Of jugglers, the corrupt and the greats; Are you part of the `thumb generation’?; Ready for the `sunrise’?; Almost in the maker’s shoes; Want your company to be around next year?

Books2Byte – July 2003


Of jugglers, the corrupt and the greats…

D. Murali

Here’s something interesting on financial accounting, CEOs who aren’t quite straight, and India’s own Silicon Valley.


THE dotcom collapse left everyone wondering what went wrong. Expert analysts pondered how their math failed. Even as they fret and rue, there are major trends happening in the knowledge economy, says Chris Westland in “Valuing Technology”. Exciting new sciences “will propel our next technology boom”. Such as? “Human genomics, proteomics, robotics, nanotechnology, fractals, ecoforming, global information networks, telemedicine and so on.” There’s more:

  • By the time of Schumpeter’s death in 1950, the third cycle of his “successive industrial revolutions” had already run its course. The fourth, powered by oil, electronics, aviation, and mass production, is now in decline. And a fifth Industrial Revolution – based on the knowledge-intensive industries of semiconductors, fibre optics, genomics, and software – is well under way. And the sixth Industrial Revolution will usher in a fully-fledged knowledge economy.
  • Where technologies are converging, as with television and computers, or mobile phones and the Internet, many of the performance measures will be the same. The projection on to the subspace of vectors for those shared performance metrics can be used to predict the technology acceleration vector for the converged technology, based on the contributions of the two individually converging technologies for which we have historical data.
  • Value additivity is particularly important for knowledge economy firms, because cost and value drivers in these firms tend to be highly nonlinear. Nonlinearity obviates many of the existing spreadsheet methods for calculating value, and very likely created much of the uncertainty surrounding investment over the past decade. The appropriate way to handle nonlinearity is to isolate it in sub-processes, compute its impact on line-items, and then aggregate these.
  • The major problem with the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) is that it doesn’t work. On average, it explains only around one-third of a stock’s value and volatility, and is not much use for explaining changes in a firm’s share prices. A better measure is the ratio of a firm’s book value to its market value.
  • Like Newtonian physics, classical accounting worked well within the limits of a person’s direct experience several centuries ago. Just as 20th century physics was baffled by a slew of new observations and measurements in electromagnetism, chemistry, astronomy, and physics, so has classical accounting fallen prey to the confusion of, first, mass-manufactured value generation (with rifles and cars), and now post-industrial value (with software and knowledge bases). Physics responded with relativity and quantum mechanics; unfortunately, financial accounting has had no similar leap forward.

Master the science of wealth of the new economy.

Corporate comedy

CRONY Capone, Parish Priest, Talk-the-Talk, Volte-Face, Side Biz, Siphon de Cash, Last Emperor, Next Job, Tremble Knees and Family Man. These are 10 corrupt CEOs. “What’s yours?” asks Jeetendra Jain in his book “Sack the CEO” which factors in what executives from AT&T, IBM, GE, Tata, ICICI, HP, Wipro, O&M and Visa have to say. And to give a wry twist right Jain plugs in “Corrupt Contents” that has all the `characters’ in part 1, `character assassinations’ in part 2 and concluding with `assassinations’ in part 3. Excerpts:


  • Short-circuit, or `Short-C’ as he was popularly called, had been working on a decision to be made for the choice of a new vendor for computer equipment. Short-C expected something good to emerge for himself and his company out of the negotiations.
  • Onewayticket was the company accountant. He understood prudence, but could never practise it. He presented the facts as they were. Accountants have a tough job of balancing not only the accounts but also their jobs. They have a juggling job getting credits from their bosses and being in the bad books of several others. Being responsible for presenting the business bottom lines they are the top-line employees at the annual account rituals.
  • A sideways glance from the CEO would mean `inflate the figures’. A long smile would mean `cut the taxes’. A deep stare could mean `reduce outstanding amounts’. A nodding of the head would mean `decrease interest rates of borrowings’. A slight tap on the table may imply that the CEO wants to defer creditor payments to next year. Such coding structures vary from company to company and therefore when accountants change jobs, this is the first thing they have to sharpen their skills at.
  • Take a look at the `vision’ statement and the `mission’ statement and the set of values that the CEO talks of. These are usually very stereotyped. Statements such as “We will be very honest with our colleagues”, “We will display the highest forms of integrity in all places and situations”, “The customer is more important than our profits”, “We shall be the most preferred and transparent employer in our industry” are usually give-aways to identify Talk-the-Talk. The vision statement is also very loud and bombastic. It will usually contain several superlatives and is usually achievable in the 20-30 year time period.
  • Usually the board meetings are over before `the’ meeting. The directors have secret discussions with each other depending on the politics. The CEO has meetings with the directors again depending on the political scenario. All the views and opinions are sorted out and cleared up much before the actual meeting. The rest is mere protocol and therefore there is so much more time to discuss about ties, wives, hearts and other jobs in the market.

