of becoming a language fanatic. .NET friends from Microsoft thought I had become a netBeans supporter. So just to come clean and tell you the facts right, let me show you what's new with .NET Framework 3.5

.NET these days is a very refreshing platform for Windows Developers/ASP developers. After the earlier debacle of non-backward compatibility between 1.0, 1.1 and 2.0 of the framework, it felt like Microsoft was loosing it, but lately the progress on the ASP.NET front and the XAML excitement shows good sign for .Net developers. I have programmed quite a bit in C# from the very first SDK days, and somehow have got the most productive results in developing Windows applications in C# compared to any other language.

.NET Framework 3.5 will be released sometime towards the year end, along with Visual Studio 2008. It's going to be an exciting release with lot's of goodies for Windows/Office Developer and also for Team Managers because of the improvements to Visual Studio Team System. Popularly, other people have talked red bits/green bits here. You can read those and join the discussion back here.

What's New in .NET Framework 3.5:

1.) CLR Enhancements: Although the CLR uses the same model as 2.0, you can read here about the improvements/changes to the assemblies.

2.) Compiler Enhancements: New VB.NET 9.0 compiler and support for changes to C# 3.0 like expression trees, lambda methods, extension methods, static reference for anonymous types etc.

3.) LINQ: Probably the most revolutionary change in the 3.5 framework. LINQ to XML, LINQ to SQL, LINQ to Objects and LINQ to Datasets. Along with functional programming, LINQ is an outlook change to programming in C#.

4.) Performance Improvements: Quite a few performance improvements have been made in 3.5. ADO.NET gets paging support as well as synchronization from caches at local and server datastores. Also performance improvements for multicore CPUs

5.) Networking changes: Peer-to-peer networking stack, including a managed PNRP resolver.

6.) Windows Information APIs: New wrappers for WMI and Active Directory Services. WMI 2.0 gets a managed provider.

7.) ASP.NET: New implementation of Client Application Services as well as 3 new ASP.NET controls. Also AJAX programming for ASP.NET is easier and better performing.

8.) Windows Communication Foundation: WCF now works with POX and JSON data.

9.) Windows Presentation Foundation: Newer plugin model for creating AddIns. Although SilverLight is separate, I think its still presentation right?? SilverLight CLR is also part of the .Net Framework. I really don't know if XAML gets any language change in the 3.5 framework. I love the XAML designer from VS2008 though!!

10.) Misc: The C/C++ get a standard template libarary (STL) so that these languages can use share .NET libraries

This is not at all exhaustive. I may have missed a few points, but then its got most of the changes till beta2. Not much should change between this and the final, other than the bug fixes!! And friends, please write your comments here instead of sending me emails about something you didn't understand or some mistake I made. That way we can broaden the discussion further!!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Intel 4004 isn't the world's first microprocessor

Recently while I was giving an introductory lecture on microprocessor to Computer Engineering students, someone asked me about the evolution/history of microprocessors. I'm really not very good at remembering dates, but then I started speaking about it. After sometime, when I reached the year 1992, and the Intel Pentium processor at 66Mhz, a boy stood up and asked me which was the first microprocessor. I showed him the board where I had written the CADC (MP944), and he showed me the book which showed Intel 4004. I said, "I'm pretty sure it is MP944, and I've been teaching that to a few students", but I'm bad with dates, so thought I should check.

Looking at all the textbooks and reference books suggested by the University syllabus, I realized that all books were claiming the Intel 4004 to be the first microprocessor. I was a little shocked, coz I remembered reading a paper here, and discussions with my senior professors and colleagues, that the MOS-LSI based MP944 was the first microprocessor. I did some analysis with my students, who had never heard of that chip and drew on the board what I remembered... (Here's a better one from Ray Holt, the chip architect himself).

Looking at the diagram, the student argued that it was a 4-chip design, and I showed him that 4004 was also a part of a 4-chip chipset. The date for the chip's papers were older as old as 1968, which made everyone sure that the books had wrongly called the Intel 4004, the first microprocessor. We later found this from IBM which agreed to my observations.

I hope most textbooks and authors should acknowledge Ray Holt's designs from AI Garrett and give the facts correctly.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Visual Studio 2008 Vs netBeans 6.0

A lot of developers I know, in my organization as well as outside, are fanatic lovers of their favourite IDE. Just like programming language fanatics, IDE fanatics maintain that their IDE is all what they need. But in my experience, IDEs like programming languages are only as good as the developer.

