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Showing posts from 2007

January 10, 2008 - mark your calendar

The TATA Rs. 1 Lakh car will be unveiled on Jan 10th, marking the dawn of a new global era in automobile consumption. This will have implications on
Global automobile economyIndia's manufacturing sector
EnvironmentIndian transportation infrastructureSo stay tuned and drop in your comments

Shengen Expansion

Yeay! This takes me back nostalgically into the wonderful time I spent in beautiful Slovakia during college years. Riding in a bus between Vienna and Bratislava, I had to stop over at a cold check-post for border control!

From today on, there will be no border between old Europe and Slovakia! 8 new countries have joined the Shengen zone, increasing vastly the potential for trade as well as tourism!

Full list of countries can be looked up at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7153490.stm

The Dream of the Information Age

If this beauty of a device meets it's mission of being owned by every kid on the planet, we are looking to a new dimension of the Information Age.
For full profile of the device, visit BBC's technology page.

Poetry & Musik in Stuttgart / Kornwestheim

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a "Dichterlesen" - poetry reading, on invitation of one of a "culture-patron" in Kornwestheim.

Rajvinder Singh (Wikipedia), a first-generation Indian living in Germany since early 1970's, is a fascinating and talented writer and poet. He worked with the local Kornwestheim High School to train a group of 10-12 students to compose a short story and organize a combined reading to an audience of 20-25 invited guests.

Nice as that was, Rajvinder Singh, surprised me even more by going on to sing 2 Punjabi songs in front of a full German audience. My jaw dropped in fact at even the idea of it, but at the end, the songs was a complete delight, as much for me as for all others.

The 2nd delight of the night was to get to know Roswitha Meyer, who is a musician-enterpreneur on her way to establish the Orpheus Musiktheater in Stuttgart. Her forté is story-telling by combination of different arts - a single story is told at one time us…

India vs. China

In response to: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7067503.stm

I for one, find comparisions of India vs. China shallow. I think the final discussion should be about standards of lives of people - health, education and perspectives for future. So behind those lofty numbers and future projections - the key question is: Are citizens living better?

This has to be evaluated across the full breadth of each society - rural, urban, educated, illiterate, poor, rich and all such lines.

Also wanted to contradict the author's comment that there exists room for political turmoil in India. I believe the opposite to be true.

The Indian democracy, though apparently chaotic, is by definition, owing to the full representation of the nation's multi-faceted citizenary, a _perfect_ democracy. _Perfect_ as in "water is a perfect solvent" or "air with 21% oxygen + 78% nitrogen (+ 1% other gases) is _perfect_ composition of Earth's atmosphere".

The Indian democracy is structural…

Brass tax: the truth about non-doms

There is a lot of mystery around the sources of the United Kingdom's wealth. US and continental European countries' wealth is attributed to industrial produce, but the UK has somehow seemed to have lost it's stature as a major industrial power. Some insight into causes of the UK's continued prosperity may be found in the below:

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/money/tax/article2589446.ece

Get the Facts Right about Putting on Weight

Key facts about body weight, dealing with fat and obesity we all should know about - for ourselves or for people around us...

- Number of calories a male needs per day: 1600 - 2000 KCal
- Number of calories a female needs per day: 1200 - 1600 KCal
- Number of calories equivalent to 1 Kg of fat: 7000 KCal
- Number of calories in a Big Mac meal: 650 KCal
* Number of calories in a can of Coke: 80 KCal
- Number of calories in a banana: 120 KCal

- Calories consumption by an active adult male: 100 KCal per hour
- Calories consumption by an adult male in sleep: 70 KCal per hour
* Calories consumption by an active adult female: 90 KCal per hour
* Calories consumption by an adult female in sleep: 60 KCal per hour

Dealing w. URL's in TinyMCE

TinyMCE, is one of the 2 best contenders for web-based WYSIWYG editors. There's a interesting way this editor deals with URL's implanted in contents of your document. Use these instructions to use them correctly - http://wiki.moxiecode.com/index.php/TinyMCE:FAQ#Why_is_my_paths_incorrect.2C_I_want_absolute.2Frelative_URLs.3F