If you recognise in your own organisation any of the characters that Jeetu presents, keep that to yourself.

From boiled beans to chips

INDIANS came to USA as early as 1790 and the US Census counted 2,050 of them after 110 years in 1900. The first significant emigration from India occurred in the years 1901-08 when about 3,000 immigrants came to the US. Most were labourers and were unwelcome.” With this nugget of information in the prologue, S.S. Kshatriy presents a bunch of Indians who made a difference to technology and the world in his book “Silicon Valley Greats”. Read on:

  • Bangalore is older than any city in the US. Historians trace its origin to the 11th century when Veera Ballala II lost his way in the forest. A poor woman living in an isolated hut fed `boiled beans’ to the hungry king. A habitation sprung up at the place and came to be known as Benda Kalooru or `town of boiled beans’. It is Bengaloru in Kannada even today.


  • Though getting a job was difficult at that time, we had formed a type of network to help each other. We used to meet on weekends; we contacted each other by phone and through letters. Ease and convenience of e-mail was not available then. It would turn out that you know somebody who knows somebody else, and that somebody else would have information that a job is available in a particular company. (Kanwal Rekhi)
  • The Internet is a reality. My belief is that the current business model will go through a change; there won’t be many free services. I am bullish about gaming devices. Children of tomorrow will not use a PC for interface. They will use the play station and the X-box instead. Besides IT services, India will soon establish itself as a hub for entertainment and animation. (Pradeep Kar)
  • The founders must know that a company in its formative years is made of a few good people and the 80:20 rule applies here as well: 20 per cent of the people do 80 per cent of the job. You take away 2-3 key employees and the company is reduced to an average setup, or even to closing its doors. Take care that you don’t lose those key persons.

Once you have the key people, then comes building it top down. Empower the key people to build their own team.

Hiring one’s own team gives two things: a sense of ownership to the manager and a sense of loyalty to the new recruit. (Raj Singh)

  • The business proposition that Narayana Murthy had was `source capital from where it is cheapest, produce where it is most cost-effective, and sell where it is most profitable.’

All that did not go well while being constrained by national boundaries.

There was no telecommunications infrastructure at that time to realise the full potential of the proposition.

More onsite work had to be done. However, there were plus points, which kept hope alive.

A digest of biographies for posterity.

Books courtesy: Fountainhead

Wednesday, Jul 02, 2003



Are you part of the `thumb generation’?

D. Murali

Miniature keyboards on cellular phones and other devices are shifting the balance of power of the human hand from the index finger to the thumb. The thumb is enjoying a second renaissance.


TECHNOLOGY is the human modification of the natural world, is how Edward Tenner defined in his book “Why things bite back”. Now, in his new book “Our own Devices”, he looks at the past and future of body technology. It is about the changes we have made in ourselves. More follows:

