Friday, December 28, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Sunday, December 09, 2007
The note in the registration booklet warns
"This is public internet at a hacker's conference, use at your own risk"
Some random notes so far :
Apparently the current market rate for a valid stolen mastercard / visa credit card number is about $2.
Malware kits have grown in popularity and effectiveness thanks in part to a market for compromised machines (zombies) to relay spam or execute DOS attacks. MPack is actually commercial software.
The business is good enough to pay for marketing. According to this speaker's analysis paid search results are 3x more likely to be malware sites.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
It's a great example of the possibilities for the nomadic cyber hacker culture my friend Ulrich has been promoting
When I arrived in India, I spent 6 months searching for a location that balanced my ambition to create an Internet Start-up Factory with a desire for a fun healthy life style. My search ended when I landed in Koregoan Park, Pune. Its a resort area, but also has a vital tech scene, and is known as a university town within India.
Since then I have been a part of a number of global software development projects and feel strongly that to make global development more healthy its good to get everyone involved spending as much time as possible hanging out together. So, for western companies there is a real economic incentive to be working with remote engineering teams located some place nice. It makes it much more likely the western part of the team will be willing to spend significant time working directly with their Indian counterparts creating the team spirit and cohesiveness necessary for a healthy engineering organization.
With the outsourced engineering projects I've seen go bad, the failure has come from an 'us and them' type attitude between the US and Indian development teams where the two sides talk generically about the other side as a whole rather than about the individual issues with specific people. This would be alot less antagonistic if everyone involved had spent several weeks working together from a beach shack in Goa.
Walking up Durrant what I expected to be an obvious health clinic just didn't materialize. Standing in front of the prespeterian church at 2348 Durrant I lamented my poor planning in not writing down a phone number when I was home online.
After standing for a while wondering where there might be a cyber cafe I remembered that my phone has wifi access. I popped it open and searched for open wifi networks, and with just alittle walking I got online and found the websites and phone numbers I was looking for.
God bless the Internet.
Friday, November 16, 2007
I'm staying in a cheap hostel in Rome after working with Fabio up in Rimini for the past week. I got off the train and some girl with a laminated badge and a clipboard asked if I needed a place to stay. I am so used to ignoring hawkers in India that I walked past her before I did the math and figured out that I absolutely needed a place to stay and I had no clue how to go about finding one. (short of logging onto the internet) Standing on the platform she called a couple of hostels until she found one in the center of town with a bed for 18 euro / night. She pointed to the place on a map she gave me, smiled, said have a nice day and walked away.
So, now I'm sitting at a small desk in this room on the 6th floor overlooking a small intersection in downtown Rome. After walking around the ruins for awhile and taking a short nap I opened up my laptop to write a trip report. At the same time I turned speaker on my phone to play music. After playing Bhajans for awhile it clicked into 'Be My Lover'. The older Italian lady running this place came into ask in broken English what the song was she would look for it on the internet. I wrote the title down for her and 5 minutes later I heard it playing loudly from her office. For kicks I checked to see if there was wifi available. All the initial access points were locked, but after some time another free access point came online which I'm on now.
The only downside to my techno fabulous day is my Nokia N93i. After 3 weeks in the shop they gave me a 'refurbished phone'. This is after two previous attempts of about a week each where they responded to my problem of a broken mic for the video camera by flashing the firmware to rid the phone of any viruses that might be causing the problem. My original phone also had this annoying habit of randomly shutting off sometimes.
The mic on the new phone works fine and it hasn't shut off on my yet, but its got its own drama. One of the buttons I used to set options on the camera doesn't work, and more importantly at the moment, the connection to the pc cable I use to upload pics and videos doesn't work reliably. So, while I've been shooting lots of pics and videos this past week, they're stuck for the moment on my phones rapidly filling up memory card. :(
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Top search queries Average top position
1. edu 2.0 7
2. permaculture credit union 10
3. resurrection lily 10
4. arriane 6
5. laura drewett video 3
6. freeman thailand 2
7. etrade global trading 7
8. laura drewett 10
9. freeman video 20
10. kiva freeman 1
11. freemans audio 4
12. freeman school mumbai 5
13. where's the internet 6
14. freeman you tube 8
15. where's disneyland 8
16. freeman foto 1
17. wheres the internet 5
18. freeman's video 9
19. pop freeman 9
20. viagra store 43
Im not sure how I landed the 8th position for 'where's disneyland'
The viagra store is evidence of a particularly bad case of comment
spam I took care of some time ago.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
At EIndia last month I met Douglas Bell, an instructional designer with EDC. Last night I called him to ask for advice on how to create compelling educational materials.
