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Friday, February 29, 2008

Doodle 4 Google - Google Doodles Animation



a competition where K-12 students can play around with the G home page logo and see what they come up with. The theme is What if?

http://www.google.com/doodle4google/

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Graphic Design?

Graphic design is the process of communicating visually using typography and images to present information. Graphic design practice embraces a range of cognitive skills, aesthetics and crafts, including typography, visual arts and page layout. Like other forms of design, graphic design often refers to both the process (designing) by which the communication is created and the products (designs) which are generated.
  • Graphic design enhances transfer of knowledge.
  • Readability is enhanced by improving the visual presentation of text.
  • Intricate and clever pictures are used when words cannot suffice.
  • Graphic design helps set the theme and the intended mood.

Tool:
The primary tool for graphic design is the creative mind.

Critical, observational, quantitative and analytic thinking are required for designing page layout and rendering.

Uses:

Administration - road signs to technical schematics, from interoffice memorandums to reference manuals.

Advertising - sell a product or idea through effective visual communications, Elements of company identity like logos, colors, and text, together defined as branding.

Education - Graphics in textbooks.

Entertainment - From decoration, to scenery, to visual story telling. Cover to cover in novels and comic books, from opening credits to closing credits in film, from programs to props on stage.

Journalism
- scientific journals to news reporting - known as information design. Newspapers, magazines, blogs, television and film documentaries use to inform and entertain.

Web - (Graphic designers are often involved in web design) Combining visual communication skills with the interactive communication skills of user interaction and online branding, graphic designers often work with web developers to create both the look and feel of a web site and enhance the online experience of web site visitors.

>> List of notable graphic designers <<
>> List of graphic design institutions <<

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Free Color Manipulation tools on the web

Here are some of my favorite online tools for exploring and manipulating colors.
These are free and simple color manipulation tools which require NO installation and can be easily used off the web.

  • Color Blender — Very convenient tool to blend any two colors with a varying number of midpoints

swf Image Replacement

swfIR is a new Flash replacement technique that replaces and adds visual effects to images on the fly using simple JavaScript. It’s similar to the the popular Flash text replacement technique, sIFR. You can, without physically editing an image, set borders, shadows, alpha transparencies, blurring, rotation and more to any image on your website. Pretty neat!

This is the most awesome advancement to designer-friendly web technology I've seen in a long time. The fact is that
1. it's easy to integrate and use
2. it's packed full of features that everybody wants and reflect current trends
3. is well-written largely standards compliant code and
4. is free - blows my mind.


If someone blocks your Flash, you'll still get the non-swfIR'd image, which is great. This is progressive enhancement at it's best, just like sIFR is. If people have Flash, they get an enhanced experience. If people don't have Flash (or block Flash), they still get a good experience.

Tips to shoot great snaps with your Digital Camera

Do you wish you were a better photographer? All it takes is a little know-how and experience. Keep reading for some important picture-taking tips. Then grab your camera and start shooting your way to great pictures.

