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Technical Goals for 2011: Mid Year Review

Although we are already 2 months past the middle of the year, I decided to do a "mid year" review of my technical goals for this year to see how am I doing. Here we go: HAML, SAAS & Coffeescript: No progress :(SproutCore & BackBone.js: After a cursory look, I decided to explore Backbone.js for our upcoming project at Pothi.com. Still getting a feel of it.Learn Haskell: DeferredGit: Since Drupal moved to Git, it is hard to ignore it and I am beginning to get familiar with it. But given that we use trac, I don't think we will be leaving SVN anytime soon.Android: No progressSQL: Finally starting to dig into this. Not a very planned effort but in 6 months managed to understand few more nut and bolts of Mysql. Ran a few Explains finally :). Learnt to generate slow queries log and also managed to fix some obnoxious queries sitting in Ubercart.Beautiful Code: I realized that "finishing" beautiful code is not the right way to approach it. I read it one …

The saga of plain text password

Recently, one of the major Indian payment gateways, CCAvenue was reported to have been hacked. Medianama has good coverage of it including an interview with the very bureaucratic sounding CEO of the company.

While a payment gateway getting hacked is a big news, the bigger revelation were the clear text passwords that came out of the compromised database. There have been a lot of comments and discussions about this all over the startup blogs. Reading through those comments it appeared to me that there is a lot of confusion regarding passwords and how to securely store and transmit them. Saurabh Nanda has a good little primer about things to read. This is my attempt to clarify some of the things involved.

First a few basics. Any situation that involves passwords has 2 parties. The aim is to establish identity between parties. For simplicity, we will assume that it is the user that wants to establish his identity with the service. Login/Password system works on the basis of a shared secr…

आर्तनाद

हार कर उठने की क्षमता अब नहीं मुझ में रही,
वो ह्रदय की मधुर ममता अब नहीं मुझमे रही.
अब तो मैं संसार के वारों से होकर छिन्न-भिन्न,
बन गया हूँ रूद्र हिंसक आर्तनादी नरपशु.
अब मेरी सब इन्द्रियां रक्षा में मेरी व्यस्त हैं.

मधुर गुंजन मधुप का गांडीव की टंकार है
दामिनी का दमकना अब युद्ध की ललकार है,
दीख पड़ते हैं मुझे चहुँ ओर अपने शत्रु दल,
सांस की आवाज़ मानो शून्य में चित्कार है.
मान था अभिमन्यु सा, अब द्रोण सुत सी वेदना!

The Saga of Static IP

Recently we decided to get a static IP for our office broadband connection. We are a long time Airtel customer and usually not very annoyed with their service. They are quick to respond to complaints and things mostly work as they should.

We placed a request for a static IP and were told that it would require a 1 hour downtime to set up. 1 hour is no big deal and so we asked them to go ahead. Our connection went out at around 5pm on Thursday evening. Someone was coming to set up the router for static IP.

The person arrived at 9pm and started configuring the router confidently. We were hoping it to be a fairly quick and smooth process but suddenly the disaster struck! The 4-5 steps which he had been taught didn't get the link up. After that it was one hour of him calling various people, trying out some really weird configurations and generally hitting refresh. After struggling with it for 1 hour, he told us that our router did not "support" the static IP. He promised to c…

From Low Priced Editions to Fair Priced Editions

A major group of Indian publishers is up in arms against a proposed amendment to the copyright act of India. Put simply, the said amendment allows for the export of any edition of a title into India even if specific Indian editions are already available. 
There are some genuine points both for and against the issue. However the debate has long since devolved into fear mongering and finger pointing. One of the interesting claim of the publishers is that the said amendment will also legalize the export of Low Prized Editions of text books and technical books back to USA and UK. As a result, publishers in those market are likely to stop giving licenses for LPEs.
I personally think that it is very far fetched. There is enough protection against such imports in USA/UK markets. Some short sighted foreign publishers might pull out but then that should not be the guiding factor of our policies anyway. However the reaction from publishers set me thinking in another direction.
Given its status as …

Finding Geeks!

That the education system in India is screwed up is no secret. When companies like Infosys, TCS and Wipro say that a large number of engineers graduating every year are unemployable, it sets a pretty low bar on the quality of technical education.

The low standards of technical education are felt most acutely by the entrepreneurs trying to build technology companies in India. On one hand, very few good engineers survive the education system. On the other, the few who survive are claimed by the companies like Google, Yahoo, Amazon and other well established firms.

Now it would be excellent to tackle this problem head on and fix the education system in a fundamental way. However I have been thinking about a much smaller problem recently. As a matter of immediate relief to the high technology startups, is it possible to help more geeks/hackers to survive the current system? What is the most effective way of doing that? Out of that huge swamp of mediocrity, how can we give a helping hand t…

The Technical Resolutions for 2011

When running you own company, every year is full of new challenges and learnings. And so was the 2010. However looking back, I am feeling that I didn't gain so much on the technical side.

Recap
The two major things that happened on Pothi.com this year were e-books and the launch of online distribution. Our e-book platform is in the first iteration and still very primitive. We have identified many issues by now which will get fixed in the installment. Online Distribution required a lot of overhaul to the basic pricing mechanism which meant bunch of new Drupal modules. And as the year ends, I am just about wrapping up the new sales dashboard which was long overdue!
We also worked on couple of interesting projects over the summers with 2 interns both of which were in Python/Django. One of them made further improvements to blog2book platform. It is a shame that it has not been pushed to production yet. Primarily due to the memory troubles we are having on VPS and which I have been unab…