Friday, September 26, 2008

It's a Plane. No It's a Bird. No, It's .

FUSIONMAN.  Today Yves Rossy completed a historic feat by becoming the first man to fly across the English Channel. Fly like a bird with wings !!
Here is a youtube video of one of his flights !! Here is his web page.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Is the recession good for environment

I started to collect anecdotal evidence to see if consumption patterns were being significantly effected due to the significant economic downturn. My neighbourhood grocery story tells me that his sales have been down 40% or so from just a few months ago. His other friends running small shops (sports goods shop in this case) have seen dramatic drop in sales. It just seems customers are instinctively tightening their belts, reducing consumption to absolute necessities. 

The stinginess is going upstream with retailers ordering smaller quantities from the wholesalers and wholesalers from the producers. At a consumer level, we definitely are looking to reduce wastage especially with food and perishables. Some of this is resulting in getting back to good old ways of watching your grocery consumptions carefully, which seems to have become extinct here for a long time.  So a good part of the reduction in consumption is surely cutting into wastage which i would wish to believe is a good thing.  It seems to me from this perspective recession may be good for the environment.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Our company web site

Our Company website is up and running. The url is
It continues to be a great journey for us !!

Monday, September 15, 2008

humour in day's events

This is what MJ ( a friend and an independent investment guru from the school of value investing) sent me to cheer me up on a gloomy Monday. Not sure if he was cheering me up or preparing me for some more bad news - readers decide !

"You give money to to Laymen brothers and stern bears? No wonder Wall street has problems. Any More gone, Stanley? Nah! Merely Lynched.."etc.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Another one bites the dust!

Freddie Mercury is probably raring to come out of his grave and sing that song on Wall Street this year.  Its Lehman this weekend, looking for a government bail out.  

The interesting thing though is that Lehman, like other financial companies, has adopted a strange accounting rule, FAS 159, which lets companies show decrease in the market value of their debt due to a decrease in their creditworthiness as an income gain in their P&L. This is truly fascinating and non-common sensical. See this link for some details

Why is this relevant ? It is relevant because if you take into account the the "fictitious income" arising out of this accounting jugglery the income statements  start to look really bad. For instance for the quarter ending Feb 08 the net income for Lehman will go into red sans this income. For income statements see here 

One interesting quote I remember from my accounting and coporate finance class is that you can never get a complete picture from just one of the financial statements - in this case the income statement. You have to look very closely at the balance sheet as well. The quality of assets and liabilities is critically important to the future earning potential of any Company. Earnings statement is just an indicator of past performance. Some of these get highlighted in these turbulent times. 

High time we look at balance sheets of the all the companies more carefully and do not get swayed by dog and pony show of quarterly earnings.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

humor in licensing terms !

I noticed this buried in the Chrome browser licensing terms -

"You should also get your employer (if you work as a programmer) or your school, if any, to sign a "copyright disclaimer" for the library, if necessary. Here is a sample; alter the names:

Yoyodyne, Inc., hereby disclaims all copyright interest in the library `Frob' (a library for tweaking knobs) written by James Random Hacker.

, 1 April 1990

Ty Coon, President of Vice "

The person(s) who wrote it has a fine sense of humor !!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Perils of a networked world!!

This story from Slashdot sounds right out of a B grade sci-fi movie, with bots and crawlers wreaking havoc, where a highly interconnected system has gone awry due to a minor glitch. 

WSJ reports ( ) that Google News crawled a 2002 article when United Airlines was on the brink of bankruptcy.  Google News ran the story as today's news, automatically. The story was then picked up by other news aggregators and eventually headlined as a news flash on Bloomberg. This triggered automated trading programs to dump UAL, and the stocked tanked from $12 to $3 wiping out $1.14 billion  from the market cap. The stock recovered within the day to $10 and is now trading at $9.62, a market cap of $300M less than before Google ran the story. 

Is anyone liable here ?  Tribune for omitting the correct dateline, Google for not writing software that erred on the  side of caution in the case of a missing date, Bloomberg and other syndicators for not vetting their sources, or traders who haven't put "circuit breakers" in place for preventing such a mishap.   Clearly automated trading programs will see some specific requirements imposed, by reguatory bodies, for having some "manual" mechanisms in place for such freak events. 

The investors are reeling under the shock, including retail investors. For a flavor of what the retail investors are talking check out


Copyrighting Music!

