Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

GMail’s confusing icons


For a long time now, I have hated GMail’s icons on the main toolbar. Specially on the app. It doesn’t make sense, and they are confusing. I wonder who are the numbnuts who came up with them, and on what basis.

Thankfully, others too have felt the problem. And somebody else wrote about it. Read on.


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Theres now a car in space !!


Nowadays there is a crazy amount of non-sensical news out there, that sometimes the really awesome stuff gets skipped over.  Somebody might have dared Elon Musk way back in high school, and I think he did this just to get back. SpaceX, his private aerospace company, this week launched their heaviest rocket yet, in what is any company’s coolest PR stunt , ever. They actually launched a Tesla Roadster car in space ! Complete with a dummy driver, named Starman. How cool is that ?

But the real accomplishment of this event was how the two boosters of the rocket returned, and landed back on earth. Two of the boosters were recycled and programmed to return for a simultaneous touchdown at Cape Canaveral, while the third, brand new, set its sights on an ocean platform almost 500 kilometres offshore. This is the technology they are trying to advertise, the cost savings when re-usable engines are used. Its sticker price is $US90 million, less than one-tenth the estimated cost of NASA's Space Launch System megarocket in development for Moon and Mars expeditions.


The car could be traveling between Earth and Mars' neighbourhoods for a billion years, because it did miss its target of going to Mars.

Thank you, Mr Musk. This video of starman in space is ultimate food for Nerds !

Monday, June 26, 2017

Snapdeal’s failure

Interesting read. Saw this article condensing Snapdeal’s fall into failure.I’ve had bad experience with them. Turns out they never had any focus.

Friday, June 9, 2017

India’s 4G speeds a third of global average

How fast is 4G again ?

India ranks at 74 in a list of 75 countries ranked according to average 4G speed

Regardless of the flood of deep discounts and attractive data packages telecom operators have been offering in recent months to retain their subscriber base, 4G internet speed in India, a crucial parameter of user experience, continues to be dismal, a new survey has found.

At an average data speed of 5.14 Mbps, 4G speed in India ranks three time below the global average and just a notch above the average global 3G speed. Ranked at 74 among 75 countries surveyed, India’s 4G speed was found much slower compared to other countries, including Pakistan and Sri Lanka and faster than only Costa Rica which ranks at the bottom.

According to the Open Signal report, Pakistan recorded average data speeds of 11.71 Mbps. The countries on top of 4G internet speeds include Singapore and South Korea, with download speeds of about 40 Mbps.

In Costa Rica and India, the drop in average data speeds was attributed to the abrupt increase in number of 4G users in the country.

The report also ranks countries in order of 4G network availability in the world and India fared better in this particular list, making it to the 15th position, globally. Between September 2016 and March 2017, there has been an 82 percent surge in 4G internet availability, largely on the back of Reliance Jio's entry into the telecom sector last year.

India has some of the slowest LTE speeds in the world, the report said. In fact, the report goes on to underline a pattern of drop in 4G network speeds in the country, recording a fall of over one per cent over the past six months.

These findings come in stark contrast to the figures released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai). The telecom regulator had earlier said that Reliance Jio topped the ch

art in 4G network speed for the month of April with an all-time high download speed of 19.12 megabit per second.

4G Speed Comparison
051015202530354045504G Speed (Mbps)SingaporeSouth KoreaHungaryNorwayNetherlandsLuxembourgCroatiaNew ZealandBulgariaAustraliaDenmarkLithuaniaCanadaSerbiaBelgiumItalySpainUnited Arab EmiratesAustriaLatviaSlovakiaTaiwanGreeceSwedenBruneiRomaniaTurkeySwitzerlandFinlandLebanonJapanCzech RepublicEcuadorFranceOmanDominican RepublicIrelandEstoniaUnited KingdomMexicoSloveniaPortugalPeruTunisiaGermanySouth AfricaBrazilColombiaChileIsraelPanamaPolandMoroccoQatarKazakhstanRussian FederationHong KongJordanUnited States of AmericaGeorgiaMalaysiaGuatemalaKuwaitCambodiaThailandPakistanArgentinaBahrainSri LankaIranPhilippinesSaudi ArabiaIndonesiaIndiaCosta Rica