Here are some notes from that call :
Develop explicit learning objectives
Be 'needs' based
Avoid creating material that is just an orientation
Create tasks with which people will develop skills by accomplishing the tasks
Be clear - 'at the end of this module students can do x, y, z'
Learning objectives should be objective and observable
Assessment so students can get feedback of whether they're on the right track
Iterate, watch closely to see how students are responding to the material and modify the material accordingly - you probably won't get it the first time.
Action based, avoid passive lectures
Look at what other people are doing, online universities, etc
google: big dog instructional design
for a site that has good information on instructional design. Maybe this
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
During my two sessions so far I walked people thru using and setting up a wiki on pbwiki.com and creating a blog on blogger.com.
Right now Noel Hidalgo is demonstrating a number of tech tools and resources non-profits can take advantage of including
- the different kits Tactical Tech offers nonprofits
- NTen has webinars for showing people how to migrate to Linux or, GIS or using Google Adwords.
- dotorganize study on technology available for social change organizations.
- personal democracy formum also provides research reports on technology in politics.
- mobileactive.org directory and strategy resources for uses of mobile technolgoy in activism.
- dotsub.com website for helping subtitle videos
- internet archive
After tea we're going to introduce googlegroups, civicspace, mailman and a variety of other mailing list software and free content management solutions
Yesterday, Sapna Shahani who worked at the Berkeley Community Media Center before moving back to India talked about her plans to set up a community media center in Mumbai.
Prof. Nagarjuna also gave a talk on the SELF Platform which he's been developing at the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education. He also introduced Wikipedia and gave an impassioned speech on wiki culture or the culture of openness.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
- fixed bid projects
- fixed price per developer (no transparency)
- cost plus (full transparency, hiring company can negotiate directly with the employees, the service company takes an HR fee for doing the search, plus a monthly facilities fee, plus some margin)
Of these I generally push for the cost plus model for the obvious benefits transparency brings, and the employees in India feel more like first class citizens in the companies they are ultimately working for. It also tends to be expensive as dealing with less expensive / more junior developers requires time, sensitivity and hand holding, all of which are hard to do across 11 time zones and 12,000 miles.
With fixed bid projects, often much of the work is done by junior engineers hidden behind someone who communicates well and interfaces to the client. There can be time & cost benefits to this, but because the process is opaque, the back end to these types of operations tends to shuffle a bit, which can make consistency problematic.
Amitabh Jain runs a small software service company that approaches this differently. Oriented around building teams for his clients, he initially hires junior developers and then mentors them as a group in the technologies and processes of the client. It takes some time for the teams to become productive, and Amitabh reflects this in an escalating payment structure which starts at a few hundred dollars / month / engineer and grows each month such that after a year the client is paying market rates.
I like this model because it reflects the current conditions of the labor pool,
it gives Amitabh the chance to add significant value by mentoring the individuals and teams involved, and the hiring companies benefit from having cohesive teams at a lower cost and with less risk than if they tried to hire more senior people individually directly. The downside is time, its definitely more about capacity building than executing a project quickly.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Philip Greenspun has some interesting
thoughts on What's wrong with the standard undergraduate computer science curriculum and has published a course on Software Engineering for Internet Applications to address some of these issues. He encourages other comp. sci. educators to provide this course as well and provides them with teaching resources.
This is the assignment list Professor Om P. Damani put together for his Foundation Lab course at IIT Bombay. I really like the assignments, but I'm kind of blown away by how much work they are and how little time is given to complete them. A good friend of mine went to IIT and said this was standard and mentioned that this class was one of three a student would be taking in a semester all with similar work loads.
Another aspect of Damani's class I find interesting is that there doesn't appear to be any programming instruction ie. descriptions of arrays, functions, classes, objects etc .. There wouldn't be time. A student needs to pick up a new language and create a large project with it in the time it would take an MCA academy to get to looping.
The ambiguity runs the complete spectrum here. Many Indians I eat with don't tip at all or leave a token couple of coins even on fairly expensive meals. Others - especially if they have spent significant time in the states - leave the western 10 - 15%.
The weirdness is further intensified for the broad range of prices involved. Like we have a chaiwalla who comes by my place twice a day and pours each of us a small cup of chai for 3 rupees each. I'm not involved in the financial transaction, but I'm sure there's no tip involved.
In contrast the pizza I just ate for dinner was 160 rps. Somehow I felt funny tipping the pizza delivery guy when the chaiwalla guy came and poured us all cups of chai for less than I would have tipped for the pizza, so I dissed him.