  • The Dvorak layout of keyboard, which reduces finger travel dramatically, at first seemed an ergonomic blessing. People with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and related ailments have praised the arrangement. Yet its medical advantages still have not been proven. Without significant numbers of Dvorak users in organisations, it is difficult to gather statistics. Since the total reported cases of CTS dropped from 41,000 in 1993 to 26,300 in 1998, most of them industrial, prevention of QWERTY in the office has seemed less urgent.
  • The spread of chair-sitting may reflect world prosperity, but it also may be hazardous to our health. Chair-level societies have higher rates of varicose veins; sitting to defecate seems to promote hemorrhoids. Japanese children who have grown up kneeling on tatami mats and using traditional squat toilets have higher thighbone densities than others, and Japan has half the rate of thighbone fractures seen in Western countries. The spread of computers began changing the body techniques of the office.
  • Miniature keyboards on cellular phones and other devices are surprisingly influential. They have been shifting the balance of power of the human hand from the index finger to the thumb. The thumb is enjoying a second renaissance. The thumb is coming back to computing with pen- and pencil-like devices, such as the styli used with PDAs. In Japan today, there are so many new data entry devices that young people are called oyayubi sedai, the Thumb Generation.
  • The zero-insertion-force floppy drives of older Macintosh computers swallowed disks gracefully after only a gentle nudge. Unlike the IBM-compatibles, they released them again by software control from a pull-down menu on the screen, not with a vulgar spring-loaded button. But the drives were still machines, and the disks sometimes stuck. A simple technique was needed: straightening a paper clip and poking it in a discreet little hole with a recessed switch. Even users of well-designed objects need to know a few tricks.
  • The chemistry of attaching oxide particles to magnetic tape was a by-product of efforts in the Weimar Republic to bind gold leaf more effectively to fashionably decadent black Russian cigarettes. Scientists at Silicon Graphics have trained digital cameras on the circulating blobs in Lava lamps to generate truly random numbers, which are essential to many computer tasks but cannot be produced by computer circuits alone.

Get to know your gadgets and your body better.

Fiction dotcom


INTERNET companies were springing up everywhere and anything seemed possible for those who thought big. A cautious banker, David Lane, is invited by his old friend Jordan to help start up ninetyminutes.com. Then begins a risky business… Thus teases the back cover of Michael Ridpath’s new fiction “Fatal Error”. Read on:

  • `What about the competition? There have to be some soccer websites out there already.’ `We’ll be faster than they are. While they’re still drawing up their marketing budgets or whatever, we’ll be up and running and grabbing eyeballs.’ I laughed. `”Grabbing eyeballs”? Sounds painful. What is this, gouge.com?’ `The Americans are incapable of understanding soccer. They can dominate everything else on the Internet, but they can’t dominate this. If there is ever going to be a global soccer brand on the Internet, it’s got to come from Europe.’
  • You need a good site design, you need a PR and marketing campaign so millions of people will hear about it, you need hardware that can deal with the traffic, you need people working for you who can write the stories you want in the way you want. You need someone to pay those people, you need someone to pay you, you need an office, a computer, time to think, time to watch football.
  • I wondered who lastrest.com’s target customers were – perhaps people who woke up in the middle of the night with chest pains and nipped off to their computer to make sure their funeral was sorted before it was too late. Some of the ideas were highly technical and incomprehensible. One or two made some kind of sense. But the venture capitalist had no chance of distinguishing one from the other.
  • I opened the file attached to the e-mail. My computer whirred and ground, then an animation appeared of a man about to take a swing at a golf ball. Except the golf ball was a head. The image zoomed in on the face. It was mine, taken from a photograph on the corporate section of the website.
  • He finished his PowerPoint presentation with a flourish and sat down expectantly. I glanced at Clare. This was the third Wireless Application Protocol deal we had seen in a month, and easily the worst. By a slight twitching of an eyebrow, Clare signalled that she agreed with my assessment. We asked the two-man team some questions for the sake of politeness, and then kicked them out.

Not a fatal error to buy.

The next big B


IF you want to understand the fast-moving and volatile industry that biotechnology is, Richard W.Oliver’s book “The Biotech Age” could help. He provides information on the latest research, examples of biotech breakthroughs, and a “close examination of hot-button biotech issues, such as cloning and stem cell research.” Excerpts:

  • New products from bioterials technologies will be more important than the car or the computer. Bioterials will demand a new public literacy – BioLiteracy. Every person in the world will be called on to make a personal decision about his or her own genes and perhaps those of others.
  • The top five biotech firms spend nearly $90,000 per year per employee in R&D, and most spend some 15 to 30 per cent of revenues per year on R&D compared with today’s so-called hi-tech industry that spends 8 to 12 per cent per year, or traditional industrial firms that typically spend less than 5 per cent.
  • With the various options for reproductive technology, one child may have as many as five different `parents’ – an ovum donor, a sperm donor, a gestational carrier, and two adoptive (rearing) parents.
  • The first two laws of the Bioterials Age – that knowledge doubles daily and that the global scope and scale of that knowledge are inversely proportional to its subatomic scale – set the stage for the third, and perhaps most important, law of bioeconomics: Growth rates accelerate vertically.
  • Biotech today faces challenges more daunting than what the electronics industry of the transistor age or the early software and computer hardware developers faced just a few decades ago. Most of these challenges deal with time and money. The growth of the information industry paralleled the growth of venture capital as an innovation funding source in the US. And unlike biotech, whose products are often highly specific, information products were often `generic’.
  • The definition of `computer savvy’ has changed drastically in the past decade. No longer does one need to know programming language to customise a computer’s software or build a Web page. Similarly, no longer does one need to be fluent with the family, genus, species, and related classification diagrams that used to define biology. Today’s bioliteracy involves acquiring a working knowledge of the basic tenets of molecular biology, the basic building blocks of life.

Get bio savvy.

Books courtesy: Landmark: http://www.landmarkonthenet.com

Wednesday, Jul 09, 2003




Ready for the `sunrise’?

D. Murali

If you are all set to land a job in a call centre, there are some vital things you need to know from the word go.


IS your calling likely to be a call centre job? Then be prepared with a training kit that teaches you eCRM and telephone skills, call centre English, basic computer skills, `soft skills’ and so forth.

“Comdex Call Center Training Course Kit” by Vikas Gupta comes with a CD that gives `free call centre English accent training’. As the author notes in the preface, call centres are a `sunrise’ industry, generating professions that are `novel’. Sadly, `many potential talents misjudge a promising career simply on the basis of rumour or hearsay’. Read on:

  • Call monitoring and talk monitoring are carried out when the agent handles the customer’s call. The supervisor monitors how he/she handles the call – that is, the way of communicating, the ability to answer questions asked by the customer, optimism of approach and so on. Some of the criteria used in monitoring the efficiency are: actual time spent by the agent on phone, contacts per hour, total collections made/number of dollars earned per month, sales achieved per hour, agent’s scores in call monitoring.
  • The automatic call distributor (ACD) is pivotal to the functioning of a call centre; it is linked to everything that goes on in the call centre. Its basic function is to take the incoming calls and take them to the right place – the agent desk.
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) is a combination of front-end customer interactions and the back-end customer data available. It is a confluence of several earlier software (telemarketing software, data mining/ warehousing, helpdesk/customer support, and so on). With the help of CRM, call centres can provide both inbound and outbound call centre services, from claims processing, to loan counselling, to third-party verification services.
  • As an outbound call centre manager, you may get worried and annoyed if your agents cannot reach the clients on their call lists even though it is not your agents’ fault. All this happens just because much of agents’ time is taken up trying to get through a prospect to make a sale or collect the bill. Even if it is a small call centre, a typical agent reaches 25 to 35 clients per 100 attempts, which could take hours. Here enters the concept of predictive dialling – automation that provides the same 100 calls in about 90 minutes.
  • During a telephonic conversation the basic disadvantage lies in the absence of non-verbal attributes. The biggest problem faced by a call centre agent is the inability to read and analyse anyone’s body language. Thus, the agent has to rely upon the tone and articulation of the voice. Often a caller could be more aggressive and verbally hostile while communicating through the telephone, as it does not reveal his visual identity. The agent could get into a high-pressure situation when he/she is unable to identify the problems at the same time as he/she is communicating over the telephone.

Nothing phoney about this.

Chips in the hiding

TAKE a moment to look around you at the printer, fax, mobile phone, PDA, microwave, TV, set-top box, digital camera, AC and so on. “Many of us are not even aware that all these devices contain a processor with a lot of software embedded,” states the preface of the book “Programming for Embedded Systems”, brought out by the `Dreamtech Software Team’. Fast development cycles, the availability of a wide variety of processors, OSs, development tools, and programming languages are some of the major challenges for developers in this field. More:


  • The design goals of an embedded system are to reduce size, cost, and power consumption and to increase performance and reliability.

These manifold requirements are met using Programmable Logic Devices (PLDs). A PLD is a single chip in which a large amount of discrete logic and memory can be combined. This single chip can also be Programmable Array Logic (PAL) or Field Programmable Gate Array.

  • Qualcomm’s Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW) SDK facilitates the development of mobile data applications for wireless networks based on Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology.

You can develop mobile applications using the SDK in C or C++ using Visual Studio, test the applications using the emulators that run on the desktop, and then port the applications to an embedded system built around an ARM processor.

  • It is estimated that location-based services will be a multibillion-dollar industry in the years to come. To obtain location parameters, a Global Positioning System (GPS) sensor is used, which retrieves the longitude, latitude, and altitude of the sensor’s location. The longitude and latitude information can be mapped onto a digital map to display the position of a vehicle or a device, such as a PDA, in which the GPS sensor is embedded.
  • Once in a while, your Linux system may crash. This is mainly because there is no protection against any bugs in the application source code written by you. As the real-time programs are executed in the kernel space, you may inadvertently create a situation in which the processor enters a state from which it cannot recover, leading to the crash. To minimise this risk, use the debugger provided with RTLinux before the final testing.
  • The embedded version of Windows XP provides a powerful environment for developing a variety of embedded applications – such as games, mobile data applications, point-of-sale devices, panel PCs and so on.

For instance, the AC can be controlled through a user interface provided on the Embedded XP machine.

No bedtime book this.

Books courtesy: Wiley Dreamtech India P Ltdwww.wileydreamtech.com

Twisted tale

AFTER `Quantum Web’ and `Spyder Web’, now comes the `Twisted Web’ from Tom Grace. A story set in Antarctica, where a remote NASA research lab rests atop a two-mile thick glacier, and there is something `alive’ underneath. The lab is attacked, and the scientists killed, and the hero Nolan Kilkenny realises `that there’s more than science at stake – there’s power, money, and what may be another step in evolution’. A few picks:


  • Until the latter part of the twentieth century, energy in the form of sunlight was assumed to be essential to the formation of life, but then life was found in the darkest depths of the oceans. When communities of organisms were discovered not merely living but thriving in the superheated mineral-saturated waters of geysers and hydrothermal vents, environments lethal to most other forms of life on earth, scientists were forced to rethink their assumptions about the conditions that might give rise to life.

Life seems to need only three things to start: heat, minerals, and liquid water.

  • Using a PCR machine, she amplified her samples, chemically replicating those selected tracts of DNA over and over until she had millions of tiny copies. Siwik loaded these into a 310 Genetic Analyser and programmed the machine for an overnight run. In the darkness of the lab, the analyser stretched out the tiny strands of DNA and meticulously read the STRs like supermarket bar codes with a ten-milliwatt argon-ion laser.
  • Curious, Kilkenny logged onto his brokerage Web site to check the UGene stock. The volume of stock trading was low, a sign that all the faint-hearted investors had already abandoned the stock. He logged out of the brokerage site and accessed the Enth site to do some datamining. Unlike Internet search engines that only provide links to Web pages, Enth is tied to databases of information around the world.
  • Several hundred miles above the equator, the object identified as Z1 on C.J.Skye’s computer tracked Shenzhou-7’s fiery ascent toward the heavens. It had the latest in radar-masking technology. The spacecraft was a weapon, a long slender spear tip of chiselled obsidian in space. Onboard the black vessel, a computer continuously compared the real-time data to a mathematical profile it held in memory, looking for the perfect time to strike.

Read it when you have a progress bar lingering in front of you for long moments.

Book courtesy: Landmark

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2003



Almost in the maker’s shoes

D. Murali

Animation can help you create human figures that look almost, but not quite, like the real thing. Keep trying.


ART is lies that tell the truth, said Piccaso. Art is art; everything else is everything else, said Ad Reinhardt. Art completes what nature cannot bring to finish, is an Aristotle quote.

If art imitates life, one form of such exercise is animation. Peter Ratner’s “3-D Human Modeling and Animation” has all the tools and know-how “to create digital characters that can move, express emotions and talk”. The book demonstrates how you can use your artistic skills in figure drawing, painting, and sculpture to create animated human figures using the latest computer technology. “No one has been able to make computer graphics humans that have been mistaken for real ones in movies and photos when viewed at close range,” states the preface. “Until technology evolves to the point that this becomes possible, creating an artistic representation of a human is still a worthwhile goal.” A few frames from the book:

  • The closer a character becomes to an everyday human, the more ordinary it will appear. Synthetic humans most often lack personality. Computer characters that try to mimic human movement through unedited motion-capture techniques generally look like puppets or store mannequins that have come to life. As contradictory as it sounds, when animators exaggerate the movements and expressions of their characters, they appear more lifelike and realistic.
  • Generally, the average height of a man or a woman can be measured as seven heads tall. If your goal is to create and animate the ideal male and female, then consider modelling them eight heads tall. Stretch their proportions first and then use them as your guides. Superheroes are often portrayed as very tall with tiny heads.
  • Some artists prefer to start with the smallest unit possible: the point, or vortex. After placing a series of these vertices, one can connect them as a spline or create polygons from them. Splines are flexible line segments defined by edit points or vertices. Sometimes splines are referred to as curves. A series of connected splines make a wire mesh. Adjoining wire meshes are patches. Thus spline modelling lends itself to the patch modelling method.
  • Preparing the human model for facial expressions and dialogue is an essential part of the 3-D animation process. A base model with a neutral expression is the starting point. The base model should have at least three sets of parallel lines for each wrinkle. Approximately 56 shapes or morphs, which include the mouth shapes for dialogue, should be enough for the majority of facial expressions.
  • Conventional art materials such as charcoal, paint, clay, fibre, and so on, are tactile. The artist who works with these has an emotional link that is often lacking when compared to the one who relies on hardware and software. The computer artist is forced to instill the quality of emotion into a medium that is for the most part cerebral. This is one of the greatest challenges. Without emotional content, the work will appear cold and removed from the human experience. Unlike other artists, computer animators work mostly in the mental realm to put feeling into their work.

If only animators could breathe life into their creations, would life not be one big comics book to sit back and read?

Book courtesy: Wiley Dreamtech India P Ltd.

Onto the next generation of Web-based technology

WEB services is an umbrella term. It describes a collection of industry-standard protocols and services used to facilitate a `base-line level of interoperability’ between applications. Which, in other words, means all different systems can get talking over the cyberspace. “Building XML Web Services for the Microsoft .NET Platform” by Scott Short deals with the basic building blocks of XML Web services, viz. Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Web Services Description Language (WSDL), Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) and so on. There’s more:


  • WSDL documents can be intimidating at first glance. But the syntax of a WSDL document is not nearly as complex as that of an XML Schema document. A WSDL document is composed of a series of associations layered on top of an XML Schema document that describes a Web Service. These associations add to the size and the perceived complexity of a WSDL document. But once you look underneath the covers, WSDL documents are rather straightforward.
  • HTTP is by nature a stateless protocol. Even with the introduction of the connection keep-alive protocol in HTTP 1.1, you cannot assume that all requests from a given client will be sent over a single connection. ASP.NET provides a state management service that can be leveraged by Web Forms and Web services.
  • A well-known object accepts method requests without requiring the client to first formally instantiate the object. From the client’s perspective, the object already exists and calls can be made to it without the need to create or initialise the object. This is the default behaviour of SOAP-based Web services.
  • Digest authentication does not transfer the user’s password in the clear; instead a hash, or digest, of the password and data provided by the server is used to authenticate the user.
  • From a developer’s perspective, .NET My Services eliminates many of the problems of securing data, providing encrypted transport channels, and reconciling disparate data sources. And all of this is achievable using XML Web services, so businesses are spared the drastic learning curve associated with new technologies.

Remember, they say Web services are the next big thing.

From OOP to more


LET us say you already understand OOP (object-oriented programming) concepts such as data abstraction, inheritance and polymorphism. And that you want to `leverage the power of .NET Framework to build, package and deploy any kind of application’. Jeffrey Richter’s “Applied Microsoft .NET Framework Programming” has the answers. Read on:

  • As an application runs, the common language runtime (CLR) maintains a `snapshot’ of the set of assemblies loaded by the application. When the application terminates, this information is compared with the information in the application’s corresponding .ini file. If the application loaded the same set of assemblies that it loaded previously, the information in the .ini file matches the information in memory and the in memory information is discarded.
  • Sometimes the add and remove methods the compiler generates are not ideal. For example, if you’re adding and removing delegates frequently and you know that your application is single-threaded, the overhead of synchronising access to the object that owns the delegate can really hurt your application’s performance.
  • Compilers convert code that references an enumerated type’s symbol to a numeric value at compile time. Once this occurs, no reference to the enumerated type exists in metadata and the assembly that defines the enumerated type doesn’t have to be available at run time. If you have cod that references the enumerated type – rather than just having references to symbols defined by the type – the assembly that defines the enumerated type will be required at run time.
  • try block doesn’t have to have a finally block associated with it at all; sometimes the code in a try block just doesn’t require any cleanup code. However, if you do have a finallyblock, it must appear after any and all catch blocks, and a tryblock can have no more than one finally block associated with it.
  • If the CLR suspends a thread and detects that the thread is executing unmanaged code, the thread’s return address is hijacked and the thread is allowed to resume execution. A pinned object is one that the garbage collector isn’t allowed to move in memory.

A book that focuses on C#, so better B#.

Books courtesy: Word Power

Wednesday, Jul 23, 2003



Want your company to be around next year?

D. Murali

If your answer to the headline-question is yes, then read on for the answers in the story.


YOUR company is around this year. What about next year? There is a way to answer this question without tossing a coin for a clue: Innovate. Because “only companies that can consistently bring imaginative, value-added new products, services and value propositions to market will survive and grow in a rapidly-changing economy,” says the back cover of Robert B. Tucker’s “Driving Growth through Innovation” from EastWest Books. While leading firms are transforming their future, most companies are not able to turn ideas into profitable realities, argues the author. Product/service innovation is the result of bringing to life a new way to solve the customer’s problem that benefits both the customer and the sponsoring company. A few selections:

  • Despite the recent trend of service firms and manufacturers alike to use the term products to describe their offerings, services and service businesses `products’ tend to be different. Foremost, they can often be intangible as opposed to tangible and physical. They also tend to be produced and consumed at the same time and to involve a higher degree of human involvement in their delivery. And they tend to be difficult or impossible to stop imitation through the use of patents.
  • To make it easy to submit an idea, EDS employees from Bangkok to Berlin to Birmingham are encouraged to submit their ideas via the company’s intranet. Once an idea is received, a member of the 15-person Idea2Reality support staff then contacts the person to help scope, refine, and further articulate the idea. Next, an executive team reviews the submission and decides whether to award seed funding.
  • Automakers are currently employing ethnography, a branch of anthropology that deals with understanding native cultures. DaimlerChrysler’s PT Cruiser, introduced in 2000, was the first vehicle designed using an ideation process known as `archetype research’.
  • Hatching business models can conjure images of well-financed whiz kids inside business incubators hovering around whiteboards, excitedly brainstorming billion-dollar breakthroughs. Yet if the dotcom crash has lessons, they may be that native genius is less than what is called for, nor can piles of venture capital ensure market acceptance. Case studies of successful business model innovations show that evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, ideas may have the best chances of success.
  • Most innovations require customers to make a change, and ascertaining their willingness to do so should be determined early in the idea’s development. Training your dog to use a new litter box takes time. Integrating GE’s new speed cooker, Advantium, into your kitchen usually requires the added expense and hassle of hiring an electrician to install 220 volts. Converting to grocery shopping via an online grocer is supposed to free up your time, but takes time learning the new way.

The alternative to unearthing ideas is… to go under.

Don’t get boxed in

UNLESS you are able to turn your own old ways of thinking upside down, you can’t turn your organisation right side up. This is the message of Mike Vance and Diane Deacon in the book “Think out of the Box” from Viva Books. The authors use a nine-dot matrix of creative culture, and it is made of 3 `i’s, 3 `p’s and 3 `c’s: informed, involved, inspired, place, people, product, caring, cooperating and creating. Read on:


  • The very latest technological innovations are called IAs – information appliances – instead of merely a PC, CP, TV or VCR. There are models that can fit into corners of your kitchen or hang from bathroom ceilings, and some can even be implanted into the walls. IAs are the brainchildren of today’s innovators. How about the brainchildren of the past? Such as: `Wite-Out’ to correct errors, `Post-it Notes’ to stick little messages all over everything, and a really simple invention of brilliant engineering known as the paper clip.
  • The maxim `keep an open mind’ sounds so correct. But open minds are often empty minds. Open minds can contain ambiguous convictions, vague concepts and unresolved issues. Also, open minds can be filled with trash. The informed mind is also open to new ideas, but recognises and filters out detrimental thoughts. We hear many people say, “I am an open-minded person.” However, the unspoken subtext is often, “As long as you agree with me.” Thinking out of the box requires having an informed mind before we can truly be open-minded.
  • There is a common ranking of information that characterises data like this: Nice to know; need to know; and absolutely, positively need to know. For people to be usefully informed, they need access to all three levels. Knowledge of `nice to know’ information, while not essential, makes people feel included. Withholding any type of information can break the spirit of a team.
  • Part of being realistic is being informal. Informal environments rarely get too uptight. By informal we don’t mean window-dressing informality, like not wearing a jacket and tie or calling people by their first names. We can practise these surface values and still be rigid and formal in our relationships. The true measure of informality is the freedom to say what we need to say to whomever we need to say it whenever we want without fear of unjust reprisal or power play.
  • Just knowing how to converse with others is a problem for many people. Effective team members need to be deipnosophists – they must know how to engage in small talk as well as communicate essential content. Poor social skills can mean chaos. And chaos diffuses creative energy. Order and structure focus creative energy – despite what some experts might say – and give us time to break out of the box.

A book worth the buy, by paying out of your cash-box.

Taming Tomcat

THERE are different types of cats – the blacks and the whites, the famished and the well-fed. Apache Tomcat is no ordinary cat but the name of a massive project that started in 1999 when Sun gave JSWDK source code to Apache Software Foundation. The project became the reference implementation of the Java Servlet Specification and Java Server Pages (JSP). Wiley’s “Apache Tomcat Bible” by Eaves, Jones and Godfrey is for the high-priests of Java. A book that helps you tame Tomcat’s complexity, it has inputs on packaging, compiling and deploying Tomcat applications using `Ant’. Also, explore advanced techniques such as SOAP, load balancing and clustering. More:


  • The JSP files deployed as part of a Web application undergo a two-stage transformation process. The first stage converts the JSP files into Java source code, and the second stage compiles the Java source code into class files. These two stages together are called translation by the JSP specification. Errors can occur in either of these stages, and as a result it is often desirable to pre-compile the JSP files prior to deployment.
  • Eclipse comes packaged with Java Development Tools (JDT), enabling the platform to be used as a Java development environment. JDT is a plug-in that supports Java development with the addition of a Java builder and a customised perspective to the UI. Eclipse is a multi-language IDE.
  • Servlets control the flow of the application. They take a request from the browser and determine the appropriate action to take. This may include collecting lists of objects, executing updates, creating objects or simply redirecting to another part of the application. They then pass objects required for display to the JSP pages they include.
  • The Model View Controller (MVC), aka Model 2, architecture is a design pattern that has become popular amongst the Web developer community. MVC has come about in response to the inability to separate Web site design from programming logic.
  • JMeter is a testing application from the Apache Group that can be used to test Web sites, databases, and other sorts of applications that might serve information. The focus of the tool is on stress testing rather than unit testing, but it is an extremely useful functionality testing tool for use with Tomcat and Web applications.

For the hardcore alley cats only, not the furry, pussy ones.

(Books courtesy: Publishers)

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2003






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