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Aadhar is not progress


Read an impressive post on Mozilla’s Open policy  blog about why India’s Aadhaar is a step backward in citizen rights. The central problem in this context is clearly spelt out:

This is all possible because India currently does not have any comprehensive national law protecting personal security through privacy. India’s Attorney General has recently cast doubt on whether a right to privacy exists in arguments before the Supreme Court, and has not addressed how individual citizens can enjoy personal security without privacy.

The problem is compounded by the fact that is not that difficult to procure a fake Aadhaar card in the country, one of the most corrupted in the world.


So while honest citizens will be forced to provide proof of identity to receive government services, illegals and criminals will continue to feed off the system.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

In the long term, automation will kill more jobs


All the Indian IT companies are now focussing on automation, too much actually. More and more companies are quietly reducing their workforce - especially the lower rung - as many of the processes are getting automated.

For companies, the move is welcome as it saves them cost, while boosting efficiency at the same time. The automation of course has hit entry-level workforce the hardest, but it is not as if senior and middle rung employees are spared either. This is where senior employees take the hit. Many employees post 40 find themselves unemployable and have to be extremely good or equipped with a specific skill set to get a job. Otherwise, companies find it easier to hire three freshers for one tenth of the senior’s salary and willing to work 16 hours a day.

And the worst way countries have found to this problem is basic income. The cybernation revolution has been brought about by the combination of the computer and the automated self-regulating machine. This results in a system of almost unlimited productive capacity which requires progressively less human labor.

Alreay, 80% of engineers passing out of Indian colleges are unemployable. And IT has always been  the largest absobers of all those graduates.  Future engineers , and eveyone by extension, are going to hav to fight robots to keep their jobs. For once I feel mankind took a wrong turn on the ‘disruptive’ road, and future generations are going to pay the price.



Friday, September 2, 2016

Online Shopping ? Stay smart.


Online shopping is a rage nowadays, I see people looking up prices of watches to motorcycles on computers and smartphones. Everyone is searching for that elusive deal. Its the online version of window shopping. You know, when you are just comparing prices, but not really buying anything.

Turns out , there are apps which will help you do this window shopping , compare prices, and even alert you to other price drops in the category. In India, the extension called Buyhatke is the leader and the best. They have chrome extensions, which will turn active if you are at a shopping site, and show you price trends from the past. It works on Flipkart, Amazon, eBay  and many other sites too.

The extension automatically adds a price trend graph in a simple line graph on the page. Also tries to predict if it is a good decision to buy the product today.


Its amazing being able to see how they fluctuate the price of the same product over time. Here is a graph alerting me that the product on sale is actually  priced higher today than yesterday.



Here is how crazily the price fluctuates on some products. Its almost as if there was an earthquake a few days ago.


Also works on Amazon.


But the best feature is that it alerts you if the same product is available at a lower price somewhere else.


Now thats cool. It only calculates base price, and there might be an additional shipping charge.

Another extension you can use the Flipkart Advantage detector.  Flipkart does not metion on the grid view if the product has express shipping. This extension detects that and puts an icon on the product page if it can be delivered on the same day or next day. Here is has placed a red star on the first product.



Things have not been good for shopping sites in India. With the festival season coming up, there will surely be many deals for the customers coming in.

Be smart. And happy shopping !

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Electric vehicles in India


Last months’ terrible traffic jam and worsening climate got me thinking about greener modes of transport. What are the non-fossil fuels based transport avaiable to us Indians ? Turns out, not very much. Whatever options are available today are way more expensive and cumbersome than the simple petrol/diesel engine based vehicles. But still, there are quite a lot of options, the general public is not aware of them.