Some other TinyMCE resources:
http://www.drupal.org.uk/node/191

Why I like ricardo.ch

ricardo.ch is a serious contender to eBay in German speaking (D-A-CH) markets. Here's a quick run down of all the advantages ricardo.ch offers that eBay doesn't.
Low listing fees + 4% success fee (0.30 CHF for product value below CHF 100)No scheduling fee
Accepts www.moneybookers.com, a seller friendly online payment service.Ricardo Assistant is a better listing software than eBay Turbo Lister
Some points where ricardo.ch doesn't score so well are..
Smaller brand compared to eBay, so that means smaller buyer-base3-4 million buyers - primarily Swiss. Relatively low penetration in Germany and Austria.

Why are there no German software Global Players

As a software-related professional living in Germany currently, I have been pondering for a few weeks now - "Why are there no German software global players?" (with the exception of course of SAP).

This list from Forbes-2000 list for some hard facts - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World's_largest_software_compan...

Why can German companies be the Export Weltmeister for so many sectors of the economy, but not software?

Purdue ECN's Javascript Calendar Control

I was on the Internet in search for an easy to use (as in use for writing code), I ran into Purdue ECN's widget, extremely easy to use in web-apps of any type and providing nice user interface.

It's called CalendarControl and the thing to appreciate most about it is that it requires just 1 .js file, 1 accompanying .css file and just 1 onFocus call to invoke it.

It supports the US date format mm/dd/yyyy, but I could make changes in lines 258-260 and 147 to adapt it to the machine-friendly format of yyyy/mm/dd.

Quickly:

Here's the JS:
https://engineering.purdue.edu/ECN/Ztools/CalendarControl/CalendarControl.js

Here's the CSS:
https://engineering.purdue.edu/ECN/Ztools/CalendarControl/CalendarControl.css

Here's how your tag should look like:
<input name="any_name_for_date_field" onfocus="showCalendarControl(this);" type="text">

It took me 15 minutes to integrate into my app - try it. More info at:
https://engineering.purdue.edu/ECN/Support/Kno…

Web 2.0 - Collaboration is Key

This is in response to a Xing-group posting at:
https://www.xing.com/app/forum?op=article;forum_id=26287;reply_id=4980042
As a small business owner, managing multiple ones, I am slowly but surely realizing that the key to organizing myself and the teams around me is to adapt online collaboration tools. This includes project management tools that centralize our activities in the virtual space, or document maintenance using Google Apps, or maintaining team Wiki's and Forums for pooling ideas together and documenting them for the future.Google Apps, for example, has made the issue of document management within our internal IT infrastructure trivial. Except for sensitive documents such as customer information, we are able to use the generous disk-capacity offered by Google (in exchange of our keywords;) and applications to nicely access + maintain these docs.Project management tools like BaseCamp are a start to online tools that work at the "speed of thought", though this pa…

Starting Apache2 without SSL

Our somewhat unreliable ISP serverpronto has power-outages and similar other problems which cause our machine hosted with them to reboot every couple of weeks. When our machine reboots, it fails to start the Apache2 process as the latter needs a pass-phrase for loading the SSL certificates. This pass-phrase has to be manually submitted, and hence Apache2 ends up hanging at boot time, thus rendering our machine useless for web-services.

A work-around has been implemented to do something like the below:
Implement a script to start Apache2 without SSLSchedule a cron job using start-stop-daemon which will start Apache2 without SSL, i.e in a "lite" modeEmail admin that Apache2 is running in non-ssl mode, and it needs to be restarted with SSL (supply pass-phrase manually)

SellerBay Online ERP 1.0 - Block Diagram

More information regarding the open source SellerBay Online ERP can be found at:
http://sourceforge.net/projects/sellerbay/http://code.google.com/p/sellerbay/Note: Blocks underlined in the above diagram represent features yet to be implemented.

Outsourcing Mail Backups to Google

Being into Internet sales and having to do with abundant email traffic with customers, we have in place a system which keeps a copy of every email we send to our customers in form of an archive-copy. We just BCC each email we send to customers to a backupaddress@mycompany.com. Technically the method does what it is intended for, but I have noticed over time that the backup account is growing out of bounds and I find myself increasing the disc quota every 4-5 weeks.

