All posts by Chinmoy Kanjilal

Chinmoy Kanjilal is a FOSS enthusiast and evangelist. He is passionate about Android. Security exploits turn him on and he loves to tinker with computer networks. He rants occasionally at Techarraz.com. You can connect with him on Twitter @ckandroid.

VMware Joins OpenStack, Because Community and Collaboration is Obviously Better

Cloud Computing is emerging as a backbone infrastructure for all computing advancements of tomorrow. Most of the public services and APIs we use nowadays, rely on a cloud infrastructure. The public cloud lets us enjoy the same user experience across different platforms, which is critical for high user adoption. This seamless integration requires the cloud to be extremely resilient. Currently, Cloud Computing is seen more from a business perspective, with developments taking place behind closed doors. If this trend continues, the cloud will soon suffer from obfuscation and closed technology stacks everywhere, with different group of people repeating the same mistakes repeatedly.

VMware-logoThe field of Cloud Computing needs shared knowledge to sustain properly, it needs a community effort and that is exactly what many closed players have realized. This has led to the development and rise of a brilliant idea— an open source Cloud Computing platform called OpenStack. The concept behind OpenStack is so attractive, that companies that have never worked with Open Source, companies like Cisco, are also interested in being a part of this learning.

However, a big surprise arrives last weekend, as VMware decided to become a part of OpenStack. VMware was a primary competitor to OpenStack that had not jumped on the OpenStack bandwagon already. Undeniably, VMware’s server virtualization is state of the art, and already powers numerous infrastructures. Tech giants like IBM, HP and Microsoft are already part of this booming cloud community. Clearly, OpenStack is on a winning spree. After VMware, OpenStack faces its biggest competition from Amazon. Amazon has a strong cloud offering across multiple layers, with AWS and EC2 as IaaS and Amazon RDS as a PaaS. It will be interesting to see the showdown between these two cloud giants. It seems that while OpenStack will attract the public cloud, the enterprise will still go with Amazon’s cloud offering.

If you are an interested developer, you can start with OpenStack here. Also, do not forget to read this interesting perspective on reliability of cloud-based services.

PayPal Vs. Square Gets Serious with Paypal-Discover Partnership

Recently, PayPal has making bold new moves to take its business to the next level. This drive of ambition has come after eight years of PayPal’s online business, and it has comes only after PayPal saw how Square skyrocketed up in this sector of offline and mobile payments, a field that PayPal never took up.

PaypalHowever, the last one year has been an eye-opener for PayPal and it has started taking Square and its style of business seriously. PayPal started by announcing a deal with McDonald’s and acquiring Card.io. Square, on the other hand, grabbed a major deal with Starbucks. Grab your popcorn, because this is going to turn into an intense race for supremacy in the field of offline and mobile payments. PayPal has recently announced another deal with Discover, which does not restrict it to a few merchant establishments anymore.

This deal with discover will put PayPal miles ahead of Square in this race, with offline PayPal payments being accepted at more than seven million merchant establishments. Trying to keep pace with this improvement, PayPal’s VP of Retail Services says,

The whole industry has been looking for a landmark that says that all of this is really happening. This is an important deal for us, because it gets us to over seven million locations seamlessly.

PayPal boasts of over 50 million users, and Discover has a network spread across the entire US. This marriage will make for the largest mobile payment network spread across the US. The deal with Discover will go operational in April next year, and it is time for Square to make its big move.

Tesla Museum Fundraiser Crosses $900,000 with 39 Days Left

Remember how Matthew Inman from “The Oatmeal” started a fundraiser to build a Tesla Museum aiming at raising $850,000, so that the NY state can match that amount, pushing the raised amount to a whopping $1.7 million? Phew. Well, the Indiegogo fundraiser is going far better than expected. The initial plan was to run it for 45 days, which still is the plan I presume. However, there are 39 days left to go, and the fundraiser is nearing $1000,000 already. Isn’t that awesome?