For instance, take electric bicycles. These are the standard pedal cycles, but with an additional electric motor which can be used to further the distance that can be covered. The only company currently seen selling such bikes is Hullikal, and the bikes are priced way high.


Around Rs 30,000/-. For this price, one can easily buy a second hand petrol engine bike. And this pricing is the biggest problem which will hamper early adoption of this novel new technology.

For the same price, or slightly more, one can buy a full fledged two wheeler, which looks like any one of those million scooters on the road. And it says it can travel double the distance.


The company every e-bike enthusiast is watching right now is Ather. They have promised to deliver a futuristic looking smart bike, with full integration to smartphones and gps. But this bike will be priced > Rs 75,000/-


But those few who can afford these vehicles , and their monthly electricity bills, and care for the planet, are surely buying and using them. In Bangalore, I see a lot of electric cars from Mahindra on the road. It was initially priced at ~7 lakhs, but now the price is down to  ~5 lakhs.


I didn’t know this, but it seems one can buy an electric sedan too.image


Going green is definitely expensive. That and the non-availability of charging stations around town is going to slow down this even more.

Monday, May 30, 2016

History of the Internet


Yes. We have finally reached there. The internet is now that old, that it’s history now has to be documented. Generation Z today take the internet and all its services for granted, that they have no idea how it began and how far it has come since the dial-up days.

The good folks at Internet History Podcast have put up podcasts detailing the birth and evolution of the internet to it’s current state. Its all there, everything from the creation of Netscape (remember Netscape ?) and AOL to the first search engines (Yahoo.) to all its numeous media sites. I specially found the episode on Yahoo interesting, given their current state of turmoil.


Its turning me nostalgic again. You will have to spend hours through this site to get the full picture. Happy browsing.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Hi-Tech Begging


Today I read about Abe Hagenston, a homeless man in America, who has taken begging to new heights. He is happy to receive money via credit cards, and offers up his machined so donators can swipe their cards on them. Guess this was bound to happen.

Hagenston, who calls himself “Honest Abe,” was panhandling near the 8 Mile overpass on I-75 when the TV news folks caught up with him.

Abe proudly noted that he has helped organize some of the panhandlers in his area into a union of sorts. He says they’ve worked out a schedule to panhandle in shifts to avoid stepping on each other’s territory.

Disappointed that Detroit hasn’t seen much snow to shovel for extra cash, “Honest Abe” said his intake hasn’t been as good as it could be. But the new credit card swiper is helping.

“I take VISA, MasterCard, American Express,” Abe said. “I’m the only homeless guy in America who can take a credit card. It’s all done safely and securely through”

Anyone who has been to a large city will be familiar with being asked if they can 'spare some change' by homeless men on the streets.

However, that call could become a thing of the past now that one rough sleeper in Detroit has started accepting card payments via a reader attached to his smartphone.

Abe Hagenston, who calls himself 'Honest Abe', told CBS Detroit that he began accepting the payments while trying to save up cash for a new pair of prescription glasses.


Hagenston told reporters that he has been on the streets for seven years, and lives underneath the 8 Mile overpass where it crosses Interstate 75.

While he would usually have spent the winter shoveling snow to make extra cash, Hagenston said this year's mild weather has left him with nothing to do.

So instead of going to work, Hagenston said he and several other vagrants from around the city have organized 'like a union'.

Now they take it in turns to panhandle across certain zones of the city before splitting the money they make between themselves.

As part of the team's efforts to rake in more cash, 'Honest Abe' acquired a mobile card reader from tech company Square.

Hagenston also appears to have a Facebook page with a Myspace account linked to it that goes under the name of 'Honest Abe'.

According to information on those profiles he graduated from LaBelle High School in Idaho in 1992 and studied at Edison State College in Florida.

He also claims 'consultant' as his occupation, but gives no details on whether he is still employed or what company he works for. 