  • Look your subject in the eye
    Direct eye contact can be as engaging in a picture as it is in real life. When taking a picture of someone, hold the camera at the person's eye level to unleash the power of those magnetic gazes and mesmerizing smiles. For children, that means stooping to their level. And your subject need not always stare at the camera. All by itself that eye level angle will create a personal and inviting feeling that pulls you into the picture.
  • Use a plain background
    A plain background shows off the subject you are photographing. When you look through the camera viewfinder, force yourself to study the area surrounding your subject. Make sure no poles grow from the head of your favorite niece and that no cars seem to dangle from her ears.
  • Use flash outdoors
    Bright sun can create unattractive deep facial shadows. Eliminate the shadows by using your flash to lighten the face. When taking people pictures on sunny days, turn your flash on. You may have a choice of fill-flash mode or full-flash mode. If the person is within five feet, use the fill-flash mode; beyond five feet, the full-power mode may be required. With a digital camera, use the picture display panel to review the results.
    On cloudy days, use the camera's fill-flash mode if it has one. The flash will brighten up people's faces and make them stand out. Also take a picture without the flash, because the soft light of overcast days sometimes gives quite pleasing results by itself.
  • Move in close
    If your subject is smaller than a car, take a step or two closer before taking the picture and zoom in on your subject. Your goal is to fill the picture area with the subject you are photographing. Up close you can reveal telling details, like a sprinkle of freckles or an arched eyebrow.
    But don't get too close or your pictures will be blurry. The closest focusing distance for most cameras is about three feet, or about one step away from your camera. If you get closer than the closest focusing distance of your camera (see your manual to be sure), your pictures will be blurry.
  • Move it from the middle
    Center-stage is a great place for a performer to be. However, the middle of your picture is not the best place for your subject. Bring your picture to life by simply moving your subject away from the middle of your picture. Start by playing tick-tack-toe with subject position. Imagine a tick-tack-toe grid in your viewfinder. Now place your important subject at one of the intersections of lines.
    You'll need to lock the focus if you have an auto-focus camera because most of them focus on whatever is in the center of the viewfinder.
  • Lock the focus
    If your subject is not in the center of the picture, you need to lock the focus to create a sharp picture. Most auto-focus cameras focus on whatever is in the center of the picture. But to improve pictures, you will often want to move the subject away from the center of the picture. If you don't want a blurred picture, you'll need to first lock the focus with the subject in the middle and then recompose the picture so the subject is away from the middle.
    Usually you can lock the focus in three steps. First, center the subject and press and hold the shutter button halfway down. Second, reposition your camera (while still holding the shutter button) so the subject is away from the center. And third, finish by pressing the shutter button all the way down to take the picture.
  • Know your flash's range
    The number one flash mistake is taking pictures beyond the flash's range. Why is this a mistake? Because pictures taken beyond the maximum flash range will be too dark. For many cameras, the maximum flash range is less than fifteen feet—about five steps away.
    What is your camera's flash range? Look it up in your camera manual. Can't find it? Then don't take a chance. Position yourself so subjects are no farther than ten feet away.
  • Watch the light
    Next to the subject, the most important part of every picture is the light. It affects the appearance of everything you photograph. On a great-grandmother, bright sunlight from the side can enhance wrinkles. But the soft light of a cloudy day can subdue those same wrinkles.
    Don't like the light on your subject? Then move yourself or your subject. For landscapes, try to take pictures or late in the day when the light is orangish and rakes across the land.
  • Take some vertical pictures
    Is your camera vertically challenged? It is if you never turn it sideways to take a vertical picture. All sorts of things look better in a vertical picture. From a lighthouse near a cliff to the Eiffel Tower to your four-year-old niece jumping in a puddle. So next time out, make a conscious effort to turn your camera sideways and take some vertical pictures.
  • Be a picture director
    Take control of your picture-taking and watch your pictures dramatically improve. Become a picture director, not just a passive picture-taker. A picture director takes charge. A picture director picks the location: "Everybody go outside to the backyard." A picture director adds props: "Girls, put on your pink sunglasses." A picture director arranges people: "Now move in close, and lean toward the camera.

Most pictures won't be that involved, but you get the idea: Take charge of your pictures!!

Xcavator : A cool Visual Search Engine for Images

Xcavator is a cool new Visual Search Engine for Images of very excellent quality. Thanks to this wonderful service which allows to find images that are really beautiful. It is much more useful than the classic search engines since it searches using meta data such as the categories of the images through Tag. One particular interesting feature is the search based on color, it has a very useful comfortable widget with which you will be able to select the exact color which you have in your mind. This is a cool online tool that emphazises that a photo has much to express!!

Easily Identifies colors on the web

Instant Eyedropper

Instant Eyedropper completely free desktop application that lets you identify any specific color on the web with a single click. The Best feature is that it automatically paste's to the clipboard the HTML color code of any pixel on the screen with just a single mouse click.

Supported color formats:
  • HTML
  • HEX
  • Delphi Hex
  • Visual Basic Hex
  • RGB
  • HSB
Something of particular note with this tool is that it allows you to ZOOM to the elements to copy exactly the color you are looking for, this is especially useful when you try to get a color within an image.

It is a fairly lightweight application(415KB) . So give it a try today!!

10 most commonly used Shortcuts in Google Reader

Here is the list of 10 most commonly used Shortcuts in Google Reader to improve your efficiency while reading dozens of stuff a day. Since the official blog of Google Reader does not show the 10 most commonly used commands or shortcuts of this very popular feed reader. I thought I'll expose them for you. Here we go:
  1. j - Down to the next item.
  2. n - In list mode, go to the next item without opening it.
  3. k - Up to the previous item.
  4. m - Mark Read / Unread.
  5. t - Tag an item.
  6. p - In list mode, enters the previous item without opening it.
  7. shift+n - Skip to the next subscription.
  8. v - Visiting the original article.
  9. o - To expand / collapse element in list mode.
  10. s - Add star (highlight).
Hope you find this easy and useful to use.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Strip attachments automatically in Microsoft Outlook

A macro that strips attachments from your emails, saves them to a folder in your My Documents directory, and inserts a hyperlink pointing to the saved attachment:

Note:
Before using this macro, please store all important attachments, run it on a message containing an attachment of low importance and check the macro is working properly. Use this macro at your own discretion and risk, and ensure that you do not overwrite files with the same name.