Like many of us, Matthew Inmam is a known Tesla fan. Although he started out with plans of acquiring the piece of land on which Wardenclyffe once stood, and build a museum there, the property alone costs $1.6 million. His initial plan was to raise just enough money, so that he could save the land from going into the hands of a retail establishment. However, it seems like Inmam will both save the land, and get his dream museum built as well. The raised fund will go to Tesla Science Center, and this is the organization that actually plans to build the museum at Wardenclyffe.

The campaign has already seen generous donations from Joseph Sikorski who is making a movie on Tesla’s life, and Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk has promised a big enough donation to get featured on The Oatmeal. The fundraiser will probably see another spike when the 45-day mark comes close. By then, this fundraiser will raise enough money to buy the land, build a museum, make all geeks proud and give a man of science the much needed love and respect he always deserved.

If you have not donated already, you can still do it at this page.

Indian Government Censors Parody PMO Twitter Accounts to Protect the People of North-East

The Indian Government has censored several Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) parody Twitter accounts, which were being used for humor and criticism. The Government found some of these accounts to be in poor taste, and highly offensive. The Prime Minister himself wrote to Twitter in June, asking it to censor these accounts. However, Twitter being a free-speech enthusiast, probably ignored the request.  Recently, the Government got another chance at removing all content criticizing the PMO, and made the most of this opportunity. However, what interests me is that this Twitter cleanup was performed by the Government, when scouring social media for rumors of hatred against Northeastern people. I say, there could not have been a better opportunity to make things right.

pmo-twitter-account

A PMO official remarked on this  Twitter content filtering, saying,

We are fine with parody, even though at times, it is in bad taste, and there is criticism of the government. However, we cannot allow anyone to misrepresent the PM’s office and tweet nonsense from these accounts.

According to the Government’s claims, both Google and Facebook had confirmed that Pakistan was the origin of all the hatred. The miscreants were using social media to instigate violence, and some of it was spreading through Twitter. However, the Government did not receive any response from Twitter, because there are no Twitter offices in India that the Indian government can work closely with.

The Indian government has already blocked over 400 websites, and restricted bulk SMS facilities, as measures of control against the ongoing tension. Though in the midst of all this ballyhoo, the Government has also blocked several PMO parody accounts. The purportedly blocked Twitter accounts are not blocked by Twitter, but by ISPs in India. The Department of Telecom is leaving no stone unturned to restrict the usage of media that can be used to spread rumors and create nuisance. Though surprisingly, the blocked account of PMOIndia is back as a new account on Twitter, and it is gathering followers rapidly.

BitInstant is Taking Bitcoin to the Next Level with Credit and Debit Cards

The Bitcoin currency system is going through an identity crisis right now. The Bitcoin vs. dollar value is not stable, their flagship trading-platform Bitcoinica is under investigation for lax security and there have been two major hacking attempts targeted at the Bitcoin currency system. In the midst of all the chaos, BitInstant, a Bitcoin transfer service has announced its plans for releasing Bitcoin powered debit and credit cards.

BitcoinBitInstant is extremely popular for its speed of fund transfer between Bitcoin exchanges. It can shave hours off the transfer time, but the real prize with BitInstant is the speed with which they realize cash deposits. With BitInstant, you can buy Bitcoins in under an hour.

Recently, the co-founder and CEO of BitInstant, Charlie Shrem announced on their IRC channel that they have plans to release Credit Cards and Debit Cards based on the Bitcoin economy. These cards will be launched in 6-8 weeks and will be valid internationally at all merchant establishments that accepts MasterCard.

BitInstant plans to give away the first 1000 cards for free and charge a fee of $10 for issuing further cards. Funding the cards will be charged at 1%, and they will bear a QR code. However, the biggest surprise comes from the announcement that says that these cards will be issued by a major international bank. Some people might see this as unwelcome, as Bitcoins primary motive was to move away from traditional currency and currency systems. But perhaps, it is the only way to reach a worldwide audience for now.