In the Copyright law, I noticed that one cannot prepare derivative works based upon copyrighted work. Now in any art form, like music, that seems like an enormously difficult thing to enforce in an objective fashion. All music is derived from basic constructs like notes, chords, octaves, harmonics etc. Indian music is largely derived from Indian Classical Music which is essentially a large repository of well defined "ragas" which in turn are derived from a finite set of "thaats" and "melakartas". There exist higher level abstractions that are shared across different musical compositions. In a nutshell, simplest of music compositions have so many dimensions that one can, in theory, find commonalities across two seemingly disparate music compositions. In fact, deriving and augmenting is the way music evolves. Against this backdrop, laws written with such broad strokes reek of ignorance on part of lawmakers. They dont understand and dont care enough to try and understand the art and science of music. 
There is a big difference in protecting the  actual composition and specific digital recording of its rendition from distribution without compensating the creator and preventing or hindering other artistes from getting inspired by existing music creations. We have seen the fallout of allowing plagiarism through derivative works and I must say it pales in comparison to the loss to the evolution and spread of music that we will see if this particular clause in the law is enforced.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My Company - mAmigo

Manoj and I had co-founded mAmigo a year ago. Our company focusses on developing embedded video analytics products. For those of you who are interested in seeing what we do at mAmigo check out our blog at


Olympics - a good business for NBC?

NBC had bought exclusive video rights  for the Beijing games for a  whopping $900M. The monetization avenues were, largely, through TV advertising but there were also some attempts to generate revenue through online video distribution and banner ads on its web sites. For an event that lasted for 16 days that is lot of revenue to be generated to break-even.  But NBC did make $1B in revenues from the exclusive distribution of the Olympics through TV. Its online revenues were though were underwhelming - video advertising revenue amounted to around $6 M and banner advertising amounted to around $12M more. 

The question to be asked is if $100 + M revenue (gross minus paying for the rights) is a good enough return. There would have been a siginificant cost of distraction from regular  programming that NBC would have faced in preparation and winding down from the Olympic fever. There must have been an expectation that benefits from Olympic viewership will outlast the event itself.  

I also tried to watch Olympics on the internet and I must say that the coverage was below par and not engaging enough.  The only reason I went there was to actually see Indian boxers who were doing well in the olympics but were not, for obvious reasons, covered on the TV here in the US. Clearly, the quality of coverage on the internet is deliberately kept way below par to ensure that television is not cannibalized.  I think the the event sponsors should sell internet rights to a separate entity that has no traditional media interests to maximize on the potential of internet viewership.  

Thursday, September 4, 2008

why diagonal slash?

I was just today asked this question on why title this blog "diagonal slash". What does it mean ? Diagonal Slash is a very specific line of argument used originally by Cantor to prove that the number of real numbers are more than the number of integers (both being infinite !!). Since then the technique has been used to prove a wide range of theorems like Godel's Incompleteness Theorem.

To me Diagonal Slash is an example of human insights that seem impossible to achieve using any alogrithmic or computational procedure. Diagonal Slash is the epitome of human insight and creativity. It is this kind of insight that I hope to achieve and share. It is a lofty goal, but one worth pursuing, if you ask me.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Internet advertising has arrived!!

Internet advertising in the US has crossed 21 B dollar mark in 2007. More importantly it has now surpassed broadcast network advertising, cable network advertising and radio advertising. Only news paper advertising and direct mail are ahead of Internet Advertising, admittedly by quite a bit. Both newspaper and direct mail are above the $50 B mark. It won’t be long when these last bastions of traditional media advertising will also fall.

Why do I say that? Let’s look at where Internet advertising was relative to other traditional forms of media in 2005. It was at $12 B - below broadcast TV, Radio, Cable TV and Consumer magazines. Now all these have fallen to fast growing (> 25% CAGR) internet advertising phenomenon. I believe it is still early days for internet advertising.It is going to grow by both eating into the share of traditional advertising as well as by growing the advertising pie.

In terms of forms of internet advertising, search based advertising has provided the biggest fillip to Internet advertising by capturing the imagination of advertisers. Search is clearly seen as the gateway to internet and hence is proving to be the most valuable real estate on the internet.
Right now there are tons of new media innovations that haven't realized their potential - video, gaming, social networking sites and downloadable and portable media, to name a few. These provide new and innovative ways for advertisers to engage consumers and get their message across.

The question that I have is what will be the nature of growth from here on for internet advertising. Will it be organic, albeit, rapid evolution of a range of innovations or will it be yet another “home run” internet phenomenon. For now IP video is not living up to its advertising revenue promise as evidenced by the challenges faced by Google in terms of being able to monetize YouTube traffic. Exciting times !!