But whereas the chaiwalla has probably never gotten a tip from anyone, I have tipped the delivery guy before, so there was anticipation there which wasn't met. I feel guilty about that.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Today I got my first Facebook application working
in its very rudimentary 'Hello World' state,
but I have to say I'm feeling good about the
experience so far. Here's a great post with lots
of sample code to look at when developing your own.
sample code for facebook
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
P eople from Pune's tech unconference community gathered at the Symbiosis Institute of Computer Studies and Research on 18 August for the first edition of SkillsCamp, a BarCamp style gathering of geeks with a focus on giving technical training to the hightech community.
A number of ideas came together in the SkillsCamp concept. At BarCampPune3, on 7 July, I gave a talk on opensource education and pointed to a variety of examples such as MIT Open Courseware http://ocw.mit.edu and the Digital Studyhall Project http://dsh.cs.washington.edu, in which videos of expert teachers are freely distributed to the global community. I believe this model of open source education is the only scalable solution to the talent crunch facing the technology sector in India, as evidenced by the much talked about exodus of Riya.com from India because of the difficulty and expense of finding quality senior software developers.
Following that talk, a number of the Pune BarCamp organizers offered to help, so SkillsCamp was born in an effort to galvanize the Indian technology community to create quality open source courseware helpful to people working in the IT industry.
About 70 people attended the first SkillsCamp and held sessions on a variety of topics ranging from Google Gears to AJAX to using screen readers to make Linux accessible to the blind. There were about 10 sessions total. SkillsCamp was sponsored by Codewalla.com and SkillsCorps.com. SkillsCorps also recorded video and screencasts for most sessions, which will be freely available on its website.
Freeman Murray has worked in the high-tech industry in California and India for the past 12 years, including a stint at Sun Microsystems, Inc. on the Java group. Currently, Freeman is starting a company in Pune, SkillsCorps.com.
Like a good first date it will be held in the majestic hill station of Devlali at the Leslie Sawhney Center. The accommodation is comfortable (each unit consists of 2 rooms, 4 beds and an attached toilet and bathroom) and the surroundings are pretty. (FYI – the centre is run by a retired army Brigadier who will remind you that it is not a hotel and meal times go by the bell!)
We expect sessions to be on technical subjects such as how non-profits can take advantage of FOSS and internet applications to help make their organizations more effective and cost effecient, as well as sessions on the work of a variety of NGOs, especially those which are attempting to apply IT to help solve the problems of the 'Digital Divide' that exists with the urban and rural poor.
In addition to the presentation sessions we would also like to take some time to have workshops in which we work through some questions like what should courseware look like that ngo IT workers should go thru to effectively use IT in their jobs, and if we can get the right people around the table we might be able to bang out courseware for school & telecentre computer operators as well.
Towards the end of the camp we would love it if some of the non-profit people present were able to articulate some of their IT needs such that the tech people could help them set up blogs, wiki's, and other tools that might be of service to the non-profit organizations.
Remember, at a BarCamp, everybody participates! That means the attendees are the presenters and the audience. If you aren't going to present, you can organize a discussion or publish notes from a talk. We really want you to find a way to contribute, so here's a handy HowToContribute guide.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Sometime back I subscribed to the Democracy Now newsletter. At this point I feel it is the best source regular news and commentary surrounding global events that I have come across.
Two recent articles in particular made me appreciate the intelligence and insight of their guests.
Nir Rosen gave a better / more believable description of the Iraqi state than I have seen.
what you’ll see is basically Mogadishu in Iraq: various warlords controlling small neighborhoods. And those who are by major resources, such as oil installations, obviously will be foreign-sponsored warlords who will be able to cut deals with us, the Chinese. But Iraq is destroyed full article here
Today Scott Horton talked about Karl Rove's involvement with using the Justice Department to prosecute Democratic officials
Karl had spoken to the Department of Justice, and they didn't have to worry about Don Siegelman anymore. He was going to be taken care of.
full article here
I highly recommend subscribing to Democracy Now !
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Finally getting to edit some of the videos I took when I was down south. Spent some good time reconnecting with Krishna at the Solitude farm in Auroville. He introduced me to Fukuoka's philosophy of natural farming which applies to many other aspects of life as well.
Hanging out on the farm rekindled my dreams of getting outside and living a more natural lifestyle. At this point I've spent enough time on a variety of organic farms to believe that is the most healthy way of living. At the same time commercial organic farming doesn't appear to be very practical.
My solution of course is using all that good organic solar energy to power a team of software developers to tickle the necessary money out of a wireless internet connection - probably attached to the windmill.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
SkillsCamp came together this weekend.
I'm guessing 60 - 70 people showed up
with maybe 50 people there for most of
Despite a variety of glitches, I consider
it an unqualified success.