(Via: Hacker News)

PayPal Enters the Race for Offline Payments at Stores

PayPal is the most popular way to transfer funds online. Surely, there are numerous reasons to hate PayPal, though that does not make it any less of a contender in the digital payment space. However, online payment is not the only place where a company like PayPal can do business. Perhaps on realizing this after eight years of business, PayPal is trying to compete with mobile-payment startup Square, which has grown to become extremely popular in a year because of its better service. Square lets users pay for purchases with their mobile phones.

PayPal revealed its ambitious plans for its payment business around September last year, and it also announced that it would test offline payment plan with 20 merchants.

Just two days ago, PayPal acquired Card.io, which was another player in the mobile payment segment. However, it made a giant leap in its tests with offline payments, when it tied up with McDonald’s outlets in France. Square, on the other hand, is tied up with Starbucks for carrying out its tests. With this move, Square and PayPal are competing head on for supremacy in the mobile payment field. PayPal has also signed deals with Home Depot and Office Depot for mobile payments.

PayPal’s test lets users pay with a mobile app, and then collect their food from a queue dedicated to this test. This self-service for payment can shave off waiting times and bring profit for McDonald’s or any merchant out there, and bring profits for a supporting platform like Square or PayPal.

HP’s Second Attempt at Mobile Headed by Alberto Torres

With every major IT giant out there going into the mobile business, HP could not stand back and enjoy the show. Although, HP has had a horrid experience with the mobile over the last few years, perhaps it has learnt from its mistakes and wants to get back into the mobile sector with a fresh start. It has already re-branded the Palm business (or whatever was remaining of it) to Gram attempting to give it a new focus. Palm could boast of software that was ahead of its time and some groundbreaking products (the Treo) too, but it never had strong foundation stones. With Gram, HP is starting over with Palm.

hp_logo

That sounds good, isn’t it? But wait. Confusion started a few days ago, when HP circulated an internal memo talking about another mobile division inside its company, the only difference being that this one will deal with hardware instead. The group is being called the “Mobility Global Business Unit” and it will be headed by Alberto Torres, who was the head of MeeGo at Nokia. At this new unit, Torres will be the Senior Vice-President. According to HP, this group will focus on:

Additional segments and categories where we believe we can offer differentiated value to our customers.

Was it a wise decision to kill the existing Palm business and instead, bring out separate hardware and software product lines and teams? It is too early to speculate on the future prospects of this strategy. Surely, HP has something in mind when it is going through such a massive change, or is it just a shot in the dark?

(Via: The Verge)

Help The Oatmeal and the Tesla Science Center Build a Tesla Museum

Nikola Tesla was the greatest geek ever. This point is not debatable, all your argument against it is invalid and you ought to read more. We grow up all our lives being taught how an X in some corner of the world invented something. However, you will be amazed to know how many of those inventions you can trace back to one single man, Nikola Tesla. It is no co-incidence because Nikola Tesla indeed was the greatest inventor of all times, but the sad truth is that, he was and still remains an unsung hero in the world of science.

tesla_colorado

We geeks love our geek idols. We might not come off as being serious when we show respect for them with some playful cleverness. However, money is the language of the layman, so let the money speak for itself. The Oatmeal is organizing a major humanitarian effort currently, and you have the rare opportunity to preserve what remains of the eccentric genius’s laboratory. This page at indiegogo is running a fundraiser to save a piece of land that was once home to Tesla’s laboratory, popularly known as Wardenclyffe. The page is attracting donations at nearly $10,000 an hour and it is already approaching $500,000 out of its goal of $850,000 with 44 more days to go. With time, this can turn out to be Internet’s greatest fundraiser and science effort ever.

