Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Hotmail Live Beta

I got an invitation from Hotmail to try Hotmail Beta Live and without wasting a single moment I jumped into the site, accepted the invitation and sign in to see the new Hotmail. First it took a while to load all the scripts to provide client side processing functionality. Hotmail live will give you feeling that you are working inside Outlook. Resize columns, Spell check, move between folders and download mails without refreshing the page all the time. According to them, Hotmail Live will take over current Homail within few weeks, and hopefully everyone will be repeaing the benefits from the new exciting services. The sad part is, it does not provide all AJAX functionalities with browsers other then IE. However, Hotmail team will provide all the features for all browsers before the final release. This is how Homail Live looks like:

You can sign in for an invitation here. See all the features here.


Monday, January 23, 2006
Fuel Cell Vehicle :: The cleanest car on the planet

I was watching Discovery Channel lately and discovered about the FCX (Fuel Cell Vehicle) through an advertisement and I couldn't resist myself from finding more about it. So in search for more, I hit its own as well as other websites. FCX is a technology introduced by Honda Research Department and according to them its a simple but fascinating way to produce electricity to servce as fuel for the cars of tomorrow. FCX employs an electrochemical reaction between Hydrogen and Oxygen to directly convert chemical energy into electrical energy. Yes its the same experiment but done in a reverse order that we did in our ninth grade to separate Hydrogen and Oxygen from water through Electrolysis. These cars do not require petrol, diesel or gas and produces zero harmful emissions. It generates electricity from two virtually unlimited sources, hydrogen and oxygen and is already on the roads in Japan and the U.S.A.

For more information, visit:
We Love Challenges
HONDA Woldwide


Sunday, January 22, 2006
Atlas Demo on MSDN TV

There is a nice demo on Atlas on MSDN TV by Nikhil Kothari where he shows different examples of using Atlas in a web application. Client side scripting was never this easy before. Check out the episode here.


Thursday, January 19, 2006
More comments on IT sector :: Adnan Farooq Hashmi

If you are wondering what this is all about, please read this post first. Here are Adnan bhai's views on our IT scene in 2005.

Q: How much satisfied are you with the progress we have made during this year in our IT sector? If you are not much satisfied then what do you think are the impediments in our progress? Is it our government/companies/laws or our IT engineers? Explain your points and describe how we can make progress in days to come.

To evolve the software ecosystem in Pakistan, the Government, Businesses, Educational Institutions, and Entrepreneurs all have a part to play. It is utterly useless to look to the Government only for any solutions.

For the IT Industry to flourish in Pakistan, we need to have a local IT industry, and local technology consumers. This can happen if Government initiates spending on IT projects, which can lead to similar initiatives by the private sector. Hence, the local ISV (Independent Software Vendor) would have a local customer to cater to, before it can take on larger competitors globally. Universities need to start Entrepreneurship programs, and provide a bridge between new ideas and businesses. Entrepreneurs can play a key role by churning out innovative solutions for local public and private sector organizations. The Government, for its part, can provide easy access to capital through banks to promote and encourage young and talented Entrepreneurs. All pieces would have to work together.

Q: As being an MVP, you have been honored to attend MVP summit in Seattle and you have also been to India to attend a professional developers conference this year, how was your experience and how would you compare our IT markets and software industry from other developing/developed nations?

A clear distinction has to be made between the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry and Software/IT industry, since our Government has not been able to outline which it wants to focus on. Government officials and ministers still use the terms "E-Govenment" and "Call Centers" in the same sentence. India is a key player in the global BPO arena, and emerging countries as Egypt, Russia, Phillipines, and Bangladesh are eyeing a piece of the BPO action. A large part of software development in India is being done in research and development centers of foreign companies as Microsoft, IBM, HP, SAP etc. But they also have a domestic software/IT market valued at $5 billion. It was heartening to see and meet many Indian Entrepreneurs who have made a name for themselves for starting out with local customers and then gradually moving to new markets.

Q: Don’t you think that we are completely unsuccessful in bringing foreign investments to Pakistan in terms of software development and outsourcing?