In March last year Hagenston (pictured) founded the new-defunct where he offered to complete odd jobs such as window washing and yard cleaning in return for money

An image uploaded to the Facebook profile appears to show a young boy leaning on his chest, thought Hagenston's face is not visible. 

This is also not the first time that Hagenston has attempted to use technology to make money, having previously founded website, according to another CBS story.

The site, named after a slang word for begging, was designed to attract offers of work from concerned passersby, with services on offer including yard work, painting, and window washing.

Square is a tech firm founded by former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and provides businesses with payment methods based around smartphone and tablet technology.

The smallest credit card readers, which plug into Apple or Android smartphones, are usually free to acquire with Square making its money by charging a 2.75 per cent fee on each transaction.

The owner of the reader is then paid all their earnings the following day by direct debit into a bank account.

The readers, which can be upgraded to include a contactless sensor or a tablet attached to a swivel-stand, were designed for start-up stores or businesses with no fixed location - such as market stands or food carts.

Abe claims to be the first homeless person in America to make use of the technology.

He added: 'I take VISA, MasterCard, American Express. I’m the only homeless guy in America who can take a credit card. It’s all done safely and securely through' 


Hagenston now says he is accepting donations via card payment thanks to a Square reader attached to his smartphone (file image) which he says will be used to buy new prescription glasses

Friday, February 26, 2016

Throwback: Magazine CD Days


I was back in my home town some time back, and was going through some old ‘garbage’. You know, the stuff you are sure are useless, but you keep around anyway. And I ran into some old magazine CDs I had purchased more than 10 years ago.IMG_20160221_125806755

They are from a computer magazine called CHIP, which they later renamed to DIGIT. The came out in monthly issues, and each issue had two CDs, one with business/work software, and the other had fun/games/videos stuff like that. During the mid nineties these magazines where very popular and sought after by computer enthusiasts. Because the internet had just hit India, but the usage rates were awefully high. Downloading a CD worth of content from the internet would take hours ,and it cost about 60 rupees per hour. So getting two CDs of downloaded stuff for 100 rupees was like a good deal, all the content was nicely documented and arranged in a searachable menu. And the CDs still work till this day !





The 2nd fun CD usually came with trial/shareware versions of computer games, and most of us got to play US titles in this way, without having to download them ourselves. I als digged the computer/programmer softwares they used to ship. The CDs I have are dated July 2001, and November 2002.




Digit still gives out discs, though now they consist of DVDs.Today of course the internet has become a lot more affordable, so one can stay online all day without having to empty one’s pockets for all those downloads. But its fun to think how far we have gone since then.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Microsoft Open Sources and Forks Windows Live Writer into Open Live

Yeaah !!! This is probably the best news I have head from Microsoft this year.Microsoft Open Sources and Forks Windows Live Writer into Open Live Writer.  The latest binary installable can be downloaded now and the project is now on GitHub.

But unfortunately, Google too this update news to turn off legacy support of its authentication  APIs. So now, the new as well as older versions of Live Writer, cannot connect to Blogger. :-(

The product that became Live Writer was originally created by a small, super-talented team of engineers including JJ Allaire, Joe Cheng, Charles Teague, and Spike Washburn. The team was acquired by Microsoft in 2006 and organized with the Spaces team. Becky Pezely joined the team and over time, the team grew and shipped many popular releases of Windows Live Writer.
As Microsoft was planning for the version of Windows Live that would coincide with Windows 8 operating system release, the teams that built the Windows Live client apps for Windows were encouraged to focus on building a smaller set of Windows 8 apps designed to work well with both traditional PC input mechanisms and touch. With the rise of micro-blogging platforms and other forms of sharing, eventually this team decided to conclude their work on Windows Live Writer with Windows Live Writer 2012.
Even though there was no active development, Windows Live Writer continued to be a favorite tool of a passionate community of Windows PC users for authoring, editing, and publishing blog posts. Data from at the time suggested that Open Live Writer (even two years after active development ended) was the #1 app for authoring a blog post to from a Windows PC.