1. In your My Documents folder, create a folder named "OLAttachments"
2. In Outlook, go to Tools > Macro > Macros
3. In the Macro name box, type a name for your macro, e.g. SaveAttachments (no spaces) and click Create.
4. Paste the following code into the code window of the module:

Public Sub SaveAttachments()
Dim objOL As Outlook.Application
Dim objMsg As Outlook.MailItem 'Object
Dim objAttachments As Outlook.Attachments
Dim objSelection As Outlook.Selection
Dim i As Long
Dim lngCount As Long
Dim strFile As String
Dim strFolderpath As String
Dim strDeletedFiles As String

' Get the path to your My Documents folder
strFolderpath = CreateObject("WScript.Shell").SpecialFolders(16)

On Error Resume Next

' Instantiate an Outlook Application object.
Set objOL = CreateObject("Outlook.Application")
' Get the collection of selected objects.
Set objSelection = objOL.ActiveExplorer.Selection

' Set the Attachment folder.
strFolderpath = strFolderpath & "\OLAttachments\"

'MsgBox strFolderpath

' Check each selected item for attachments.
' If attachments exist, save them to the Temp
' folder and strip them from the item.
For Each objMsg In objSelection
' This code only strips attachments from mail items.
' If objMsg.class=olMail Then
' Get the Attachments collection of the item.
Set objAttachments = objMsg.Attachments
lngCount = objAttachments.Count

'MsgBox objAttachments.Count

If lngCount > 0 Then
' We need to use a count down loop for
' removing items from a collection. Otherwise,
' the loop counter gets confused and only every
' other item is removed.
For i = lngCount To 1 Step -1
' Save attachment before deleting from item.
' Get the file name.
strFile = objAttachments.Item(i).FileName
' Combine with the path to the Temp folder.
strFile = strFolderpath & strFile
' Save the attachment as a file.
objAttachments.Item(i).SaveAsFile strFile
' Delete the attachment.
objAttachments.Item(i).Delete
'write the save as path to a string to add to the message
'check for html and use html tags in link
If objMsg.BodyFormat <> olFormatHTML Then
strDeletedFiles = strDeletedFiles & vbCrLf & ""
Else
strDeletedFiles = strDeletedFiles & "
" & "" & strFile & ""
End If

'MsgBox strDeletedFiles

Next i
' End If
' Adds the filename string to the message body and save it
' Check for HTML body

If objMsg.BodyFormat <> olFormatHTML Then
objMsg.Body = objMsg.Body & vbCrLf & _
"The file(s) were saved to " & strDeletedFiles
Else
objMsg.HTMLBody = objMsg.HTMLBody & "

" & _
"The file(s) were saved to " & strDeletedFiles
End If

objMsg.Save

End If
Next

ExitSub:
Set objAttachments = Nothing
Set objMsg = Nothing
Set objSelection = Nothing
Set objOL = Nothing
End Sub


5. From the File menu, click Close and return to Outlook

6. To add a button for this macro, go to View > Toolbars and select the toolbar you want to display
7. On the toolbar, click the Toolbar Options arrow, point to Toolbars and click the toolbar you want to display
8. On the toolbar, click the Toolbar Options arrow, point to Add or Remove buttons and click Customize.
9. In the Commands tab, in the categories list, click Macros
10. In the Commands list,. click the name of the SaveAttachments macro you added and drag it to the displayed toolbar
11. In the Customize dialog box, click Close
12. To use this macro, from the Messages view, select a message and
- Press Alt + F8, select the macro name and click Run OR
- Click the button you created for this macro

Burn a .bin / .cue / SVCD using Nero

Well, this post is mainly for the folks out there that seem to have constant problems burning a .bin / .cue / SVCD disk. Well, actually this post is more designed to provide a foolproof way to burn a SVCD to a disk that even the newest person can understand - but it equally works fine for those folks with other extensions like .bin or .cue.

So you must be having a disk copy program. By that I am referring to one of the many simple disk to disk programs available like Nero, cdrwin, clonecd, etc. They are the best tried softwares when it comes to copying one disk to another, however, sometimes they, or the user, might have problems when attempting the direct burn of a cue/bin to disk. So we will use the straight disk copy portion of one of these programs, along with Daemon tools to do a straight copy of the disk.

Get Daemon Tools and install it from here:
http://www.daemon-tools.com/daemon_tools.htm

This basic tool, along with WinDvd or PowerDVD, is a MUST have for ANYBODY that does SVCDs.

Daemon Tools creates a "virtual" cdrom on your PC. This new drive is available to Windows just as if it were a physical disk drive.

Daemon Tools along windvd or powerdvd, should always be used to preview your disk image(only for SVCD) before you attempt to burn a disk.