In my previous blog entry here, I noted that Visual Studio 2008 and netBeans 6.0 are completely different IDEs and cater to different developers. But we need to understand that each IDE has something better and makes the developer more productive. Also, please keep in mind that I'm not comparing .NET and Java here, but only 2 IDEs, so we discuss features that can be applied to both languages/platforms. Learning things from the "other" person's IDE will finally make "us" more productive. With that philosophy in mind, lets look into the comparison of 2 IDEs that will be released in 2-3 months time.

Visual Studio 2008
netBeans 6.0
Supported LanguagesC/C++, C#,, XAML, HTML/CSS, Javascript, LINQ (Language INtegrated Query),, XML/XSLT, C/C++, Java, Ruby, Php, Javascript, HTML/CSS, JSP, JavaFX, XSL, WSDL, UML

J# support has been removed from Visual Studio. So all, Java-like developers can come back home to Java. netBeans 6.0 supports a lot more languages and has an excellent plugin system to support many other languages.

LINQ is new to VS2008 where you can write SQL-like queries in the programs to communicate with databases and files. XAML gets a superb visual designer in VS2008.

Supported OS/PlatformsWindows and different versions of WindowsWindows, Linux, Unix, Solaris (SPARC, x86/x64), Mac OSX (Intel, PowerPC)netBeans 6.0 can be installed and run on a host of different platforms. It's open-source and it's Java. So, it generally means it can run anywhere with a VM. VS2008 on the other hand is only targetted towards the windows developer.
Code CompletionFast code completion, but less options at a time. Need to use arrow keys.Code completion, but shows all methods, variables available at once.

Both netBeans and VS2008 have excellent code completion. Visual Studio still is a little faster in showing method names, parameters but shows only one method at a time and you have to use arrows to check different method parameters. netBeans 6 on the other hand has improved from earlier version in speed, but still lacks the speed of VS. netBeans can show all the methods with different parameters at a time, so the developer can choose faster which overridded method to use.

Eclipse does something even better with Ctrl+Shift+R. It will show all types/resource available. Which means if u write NPE, it'll show NullPointerException and NoPermissionException and you can choose. Even refactoring in eclipse is great.

Source Code EditorEditing is simple and easy. Switching between the designer and code screen is double-clicking the controlEditing code is simple and easy. netBeans provides different events when you right-click on the component and code can be written for that specific event.

Source code editing is equally good in both. netBeans 6.0 has a better feature where it can highlight a variable that used at different places. So you can easily identify the lines at which the variables are used when you are writing code.

GUI and RAD ToolsWinForms, ASP Form designer are great. XAML visual designer, Database schema managers, VB-XML bindings, Vista UAC manager are some of the enhancements to the VS2008's RAD/GUI tools.netBeans Matisse, JSF Components, Database Application, Beans Binding, Excellent UML design tools, Mobile Designer, BPEL designer are some RAD tools not found in VS2008

Visual Studio's VB designer was excellent and probably helped VB reach great popularity. Today Microsoft expects same with XAML designer which can import designs made in Microsoft Blend. Winforms and ASP forms are great as always, may be sometimes better than netBeans. You can create the Ribbon UI of Office 2007 very easily using VS2008.

netBeans until version 4 not much of a RAD tool, but today is probably the best RAD Java IDE out-of-the-box. JSF web app designer is great, maybe not be better than ASP forms, but its not behind as more JSF components are added. Swing Application Framework and Database applications are awesome and you can build amazing dB driven apps in minutes. Check out the video and you'll realize how?? netBeans 6.0 features an even better Mobile Application Designer for JavaME (J2ME), which can design screens and play with SVG menus. Haven't seen a simpler mobile app designer ever, with nice flow designer. RAD tools are something netBeans 6.0 scores higher than most other IDE

Compiler /Loader / DebuggerParallel compilation on multicore systems, Standard Template Library (STL) for C++ devs to use .net framework, Web Services hosting for WCF-based apps.Newer Lexer makes faster runtime compilation, Javascript debugger with Phobos support and jMaki

Multicore compilation in VS2008 does improve performance by a good 25-30% over previous versions on C# apps. I wonder how much of multi-processors or multicore, the java compiler uses. Really couldn't compare compiler benchmarks since they are different languages.