A few employees at Microsoft took an interest in reviving Live Writer as an open source project in their spare time. By January 2015, a group of about a half-dozen engineers interested in spending some of their volunteer time to help release an updated version of Live Writer had found each other and began work on getting this open source fork of Live Writer formed and ready to ship. In December 2015 Microsoft donated the code to the .NET Foundation and this passionate group of volunteer engineers rapidly assembled the first open source version.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Dropbox Paper feature turns off your Public folder


If you started using Dropbox before 2012, you know of its awesome Public folders features. Basically, anything you put there can be shared as if it were on a public webserver, the public link enables others to download or see your file without any authentication. It is a great way to make files available for direct linking or downloads.

Recently, dropbox announced its Paper feature, providing a way for groups of users to share notes and files. But if you turn this feature on, dropbox turns off the public folders feature. There is no easy way to revert it either. It does not delete any files, but all your public links will stop working and require a basic authentication.



To get your public folders back, you need to turn of the Paper or Teams feature. Follow the steps here.



Score -1 to dropbox. Hope they get these bugs fixed soon.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Skype Adds new emoticons & Skype - Outlook Integration


Skype is getting more fun to use. They still have their boring old user interface in blue, but they are adding more new emoticons just for the fun of it. First they added the characters of the Pixar movie 'Inside Out' when the movie came out.


But now they have gone ahead and added a tonne of Indian themed emoticons along with Halloween charachters.


There's the dancing punjabi  bangara, 80's style disco dancer, and even chicken tandoori and chai !  They don't convey any emotions, just for fun.

Oh, did you know that skype can integrate to your outlook connection ? Just add your official email address to your skype profile, and skype will start showing you all the profiles of your official contacts.


So you will start seeing green squares next to your outlook contacts, showing their availability on skype !

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Blackberry still has not learnt anything


The latest joke on the internet now is Blackberry Priv. Its a joke because it is one of the priciest phone using the free Android operating system. Even after their debacle, they still have not learnt anything about affordable devices, and have announced a price tag of USD 699 for their technologically inferior Priv devices.



Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Martian - Second best movie of the year


Jurassic World is the first, obvi :-) .I got to finally watch this movie in 3D, and must say it tells a very realistic and believable story of Robinsonade on Mars. I guess it will be best enjoyed by scientists and engineers, people who solve technological problems every day, and even by anybody who has ever fixed a bike or plugged a leak. The director, Ridley Scott, has made movies across genres and timelines, but has been steadily delivering big budget duds, like Exodus and Prometheus. But in the Martian, he had decided to tell a simple story of engineering problem solving, and a man's resolve to survive.

First things first. Matt Damon, as the astronaut  stranded on Mars, nails it. He gets the best scenes and dialogues. And the supporting cast also does a good job. Matt's space cowboy role is much better written than Cooper from Interstellar, and the astronauts from Gravity. But thats mainly because he is still on solid ground (Mars) and has better equipment and state of mind. Instead of saving the world like Cooper, he is focussed on saving himself, wanting a little bit of spotlight on himself. He is also very logical and plans his actions without emotions getting in the way. While this means he approaches problems scientifically, I think it stops from his character development. And this is my biggest problem with the movie. During the entire 500 sols on the red planet, we never even once see/hear Mark Watney talk about his family, his friends, his hobbies..and what he misses the most on earth. 500 days alone without even a way to hear a human voice. It can mess things up. But Mark does not go crazy or suicidal. He works it out like a robot.

In Interstellar, decades have passed on earth after Cooper leaves and he is desperate to return to his kids. In Gravity, Stone wants to get back to her family and daughter. But Mark was no one close. Even in the end when Mark is safe on planet earth and is now teaching, he is seen alone, without a shot of his home or a partner, or what kind of music he likes. The only thing we get to take away from the movie about Mark's personal life, is that he prefers coffee. The book (which I am reading) tells us a lot more about Watney, that he grew up in Chicago, and likes beer, and that he is sick of potatoes. The movie does not describe his loneliness and isolation while being stranded 250 million miles away.