Here's how you can load your .bin / .cue / SVCD file into Daemon tools easily.
  1. Right click on the icon Daemon tools installs in your tray.
  2. Select Virtual CD/DVD-ROM > Device > mount image and choose your (.bin / cue) file from the file selector .
  3. At this stage it is as if you had inserted a properly burned SVCD in a physical drive. You can use WinDvd or, most of the time, the latest PowerDVD (old ones won't work), to preview the disk.

Now just run Nero, or whatever disk copy tool you have, and select a standard disk copy with the virtual drive as your source(the daemon tools created CD Rom drive) and the burner as your destination. Burn the CD.

That's it - you have now burned successfully a .bin / .cue / SVCD file so easily.

Top most Firing IT companies in India

Disclaimer: I cannot personally acknowledge that the information given in this article is 100% accurate. But most of it is true and has been acknowledged by the Indian Press too.
  • IBM - Right now this is the most firing company for IT professionals. In the last 6 months, this company has fired nearly 20% of their employees because of Background checks and performance issues. This is the most insecure company from an IT professional's point of view. They don't have any strategic plans at HR policies regarding employee security. No appraisals (maximum 10%).
  • TCS - Previously it was functioning as a government IT Company . Now a days TCS has also become a firing major IT company. Recently it fired on 500 people - mostly people below 2 years of experience and TCS has also lost so many projects recently( especially British Telecom Projects).
  • Accenture - This is second top most firing company. The firing rate is around 5%. This depends upon outsourced projects; they have a unique system where Accenture development centers around the world bid for a project coming into the company. Currently Philippines centre is taking the cake and the Indian centers are in a firing mode.
  • WIPRO - Firing people with very frequent back ground checks and firing them with out even experience letters and relieving letters (will mention as terminated from services)but will promise the employees that they will retain them. After the project is over they will fire away. Will threaten of criminal cases against such employees if they opposethe move and has also filed cases against some.
  • Intel - Recently joined the league. Running in heavy losses, hence firing 3000 employees in the Banglore center in a phased out manner. Remember Intel made it into the headlines with the failed processor design from the Bangalore Labs and also fired a few employees for producing fake car rental bills.
  • CTS - Has a steady firing policy (checking the Educational background and previous employment and also employee performance in work). In a Recent HCL walk-in, around 50% attendees were from this company. Sadly the I-pods have not helped them.
  • CSC - Excellent package but fires folks in Background check and those on bench regularly. Recently fired 400+ employees from its subsidiary Covansys.
  • Satyam - Currently stopped firing. The Attrition rate is very high. No firing from 2005 until then 1000 employees were fired in Hyderabad.
  • Patni - They fired so many employees that currently they are facing understaffing and deficiency with number of employees. Very high attrition rate.
  • Keane India - This USA based company is always involved in firing employees. Although they proudly say that they dont have hire and fire policy. Recently they fired java and AS400 professionals after which most of the employees have started to pack their bags. Employees change this company within 1 year.
So take care before accepting offers from these companies.

Secure IT companies in India
  • Microsoft - Has projects till 2050.

  • EDS - Most secure company in India. Not laid off any of its employees even during 2001. Has lots of projects in Defense and financial areas

  • HP - Dream Company. In-house and outsourced projects

  • Infosys - Dream Job. On a way to achieve the status of a secured, stable Govt. company.

  • AOL, Google and Yahoo - Best companies to work with, great job satisfaction as well as great salary and work environment. Rarely fires an employee. As they are internet based companies' they offer lots of opportunities to grow.

  • HCL - A good company to be in. Called as a "retirement company."

  • HSBC - This is the most secure company. It has never fired any employee, even when they know that the employee is showing fake experience.

  • Aricent - a communication based software company, has never fired any employee and gives great perks & incentives, lot of projects in kitty. Minimal level of attrition.

  • KPIT Cumminns Infosystems Limited - This is the most secure company not known to many. It has presently acquired CG Smith, Bangalore and has lots of projects in pipe line. Acquisitions plans will continue.

