28 July 2008

DCamp Bangalore rocked again(part 1)

It was time again DCamp or Design Camp Bangalore.  Amit Pande, Sarit, Muthu, Anil Gupta among others worked hard to get this event going. I must tell you that I had an awesome time there. The presentations there were truly awesome. Let give a short summary of the things as they happened at the DCamp, though Vinodhn already has kind of everything on twitter. So heres how the event unfolded for me.

I happily landed and Mekhri Circle expecting Aditi's office to be close by. So I begin walking from there towards Cauvery Circle. Cool I was looking for directions and I see someone looking at me from an auto. Oh ok I recognize this guy, hmmm....ok he is Gilberto from Thoughworks. Fine he is going to DCamp but is lost and does not know where is it happening. Ok fine I said, let walk to towards the Aditi Office and let so we walk. A few meters down the road, there is Muthu and Sudhindra at the gate of Aditi. So next thing we do is register and head for the terrace where the event was happening. Amit Pande was really busy managing everything there. And the talks were being put on the whiteboard.

So around 10:30 Amit Pande started with his talk. It had a pretty interesting title, UX and Design Inspirations from Science Fictions. Well he did have some interesting points to make. If you think of it then, Arthur C. Clarke, did mention or rather design certain things which at that time were mere fantasy. Then he showed certain examples from movies such as XMen(The virtual 3D map of a certain location), The Matrix(The direct human interface, the phone and several others actually), Minority Report(The awesome mechanism for dealing with so much information and the amazing auto updating newspaper) and Total Recall(The robotic driver and the 3D holographic trainer). Basically he wanted to show that Design is very much like speculative fiction.

Next was Param. He had done some research into Storage Space usage by Automobile users.Some interesting things that he told were

  • Some women keep an extra pair of clothes
  • people dont use ash tray in cars
  • Cup holders too are not used
  • people try to protect their car interiors using every possible means
  • Boot is often used for CNG kit

It was astonishing that Italian designers with little or no knowledge of Indian conditions and attitudes design cars for India. Amazing. the bigger problem is that India has way too many Indias in it. So difficult to understand them fully or satisfy each one of them fully is impossible.

Next there was this talk on how Welingkars Institute, Mumbai is bringing design in management. I did not attend it. Rather I had a nice time talking to folks about how Second Life is destroyed by spam and pr0n. How that wonderful technology still has a lot to do with improving the UX in it.

Then there was this DCamp Challenge, where in teams were formed and we were to come up with ideas on how to optimize the electricity usage in households. We all got together and tried to come up with best of ideas. What we had come up with was the fact that many appliances consume electricity even after they are done with being used. So some sort of smart device should there to automatically cut off electricity.

And it was 1pm and lunch was ready to be served. Let me tell you that it was really awesome. I had a nice time talking to Muthu and Ashish about how Firefox addons were making life simpler. We could do so many things with it.

Well there is a lot more...and will be posting about it more in my next post. Am really tired right now so keep watching this space Happy


Update:  Continues here http://the100rabh.blogspot.com/2008/08/dcamp-bangalore-rocked-againpart-2.html

19 July 2008

Things I would like in my next Browser upgrade

Well there has been a lot hoola hoo over the recent releases of Firefox and Opera. But here are certain things that still suck and would like them to be removed.

1. Better plugins and make them such that they dont hang that tab or window.

2. Download accelerator be integrated in the download manager of the browser itself. Hardly makes sense keeping them dumb.

3. Super fast start is not possible for various technical reasons but a preloader program would definitely be kind of must have.

4. Get more screen real estate to the page and make rest of the things like toolbar, menubar and optionally even status bar visible on a need basis like the playbar in video players in full screen mode.

5. Subscribing to an RSS feed to Google Reader or iGoogle is  a dumb two step process now. Google Reader or iGoogle be made two different options.

6. Tabs must have a 3D effect or something really cool. Switching like pages is so yesterday.

7. Make download dialog unobtrusive. Make it something like the "Remember Password" dialog in Firefox

8. With so much of flash everywhere, instead of having Flash as a plugin, put that into the browser render like JavaScript. Probably that will improve responsiveness.

9. A whitelist for all generally used financial sites. An unobtrusive signal to the user when he goes to a whitelisted site. Multiple sources for whitelist so that bringing one down does not work out well. Obviously an option to add new to your own is definite yes yes.

10. Finally last but not the least...can someone design better icons and theme for Firefox on WinXP. I am feeling a little too bored with whatever is there currently

10 July 2008

Indian broadband users at risk

Wow this was something I did not expect. But this surely did hit me hard the first time I got through it. It seems like I could access most Airtel Broadband users routers using simple telnet. Once I was connected, all that was required was username and password. Boy and I am in. I have access to the router now and I sure can do a lot of crazy stuff with it.

Wait a minute, did I say you need username and password. How would I get the username and password. Well actually not very difficult. Is it. No one ever changes the username and password of their router. Actually no one expects anyone to be able to access the router without their knowledge. But the sad fact is, anyone on the internet can access their router. Most people do not even realize that their internet connection can be easily compromised. How? Well simple steps to follow

1. Press Window Key + R  to open the Run Command Dialog

2. Press cmd (Enter)

3. Enter 'telnet xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx'

Where 'xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx' is the IP Address of someone from Airtel Broadband. Trust me, its not difficult to get the IP of any/random airtel user.

4. Now you would have to enter Username. Thankfully its 'admin' to just enter it and now the tough part, the password. But whats the password. Well password is 'password'. Well literally.

5. One you are through with it. You can enter 'sh' at the prompt. Now to have a simple Linux shell available to you. Now you can do a hell lot of things, which I leave to your imagination.

I blame no one but Airtel for this fiasco. Its their responsibility that when they install a connection for a subscriber, they should change the password. But first of all, a WAN side access to telnet should never be allowed in the first place. I am very sure that most people have no idea about it. Time awareness spread.

Well Airtel may not be the only one, infact I believe all broadband users are equally at risk. Though I could not get through Tata Indicom or BSNL connections, I am sure they too are equally susceptible.

I am going to the Security Camp happening in Bangalore this Saturday 12 July, 2008. Hopefully I will meet some people who will carry this message forward and generate enough awareness to make people secure.


PS: Please write about it in your blog too. If you dont have a blog, the least you can do is Digg it.

04 July 2008

Some third grade news by Hindi News channels

I some time ago wrote about the amazing news stories covered by some Indian news channels. Now there is this amazing channel called IndiaTV, which will put any Indian to shame. An awesome story that it was running of late. I think a picture is worth a thousand words. So..


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02 July 2008

iPhone or Openmoko

Well as I had been following mobile phones. What I have found is that actually there are just two worthy competitors. Rest are just like that. One is iPhone and other is Openmoko. Well iPhone because it has the glory. It has the backing of Apple and support of Steve Jobs behind it. But there is none of that sort for Openmoko. But it has the guts. Its has probably what it takes to make a real revolution. Just making a phone with a bigger screen and touch sensitive does not make revolutions happen Mr Jobs. The best part of the Openmoko phone is that its open. And surprising its priced at $399 and in India its around Rs 20k. Not bad for the phone which has Assisted GPS, WiFi, touch screen, bluetooth, microSD Card support and powerful 500Mhz Processor. To top it all, a user replaceable battery. 

Well the only blemish that I am able to spot is the internal memory. Its a mere 256 MB. Though I can carry all the data in my SDCard but then its not the most convenient way to do things.

Anyways with its killer price(Unlock iPhone reportedly costs $599) it sure makes people think. With no restrictions, I can run apps to my hearts content. I am sure of some amazing applications coming for Openmoko, just because its so much more  developer friendly. No contracts, no iTunes, just fun. I am sure if Apple could, it would have allowed software downloads only through iTunes. Infact I feel very soon it will be a reality for snobby rich Apple fanatics.

In the end it will the people power which will rule. The flexibility is what is going to make a killer app and  mobiles are yet to witness them. And for geeks like me its cooler to have developer friendly phone.