Visual Studio 2008 brings integrates web services hosting, which earlier had to be done separately by the users. netBeans has tomcat 6 and glassfish v2 integrated, so VS2008 comes on par with netBeans 6.0. Both VS2008 and netBeans 6.0 have newer javascript debugger which is a happy relief to me since previously debugging javascript was a complete pain!!

ProfilingVS2008 improves load testing capabilities by providing a multiple machine graph view that brings together the test results, performance, and health of all the machines under test.netBeans 6.0 has a profiler integrated and a really good one too.

A new area in VS2008 is the ability to drive system performance tuning
and diagnostics through the VS test tools. This enables developers to run
profiling during tests.

Profiler is great addition to netBeans. While coding you can experiment and choose the best algorithms/implementations by checking memory, processes through the profiler. A load analyzer like Mercury's LoadRunner is a highly specialized 3rd-party tool, but people who want simple stuff should really be happy with the netBeans 6 profiler.

Designing / UMLNot much Designing tools, but Visual Studio 2008 Team System does have some improvements. Team System does have nice code tracking features.UML, BPEL, Flow Designers for Mobile apps and web apps.

netBeans scores pretty high on this one. Although you can always use 3rd-party softwares, its great to have it in the IDE itself. VS2008 is not much of a software designers tool, although the Visual Studio Team System is a great improvement. IBM's Rational is great, but then for the lesser there's netBeans UML tools.

Code comparison and tracking isnt available in netBeans. Eclipse does have it and is excellent for comparing codes, but not as good as VS2008.

Testing/MaintainanceUnit Testing tools have slightly improved, Source Control System is added to Team SystemCVS is integrated.

Unit Testing is excellent in netBeans compared to VS2008. Ant tools are useful, but VS2008 creates scripts in Team System that can do nearly similar things.

CVS is better in netBeans and even better in eclipse compared to VS2008.

Installation SizeVisual Studio installation size is huge and so is the size for the setup programnetBeans 6.0 has increased in size, but is very small compared to VS2008Not much here to say, but VS2008 has .Net Framework 3.5 integrated with it and is a requirement. Also SilverLight CLR is added. A lot of other required libraries for WPF and WCF, which makes it larger in size.
Misc Specialities

Visual Studio 2008 has a something called "Visual Studio 2008 Shell". Its just like the netBeans RCP or Eclipse platform. It allows developers to create their own IDEs based on the platform and we know how successful eclipse has been to do that. Read here for the discussion

netBeans 6.0 also have Ruby on Rails Template for making quick blogs. netBeans 6.0 has derby as an integrated database (although JDK 6 has derby). It means you can have databases embedded within your application and no requirement for an external database server like SQL Server or MySQL.

VS 2008 does not include specific tools for editing WCF's XML configuration files. After Microsoft Blend import, web designs cannot be exported back to Blend.

Not much has changed in VS2008 interms of code editing. For a VS.NET Vs Eclipse comparison read here. Another thing of notice is that Visual Studio 6.0 was very fast, but Visual Studio 2008 seemed very slow (starting from VS.NET). In comparison to that, netBeans 6.0's performance has increased (or remained nearly same) compared to previous versions.I'm sure to have missed a few things which other friends have pointed out, but then most differences I missed out have more to do with the language than theIDE. Eclipse developers should really understand that I have just made comparisons with it in places where VS2008 and netBeans are on the same ground, but eclipse does it better. Goodbye to all, and remember the IDE is only as good as the developer using it!!

Happy Coding!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Microsoft's SilverLight ported to Linux by Novell

While I was exploring Visual Studio 2008, for a IDE comparison, I came across a highly publicized technology called SilverLight. Microsoft's competitor product to Adobe Flash, but Microsoft is trying to advertise more about its video streaming features. Thus, its more like a competitor to flv (Flash videos) which are very popular these days, thanks to YouTube.

SilverLight seems to be a promising technology, but does it have enough to beat Flash? Actually, Visual Studio 2008 is more of a programming tool, whereas Flash CS3 has programming, but design ease is its USP and based on the beta2 for Visual Studio 2008, it can't compete with Flash CS3. But for video streaming you don't need design, you require better video quality, with smaller file size. When Microsoft Expression Encoder is released at end of the year, or early next year, we'll find out if it gives flv videos a run for their money or not.