Consolidated Customer Care Numbers

  • ICICI Bank Customer Care Number
  • Citibank Customer Care Number
    • All Citibank customers - Bangalore - 2227 2484. For other cities, click here
    • Citibank Suvidha account holders - Bangalore - 2227 2265. For other cities, click here
    • CitiBusiness Customers - Bangalore - 2229 4653. For other cities, click here
    • Citibank Credit Card - Bangalore - 2227 2484. For other cities, click here
    • Priority service to CitiGold Customers, Diners Club Members & Citibank Gold Card members - Bangalore - 2229- 4653. For other cities, click here

  • HSBC Customer Care Number
    • Banking related - Bangalore - 2558 9595
    • Credit card related - Bangalore - 2558 9696
    • For other cities, click here

  • HDFC Customer Care Number
    • Debit card related - 9945863333
    • Banking related - Bangalore - 5500 3333. For other cities, click here
    • Credit card related - Bangalore - 6622 4332. For other cities, click here

  • ABN AMRO Customer Care number
    • Bangalore - 4124 5555

  • SBI Credit Card Customer Care Number
    • Karnataka - Bangalore - 98441 05454 (people are reporting that this number does not work. If you know a number that works, please let me know!)
    • Toll free number (Credit card) - 1800 180 1290 / 1800 11 2211 [New]
    • All India Toll Free - 1600 180 1290 (works only on BSNL and MTNL Line)
    • Try : 1800 180 1290 too. May work!!!
    • Other lines : 39 02 02 02

  • UTI Bank Customer Care Numbers
    • Bangalore (M G Road) - 2537 0615
    • Bangalore - 2531 7830
    • Mumbai - 022 5598 7700
    • For other cities, click here

  • IDBI Bank Customer Care Number (Phone Banking)
    • Karnataka - Bangalore - 080 22297000
    • Mumbai - 022 66937000
    • Delhi - 011 23627000
    • Chennai - 044 28295550
    • For other cities, click here

  • Manhattan Credit Card Customer Care Number
    • Bangalore - 3030 1969. (this number seems to work in Mumbai too! Give it a try in your local city!)

  • Standard Chartered Credit Card Customer Care Number
    • Bangalore - 2558 8888 (updated). For other cities, click here

  • Airtel Customer Care
    • Dial 121 from your airtel mobile
    • Karnataka - 98450 98450 - For prepaid if you are calling from landline
    • Karnataka - 98450 12345 - For postpaid if you are calling from landline
    • Mumbai - 9892012345

  • Hutch Customer Care
    • Karnataka - Dial 111 from your Hutch phone or dial 98860 98860

  • BSNL Mobile Customer Care (Cellone & Excel)
    • Karnataka - Dial 94480 24365
    • For other cities, click here.

    If you feel some service is missing and would be useful to list, drop a comment.

    Update from one of our readers.

  • IDBI HOME FINANCE
    Customer care no : 080-41203045/46

Thanks to Surumi for the below number of SBI M G Road Branch.

  • SBI branch number in M.G Road, Bangalore
    Customer care no : 080-222 13 821
Here are More Customer Care Numbers I have updated:
  • Yahoo India
    • Bangalore Customer care no : 080-39805078
    • Chennai Customer care no : 044-39119494
  • HDFC Bank
    • HDFC Debit Card customer care number - 080 - 66003333 / 66224332 (Bangalore)
    • HDFC Credit Card customer care number - 080 – 66224332 (Bangalore)
    • HDFC Banking related customer care number from 5500 3333 to 6600 3333

- thanx to Jason S

Sultan - The Warrior (Rajni Style)

Once again, a cinematic innovation has come from what north Indians call "the south". This Pongal, theatres in Chennai saw a two-minute teaser of Sultan--The Warrior with 58-year-old Rajnikant in a 3D animation avatar. The period film of no confirmed era will feature the superstar as a 25-year-old warrior who, of course, does somersaults in the air and delivers punch lines that guarantee Tamil applause. There was a technical difficulty in recreating him as a 25-year-old because there are no good pictures of him when he was of that age. He was still a struggler then and some time away from being excessively photographed.

When Rajnikant first saw the trailer in which he appears boots first, as he has appeared in scores of films, an insider says he clapped and whistled like a boy, asking for an encore. The film is expected to be released in 2009 to mark the 60th year of the actor. "It is a daughter's gift to her father," says director Soundarya Rajinikant, the younger of the superstar's two daughters.

The svelte, fair (she has her mother's complexion), jeans-clad girl says that she will make her father serenade young women to A R Rahman's tunes, demolish villains, flip tobacco products in the air and probably stop arrows in the air too.

At 23, Saundarya is the managing director of Ocher Studios, Chennai, a sprawling animation hub valued at several crores. In time, she plans to make full length animated films on the scale of giants like Pixar and Dreamworks.

If the money bags of Adlabs are backing her with 40 crore rupees, she insists it is not because they know she has the ears of the most saleable actor in India. Instead, she says, it is because of the grades she got at her post graduate multimedia course in Perth.

Kartik, who heads the creative team of animation at Ocher says that earlier Indian attempts at 3D animation, like Sindbad, Pandavas--The Five Warriors , and Krishna , failed because the animation quality was not good enough. "3D animation is an expensive affair and it is not for the faint-hearted," says Kartik. He feels that the whole $150 million spent on Shrek was small change for Hollywood, the $10 million that will go into the making of Sultan will make or break the emerging animation segment.