There are some spectacular shots of the Mars horizon in the movie, you gotta watch it in 3d. And the rescue sequence in the end is awesome. The ships are not overdone, they look functional and well designed. The equipment of the crew is what modern astronauts have. There is not too much jargon in the talk , on hindsight, this is unexpected. And there is almost equal coverage of the actions on earth and Hermes spacecraft to the scenes on Mars. But they could have done a little more, IMHO.

Gravity on Mars is only about one-third earth gravity (actually 68%). So it should have been visible on the planet. But the Mars visitors walk around like they do on Earth. Weird.

There is a huge time lag for electronic communication between earth and mars. Max 22 minutes. Even light,the fastest thing in the universe, would take 22 minutes to travel from earth to mars. But in the final rescue sequence, the crew at Houston is shown listening on the rescue in real time.

Mark does not fall sick, or injured during this 500 sol stay. After the injury from the debris, the staples himself shut, and there is no show of infection or side effects. Except for the passing out on the Mars Ascention Vehicle in the end, he is in excellent health ! Prolonged exposure to low gravity environments  should have shown effects on this health.

Mars is a low gravity planet very far from earth. Relativity tells us that time on Mars will be slower that of Earth time. What effect does this have on communication, and aging ? Nothing addressed.

But these are minor issues. The movie does justice to the book. Clearly the movie is about surviving odds. And solving problems. And team work. All in all, positivity. I am sure at least a few young minds will be inspired to take up astronomy as a career prospect after watching this movie.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Origin of the name "Google"



From time to time I read or hear stories of the origin of the search engine and company name "Google" that are incorrect, which prompts me to write this brief account, based on my understanding of the genesis of the name. The source of my information is my friends and colleagues from Wing 3B of the Gates Computer Science Building at Stanford University, where Google was born.

In 1996, Larry Page and Sergey Brin called their initial search engine "BackRub," named for its analysis of the web's "back links." Larry's office was in room 360 of the Gates CS Building, which he shared with several other graduate students, including Sean Anderson, Tamara Munzner, and Lucas Pereira. In 1997, Larry and his officemates discussed a number of possible new names for the rapidly improving search technology. Sean recalls the final brainstorming session as occurring one day during September of that year.

Sean and Larry were in their office, using the whiteboard, trying to think up a good name - something that related to the indexing of an immense amount of data. Sean verbally suggested the word "googolplex," and Larry responded verbally with the shortened form, "googol" (both words refer to specific large numbers). Sean was seated at his computer terminal, so he executed a search of the Internet domain name registry database to see if the newly suggested name was still available for registration and use. Sean is not an infallible speller, and he made the mistake of searching for the name spelled as "," which he found to be available. Larry liked the name, and within hours he took the step of registering the name "" for himself and Sergey (the domain name registration record dates from September 15, 1997).

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

'Recalc Or Die': 30 Years Later, Microsoft Excel 1.0 Vets Recount A Project That Defied The Odds


IMG_0855-1-620x381Mike Koss, Jabe Blumenthal, Doug Klunder and Jon DeVaan with Excel 1.0.

Microsoft has recently been making lots of apps for iOS and Android, despite the fact that those platforms are rivals to its own Windows operating system. But this is actually not a new phenomenon at the company.

IMG_0839-620x439Mike Koss runs Excel 1.0 on a 512K Mac this week.

Just ask Doug Klunder, the lead developer for Microsoft Excel 1.0, who quit his job after Bill Gates and other Microsoft leaders decided to shift the original Excel project from MS-DOS to the Apple Macintosh more than three decades ago.

Klunder ended up coming back to Microsoft and finishing the project, after an ill-fated stint as a farm worker in the lettuce fields of California. But even today, with Excel still going strong, he isn’t convinced Microsoft made the best choice.