Coming back to another advantage of Flash is that it's installed on 90% of computers. So if you make something in flash, you can expect most people to be able to view it. Since, SilverLight is a Microsoft technology and we all know the dogfight between Ballmer's bunch and Linux geeks, so how will Microsoft make a linux runtime for SilverLight??? Simple, they call their best friend from the Linux world, Novell to help them out. And Novell being Novell (they want interoperability in everything), helped them out. From what I hear, SilverLight will be called MoonLight in Linux, and Novell+Microsoft gonna release it with Expression Encoder. So my guess is that quite a lot of work on the linux front has been done by Novell, and lets see when it finishes!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Netbeans 6.0 - The IDE to own

I have just qualified to the NetBeans IDE 6.0 Community Acceptance Testing program (NetCAT) and before I begin giving some feedback, I thought... how about sharing some info about the NetBeans 6.0. What it is all about and how it has improved and how it can become the IDE for all programming languages.

Any programmer will tell you how much he/she loves the IDE. How much time of their lives they spend looking at the IDE screen? and how much the IDE is part of their creative exploration (programming)? These days with so many programming languages, a developer in my organization comes across a minimum 3 IDE or WYSIWYG Editors. We use Zend, netBeans, Visual Studio 6, VS2005, Dreamweaver, Eclipse, MS Expression Web, Anjuta, KDevelop ... and even after that I'm sure I missed something that we use. You see what I mean when I say there are zillions of IDEs.

Since, I have been programming a lot in Java, netBeans has been with me since version 4 and I always thought it had promise. Initially though eclipse was better! But I believe netBeans 5.5 was awesome and 6.0 is gonna beat a lot of other IDEs out there. Im currently doing a short preview of netBeans 6.0 Vs Visual Studio 2008 (my next post), both IDEs from different worlds, but then they still are IDEs right!! I know its apples vs oranges, but then netBeans 6.0 is not just a Java IDE, its got a lot more to it... Its a platform as well but I'm looking at it as an IDE for many languages. The templates to build Ruby on Rails blogs is just an example how much netBeans 6.0 team is trying to make it an all-language IDE.

The following are some of the new features to netBeans 6.0:

1.) Improvements to the Code Editor:
a.) Smarter & Quicker Code Completion - Faster and better options & methods shown.
b.) Highlighting - common variables are highlighted

2.) Language Support:
a.) JRuby/Ruby/Ruby on Rails Support - Excellent template, auto-structuring of folders. Great Ruby Debugger. Nice RHTML file editing and highlighting. Example Video
b.) Improved Javascript and CSS Editing - Although dreamweaver is better, its gotten better than the previous versions.
c.) Schielmann language support - Its a technology that allows anyone to add support to new languages. Php and Jython plugins are available.
d.) C/C++ Support: Greatly Improved support for programming in C/C++. Libraries are easily accessed and also has pretty good code editing.

3.) Swing GUI:
a.) Swing database applications - Probably the single-most awesome feature from netBeans 6.0. Great for making RAD for people who want to make fast database application.
b.) Beans binding: You can now bind beans and control their behavior from the GUI. You don't need the BDK (Beans Developement Kit) as a GUI for looking at beans behavior and property editing.
c.) Swing Application Framework (JSR 296): Awesome support of application state saving. The state of the application is saved as default. You don't have to worry about the size of the window of your application. It'll come up at the same size that you closed last time, and for all this you dont have to write a single line of code. netBeans does it for you.

4.) Profiling:
a.) Integrated Profiler - The profiling tool within netBeans is elegant and perfect. May be you can compare it to LaodRunner yet, but then it does most things perfectly.

5.) Web & Java EE:
a.) Improved Visual Web (JSF): After Sun decided that Studio Creator will be netBeans, you find that there's no better tool for making JSF web applications that netBeans 6.0. Just drag-drop the components, write some business logic as EJBs and you have a well made web app.
b.) Support for AJAX-enabled JSF components
c.) Great Javascript editing, with error and debugging, not found in other WYSISWYG editors. CSS support is improved.
d.) Brilliant flow management for Web application. You can now make nice design for page flows in netBeans 6.0

6.) Java Mobility Support:
a.) No other J2ME/Java ME IDE has the ease of use and quick drag-drop MIDlet developement like netBeans. Fast and feature rich. You can make flow diagrams with it. Designing mobile apps were never easier.
b.) Support for APIs: JSR-172 stub compiler, JSR-226 SVG support is worth a wow!!
c.) Game Builder: Easy tiling allows nice design of game screens and sprites

