April 23, 2012

Comparing Roomba and Neato

Giving up on something is usually not a happy moment. But when it comes to cleaning and vacuuming, it may very well be. So we bought our first Roomba (530). Nice, round and graceful white. Then we thought that we will use it for our lower floor and buy Neato. There was a nice deal on Woot.com for a Neato XV-12. I read the reviews and researched since this was going to be an additional $300 investment.

Initial reviews indicated that Neato was a much smarter robot which could pretty much memorize your entire room layout, had an on screen display and a voice with a built in scheduler. I agree with all this stuff - except it sucks at cleaning.  Roomba 530 may seem a bit Neanderthal in front of a Neato XV-12 but it is definitely more effective at its main job. The two key parts of a Roomba which make it more effective are a lower brush and the sidesweep. These two more than make up for the lost time wandering around in circles. It also makes way less noise than Neato. The battery also holds charge for much longer.

What the Neato does good is to be able to find its charger on its own (if you didnt ever pick it up and move around).

April 06, 2012

Comparing Jawbone ICON, Blue Ant T1 and Jabra EASYGO

In the past year I have cycled through the ICON, Blue Ant T1 and JABRA EASYGO - quite popular headsets. My experience has been sometimes quite painful where either the headset had a tragic ending or I had an mutilating accident. Frankly I havent still found that perfect headset for my not so perfect ears ;)

ICON: The Jawbone icon is perhaps the most feature rich headset with the ability to load a large variety of preconfigured voices, notifications etc. It is small and very elegant. Supports A2DP which is needed to listen to songs or other kinds of media from your device.It had a hard time sticking to my ear though. Eventually it met its fate in the driveway.

Jabra EASYGO: This headset was perhaps the cheapest of the three that I bought on a Black Friday sale and has been the best investment. Excellent voice quality. No A2DP though. It also stays comfortably only my ear all day long without bothering or even me noticing it. The looks are also elegant. Overall if it supported A2DP, it would be the best headset.

Blue Ant T1: This is perhaps the worst headset I tried. I still use it but only for A2DP connections. The voice quality is good if you are sitting or walking. The headset is unusable in my car though when driving at 60+. No one can hear me. I change the headset to Jabra and voila - problem is fixed. It also has a hard time staying connected to my phone all the time. I see a lot of drops. Suddenly the connection would die and then few minutes later it would connect again to my HTC. This problem doesnt happen with the Jabra. On top of this, this headset is huge and has a hard time staying put on the ear. It rarely is stable, but when it is, it is comfortable. Works when I am listening to a presentation or songs on my phone.

April 05, 2012

Setting up SVN on Windows

I get asked this question a lot by Windows users who are using Source Safe and want to try one of the common open source tools like Subversion. There seems to be a lot of information about this on the web so I have often redirected them to Google the subject. Often I was surprised by the end result. For example - while they got SVN to work on the system, they have multiple apache servers running on the box - one for SVN, another for bugzilla etc. The ideal environment for this setup as I would expect is as follows:

1) There should be a single instance of apache server, mysql, PHP and Active Perl on the machine.
2) You should integrate SVN with the windows domain controller in your network. Creating users and passwords in SVN does not scale very well, especially when the system is fully operational and you are involved with hundreds of other tasks.
3) You need to integrate SVN with bugzilla using SCMBug. That really helps when you are trying to build patches and allows you to squeeze as much possible from bugzilla.
4) With bugzilla you need to use Mediawiki and the bugzilla reports module which comes with it. It allows you to build a Scrum dashboard you can use next or do reporting, release management, to-do lists, milestones, deadlines etc. It makes everything very visual for people who are not continuously using the bug system. And visual is very empowering in  the organization.

So you should set up SVN with all these requirements in mind. Eventually you may be doing a lot with this setup.I will be posting some details on this setup in the Turngeek blog.

