Congratulations Aurum!

Muhammed Aurangzeb Ahmed, or Aurum as the lab fondly knows him as, has won an Honorable Mention for the Computing Research Association’s Outstanding Undergraduate Award 2006. I had the pleasure of working along side Aurum a year ago. Aurum is best known in the lab for his work in Artificial Intelligence, Data Mining, Pattern Recognition, Philosophy and for the picture of Einstein on his desk :-).
Well done, hope to see more from you.

[1] Aurum’s research page.

Revenue Science: Audience Monetization Program

Poking around, I found that Yuga (of Yugatech.com) was invited to participate in Revenue Science’s Audience Monetization Program or AMP (What?). I am not a great fan of marketing talk and gimmicks myself, but there maybe something more to this. The web advertisement revenue space is already choc-a-bloc with Google’s adSense and adWords promising to take up the lion’s share. So what’s new here? Apparently, it isn’t the same thing as adSense (or Chitika) as Yuga points out in his blog on AMP. He promises to reveal more as things go along. Then, someone from marketing at AMP leaves a comment on his blog with some more spin. Overall, it sounds like they know they are trying to squeeze into an already crammed phone booth.

Technical details are scarce. I know that they are planning on collecting anonymized behavioral data using javascript tags on web-pages. The data will then probably be crunched by Revenue Science to provide audience information (of what kind?). It isn’t entirely clear what they plan to do with that data or how a site like Yuga’s can use it and earn from it. In fact, now I’m thinking Google analytics with a – I’ll pay you to keep this data – spin.

DVD Jon :-) on the things he does not miss in Norway

10 things I don’t miss about Norway” – So sue me.

I especially like the mention of the Prosecutor who tried to portray Jon as a “member of an …” 🙂 you read the rest. Incidentally, Sony stole code from Jon (see “Sony DRM rootkit saga“). In the past when the likes of Kevin Mitnick stole code from the larger companies (or ideas) they were made to pay dearly. Big companies have the muscle to bring such ‘criminals’ to justice. But the reverse is so hard to accomplish. My guess is, the biggest problems Jon would face include, covering the costs of taking Sony to court, devoting time to proving Sony stole, and last but not the least even if Sony were to be found guilty they can always mitigate the bad rep. by claiming they never knew their developers stole. Well, life is never really ‘fair’ is it. I just hope Sony pay equally.

IIM-L graduate Manjunath Shanmugam murdered on duty

India has done it again.

About 11 months ago, Satyendra Dubey, a proud graduate of IIT Kanpur, was murdered in Bihar, India (see “Bihar Govt. wakes up to IIT-ians’ murder“, Rediff.com). At the time it was widely believed that he was murdered for attempting to nail down corrupt elements who were involved in the National Highway project. Satyendra was a Project manager with the National Highway Authorities. One of the accused has since then managed to escape justice (“Dubey murder accused escapes“). Rediff are tracking his case carefully here. I acknowledge the fact that it has not yet been established if Satyendra was simply the victim of a roadside robbery or that of a wider conspiracy to cover the trail of corruption in the project. That should not take away from the fact that Satyendra was working to clean up a system that was corrupt and inefficient. It should not lessen the fact that his loss was a big blow.

I respect and admire the way IIT alumni threw their weight behind getting the word of his murder out there. I thought that all the media coverage Satyendra’s murder got would dissuade anyone from murdering another hard-working, honest graduate.

I was wrong.

A sales member of the Indian Oil Corporation was murdered while he was on the job (“IOC official seals petrol pump, is killed“). I did not come across the news until today, a surprise to me. The authorities believe that his murder was also motivated by the fact that he was about to nail a corrupt petrol pump owner for adulteration of Diesel with Kerosene. Like contracts for public infrastructure construction, petrol pump (or gas station) allotments rest with the Government. In the past this has served to be a tremendous motive for corruption. Those involved have probably never stopped short of compromising their integrity over money.

Gaurav Sabnis describes his relationship with Manjunath on his blog (“Bye, Machan“). He also points out the dangerous nexus between the powerful government machine behind allocations and the criminal element. I am left questioning the rationale behind my desire to return home. The criminal psyche has rooted itself deeply into the Indian way of life. Only a sudden upheaval of biblical proportions can change that. People cheat their way through school, then college, and not surprisingly, even through life. Even after having settled abroad they won’t stop trying to cheat their way out. If watching people cheat the system and not calling it out taints my character, then I admit, I am tainted.

So how do the educated youth of India react? Reactions were strong and targeted at the corrupt system. However, someone calls Manjunath names for doing his job honestly (see “Extremely pissed off!!!“). While this was just one voice that was quoted, the atitude is actually prevalent in the (silent) majority of educated Indian youth. They prefer to play along and avoid confrontation. Do they hope that eventually the system will clear itself? Or do they believe that their co-operation will keep them safe. While the latter is more likely, it is just as misguided.

I am surprised India continues to grow and keep inflation within a rational margin. Those who are rich and corrupt and have attached themselves like leeches to the infrastructure of the nation will continue to thrive. I pray that the brains and hands behind both murders are brought to justice and that the punishment is severe.

An update: Manjunath’s friends have setup a site to ensure that his murderers are brought to justice. See “Remembering Manjunath“. They have requested that people sign an online petition “Demand for Full Inquiry and Justice in Murder of Manjunath Shanmugam for his Fight Against Corruption” addressed to the Prime Minister of India.

Mobile application development in Seattle

Saurav Chatterjee forwarded me a couple of links that might be of interest to people who are into mobile application development and live in the greater Seattle area. Medio System’s are based in Seattle, they are working hard on deploying a usable local Search service on mobile devices. They are funded by DOT EDU Ventures. The same VC has in the past funded other startups in the greater Seattle area, including Revenue Science. Mandatory link to Microsoft Windows Mobile team who are based in Redmond. A number of the folks who are involved are also members of SeattleMobile.org.

Research in Motion has prepared a workaround

Popular press has extensively covered the threat of a ban on sales of RIM devices and services. I am surprised that they have conveniently left out the fact that RIM has been doing it’s homework. This week, RIM CEO Jim Balsille announced at a large conference (UBS, New York) that a workaround is finished [Bloomberg.com]. The details are not available at this time. It isn’t clear if the workaround will protect RIM against all patents. It isn’t clear what risks are associated with the workaround, is RIM expecting some downtime? Loss of revenue? Reduced functionality? They have promised a workaround for a while now, (see Research in Motion Promises Software Fix [The Street]). The workaround is being tested and will be deployed in the event the court enforces an injunction.

Negative reporting can be disheartening. Yesterday my mom called me up, worried, as mother’s always are. She asked me if was going to be out of a job anytime soon. CNBC (India) just reported that the clampdown was imminent. She thought, perhaps they would shut down our office too. Of course, the injunction won’t stop me from working. Then again, it isn’t going to help morale either.

Update: CNET lends credence to the workaround announced earlier. See “RIM creates patent workaround“, CNET.

BlackBerry 7130e

RIM has a new addition to their phones that also does e-mail line-up (the 7100 series), the BlackBerry 7130e. It has not yet been announced on the VerizonWireless website, it has been announced on BlackBerry.com and other BlackBerry fan sites.

Programming in Java: Suggestions to Sun

Came across this post. Glad to have found another blog that will talk about Java. I was a little surprised to read that people still prefer to avoid IDE’s. For a couple of years now, Industry has been pushing Dev’s to embrace IDE’s. But it’s true. Folks will still prefer to use Vi, Emacs, and maybe even Notepad (shudder) as they start out in Java.

Here are a few topics that I thought were interesting that came up: