The Game of Thrones

Imagine a world that isn’t black and white. Wait, that’s the world we live in … So, let me rephrase that: imagine a fantasy novel set in a world that isn’t black and white. That’s right. No orcs, no Sauron, no Dark Lord, no Voldemort, no Deatheaters, in short … no easily identifiable evil villian.

Sure there are people who are more dark than they are light, but as the story chugs along, you realise it isn’t without reason.

Now, imagine that this fantasy novel is converted into a rich TV series, set in lush locales with great actors and wonderful pacing.

Wonderful thing, imagination.

Now wish for it to be true … aaand …the magician in me just granted your wish.

The Game of Thrones is a TV series being broadcast on HBO in the US.

It’s based on a series of books by George R R Martin.

Please read, and watch.

Buying A New Phone: iOS vs Android vs WP7


I need a new phone. My Nokia E71 has served me faithfully for the last two+ years. I bought the E71 after Shyam Somnadh (@codelust) recommended it to me โ€” mostly by waving his own E71 around. I’ve had no major complaints, and have loved the battery life going two-three days without having to charge it.

I decided to be a little more scientific this time: I have a checklist, and I’m not buying the first phone I see. And I’m documenting the process โ€” now we all know that documentation makes everything scientific and process driven. I mean, how many software companies do you know that go on and on about how process driven they are? Of course, most of them are body shopping experts that learnt documentation from the US Embassy while applying for visas. But hey, I’m not knocking them, I’m paying the highest compliment by emulating them ๐Ÿ™‚

Let’s start with that checklist:

Number One: The phone needs to cost me less than a decent laptop. That immediately rules out the iPhone 4 and the Samsung Galaxy S2. I’ve set myself an outer limit of INR 29,000 (approximately $650).

Number Two: Battery life is super important to me. I use the phone a lot, both for voice and data. So, I need a phone that nots going to conk out in the middle of the day.

Number Three: It needs to be pretty. I like design and typography. And while I’m not great at design or typography, I know good stuff when I see good stuff.

Number Four: It needs to be reasonably future proof. There’s no point in buying a phone and then it going completely obsolete in six months. The E71 is a bad example, but it still works fine and lets me check email, get on to twitter, make phone calls and send texts.

I’m plan to buy the phone online at โ€” I don’t have the time to go to a mobile store and butt heads with uninformed salesmen. Along the way, if you know a place where I can get a great deal, I’m listening.

Let’s start with a list of phones (ordered by price):

Phone OS Price
Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Android 2.2 INR 21987
Dell Streak Android 2.2 INR 24399
Motorola Milestone Tablet Xt720 Android 2.2 INR 25299
Samsung Google Nexus S Android 2.3 INR 25499
HTC Incredible S Android 2.2 INR 26399
iPhone 3GS 8GB iOS INR 27799
Samsung Galaxy SI9000 Android 2.3 INR 27999
HTC HD7 Windows Phone 7 INR 28292

The phone that’s currently out of stock is the iPhone โ€” but more on that later.

I’m using reviews at Phone Arena, Anand Tech, GSM Arena, and Phone Dog to figure out which phone is good for me โ€” but I still don’t know.

Stay tuned for Part Two.

Using Github with Webfaction (or AWS, or pretty much any other server)

At 2020Social we’ve been building some really cool apps over the last few months. Working with multiple apps means that we need to keep track of what we’re up to, what changes we make etc. And since we iterate rapidly, we need to make sure that we know what bits of code we’re changing. So we use Github as a source code repository.

We use Webfaction as a dev server before moving our apps over to Amazon Web Services. And we’ve figured out how to use Git to tie it all together.

The first thing we did was set up 2020Social as an organization on Github โ€” you can find us here. This has the major advantage of allowing us to set up teams of people working on a particular code. It also allows us to set up a team that comprises only of all the servers we have lying around.

So, the formal (and truly great) way to deploy to servers is using Capistrano. But it can seem like overkill at times, especially on our dev servers. So, we came up with a (hopefully elegant) solution. Of course, this only works if you’re comfortable with the *nix command line and have ssh access to your servers.

  1. Install git on webfaction in our home directory [instructions]
  2. Create an ssh key pair. To know more about ssh keys check this out.

    cd ~/.ssh
    ssh-keygen -t dsa "give your server a name"

  3. Create a user using the free plan on, add the ssh key generated above
  4. Create a team on github in your organization โ€” call it servers โ€” and add the user you just created. Give this team only pull rights
  5. On your server, set up an application folder. On webfaction you need to use the web-based control panel.
  6. In the application folder, do the following

    git init
    git remote add [repo_name] [repo_url]
    git pull [repo_name] [branch_name]

That’s it. You can now merrily pull code on to your server from your github repo. And if you avoid uploading files, you’ll know for a fact that all the versions of code floating around are connected to each other, with a history you can track.

Learning Ruby on Rails 3

Installing RoR3 on a Mac โ€”


This is the best guide I’ve found till now. Be warned: you will need to download and install the latest version of XCode. Use the Mac App Store, it’s easier than going to the website.