The unconference structure lends itself very well
to experimenting with new ways of gathering. We weren't
sure how many people would come to skills camp this weekend.
There was some thought that it might get covered in the press
which would have a slashdot effect as large numbers of people
found out about the opportunity for free food and IT training
from some of the smartest people in industry.
As it was the message went out primarily thru the traditional
geek channels (plug, barcamp-pune, itvidya) and the barcamp, plug,
itvidya crowd came - which was great !!
Simbiosis generously gave us use of 4 rooms for the conference.
With the people we had tho I decided it would be better to just
have two parallel tracks and end earlier. As a result the sessions
were well attended and there was generally always something going on
even if one session was stuck for sometime messing with the projector
or screencasting software.
Sessions were generally very similar to most barcamp sessions. Which
is to say good for a high level introduction to interesting concepts.
I talked on google gears walking people through the gears tutorials on
the google site. Other sessions covered the Facebook API, screen reading
software for the blind, 3d game development, security, setting up drupal,
open source circuit design and a variety of others.
This week I'll try to get videos out.
I was most impressed with the session Amitabh Jain gave on AJAX. His session had a very clear structure taking people from a starting point of a functional webapp without AJAX, to implementing the same app using AJAX. He had prepared one file with code snippets for the core functions we were to use. During the session he slowly integrated these snippets into the web app to add AJAX features one by one. It was systematic and reflected genuine software development in a very practical way. Again the video will be up soon so you can see what I'm talking about.
I don't know if I'll try to organize another skillscamp in the near future. Rather I'd like to push for a skillscamp tag for training sessions people give at the regular barcamps.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Some thoughts on how barcamp may improve over time :
- session tagging
From looking at the wiki and the paper wiki we post at the event I would love to get alittle more metadata about the session beyond the session title. Some tags could be Tutorial, General Discussion, Demo, Panel ... This need not be mandatory, its just an extra hint to attendees and participants.
- use the wiki more
get a paragraph of bio data and session description from the presenters.
select rooms and times on the wiki itself, leaving some rooms open for sessions which are more adhoc and can be scheduled on site in real time.
- give a printed handout at registration with the schedule of sessions, more detailed presenter bio and session info - and a map.
- The annual.
I love the quarterly consistency. Maybe choose one camp of the year when the weather is the best February ? to be THE annual barcamp. Somehow make this special and promote it more.
Saturday, August 04, 2007
When I was in the states for my grandma's passing, I heard from Pune that all the restaurants on lane 6 had been demolished. I was totally depressed. It sounds shallow, but the restaurants on lane 6, an Italian restaurant named Il Fungo Magico in particular, are some of the main reasons why I like living in Koregoan Park, Pune, and India so much.
When I came back to India, I saw that all was not lost. But it was weirdly damaged. Like vandals came in with a tractor and just messed with stuff to get their point accross.
I wanted to let you know about SkillsCamp - a training oriented
unconference coming up at Symbiosis University in Pune, India on August 18th.
It will be (un)organized just like the BarCamps we all know and love,
but with a special emphasis on training sessions. This is your
opportunity to share your knowledge and communicate your lightening
intelligence to the community and the world by showing us how to use
some tool, do some aspect of programming, or bend a spoon with the
power of your mind.
We will record video and screencasts for all sessions which will be
edited and made freely available on the internet under a cc license so
all the world can appreciate your generosity, learn from your sage
wisdom, and contact you when they decide it would be easier to
contract your services than climb the same mountains of experience you
No skill is too small, no tool too humble to justify a training
session at SkillsCamp. Remember, no matter how junior you feel, there
are hundreds of millions of people on the internet who know less than
you and will appreciate whatever small nuggets of wisdom you have to
Think of NEO and the Kung Fu program in The Matrix. It all starts here !!
Symbiosis Institute of Computer Studies and Research,
7th Floor, Atur Centre, Gokhale Cross Road,
Model Colony, Pune -16.
register to attend and give a session on the Wiki.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Here's my idea, I'll start a java programming class online using
youtube and a blog. Each lecture will be short - ~ 5 - 10 minutes,
I'll also include links to other resources. Additionally, once we're
comfortable with the basics, we'll play a little with doing code
walk thrus of open source code out on the net.
With each episode, I'll try to give exersizes.
It would be great to get feedback in the form of questions ,
problems you're having, or comments about the pace or what
you'd like to learn. We'll have a mailing list, wiki, blog, and youtube
to communicate with. I'd like to do as much in video as possible.
Personally, I'd like to get past the basics of programming as
quickly as possible, so that we can focus on doing stuff, which
is where all the fun is.