Trade analyst Amod Mehra feels that it is premature for India to find a loyal animation audience. "For Indians, live action cannot be replaced by cartoon characters on screen." Another trade analyst says, "Soundarya is only being indulged with this kind of money because of her clout as a superstar's daughter. Her real abilities will be tested when the two-hour version hits the screens next summer."

Soundarya herself admits that she spends more sleepless nights now as she works with her 14-member creative team on sifting through the 30-odd layers of bamboo to get Sultan's hair texture right or on giving his kohl-lined eyes the twinkle effect. She also admits that she is fortunate to have a ready captive audience in those 63,000 (and growing) Rajnikant fan clubs across 29 countries.

The film will be released simultaneously in 12 different Indian languages. Japan, Malayasia, Hong Kong and Singapore, which released over 160 prints of Sivaji, are expected to release more of Sultan.

- TOI

::: Here is a small trailer preview! :::

Friday, February 8, 2008

Photography | Useful Links for all

Classic Nikon & canon camera list and complete instruction manuals
www.mir.com.my/rb/photography/htmls/knowledge_main.htm

This website is for Twin Lens Reflex Camera's
www.tlr-cameras.com/
ww.kauserinternational.com/Photography/Seagull/seagull.htm

Wikipedia for cameras
www.camerapedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

website on classic cameras
www.cameraquest.com/classics.htm

IR conversion of Digital SLR
www.lifepixel.com/IR.htm

Vintage Folding Cameras
certo6.com/

Toy Camera
toycamera.com/
holgamods.com

Camera list
www.wolkerstorfer.at/cameras.html

Digital SLR sensor cleaning
www.cleaningdigitalcameras.com/

- Vinbaoy, BPS

Thursday, February 7, 2008

How To Take Good Photos

Tom Ang presents top tips on how to get the most out of your digital camera.

Shooting...

1. People With Buildings >> LINK << | 2. Buildings >> LINK << | 3. Light >> LINK << | 4. Landscape >> LINK << | 5. Colour >> LINK << | 6. Composition >> LINK <<

- bbc.co.uk

Monday, February 4, 2008

THE BIG IDEA

Indian Companies are finally waking up to the potential Web for engaging employees It has come a full circle. Just a few years back, Anna Lee Saxenian, professor of University of California, Berkley, studied the success of immigrant entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, and concluded that their natural ability to network socially was a major reason behind their success.

Social networking was not such a hot phrase when Prof Saxenian attributed Indians' success to it. Times have changed. Social networking has become the biggest idea on the Internet since then. Social networking as a manifestation of Web 2.0 technology is not only about popular sites like Orkut, Face book, LinkedIn and others that have given freedom to users to connect socially. Utility of social networking as a business tool for enterprises has been debated for the last several years. Most companies that viewed social networks as a time waster are now waking up to leverage the opportunities they offer in terms of productivity. Info-Tech Research Group suggests there are companies that are not objecting to their employees accessing these sites from office. The data goes on to suggest that only 46% IT heads in the 200 companies were for blocking access to these sites. In fact, 3% companies were found to encourage their employees to be part of social networking sites. This is also a fact that most employees are members of popular social networking sites, but most of the information shared on this is a mix of personal, professional, and, at times, non-serious in nature. This is further substantiated by a global study of CEOs done by IBM Institute of Business Value which showed that 75% CEOs considered collaboration was one of the key factors that would help them to innovate. Cisco CEO John Chambers believes that social networking concepts are very relevant for enterprises. "Many of the things that our children and consumers started such as the wikis, the Wikipedia, and You Tube will now go into the business. We think that will drive a decade of productivity."

The Relevance

Companies have started seeing value in having an infrastructure within the company that allows its employees to collaborate and use it as a tool for furthering their professional needs and requirements. Talking about the relevance, Jai Ganesh, head, Web 2.0, Infosys, which has created www.infosysblogs.com for information sharing, says, "Organizations are increasingly looking at social networking as an effective mechanism to encourage formal as well as informal collaboration, knowledge transfer across geographically distributed employees, and discussions with partners and the community at large." Chetan Yardi, country manager, Lotus, SWG, IBM India, sees this in the context of changing demographics within an organization: "The demographics of the workforce in enterprises have been changing from what it was ten years ago. Most industries are doing well and they are hiring in large numbers. On one hand there are new recruits who are very young and on the other are very senior people with very rich functional and technical expertise. This is where we see the Web 2.0 in the form of social networking or social software helping people make connections cutting across hierarchy." Echoing a similar sentiment, Akshay Aggarwal, head, Systems Engineering, BEA Systems, says, "The idea behind Web 2.0 is that people should contribute and share information which earlier used to reside in their desktops and is now available to the world outside. They can interact with the outside world to see what kind of inputs or feedback is coming in." Says Sanjay Manchanda, director, Information Worker Business Group, Microsoft India, "The reason why the concept of social networking has been lapped up by enterprises is that wikis and blogs are so easy to use in terms of publishing. It doesn't require any training."