One naughty idea stuck me today to setup Google apps for handling a domain called mailbackups.mycompany.com. Then I reprogrammed our customer messaging system to direct all archive-copies to xyz@mailbackups.mycompany.com.

To work with the generous 2GB capacity that Google provides per email account, our messaging system was so programmed as to send backup mails to a different address each month, such as:

2007-7@mailbackups.mycompany.com - for July 2007 backups
2007-8@mailbackups.mycompany.com - for August 2007 backups

.. and …

php5-cli Installation on Debian 3.1

Major turmoil was caused while installing php5-cli package on our staging server. This is the pre-installation confirmation.
xxxx@hhhhh:~$ sudo apt-get install php5-cli
Password:
Reading Package Lists... Done
Building Dependency Tree... Done
The following extra packages will be installed:
ca-certificates libapache2-mod-php5 libc6 libcurl3 libdb4.4 libidn11 libkrb53 libncurses5 libreadline5 libssl0.9.8 libxml2 locales
php5-common php5-curl php5-mysql readline-common tzdata
Suggested packages:
php-pear glibc-doc libcurl3-gssapi libldap2-dev krb5-doc krb5-user
Recommended packages:
libgpmg1 xml-core
The following packages will be REMOVED:
base-config initrd-tools kernel-image-2.4.27-2-386 ssh-krb5
The following NEW packages will be installed:
ca-certificates libdb4.4 libssl0.9.8 php5-cli readline-common tzdata
The following packages will be upgraded:
libapache2-mod-php5 libc6 libcurl3 libidn11 libkrb53 libncurses5 libreadline5 libxml2 locales php5-common php5-curl php5-mysql
12 upgraded, 6 newly installe…

Network Infrastructure v.2.0 - Building Redundancy

See Network Infrastructure v.1.0 - Building Redundancy for continuity..

New Techniques Implemented
MySQL replication (Master-Slave)
Little script to restart a slave:
stop slave;
reset slave;

change master to master_host='11.111.111.111', master_user='repl', master_password='replpassword', master_log_file='mysql-bin.000343', master_log_p
os=42717;

start slave;
show slave status\GTools
Shell script to install web application code from SVN

Network Infrastructure v.1.0 - Building Redundancy

About end of 2005, we redesigned our minimalistic single server setup to host some 5-6 websites, team CMS server, email server, SVN code server and an home-brew perl application we use for order processing. The "as-is" situation is shown below.


Important aspects of this configuration
Web services are split over a couple of different machines. So if 1 machine goes down, not all sites are offline.Non-mission-critical sites (ex. team collab site) are split off on a different machine. So production servers are fully available for public sites.Mail server is split off on a diff machine. This runs spam, anti-virus programs which are memory hungry, so any performance peaks effect only mail services.Machines placed beyond FW2 are fairly well protected as they A) Have a fw protection that allows port access on specific ports where services are running, and B) Services are accessible on non-standard ports as there is port forwarding setup on FW2Servers were configured for only local…

ServerPronto Problems (Outage, pitiful customer support)

4:49 PM / 1st July, 2007

This Sunday night, around at midnight there was a major outage at ServerPronto. Both my sites one for sales & one for an internal app are still out. I'm reporting this to bring on record Serverpronto's less than acceptable response to customer problems.

Early Sunday morning I realized that, not only my sites, but also serverpronto.com and a bunch of infolink.com (SP's parent) were down. On one site I could reach the webserver, but there were php_mysql errors on screen for not being able to connect to database machine.

Even the support site was down, so it wasn't possible to submit a ticket.

After about 2 hours SP's own sites were back online and I got a telephone number off of the site to call. The guy across sounded like he's been woken up from sleep. He took a name, company name, phone number and promised that somebody will get back. 8 hours counting now - no one has called.

