Abhi 2.0 on Technology

Abhimanyu Radhakrishnan’s Tech Archive: Columns, reports and video

Archive for September 2007

Nothing Office-ial About It !

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Column in HT Cafe

Column in HT Cafe

First published in the Hindustan Times (Mumbai edition)

Everyone it seems, is intent on taking down Microsoft’s cash cow – MS Office. IBM decided to back Sun Microsystem’s pet project Open Office – a completely free, open-source version of MS Office – while Sun’s own Star Office began to be bundled by Google in its free-for-download software pack. Google for its part, got IT services giant CapGemini to endorse and evangelize it’s Web 2.0 take on Office called GAPE (Google Apps Premier Edition). The future of the online document is currently a slugfest between all these parties. Microsoft wants Office Open eXtended Markup Language (.OOXML) to become the global standard format for saving documents while the rest are pushing for the OpenDocument Format or (.ODF) at the International Standards Organisation which has the decision-making mandate. The ISO is currently gridlocked because there were more than the required number of dissenting countries against the Microsoft standard, in a round of voting earlier this month. India, which is represented at the ISO by the Bureau of Indian Standards was also a naysayer and there will be frantic lobbying in the next few months to get the BIS to take its final stand at Geneva in February.

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I haven’t bothered to install Microsoft Office on my relatively new desktop, purchased nearly six months ago. I’ve been banging out all my “Word” and “Excel” masterpieces on the completely free of cost and extremely user-friendly Google ‘Docs & Spreadsheets’. It started out accidentally, I must admit. On the first day of using the new PC, I needed to create a spreadsheet. Hypothetically speaking of course, I could have downloaded a pirated version of MS Office and a crack, but thanks to my (Exatt) “fraudband” it would have taken forever. I swear, the thought never crossed my mind but I’m just laying out the options. Piracy is evil! Anyway, I decided to check out the online options and the rest as they say is history. However, before you get inspired and start to uninstall, do analyze your usage. The online versions are fairly useless for complex documents with tons of images, tables, macros etc. and make a mess of charts, graphs and most functions beyond the basic ones. If your Excel usage borders on programming, then you definitely want to hang on just a little longer.

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Lest I come across as some sort of Microsoft basher, let me quickly inform you that I’ve tried most of the alternatives to Microsoft Office over the years and they’re all junk. I worked on Star Office for nearly a year in an organization that had both licensing and ideology issues and swore never to use it again. I used the absolutely free Open Office for nearly six months as well, but gave up after missing a very tight deadline which involved waiting for what seemed like six hours for a document to open. The other day, someone from IBM invited me for a demo of the latest version of Lotus Notes and my first reaction was “They’re still making it? Pray – why?” I know only one person whose company still uses Lotus Notes. Needless to say, nearly her entire team interacts and exchanges documents using their Gmail IDs, with ‘Notes’ being used as nothing more than an intra-company “official correspondence” notice board for formality sake. Now if only Google gets a PowerPoint equivalent up and running soon, I will never have to download a cracked version of … sorry, I mean never have to legally purchase a licensed version of MS Office ever again.

Written by Abhi 2.0

September 17, 2007 at 1:47 am

Facing The Google-y

with one comment

First published in the Hindustan Times (Mumbai edition)

Column in HT

Column in HT

For someone’s who not even six months into the job, Shailesh Rao seems incredibly at ease. The new Managing Director of Google India made his first major television appearance as a panelist on the CNN-IBN special program called “Rules of the Orkut Age”, which was telecast over the weekend. You would think that Shailesh has little patience with the media after all the trouble with the Shiv Sena, Mayawati, murder cases and government discomfort about Google Earth. Well, not only did he agree to come on the show, he was also rather honest. He admitted for starters, that his company really had no idea why Orkut is such a rage only in Brazil and India and not even on the radar in the rest of the world. The panel was televised with a live audience comprising parents, teachers and schoolchildren. Rao was mobbed by the kids after the discussion was over and he looked a bit overwhelmed for the first time that day. Some of the children seem to be masters of the medium and made some pointed suggestions. “Uncle, when you click on that page, there’s one link in the corner that gives you only three options and there should be a fourth option for ..” and so on and so forth.

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My own use of Orkut, in a way breaks all traditional rules. I’ve put up my real picture and my actual contact details such as email ID and office address. I add ANYONE who asks to be added, EXCEPT people whom I know. Thats right, each and every “friend” of mine on Orkut is someone whom I’ve never met. That’s because, we have a large Tech 2.0 community on Orkut and we’ve decided to use it as a sounding board for the website and the TV show. All Tech 2.0 team members are online and are encourage to accept all friend requests. Tons of readers and viewers, all inherently interested in technology join the group and go berserk arguing with each other in the message board about which mobile phone is better and how they hate each other’s digital guts! They start their own opinion polls and put in requests and feedback. A lightly moderated community on a social networking site can be a terrific tool for anyone in the business of building an audience. As for the people I know, I add them on Facebook! Seperation of church and state ie personal and professional is essential in cyberspace!

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I’m not sure if this is directly related to any diktat from the Indian government but it seems like too much of a co-incidence. The tiny cantonment town of Wellington near Coonoor in the Niligiris has been blurred out by Google Earth. I was using Picasa – Google’s online web album service – to tag some old photos taken when my father was posted at the Defence Services Staff College. The program was not allowing me to zoom into the area, though the adjoining towns were clearly visible. This seems strange because although Wellington has a military facility, its an educational setup and not an operational base with weapons. Civilians can roam most parts of the town freely and officers from friendly nations also attend the one year course. Could this location be on a list that the government has given Google India? Well, the harbour, jetties and other facilities, for instance, of India’s massive new Naval base at Karwar on the coast of Karnataka are crystal clear in the satellite imagery. Obviously there’s some gray area here – and I’m not talking about the map of Wellington!

Written by Abhi 2.0

September 3, 2007 at 1:45 am