“I’m still not entirely sure it was the right decision,” he said this week, laughing with his former Excel colleagues. “In some ways it worked out well, but it did put us years behind, because we shipped on the Mac and gave Lotus that much longer to consolidate on the PC platform. I still think we could have taken them on.”

Klunder was one of four members of the Excel 1.0 team who joined us to record a podcast (below) at the GeekWire offices this week, reflecting on the creation of one the most important products in Microsoft’s history.

IMG_0836-620x465Software developer Mike Koss, the unofficial historian of the original Excel team, brought an original 512K Mac running the first version of Excel on floppy disks, a “Recalc or Die” motorcycle jacket and shirt, technical documents and other memorabilia from the Excel 1.0 era — mementos of a landmark Microsoft product.

“Microsoft really bet its future on two programs at right about the same time: Excel and Windows,” Klunder said. “If both of them had failed, Microsoft wouldn’t be here today. Both of them succeeded. It really helped cement Microsoft’s role.”

This weekend, many of the original Excel team members are getting together to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the software’s release, along with others who have been involved in Excel over the years. (Members of the extended Excel family should email for info and to RSVP.)

klunder-620x398Doug Klunder, then and now. He’s now a lawyer who does privacy work for the ACLU.

Thirty years later, their passion for the project still runs deep — as evidenced by Klunder sticking to his guns on the company’s Mac vs. DOS decision. It’s clear that one of the main reasons Excel beat out rivals such as Lotus 1-2-3 and VisiCalc was the determination and ingenuity of the original team.

Of course, there were other factors, as well.

“It’s important to point out that largely it was a matter of ripping off really good ideas from other products,” said Jabe Blumenthal, who was Microsoft’s first program manager, working on the Excel team. But he quickly noted, “Doug will take exception to that because he did some really cool original stuff.”

Klunder said, “We certainly ripped some stuff off, but we also did some things that nobody else had done at the time and probably hasn’t done since — some of which are really insane, and some of which turn out to be pretty handy.”

screenshot_767-620x491Mike Koss, a member of the original Excel team, is now a software developer at Google. He has been an active member and organizer of Seattle’s startup community.

This is where “Recalc or Die” comes in. One of Excel’s features was “intelligent recalc,” created by Klunder, which gave Excel an advantage over Lotus 1-2-3 by being smart about the way it recalculated cells in a spreadsheet.

Rather than recalculating all the cells when one cell was changed, it selectively recalculated cells affected by the change — making the program more efficient and improving its performance on the limited hardware of early personal computers.

This feature was important enough that Bill Gates took a special interest in it. “Bill was very interested in the recalc problem,” Koss said. “I remember having meetings with him into Excel 2, Excel 3, where he was very interested in getting an optimal recalc and doing better.”

But the significance of the feature was also a risk, because Klunder was the only one who knew its secrets.

“Just imagine having this product where one of the key components of it is really only understood by this guy who will quit routinely and go be a migrant farm worker down in California,” Blumenthal said, laughing with the group. “It was not necessarily the most traditional or stable of environments.”

jabeJabe Blumenthal, Microsoft’s original program manager, is now focusing on climate and clean energy advocacy, including work with Bill Gates. He taught high school math and physics after leaving Microsoft.

Excel was a learning experience for everyone. Blumenthal, for example, recalled initially being skeptical about his colleague Steve Hazlerig’s idea to “print” a document to the screen as a way of checking the output before printing to paper. Blumenthal couldn’t understand why anyone would want to do that. But he recognized that he could be wrong, and that Hazlerig had more experience with printing than he did. And so he let the feature live.

“I’m so, so glad that I don’t go down in history as the person who killed Print Preview,” he said.

Blumenthal pioneered the position of program manager at Microsoft, and the way he handled the Print Preview situation was characteristic of the best program managers, said Jon DeVaan, another Excel 1.0 team member, who would go on to become a high-ranking Microsoft Windows and Office engineering executive before leaving the company in 2013.