7.) SOA:
a.) Graphical WSDL editor: Don't we all love interoperable WSDL documents?? But hate the binding. netBeans has great visual tool to do all the binding work for you.
b.) Easily edit the transformation on XSLT editor
c.) Improved interoperability with .Net through WSIT

8.) UML:
a.) Enhanced code generation: Lesser difference in your designs and code. I love it!!
b.) Don't we architects love design diagrams. Making them from the IDE, is just a boon. Brilliant UML editing improvements, although some standalone tools do a better job, its still a great thing to have in your editor

9.) Misc:
a.) Improved graphing in the platform API
b.) A new lexer in the netBeans seems to make it faster for code editing

There's a lot more to netBeans 6.0... You can read about all the improvements here

See you on my next post, when I compare the upcoming IDEs Visual Studio 2008 and netBeans 6.0, with references to few other IDEs

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Get your free MSDN magazine & Dobb's Journal

Just got an email today about free digital editions of MSDN magazine and Dobb's journal. Both are very useful magazines. Subscribing is free through the link below... and I'm really not sure till when it'll be free. So guys hurry up!!

Go to to see samples of the digital magazine.

To subscribe to MSDN Magazine and Dr.Dobbs Journal Digital editions, please click on

Hurry, register for your FREE digital copy today and
stay updated on all that’s happening in the digital world!

Let's Celebrate Silver Jubilee to Computer Viruses

Customer: My computer's been bugged! Please help me or else it'll die... I just got it a week back and it's been my darling since then... Save me!!
Steven (me): Don't worry ma'am, here's your friendly neighborhood pest-cleaner.

I remember that conversation, I had as Steve (my complex sounding name, 'Saptarshi' needed to be changed for U.S customers) when I was working as Technical Support Executive for Symantec some 2 years back. Those were the days, when I spent sleepless nights trying to save the world from viruses :))... If not the world, at least those from the Windows world using the crappy, but popular Norton Antivirus! I really have first-hand experience from scared, petrified, stupefied, customers screaming at the top of their voice, pleading me to save them!

Computer viruses have a FUD around them these days. But I'm pretty sure that when Richard Skrenta developed the very first virus in the wild called "Elk Cloner", he didn't expect viruses to turn to be so ugly as they are today. Each year viruses cause damages of data worth a few million dollars, but you also need to think the revenue that they have generated for antivirus companies. Nearly every computer shipped or assembled today (with Windows installed) has some kind of malware protection installed on it and everytime I think, if it weren't for these virus writers/creators how would we have companies like Symantec, Kaspersky, PC-Cillin... And imagine how many people are earning their livelihood from these companies. Think of the CPU and RAM resources that these antiviruses use (specially Norton/McAfee), and help in someway to improve hardware sales. Imagine how many people would be jobless, if it weren't for self-replicating bots, worms and trojans causing damages by making DDOS, spams and all the nasty things that viruses do.

So as much as the damage that viruses have caused, they have also helped a lot of people earn money. Let's not forget that every coin has two sides and so it is with viruses as well. Lets accept
viruses as Karma for Windows users... and for the rest, there's always an opportunity to use *nix or OSX!! Long live viruses!!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

How Sun Microsystems Becomes Java Centric

We all know how popular Java has become. How everywhere Java is used. Just like its motto, "Write Once Run Anywhere", Java has run everywhere from small JavaCards to big data centers. Java is truly everywhere. Probably no other recent programming language (forget C/C++) enjoys the popularity like Java. May be that's the reason recently Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz thought of changing the stock ticker of Sun to JAVA

Seems so odd for a company that makes no money from Java (or at least they say so...), change its market symbol to Java. Sun earns most of its revenue from SPARC servers and now Opteron Servers and Solaris boxes. So should it be called SPRC or SOLS?? But that just shows you how much Sun Microsystems is associated with Java and what the Java brand means.

A recent post at Jonathan's blog pastes an email from James Gosling (he's a really nice guy... he gave a lot of encouragement when I was designing a VM for a Hitachi controller). Its an interesting read about how the Java name was selected... and also would bookmark that, so that next time my team wants to start thinking a product name, I'll not just quote Shakespeare, but also show them that the 4th name on the devs list becomes a brand for the company!