I won't characterize it as being completely unsuccessful. There is still a lot of work being done for overseas clients currently, but not as much as we would like to see. There are still many unexplored areas that we can focus on. However, whatever the focus, it has to be with utmost dedication and resolve.

Q: Our country is full of talented people and we are no less then our neighbors, so why giants like Microsoft, Intel, IBM, Nokia and others are afraid of investing their money in terms of research and development in Pakistan as they do in India and other countries?

I think Pakistan is better than its neighbors in terms of human resources and motivation. But it is important to understand that 3 things play a key role in attracting investment from abroad; Perception, Innovation, and a local research culture. Pakistan in the recent years has been able to shed its negative image and improve its perception, yet the act of doing our laundry in public has harmed us to a great extent. Innovation can come only through Entrepreneurship which our culture has not been able to foster in young minds. The IT Ecosystem whereby the Industry looks to Academia for new ideas and research and invests heavily in University projects and research grants is only possible through a wave of Entrepreneurship endeavors which Universities should themselves cultivate. This alone would create a research culture bringing with it the much needed innovation and global projection that we seek.

Q: We have seen a boom in IT sector by the launch of various international companies offering their telecom services in Pakistan . What role do you see they are playing in the economic growth of our country?

The growth in Pakistan's Telecom sector during the past year has been nothing short of extraordinary. Many surveys point towards Pakistan as the fastest growing market for mobile phones in the world. Go to any mobile phone market and one would see the extent to which cell-phone usage has grown in the country. This is a good precedent. More mobile phone users mean more technology penetration within the masses, and the growth in opportunity for localized mobile applications and content. The need for local expertise in technology development is as important as the need for a local technology market. It is up to local software companies to capitalize on this growth in telecom sector locally. Here again, much too emphasis is placed on getting projects from abroad and the local opportunity is neglected.


More comments on IT sector :: Hammad Rajjoub

If you are wondering what this is all about, please read this post first. Following Sir Saqib Comments, here are the views I got from Hammad bhai.

Q: What role do you see PASHA is playing to strengthen IT in Pakistan and to bring more investments in the country?

I believe PASHA has to become more effective. Its got to be the platform for local ISVs. I mean there has to be more than just registering local ISVs and listing down their names on a web site. I believe PAHA is the platform where a local eco system could be developed for ISVs to sustain and grow.

Q: As being a developer, how many companies are adopting the current technology blast by Microsoft (VS Launch)?

I believe the momentum is great. So many companies are adopting up coming MS technologies that I am amazed to see this pace. It was just amazing at VS Launch Shows to find people so much enthaustic about up coming wave of Microsoft technologies. Interesting part of it is that people have started using these technologies in their solutions development life cycles and are already reaping the rewards.

Q: Do you see a bright and sustaining future of IT/Software industry in Pakistan?

I am an optamist. I believe yes there is a bright and sustaining future for IT/Software industry of Pakistan but we will have to work hard for that. There is no easy going. There has never been, but things are only going to get more difficult in days to come. So we have to really work hard, we need to come up quality and efficient soltuions. We need to have people with vision who can think beyond the line and come up with exciting and interesting product ideas, people who can deliver on time, quality softwares that meets customer requirements . We dont need pepole who only succeed in getting fundings from venture capitalists and then when its time to delieve they fail to deliver and in the end go packing! How many companies we have seen shutting operations just like that. So we need to think on these lines as well. And i m sure if we can plan well and hold our acts together then we can really make a difference.

Q: How do you compare our IT industry with India? Where do you think we lack behind?

India's IT Industry is huge. I mean i really dont feel comfortable comparing our IT industry to their IT industry. We have a relatively smaller work force , fewer companies and limited exposure. See there are many Indian IT companies that have work force of literally thousands and thousands of resources. But if you take a look here in Pakistan, how many companies you'd find employing more than 1000 technical resources? India has established itself in past many years, which we havent been able to do. If BPO comes to your mind, India is one place you would want to look for soltions. See we havent been able to come up such specific skill areas. Here in Pakistan, people are happy developing PHP and ASP based web based application for few thousand dollars. Thats where we lack, we need to establish ourselves in some specific areas. In India, IT insititutes and universtires are of world repute. Can you name a few such insitiutes in Pakistan?. So I believe we all know what the problems are but we are ignoring things. We need to get our acts together and strive for the better and brighter future.