As an ongoing thing, I'd like to create an online video programming
club where we explore new technologies and work on projects together
and what not.
I would like to do the class twice a week, but I will be traveling for
two weeks beginning Friday, so I'll need a little grace getting started.
I'll send out more details in a bit.
i've never really taught before, so i'll need alot of grace all around :)
Monday, July 16, 2007
A friend in the audience for my talk at barcamppune3 made a video.
The beginning of the video is me talking about the Digital StudyHall
Warning: long & uncut.
I made a couple of videos of sessions I went to.
Setting up Indian Tech Companies Offshore
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Many people see the international salary leveling as an inevitable result of the globalization process. I may agree in the very long term, but think this is a short term blip in the Indian wage scale caused by a shortage of quality technical training.
When I first moved to India, I spent some weeks walking around Calcutta trying to get a feel for India and how I would fit into it. One of the most consistently amusing pictures for me was that the most pervasive advertisements, even in very poor areas was for Java, C & C++ training.
India is a very young country. Over half the population's 1.1 billion people are under 25, and based on the ads I saw in Calcutta, some large percentage of them see IT as a ticket to more money.
Scaling a technical education to this degree is extremely challenging. There simply aren't enough teachers to service this demand in any kind of traditional way.
Reflecting on my own education, I picked up very little of my primary job skills in school. Rather I learned everything on the job, on my own, in response to a project that needed doing. One neat thing about this industry is that everything needed to know to work in it, is freely available online to anyone with the language skills, computers, and motivation to access it.
Over a year ago I found the DigitalStudyHall Project online while researching technologies for cost effectively bringing internet access out to very rural areas. With DSH, what began as research in how to deliver internet access using cds and the postal system evolved into a program to distribute high quality educational videos in local language out to rural schools, and to teach the rural teachers - or in many case students - how to teach with them.
The need they address is a shortage of local teachers with knowledge of many necessary subjects ie. English, math and science. The DSH answer is to video record good private school teachers giving these lessons and then to train the local teacher how to facilitate a class using a tv and dvd player. In this way the local teacher becomes more a learning manager or facilitator rather than a domain expert.
So far their experience has been qualitatively positive.
The DSH model could be applied to provide technical training to a far wider audience than currently has access to it. In the same way DSH records master teachers to create video lectures of the core subjects, the same can be done for recording industry experts and master teachers in the technology field to create and assemble open source technology courseware.
Even with freely available learning material having someone who can assign students tasks, facilitate discussions, and answer questions or get questions answered and follow up with students about difficulties they are having remains critical to the learning process. A teacher in this sense would be more like a project manager in industry than a professor in academia.
This approach addresses the issue of too few local experts willing to teach. The premise is that training facilitators is far easier than training technical experts. And if it works the model could scale to provide quality technical education at a very low cost to many regions around India (and the world) without current access to it.
The call :
I am working with DSH to create video courseware materials in a wide range of technical subjects. Beyond basic programming techniques I would like to delve into many of the tools we use as professional software developers. This includes source control, build systems, testing, debugging, refactoring, the IDE, project mangement, deployment, additional frameworks, etc...
Anyone in Pune interested in collaborating with me in this please get in touch.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Many of the strategies for connecting the next 2 billion people to the net involve various 'slow networking' strategies where internet connectivity is intermittent ie. United Villages and postmanet. Now it should be possible for users in these types of environments to continue using their favorite web applications.
Monday, April 30, 2007
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
I've been wanting to make 3D models since building the pallet rack structures in LA. Now in India its finally starting to happen. This is a very rough first model - took us alittle over an hour to make of what we built in the Brewery artist lofts in downtown Los Angeles.
I read on the Architecture for Humantiy website about a contest they may do later this year for alternative structure for hutments (aka. slums / shanti towns). I would like to model some ideas for this using pallet racks.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Skill Camp -
I would like to create a camp structure for helping the community develop a video courseware curriculum.
this would be organized on a wiki where we basically ask for people
to do sessions based on teaching some particular task in programming
or computing. We would set up cameras in the room and screencasting
software on the demo computers such that we record every aspect of
the tutorials and the follow on questions. All video would be freely available
on the web via creative commons liscenses, and interested people (possibly
sponsored) could help edit the raw footage into watchable short segments.
to create freely available training videos helping people learn current skills
initially in the IT industry.
1. talk to the relevant communities - barcamp pune, knowledge foundation, ...
2. set up a wiki with initial structure
3. find a suitable venue
4. look for sponsors - it companies, training institutes
5. line up speakers & sessions
6. logistics: lunch, tea, snacks ...
anything else ?
Thursday, February 22, 2007
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