The Tutorial

I am following Rails Tutorial. And boy is it good. It’s helped me discover Heroku โ€” and I have to say I’m in love. For the moment though, the love is unrequited โ€” I am unable to git push heroku master. It’s given me the sort of error mentioned in this thread on stackoverflow.

Have left a support request, once I figure this out will post about it

Louis Vuitton Versus The Internet

Luxury super brand Louis Vuitton recently won a court case against Danish artist Nadia Plesner. And certain, sometimes dangerous, parts of the Internet exploded.

The Story:

Nadia created a painting of a impoverished African child carrying a Louis Vuitton bag. The painting also featured Paris Hilton. Her objective was to draw attention to the atrocious situation in Darfur, and criticize materialism and consumerism.

LV took her to court, won $200,000, and she has reacted by keeping the image up on her website and letting the fine grow by leaps and bounds.

And Now …

Here’s what Anonymous, an amorphous group of digital(lulz) vigilantes who have taken on governments, large corporations and individuals have to say about this:

Anonymous takes on Louis Vuitton

As of today morning, social news site and hub for digital activists of all colors and the dark side of the internet seem to have taken this cause to heart.

Of course, it may not seem to matter because, as Redditor Arcturussage points out in a brilliant graphic, Redditors don’t seem to be LV’s target audience.

That said, what they’re doing is dangerously subversive and the impact on the luxury brand may well be far more severe.

And now that the great hivemind has decided that LV is EVIL with the vowels missing, the backlash is not going to go away even if the stupid lawyers who thought up the lawsuit are sent to purgatory, the brand withdraws the lawsuit, and apologizes to Nadia.


The Future of User Interfaces and Interaction

Around a week ago, we were hanging around in the office talking about what would come next. My take on UI, especially on mobile devices, has stayed the same for a while. I said, at the time, that we will move from touch-screens, where you still need to physically touch the screen to being able to interact with a display without touching it, by waving our arms around in the air.

My assumption was that Microsoft’s Kinect technology was already tracking body movement. How long could it take before the technology went from video-games to more traditional software.

Today, I found this:

Mind Blown.

A new media business model for old media

Apple has changed the world again today.

Appleยฎ today announced a new subscription service available to all publishers of content-based apps on the App Storeโ„ , including magazines, newspapers, video, music, etc. This is the same innovative digital subscription billing service that Apple recently launched with News Corp.โ€™s โ€œThe Dailyโ€ app.

Read the press release here

Content is not free, it costs money to create good content. It costs even more to create great content. And the people who write well deserve to be paid more.

By allowing content publishers to charge for content, Apple has laid down the gauntlet.

Now, it is now up to content publishers to screw it up … and here are the top three ways there’re going to screw up:

1. Insist on people paying for monthly/annual subscriptions … ONLY, and that too, at the same rate that it sells for on a news-stand.
2. Forget to take into account the stories/writers who’re making them money โ€” so they end up losing the writers to competition, and their subscribers will follow.
3. Think that video is only done by TV channels, so stick to text and images.

I’ve been saying for a while now that the ipad is going to change the way media is consumed, and in turn, the way media businesses are run.

The most interesting change, however, is going to happen in advertising. The ways ads are designed, the way copy is written … everything about an ad is going to go through a sea change.

I am willing to bet most of the old guard in India are going to pass around two, tired, arguments:

1. Not enough people in India use iPads.
2. We know what sells.

Things are getting interesting.

Car Reviews are going to change

Quick Note to Self: Reading a review for a car today morning I realised that my reasons for buying a car (any car) and the reviewer’s were completely different. In effect, this made the review a non-starter for me because it didn’t address the points I wanted to see covered.

For gadgets and cars there are reviews, and then there’s porn. Seriously, an article/video that talks about everything a gadget or car can do doesn’t qualify as a review. It is porn.

A review must state, right at the start, what the agenda of the reviewer is. Is he looking to buy a car to cart 3 kids around? Is he single and wanting to have fun in the city? The same car can, perhaps, address both needs โ€” but different facets of it will answer these questions.

So, car reviews are going to change. Generalist newspapers that address large, heterogenous, audiences will have to choose a particular audience to address with each review. Which means carefully choosing a reviewer. I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Auto magazines etc, do a fairly good job, so the best thing a newspaper can do is pick up content from a magazine.

The big play is going to happen online. There seems to be an opportunity for a curated aggregation of reviews, where reviews are classified by target audience. And by that I don’t mean you give a drop down list that asks a user if he is a dad or a bachelor, and then show reviews accordingly. Though it could be a starting point.

Will track this space with some interest.

Video: Apple engineer builds the Antikythera Mechanism โ€” an ancient computer โ€” out of Lego

The Antikythera Mechanism, is, allegedly, the oldest version of a scientific computer (wikipedia entry). The Greeks built it around 100 B.C.

Andrew Carol, one of Apple’s software engineers, decided to re-create this fine mechanism using Legos.

Original Source: CNET