81Electric migrated

Hi all, I’ve always wanted to integrate my various blogs into a single site and now that’s finally done. The new site for this blog is here. Please check there for new posts. Thanks.

James Cramer on being an entrepreneur

Confession: I’m an addict of James Cramer.  I’m a fan because I believe he is a man of integrity even when he’s spent a great deal of time on Wall Street where crooks are everywhere.  I’m a fan also because I  believe he tries his best to educate the public(the retail investors) about stocks and that he exposes the dark side in Wall Street professional traders.

James Cramer from TheStreet.com is a serial entrepreneur.  He started a hedge fund back in the 80’s and averaged 24% annual return after fees until he gave his fund to his partner in 2000.  In the 90’s when the term blogging didn’t even exist, he started TheStreet.com which is one of the first(if not the first) real-time blogging financial websites.  He also has a real estate business, and a health-conscious company called “Less Or Evil”.

Jim has just made a couple videos on being an entrepreneur.  The first video is about what it takes to be an entrepreneur.  In the second video, Jim talks about how he started his hedge fund business.  You can find the videos here and here.  I hope you’ll find the videos useful.

Starbucks’ great leadership

I’ve just read Starbucks Howard Schultz’s memo and my view on Starbucks’ leadership is once again reinforced. You have to be amazed by Howard’s and the company’s awareness even 20 years after founding the company(or taking over the original little Starbucks store at the Seattle Pike Place Market). Can Starbucks re-accelerate its growth? I’ll have to say yes as long as Howard is still at the helm.

“Write once, run everywhere”

I just wrote Adobe Flash is full of surprises about a week ago and today I came across OpenLaszlo. It’s a platform that’s supposed to enable “write once, run everywhere” applications. From what I understand after reading their website, OpenLaszlo is a programming environment or an SDK for writing applications. The code eventually gets compiled into Flash code so that it can run in Flash or Java. My guess is that the main target platform is Flash since Flash is ubiquitous and that OpenLaszlo seems to be targeting the desktop(ok, Java runs on the desktop too but seriously, it’s not desirable to run a Java application on the desktop when there are choices)

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DRM is dead

Finally, Steve Jobs just annouced that he wants to scrap DRM! Most consumers never believed in DRM anyway but media companies jammed it down consumers’ throats. Soon, we’ll see DRM in the graveyard!

Update: Steve Jobs’ letter is here.

Netflix doesn’t allow customers to find movies by release dates

Netflix customer service cofirmed with me that its movie search doesn’t allow users to find movies by release dates. It wasn’t explained to me why and I really don’t see any reasons for not making it easier for customers to find what they want to see. I can’t imagine it’s related to technical difficulties. Is it possible that it’s a business decision to deliberately prevent customers from renting a certain subset of their movies only? I’d like to know what you think of this.

btw, Netflix also doesn’t offer a search by MPAA rating (i.e. R, PG, etc) either.

Paypal vs Google Checkout online payment systems – Part II

Since my last post, I’ve implemented PayPal on my site. I thought I’d write about my PayPal implementation experience.

Google CheckoutFirst of all, the fact that I didn’t go with Google Checkout is not because Google Checkout is worse then PayPal in terms of features, performance, fees, etc. I went with PayPal only because I had already spent a lot of time looking into PayPal and that I had a good understanding of how it works. PayPalThe fact that a lot of websites already use it and it just works(cross my fingers), and that there’s existing support in Ruby on Rails made it almost a no-brainer to go with PayPal. In order for me to get a better time estimate for implementing Google Checkout, I’d have had to spend more time than the couple hours that I had already spent. That said, Google Checkout seems to have all the features that I need. Having SOAP is also nice. Google Checkout also works with AdWords and that’s another plus. It has a lot of potential and my plan is to implement Checkout sometime in 2007. Continue reading

Ruby on Rails with and without SSL using WEBrick

I’m currently building a website with Ruby on Rails that requires SSL to secure a few web pages such as the login page while leaving the rest of the site SSL free. It took me a few hours to figure it out and the information on this subject is somewhat sparse. I thought I’d write down the information in case someone needs it.

I’m using WEBrick for my development work because it’s quick and easy. Normally, WEBrick isn’t in ssl mode and it wasn’t obvious to me as to how to run an ssl version of it. After looking around, I found the script mentioned in this mailing list.  Simply save the script as server_ssl in the script directory of your RoR project and then:

chmod +x script/server_ssl

Be sure to change the ‘ip’ in the script.

SSL requires the use of a server certificate. The logical question is then how does one create and install a server certificate? Normally, you would purchase a certificate from a Certificate Authority or create one by using a tool like openssl(see HTTPS Configuration in the Ubuntu Server Guide). However, it seems the server_ssl script tells WEBrick to create a server certificate on-the-fly and so there is no need to create and install a certificate. One side effect is that Firefox will warn you the certificate is not authentic. Another side effect is that if you stop and restart WEBrick without restarting Firefox, Firefox will tell you the certificate has the same serial number as another certificate and will simply refuse to use the certificate. If that happens, just restart Firefox. These are inconveniences but are ok while you’re still in the development phase.

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Traveling to your home town gives you new perspectives

Hong Kong ferryHong Kong boatMy family just came back from a 3-week visit to Hong Kong. We spent time with friends and family and it was a lot of fun. As usual, the good times and bad times(mostly good ;)) in Hong Kong got me to think a lot. Before each trip, I would be bombarded with many issues from work and life in general(mostly from work). It was always very important to resolve design issues at work, bug fixes, team management and whatnot. But once I got to Hong Kong and have spent some time with friends and family in this dynamic environment, I would pretty much throw every issue I had from the states out of the window. I would also realize how inconsequential some of the issues are. Traveling to my home town, especially since it’s out of the country always gives me a bigger picture.

Coming back to the Continue reading

Microsoft Expression Studio + WPF /E look very interesting

The announcement of Microsoft Expression Studio product and WPF /E generated a lot of buzz yesterday. The products will give designers an alternative to Adobe’s products for creating rich user interfaces for web applications easily. Designers will also be able to use the products for desktop applications but my guess is that Microsoft’s emphasis for these products will be on the web.

WPF /E (Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere) is Microsoft’s answer to Adobe/Macromedia’s Flash Player. I downloaded it from the release site and played with it a bit with the demos which are also available on that site. The installation was fast and smooth on IE7. However, Firefox wasn’t able to locate the plugin. All demos ran pretty smoothly and the UI was very slick and responsive, just like what you’d see in a Flash application.

I’m pretty excited by just playing with the demos. Hopefully, the plug-ins for Firefox and Safari will be available soon. I do wonder how many professional designers will switch to the Microsoft platform when they’re already very comfortable with the Adobe tools. Do you see capabilities that Expression offers that Adobe’s products don’t? If you’re a designer, I’d love to hear your opinions.