Bringing Web 2.0 to Intranet

Intranet has been there in most companies for a long time, but there were doubts on its efficiency. It remained a resource pool of static content relating to the company's policies. It was rarely used as a medium of collaboration among employees.But, things have started changing with several companies embracing Web 2.0 technologies to overhaul their Intranets to make it more collaborative and useful. Efforts have already started to show results. For example, Infosys' Intranet, called Sparsh, won the Nielson Norman Award 2007 for being one of the top 10 Intranet sites in the world. Sparsh connects about 69,000 employees across eighteen countries and has become the primary networking for Infosys' employees. For the external world, there is Infosysblogs.com, whose tagline is "discuss the business of technology and the technology of business in the flat world". With more collaboration tools being added onto the Intranet, drastic cut down on number of face-to-face meetings could happen.

Alternatives to Intranets

A recent study by IDC India revealed that out of around seventy Web 2.0 companies, more than fifty-five have a consumer focus, while a select twelve show varying degrees of enterprise focus. Websites like Zoho, Cynapse, Techtribe, and Uhuroo are among the few sites that have a considerable degree of enterprise or business focus. These companies offer hosted services to companies that want to avoid spending on the existing or new Intranets to connect their employees by going in for the hosted model. There is a heated debate regarding whether social networking sites like Face book can act as an Intranet for companies. In fact, most recently, the US-based Serena Software announced that its 800 employees around the globe would participate each week in a company-wide program, called "Face book Fridays".

Google's Gameplan

Google's social networking site, Orkut, has caught everybody's imagination through its features and ease of use. It does have several community profiles, which are around companies, technologies, etc. Google has managed to diversify its offerings to include Google Apps, which offers communication and collaboration tools to publish information in a hosted environment. In a nutshell, Google has integrated offerings for enterprises. Google's BlogSpot though hosts several blogs set up by the employees of the companies based in India, refused to participate in this story and share their perspective on Web 2.0 and its plans for enterprises in India.

Addressing Security Issues

The fear of leaking of confidential company information is the biggest fear among enterprise managers. According to Sanjay Manchanda of Microsoft, "Security can be looked at from two angles. One is a customer facing blog and on the internal side, the worry is more about the ability to publish any info to the outside world. The issues are more around managing the content for accuracy and avoiding a situation where customers or other people are misled through these blogs. The administrator can control the accounts and information that is published and monitor who gets to see what and also whether they can contribute or not. Not everybody has access to the same set of information." He adds that some companies even encourage free sharing of information or airing of opinion that may be, at times, in conflict with the company's official position. This gives a lot of credibility to the blogs.

The Vendor Landscape

Traditionally, Microsoft has had the largest mindshare of offerings in the form of MySite, which allowed companies to set up an Intranet through the portal site in which employees could collaborate with co-workers. Microsoft has managed to gain a good market share for its product, SharePoint Server 2007, which includes capability to create blogs, wikis, chatterbox ajaxs, and tag clouds. IBM launched 'social software', called Lotus Connections, in June 2007. The product allows creation of profiles, communities, blogs, dogear, and activities for organizing work and utilizing the professional network. BEA, on the other hand, has also entered the fray with what it calls enterprise social computing products which revolve around BEA AquaLogic Pages, BEA AquaLogic Ensemble, and BEA AquaLogic Pathways. These products are aimed at collaboration and social software to improve knowledge, worker productivity, and user-driven innovation. SAP is collaborating with Microsoft to offer Web 2.0 solutions. Networking leader Cisco is also making forays, and offers software platforms to enable social networking sites besides focus on unified communications. Then there are companies like Awareness, Jive, Near-Time Social text, and Six Apart that are offering hosted environments for enterprises to start collaborating.

The Outlook

The trend of enterprises opening their doors to Web 2.0 is likely to accelerate due to obvious business advantages and productivity tools that it offers. There are even suggestions that traditional Intranet's days are numbered and that it will finally get integrated with new set of tools that Web 2.0 offers. One thing is clear that for the next few years it would be technology companies that will be the early adopters of this technology due to the urgent need to harness the domain capabilities of their employees spread across various geographies and their collaborative culture as well as comfort with technology per se.