July 07, 2010

Fluent News: Best free News app on the iPhone

I have tried several free news apps on the iPhone. The USA Today application was definitely the pioneer among the news apps which a lot of applications have copied or adapted from. The other onesI tried: Fox, ABC, NPR and a no brand version - Fluent News. The last one has turned out to be the best one for the following reasons: it collects the stories from multiple sources (so it has the most content of any other apps), the editor puts all the related stories together and sometimes when I want to find more, I click on those and the app downloads the news stories upfront which means after the application is loaded, it still operates after internet access is gone (which is why I love to read it on the train)...

July 06, 2010

Trojan.BHO - whew!

Over the July 4th weekend, my computer got infected with this spyware/virus. The behavior was interesting. It indicated that my computer was infected and that Add/Remove programs was disabled. Then it prompted me to buy Anti Virus software called AV Security Suite. When it repeatedly did so and I couldn't get rid of the messages, something was clearly up and this time it was different. There were numerous issues in all:

  1. I couldn't run the Remove Applications tool from the Control Panel.
  2. On clicking on any google or yahoo results, my browser would be taken to an unsolicited (but respectable :) website. Typically these sites would list the AV Security Suite solution as something I should buy. 
Now its been few hours and I think I have successfully eliminated all the files related to this attack. I have some notes here which could help anyone else having this issue.

The first phase of fixes made by Malwarebytes Anti-Malware software worked really well: it deleted most of the major Trojan files on the first run. However the second and third runs revealed more files to delete. This was quite odd since it seemed like the virus was self-generating or something. Eventually I was still left with a sporadic redirection problem: Both Yahoo and Google search results would get redirected to arbitrary sites. Now these would be random sites. And the problem would kick in every now and then. It seemed like there was something slithery still sneaking around on the computer.

Then I tried a whole bunch of other software:

  1. CCleaner: This cleaned up my entire PC, my Startup Menu etc., Everything except my Desktop I think. It didnt help with the virus at all. However it did leave me feeling clean on the PC ;)
  2. Spybot Search & Destroy: Again, this software found some low risk cookies and files. No big deal. I am sure by tomorrow these files would find their way into my PC by tomorrow.
  3. Super AntiSpyware. Again same results as the Spybot.
  4. HijackThis. This was the tool which did it and I found that a normal user may find it very hard to use. In just a few seconds, it exposed a few settings for the BHO registry entries that were causing my browser to behave as it was. And deleting them was a quick snap as well. None of the other tools found/exposed what HijackThis (made by TrendMicro) did. Good job!
Overall the experience was eye-opening. My PC came with Vipre Enterprise software suite and that also was not any help at all. It couldnt find the bad registry entries and it was not able to detect/delete a lot of the files found by the other tools.

I feel that since my last dealing with a computer virus, nothing has really changed. Its only the players which has changed. The state of the industry is still the same - there is no single fix-all as maybe the viruses keep evolving...

Update: Unfortunately my fixes didn't fix it all! The PC is still suffering from tabs or redirects at random to unsolicited websites. This affects only searches done on yahoo and google. On clicking on a search result, sometimes (like the third or fourth time) I would be redirected to a bunch of websites opening one after another. Luckily none of them are offensive. Pure junk and inconvenient.

Tried the following today:

  1. Microsoft Security Essentials: Piece of junk. Just like other microsoft software, this one is buggy and has its own problems. Couldnt even connect and download its database from microsoft website.
  2. Prevx. This has seemed to work and it did detect a virus (and it was the only one) when my browser was opening random websites. It immediately killed my firefox and said it cleaned my hosts file. I havent had the problem since. Lets see. My fingers and everything else I can cross is crossed ;)

October 24, 2008

Sharepoint Wiki

I had the recent distasteful experiencing of using Sharepoint Wiki after having a good time with mediawiki installs for a long time. I must say Windows XP and the Wiki act together like "Thing 1" and "Thing 2" in Dr Suess's Cat in the Hat! After a few mistrials I found that the Sharepoint wiki only worked on IE, similar to Exchange's Online access. For example I couldn't get the WYSIWYG editor to work with Chrome - which is blazingly fast compared to IE. Even basic editing didnt work and introduced some confusing letter overwring issue when you went back into the textboxes. Meanwhile on every second day these days it seems XP downloads a "reboot required" update from Microsoft.