Meanwhile sp's support site came back online and I …

America could do Better

USA, the land of opportunity & freedom, they say, is going through a changing phase. While Germans obsess about catching up with America, here's a few things America could do better:

http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588_22-6192744.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=zdnn

phpMyAdmin - Database Passwords Stop Working

Very reluctantly, I had to install phpMyAdmin (PMA) 2.10.2 (beta) on my Debian production server. Before I booed for doing this, let me just note that it was out of sheer compulsion that I had to do this.

Anyways, I noticed that CLI scripts from SellerBay stopped being able to connect to confero24.com's OSC database, incessantly throwing this error:
sb09@ottawa:~$ ./app/scripts/OSC/osc2sb_orders.pl 1 -real
[Sat Jun 16 18:01:53 2007] osc2sb_orders.pl: DBI connect('host=localhost;database=confero_2007_01',' confero',...) failed: Client does not support authentication protocol requested by server; consider upgrading MySQL client at /home/sb09/app/lib/Markets/OSC/OSCDB.pm line 33It turns out that PMA's database libraries use a different password encryption algorithm than those used by the Perl installation SellerBay uses. I'm not yet sure why at all the passwords were re-saved after the PMA installation, as I didn't d…

.htaccess Redirect for SEO

Search Engines like to see a website's keywords embedded into the URL. So if I'm selling energy saving washing machines, most SE's, I am told, (Google included) like to see a URL that looks like:
www.energy-saving-washing-machines.comBut if you don't have access to that fancy domain name, then the next best chance is to use something like:
www.whatever-domain-name-you-have.com/energy-saving-washing-machinesThis can be setup using a .htaccess file in the document root directory of the www.whatever-domain-name-you-have.com website. Simply create a .htaccess file and drop in the redirection directive as follows:
Redirect /energy-saving-washing-machines "http://www.whatever-domain-name-you-have.com"So anybody clicking on http://www.whatever-domain-name-you-have.com/energy-saving-washing-machines will be redirected to http://www.whatever-domain-name-you-have.com/

No need to restart/reload Apache

For any such redirections to start working, Apache doesn't need to b…

Finally, 1 little reason to Like M$

Finally, 1 tiny reason to say something nice about M$. Live Search is listing confero24.com as top search result when searched for "wlan antenna".


Temorary experimental banner for our Affiliate Program..

Strong Rupee - Reason for ITES Companies to go Europe!

A common joke in Hyderabad these days as the intense Indian summer sets in is which is higher - the Rupee vs. USD exchange rate or the temperature. Both are hovering around 40, with unfortunately the temperature out performing often at above 40°C.

The Indian Rupee (INR) as fallen a full 10% since the beginning of the year (from Rs. 44.11 to Rs. 40.93 at the time of this writing). This has some severe implications on the ITES industry as most earnings of Indian ITES companies are in USD. The currency rate adjustment primarily means that the worth of those earnings has just fallen by 10%.

The trend in fall of USD is predicted to continue to about Rs. 35.00, although this might happen in a progression over the remainder of the year. This would be a full 25% in fall of value of USD earnings for ITES companies that have long focused on the US market.

Having campaigned actively to Indian software companies to increase investments in European market development, I find this a paradigm shift…

Automatic Store Feeds v.3.0 - Reviewed

OSCommerce web-shop package is a winner in many ways, offering a huge number of out of the box features, and a vibrant community that has made some 4000 additional features. So basing our web-sales at www.confero24.com on OSC hasn't been a bad decision.

The sales power of our OSC shop at has just now started to be even more promising. The Automatic Store Feeds 3.0 (ASF 3.0) contribution provides features to automatically submit shop contents to multiple sales channels like Google Base (aka in past life Froogle, US, UK & DE), Yahoo! Shops, BizRate and BidHopper. This basically means an online merchant is able to harness those sales channels for his/her products with minimum effort.

Installation of ASF 3.0 hasn't been trouble free though. Here's a log of problems encountered, for anyone facing the same...

MySQL 5.0 Incompatible

There have been modification is the left join construct which breaks some of the SQL used in this contrib. So you have the option of fixing the …

dotproject.net

Having just installed dotproject.net, a free & open source project management package and just getting into the routine of using it, a few experiences are documented here.