- Dataquest

Computer Basics for students

Here is a basic computer teaching material that helps us teach students who are new to computers.

http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dgrgpt69_4d76n8b

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Fiat kicks off new branding strategy in India

Italian auto major Fiat has kicked off its new branding strategy in the Indian market with a complete overhaul of its media buying and creative accounts. Fiat’s media buying duties have been handed over to Group M agency Maxus, while its creative duties are now with Bates David Enterprise.

The media account, earlier with Starcom, is estimated to be in the region of Rs 50 crore. While the pitch for the media buying account involved Maxus, Lodestar and Starcom, FCB Ulka, Grey and incumbent Leo Burnett pitched for the creative account.

When contacted, Maxus MD Ajit Varghese said: “As the auto market is becoming increasingly competitive, we are happy that Fiat finds us best to partner them for a new beginning. This is a prestigious account for us.” Fiat will be the first auto account for Maxus, though another Group M agency, Mind-Share, handles the Ford account.

“Considering the new image of Fiat and the job ahead of establishing it as a powerful brand in the Indian four-wheeler market, we feel Maxus is the right media partner for Fiat in India,” Fiat CEO Rajeev Kapoor told ET.

The change in media buying and creative agencies is part of Fiat’s rebranding exercise. At the recentlyheld Auto Expo in Delhi, Fiat launched its new red rectangle logo that will grace all cars made in India.

The company has also lined up a host of new launches for this year across various segments. Around March, it plans to launch the Palio Stile with the 1.3-litre multijet diesel engine. Sources said it will be very competitively priced vis-a-vis the Swift diesel, the other hot hatch that also uses the same engine.

Fiat will launch two completely-imported, small but lifestyle cars — the Fiat 500 in the Rs 10-13 lakh range around May and the Bravo in the Rs 25-lakh range in June. September will see the launch of the Linea midsize sedan which too will be aggressively priced around Rs 7.5-9 lakh to take on the City, SX4 and others. Fiat plans to end the year with a flourish by launching the Grande Punto in November-December.

The Grande Punto will take on the Swift and be priced around Rs 6 lakh. The company has started working on marketing and promotional efforts and will increase its dealer footprint from 65 to near 100 by September.

Fiat has had a chequered past in India despite being present in the market since long. Sources said among its problems, Fiat has had to deal with quality issues, distribution and diffused positioning. But post its joint venture with the Tata group, Fiat India has drawn up a fresh blueprint to restructure its positioning and portfolio.

- The Economic Times

Auto designers set to ride the Nano wave

When Ratan Tata drove the ‘Made in India’ car, Nano, at the Auto Expo, the world applauded the Indian enterprise. Suddenly, global auto leaders are on hot trail for Indian designers who can sculpt automobiles to perfection.

If until now it was Pune-based automobile designer Dilip Chhabria whose castle on wheels have been driving home style and flamboyance, the advent of Nano has spurred the present breed of designers to take India to the world through their designs. Pinnen Ferina, Renault , Ford and General Motors among others are looking at Indian designers for their future models.

Finally, the world has woken to the paradigm shift in Indian automobile industry, says National Institute of Design’s principal designer (faculty of industrial design) Pradyumna Vyas.

“If IT ruled the roost in 1990s, this will be an era of automobile designers. With Indian designers thinking out of the box and daring to dream beyond the obvious, the good times for the sector have just set in,” he said.

Mr Vyas who worked with Tata Motor’s design team in Pune for ideation on the small car in mid-2000 even guided three NID students to create concept small cars in 2005.

Vyas told ET, “There is more to Nano than miniaturisation — it is a trend setter and a technological marvel. With automobile industry realising that sheer styling can put their product on the forefront, automobile designers have plethora of opportunities ahead of them.”

Nano has stamped its approval on the capability of Indian automobile designers. No one feels it more than Chennai-based Rajesh Mirajker who was the Tata Motors consultant in 2003 when the decision to go ahead with Nano was frozen by Ratan Tata.

Mr Mirajker is the proprietor of industrial designing firm Mirajker Design. He told said, “Tata has designed an Indian car for Indians. Importantly, it is even designed and styled by Indians and that is what is significant. Nano made ‘Made in India’ dream shape in a big way for the automobile sector.”

Mr Mirajker said designing a small car was a challenge as the team had to get the right mix of parameters — technical, marketing, manufacturing and homologation — to make ends meet, it proved the might of Indian designers.

“The ball has been set rolling. Indian designers must continue to churn out more revolutionary products,” he said. Further, with the likes of Pinnen Ferina, Renault, Ford and General Motors reaching out to Indian designers, there is no time to be lost for designers to join the automobile design revolution era, he said.

Experts say the car has opened up a new world of automobile design to Indian companies and professionals.

- The Economic Times
By: Shramana Ganguly Mehta, TNN
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