Archive for May, 2006

Skype goes free: But who really cares about the end customer?

May 16, 2006

Fantastic. Atleast for the folks in between the Pacific and the Atlantic. Skype just announced that all calls made from the continental US and terminating within the same geography will be free. Gratis. No hidden costs, no nothing.

This sort of brings up an interesting thought. Skype prides itself on the fact that they’ve been largely successful in unifying global rates in an attempt to simplify using their VOIP system – “It doesn’t matter where you call from”, they affirm, “It’s where you call to”.

So if Skype can offer free calls to the US and Canada, why can’t it be free for everyone else (and hence be in line with their marketing spiel). After all, North America has very very low call termination charges (which is why skype can offer this promotion). It’s another entirely different matter that this, if successful, will probably be one of the greatest (and most cost effective) marketing tactics of all time.

The sad truth, is the fact that local operators in other countries will cause all hell to break loose if something like that happened. Imagine, calling the US for Zilch instead of forking out 7.2 rupees per minute. Fantastic, if you’re a customer. Not so great if you’re Airtel.

But that’s where I have my problem. Why the hell should a service provider with his own minor vested interests be assuaged, idemnified and protected by the government? I mean, yes, they have made an upfront investment and all that yada yada. But this is business. And business is fickle and has a full complement of inherent risks. Too bad if a wrong investment was made. Customers can not be made to pay the price for bad investment decisions on the part of a self serving business.

I’m pretty sure I’m missing something in all of this. But what the hell. Can I have my free calls. Please?

The Catalunya Post Mortem – El desastre español

May 15, 2006

Sigh. Formula 1 has the power to humble you like nothing else in life (Let’s leave aside mathematics, shall we?).

Exactly one week ago marked the re(d)surgence of Ferrari. Everyone spoke of their genius pilot and how he was going to overhaul the incumbent Alphonso and waltz away with yet another world championship. Then Barcelona happened. Sigh. How humbling.

In a sense, the Catalunya result should not be surprising. Renault, still have the best car. We are not talking big margins, no, but in Catalunya the smallest differences are biggest magnified – A marginally superior car ends up being appreciably quicker.

The reason, then, for my extreme disappointment is the fact that Ferrari did look rather strong over the weekend. You see, there was hope. Yes, this was Renault territory. Yes, this was a Michelin circuit. Yes, a Spanish world champion was driving in front of his fervent countrymen. But there was that darned hope. Both Friday Practices demonstrated that the reds had the pace. Okay, they qualified 3rd, but it was overtly clear that the Ferrari’s were heavy. They were on hard tyres. They would run long and leverage their awesome long run pace. They held strategic high ground. The Renaults were minced meat. Renault was the hapless bull while Ferrari was the deft, sublime Enrique Ponce. Right?

Wrong. We couldn’t have been farther away from reality. Ponce got gored. Michael himself was mystified, and while he admitted that the Renault pace was unrelenting, also emphasized that even minor, capricious factors like wind direction and temperature (which was hotter than expected) can have substantial performance repercussions. And these substantial repercussions ensured that the Spanish mango won at home. And what a crushing victory it was.

Is all hope lost, then? Not really. Felipe had his moment of glory when he set the fastest lap (I only wish he had overhauled Fisi). Ferrari is still very much in the thick of things. it’s just that the momentum has swung a little bit away.

Monaco in 2 weeks. How long has it been since a Renault failure?

Ps: Although my tone suggests it, I don’t dislike Fernando. He’s awesome. Truly so. It’s just that I’m just a bigger Michael fan. Sue me!

Gmail: To dot or not?

May 14, 2006
Uncreative, random headings aside, this phenomenon is pretty neat. Discovered it a while ago, and while I had meant to write about it earlier (no, I really mean that… okay, maybe not. must you always be this picky?) I never actually got around doing so. Yeah, tell me something new.

So, anyways, this goes back to the early days of the perpetually in beta gmail. Yeah, these were the painful days of 2 mb mailboxes, garish, huge and annoying banner ads promoting nonsensical wares and unending spam featuring penis enlargement kits and what have you not. Gmail, with it’s promise of a 1 gb limit (gasp! how much is that!?!?), text ads (yeah, who cares if my email is scanned and read. I’m Indian. We live in large, gossip hungry families. Privacy? what on earth does that mean?) and enhanced spam blocking (well, spam was the only email I ever got. So it would be dearly missed. But we digress…) was sure to revolutionize web email.

But like all things good, there was a catch – you had to get invited. #%@^#@? yeah, that was my exact same reaction (if you’re female, give me a call. we might share a wavelength). So after weeks and weeks of searching, worshiping and displaying admirable levels of sycophantic behaviour (featuring unpublishable stuff) and other things such towards people who had gmail invites, I finally landed an invitation to my very own shiny, new gmail account.

As an early adopter, I had virtually no problem choosing an email address of choice (unlike yahoo where my best shot for kaushikmohan@yahoo.com is kaushikmohan_meister_73284738@yahoo.com and msn where it is a shite side worse!). (drum roll) kaushikmohan@gmail.com (flourish) was hence the new email address.

And then like all things new and exclusive, eventually everybody and her dog got a gmail address (by which time it was public knowledge the “.” was an accepted character in an email address, finally supplanting the inelegant but effective underscore). The standard email address, hence became firstname.lastname@gmail.com . Damn, I was the pariah. again.

But this is the cool thing. the dot does not matter. You see, because the firstname, lastname with a dot in the middle paradigm became the subconscious choice for anybody’s email address, people started emailing me at kaushik.mohan@gmail.com (yes, by this time legitimate email had miraculously started arriving in my inbox). And (even more miraculous) these (email featuring the incorrect dot version of my email address) would come straight into my inbox.

So the experimenter in me woke up, and I tried doing some random stuff.The discovery was quite cool. according to gmail, k.aushikmohan, ka….ushikmohan and kaushikmohan are all the same. In effect, gmail treats the dot as a mere visual separator. To the piece of code that actually parses the address, the dot is replaced by a null character. The dot is therefore, irrelevant. How incredibly profound 🙂

Sashman also did his own set of (more adventurous, multiple dot) experiments and came to the same conclusion.

Interesting ain’t it? My guess is that email addresses are parsed through some sort of LIFO system (I always try and sound remotely intelligent atleast once in every blog posting), that nullify’s all the dots that precede the ‘@’ symbol. Who knows, perhaps there are other characters that are handled in a similar fashion.

It’s quirky, even geeky perhaps. But I still think it’s pretty cool.