General Experience

Has been very good. The tool is quite mature and the authors have obviously done a lot of thinking on all the features implemented. This tool can actually be worth the benefit of a huge investment in an enterprise-wide PM solution, even without customization. Before installation, I read some testimonials that several SME's are using it for managing upto 60 different projects simultaneously with hundreds of users. Having installed and used if for a couple of days, I can now see why.

In spite of being undoubtedly a very useful enterprise/SME quality tool, there are several improvements that could make the package even more attractive to users. A few of those "like-to-have", and a few "must-have" features are documented below:

When can we have some AJAX?

Tickets on the Fro…

Craving for Google CRM

Having used XRMS, an Open Source CRM package, for my simple CRM needs, I'm craving to take my CRM experience to the next level. Google delivered a slam-dunk with Apps with the collaboration features in word-processor and spread-sheet software, which was the main attraction to switch.

Right now, I'm (wide)-open minded to try anything from the Google House of Super Cool Web Apps. CRM (along with Project Management software) is next on the list. But what value addition could Google provide on top of simple-minded Open Source packages like XRMS, or the more sophisticated spins like salesforce.com? Some insightful analysis at http://www.crmbuyer.com/story/47501.html

Deleting Items from Perl Array

It's straightforward to delete items from Perl associative arrays (hashes), by using $ary_name->delete()

For normal arrays there is no such syntax, but the grep() function comes to rescue sometimes.

my $search_str = 'whatever';
my @new_ary = grep(!/$search_str/, @old_ary);

The above will return a @new_ary which is devoid of all instances of $search_str (effectively deleting them).

Here's the reference - http://perl.about.com/od/perltutorials/qt/perlgrep.htm

mod_perl issues w. HTML::Template in AJAX calls

Having run my Perl/CGI/Apache2 app in CGI mode for a while, I upgraded a development version to mod_perl.

We did notice a remarkable increase in speed with mod_perl, but HTML::Templates got cached and were not getting refreshed with new data. I'm only trying to read manipulate some data on the session and post it in a HTML::Template based table based on an Ajax event. The output HTML is from some previous cache, which is not even consistent between different clicks.

Worse yet, I am not able to clear CGI::Session variables (using $session->clear()).

I'm almost sure there is a correct way of setting up mod_perl to work correctly w. HTML::Templates. If anyone has a good prescription, a reply-post would be appreciated.

The only line of config in my VirtualHost section for getting mod_perl to work was:
PerlResponseHandler ModPerl::RegistryCommenting this switched the app back to CGI

SellerBay is Going OpenSource!

For about 15-18 past months, I have been working on developing SellerBay(TM), a web-based, Perl-driven software package that's useful for small and medium sized online retailers to sell efficiently online. We've been selling a lot at www.confero24.com and SellerBay has been immensely useful for the purpose.

I finally made the decision to contribute SellerBay to the OS community. My goal is partly a gesture of gratitude for all the good things OS has brought to me and partly to attempt building a user community around it which will improve the tool. I do feel that I am hitting my limits on architecture and software-engineering issues, so any ideas/work from anyone in the community could only help!

There are still a number of functions beyond concept-stage, so I will surely be writing new code and posting updates at http://sourceforge.net/projects/sellerbay/. All code is on SVN. Website, community forum, demo site are all yet to come.

I Love GHS

GHS - Google Hosted Services, has made it a 1 hour affair to setup an SME's IT systems - including email, team collaboration site, online document server and office applications for word-processing and spread-sheets. I haven't been so impressed with software tools in a long time!

You can get the full feature list and the marketing pitch from http://apps.google.com. But just to quickly recap the features:
Google's cutting edge email client used for gmail.com is now available for your company email at a web-address like http://mail.mycompany.comWeb-based, globally accessible calendar tool available at http://calendar.mycompany.comCollaboration word-processing and spread-sheet documents at http://docs.mycompany.com2GB of space is available for free per user, and 10GB for $50 per annum.

Micro$oft has apparently been making similar offers.

And the trend is clear!

I predict lots of SME's will start to migrate from desktop based MS-Office docs which have to be hauled up and down…