Monday, January 16, 2006
Buy one get one free

Mobile agents are just another form of ordinary sales agents, banging on your door in the middle of the day and asking to buy or try products which fails to ignite consumers interest. The only difference is that they are working virtually, on the network without any physical presence. They can come and talk to your applications while you are away dealing with their counterparts in reality, and surprisingly .NET made the work even easier for such apps. And hopefully, within the next few months, we'll be seeing hundreds of mobile agents swarming online applications with the most famous slogan, "Buy one get one free."

Well contradictory to the statement, mobile agents have far better purposes to serve. Take a look here.


Friday, January 06, 2006
Hard to swallow, even impossible to spit!

I have written an article for Dawn Sci-Tech which was published last weekend, or perhaps last year :). It was their year ender special issue and I was told by the editor to write an article on the topic of "IT and its development in 2005." The deadline was tough and I had to complete the article within 2 days. And as it was going to be a cover story, getting views from IT experts was making the work even impossible. But thanks to Adnan and Hammad bhai and especially Sir Saqib Ilyas for taking out the time to give their views. I received Sir Saqib comments at the very last moment, when I was about to send the article, but believe me it was worth the wait. I couldn't include all the comments in the piece as it was already crossing the article's length, for which I am really sorry to you guys. However, I think Sir Saqib's comments are worth mentioning, so I thought I can atleast publish it here. So here it goes:

In the so-called war on terrorism, in return for Pakistan's surprisingly, or not so, high support, the US has assisted Pakistan directly and indirectly, which has resulted in increased business in ceratin sectors, including IT. For this reason, there has been some increase. Also, outsourcing has really caught on, and some parts of India becoming quite expensive, people are looking elsewhere, and due to being a US ally, Pakistan is also a viable place to look at. Also, Pakistan houses fairly good talent pool and the accent is not too heavy.
How long this will last is an important question. It depends on us as to whether we are able to make a name for ourselves or not. We sold rice to the mideast and hid heroin inside it. It got caught and those countries put a ban on Pakistani rice imports. Now, Pakistani rice is smuggled to India, put in bags with Made in India stamps and exported to these same countries. If our businesses keep that mindset, we're not getting anywhere. The powers that be and the investors are very shortsighted and have a tunnle vision about IT. All they can think of are call centers, which in my opinion are bullshit. Attaur Rehman was preaching call center establishment as a rule to everyone he met, including the sabzi wala. He and others cant think beyond that. So, where are the IT educated folks? Doing jobs at the Seth's tiny software house doing impossible hours, and getting paid in penuts in most cases. The mindset needs to be changed. For business to grow, I think that the businesses must hire a good management team, and give them full powers ( I mean FULL Power). Let them set the business goals and poicies. In India, the seths were very forthcoming when the first Indian expats came to them a long time ago to setup IT realted businesses. These people invested millions in those concerns and waited years and in some cases decades for the benefits to arrive. They were patient, we are not. Our seth wants to receive the benefit before he makes the investment. That mindset has to change or the business reigns need to be given to others more competent, hence the management team. People from vibrant business schools like LUMS have taken businesses from lakhs to Billions per year and beyond. That is the key on the business policy side.
Now, the talent pool is quite lacking. Excepting for perhaps 10-20 students per year, throughout the country, what comes out of the computer science/engineering program is not well equipped to deliver right away, the IT organization most of the times is unable to invest proper orientation to him, and things just drag along as the new kid learns the tricks of the trade the hard way.
Is there something wrong with the curriculum. Not at all. The same courses are taught to BCom students as to BBA students at IBA or LUMS. Why the difference in the graduates? The difference does not lie in the caliber of the students entirely, although it does to some extent. A lot of it has to do with the way things are taught. While we may have people with excellent intellectual abilities and a lot of knowledge of the subjects, we have few good teachers who are able to deliver the matter in a way that the students absorb it and are able to actually apply that knowledge somewhere. That's the key.
Some cs programs at private universities and even CSIT at NED are revising their curricula to have more job related courses, but that is an absurd idea.

You can read the article here.