“The best program managers do what you just said,” DeVaan told Blumenthal during the conversation this week. “The people that struggle more in the job are the people that want to be in charge, and that doesn’t work out so well. The reality is, everybody is really passionate about what they do, and they want to have a voice in how things turn out. The best way to handle that is to allow the expression to happen, and come up with a good decision.”

screenshot_766Jon DeVaan went on to become a key Microsoft engineering executive for Office and then Windows, before leaving the company in 2013.

Among other tidbits, they shared the fact that the product almost didn’t end up being called Excel. “Odyssey” was the code name, and product names that were considered included “Master Plan” and “Mr. Spreadsheet,” before a professional naming firm came up with the final brand.

Many of the original Excel team members still use the program today — the RSVP sheet for this weekend’s party is an Excel Online document — and take pride in the software’s impact on the world.

“It’s been so much fun,” said DeVaan. “Everywhere in the world I’ve ever been, people know what Excel is, and can tell their stories about how it empowered them, and it’s just awesomely cool.”

“It’s not like there wouldn’t have been a dominant spreadsheet in the world had it not been Excel,” said Blumenthal. “It’s always important to start these things off by saying, the brilliant invention was the invention of VisiCalc. But it’s so cool that I got to participate in this thing at such a ridiculously young age with a whole bunch of really fun and inspiring people to work with. Every day I thank my lucky stars for having had that experience.”

“The world, I don’t think, looks any different than it would if we hadn’t done it, because somebody else would have done it,” he said. “But that’s OK. We got to participate in something incredibly fun.”

Monday, October 5, 2015

Nokia 1100 is Still the Biggest Selling Handset in the World

The world’s best selling phone is not the iPhone but something very old and not a smartphone at all? Remember the classic old Nokia 1100, the phone we all perhaps began with? While the iPhone 6 may have sold 71 million units in about three months, the numbers have nothing on the Nokia 1100.


The Nokia 1100 was an entry-level handset that came out in 2003. At the time it was perhaps the best thing to ever hit the mobile market. Lets consider this a 2003 post and talk of the specs that makes the phone a true badass. The handset does not come with two cameras, a curved screen or a snapdragon processor. What it does feature is a torch-light, a pair of no-slip grips, dust-proof case, monochrome graphic with, wait for it, 96 x 65 pixels, monophonic ringtones (36 pre-installed, 7 user-made), interchangeable covers, and an unbreakable will (we mean it).


This smooth handset can also store up to 50 contacts and 50 messages (25 sent, 25 received) and gives a whopping 400 hours standby time between charges. But the one thing that really tied this phone together was Snakes II and Space Impact – those 8-bit games that were played by 250 million people around the world.

We say 250 million because that’s how many units of the Nokia 1100 were sold by 2008, becoming not only the world’s best selling phone, but also the best selling consumer electronics device. There are many reasons behind why the 1100 was the craze at the time. For one thing, the phone was highly affordable at about $100 with all the features mentioned above, which were all that one needed at the time.

Nokia 1100 (2)

The phone was discontinued in 2008 because of the next wave of phones that were coming in, However, in 2009, the obsolete device became something of a collectors item as they were being sold for obscene amounts of money – say $32,000 a piece.

But if you thought you had seen the last of the Nokia 1100, think again. There are rumors that the classic handset might come back with a technological makeover. In March this year, the Nokia 1100 was seen in a GeekBench’s database and suggested that the 2016 Nokia 1100 will feature a quad-core 1.3GHz MediaTek MT-6582 processor and will reportedly run on Android 5.0. However, this could all be an elaborate ruse by Nokia to use an old model since under the terms of its deal with Microsoft, Nokia cannot offer a new smartphone under the last quarter of 2016. It would be fun, though, to see what the 1100 would look like fitted with all the new toys today.