I must say when is this mess going to end and we put a lock on or tame the Microsoft craziness? 

June 24, 2008

Some ideas keep getting born with different twists

A while ago I blogged about P2P lending (Kiva). Kiva deals with microfinance. Recently I noticed two new websites (which probably have existed for a while) dealing with college financing for students. Both Greennote and Fynanz are websites which allow students to contact family and friends network to finance their education. The business model of the sites is simple - fees and cuts. There are lots of differences though Greennote's loans are unsecured. In other words, the lender must somehow believe in the borrower. If the borrower defaults, Greennote claims they will let loose their collections services on him/her and report to the credit bureau. Fynanz on the other hand provides some guarantees on the loans and also uses the student GPA in determining this guarantee as well. I think this method by default allows the borrower and loaner to be distant relatives compared to closer ones on Greennote.

If all this was not enough, Lending Club offers yet another venue for P2P lending. The rates are higher compared to student loans on the other two sites and normal people can get a loan there. Lending Club also offers a loan portfolio against lending to specific lenders which tends to reduce the risk taken on by the borrower and does not offer any guarantees otherwise.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

April 18, 2008

A comparison of Referral Ad Networks

I started a comparison between several referral ad networks around six months back and one of the things I was interested in concluding was - how good the Google adsense machine is when compared to non pay per click ad networks. At least for bloggers I noticed that Google adsense provided a much better return on real estate compared to: Amazon Associates, WidgetBucks.COM, ShoppingAds.COM and DoubleClick Performics (now part of Google). This is especially true if you just want to minimally manage your blogs and wish to only write posts about topics you really like or care about. I still haven't determined the following: which ads offer the best returns - text, image or video. What positions are the best: top center, top left or top right. It seems that top center and a text/image ad works the best when it comes to CTR.

January 24, 2008

Rent A Coder

I recently came across a website called s4support. The company essentially provides an efficient and online way of hiring talent in India. Compare this with the interface provided by companies like Globallogic. If you look at S4's pricing, it's probably slashing those offered by other well known outfits by around 50%. I haven't tried S4, but if you have do post a review or some comments here. I have tried an alternate service though called Rent A Coder. Now Rent A Coder works quite differently. Its like the Ebay of software services. The model is you buy software services in small snips and you manage it on your own. I must confess - I have spent close to $2,500 on different pieces of software written by Rent A Coder experts, but I haven't been able to put even one single piece to use. Some projects done there are gems of their own. Its just that they were good experiments. I found love somewhere else :) Frankly I have worked with companies like Globallogic as well and would recommend them over any of these two services. However both Rent A Coder and S4 are well established and make sense for certain kinds of projects. Rent A Coder excels in getting small pieces of work done. For example, you want some Javascript for your site or you want first cuts of a website or PC software. If you want to maintain and improve a piece of code, Rent A Coder is not the right place. If you want to improve some existing code and the coder needs to understand and improve it, Rent A coder is not the right place for it. This kind of work is better done by S4 or Globallogic.

Now you must be wondering where I found love :) I found a bright and talented set of people in India who absolutely rock and I hope they are reading this!

December 22, 2007

Kizoodle

Kizoodle is an online bartering system which has kizoodles as the monetary units. The model is that buyer agrees to buy certain seller listed items at some agreed kizoodle value and the seller uses these units to go buy other things on the site. The domain seems to have a advertisement based model. Trouble is that there is no protection between buyer/seller and most items in this environment are low valued items. Kizoodles only work on that site which is a bottleneck in the network growth. It will be interesting to see how the site evolves and grows.