It all started after Matthew Inman at The Oatmeal wrote a piece on Tesla Museum. Tesla Museum was part of ambitious project, in which a non-profit organization (Tesla Science Center) wanted to build a museum on the exact spot of Wardenclyffe, thereby protecting this historic landmark from the current danger of being replaced with a retail establishment. Inman decided to preserve this endangered heritage through The Oatmeal, and added a humanitarian touch to it by making it a fundraiser. The fundraiser started off pretty well. The next challenge for this effort is to raises $850K, as then, the NY State will match the same amount making the total raised amount to a whopping $1.7 million.

But here is a valid question: Why try to preserve this great man’s biggest failure? Perhaps it is only just, because Tesla failed to build this tower over monetary issues. The sheer amount of bold ambition hidden behind this massive failure will remind us every day of how far we need to push our imagination, in order to make a better world of tomorrow.

Julian Assange Under Threat of Extradition from the British Ecuadorian Embassy

After turning world-politics upside down, Julian Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK. However, things got tense earlier today, when police forces started appearing outside the embassy in large numbers, possibly to arrest Assange. Assange sought political refuge from Ecuador, after a British court ordered his extradition to Sweden. He has been in the embassy for two months now.

interpool-julian-assange-arrested

The Ecuadorian Government has not made any statement yet, but it will announce its decision on Assange’s refuge plea at 10 PM AEST today. Meanwhile, WikiLeaks came out with a report stating that the UK Government is threatening Ecuador to forcefully enter its embassy and arrest Assange. This would be in violation of the Geneva Convention laid down by the UN, but the UK is justifying this act with its own Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987.

Assange has upset the entire world with his investigative journalism and release of a series of video tapes and letters pertaining to political, economic and war scandals in countries like the USA, Afghanistan, a few African nations and even India. Since then, the US government has been trying to get its hands on Assange over the infamous incident involving Bradley Manning’s tip-off to WikiLeaks. Though finally, it looks like they will succeed as once Assange is moved out of the Ecuadorian Embassy, he can be extradited to many other countries.

It is amusing to see that the US is playing a double standard card here, as it itself grants refuge to troubled journalists from other oppressive regimes like China. It will be interesting to see how long the US waits to grab hold of Assange.

Update: Ecuador has granted asylum to Julian Assange, but the British police is still keen on arresting him and handing him over to the Swedish government.

(Image via)

Intel vs. ARM: From the World of Servers

It is a well-known fact that Intel dominates the world of personal computers and ARM owns the world of mobiles. Moreover, while Intel has taken its first baby steps towards making mobile processors, ARM has also made a slow entry to the personal computing world. Nevertheless, there is another market where this Intel vs. ARM war can go, and it is the market for servers.

Recently, ARM started showing its head in the server market and as it turns out, there are some impressive reasons for using ARM over Intel for servers. Look at this presentation for some interesting facts on ARM servers. In a few months, Dell and HP are going to enter the ARM server market with all guns blazing. While Dell showcased an ARM based server product back in May, HP has the advantage of being the early adopter. Things have started moving in this competition, and to spice things up, our beloved Ubuntu is ready for this ARM revolution, from version 11.10.

ARM-vs-Intel-Benchmarks

However, the biggest piece of news came yesterday when Intel hit back HP’s ARM server partner Calxeda over a benchmark. According to a benchmark carried out by Calxeda, ARM’s Cortex A9 based ECX-1000 servers could outdo Intel’s Xeon processors in performance, and Intel was not ready to accept this. Therefore, it went ahead, performed its own benchmarks, and came back with another set of results in its own favor. Apparently, both Intel and Calxeda used Apache HTTP benchmarking, but Calxeda used Intel’s Sandy bridge Xeon E3-1240 processors to carry out the tests instead of the latest Ivy Bridge. Additionally, Calxeda limited the Xeon for I/O for the benchmark, and effectively, the CPU was running only at 14% of its total capacity.

Intel and ARM are fighting on multiple fronts, and this is just another battle in the ongoing war. While Intel has the advantage of high performance, ARM has the advantage of power efficiency. They are both masters of their fields, and this war will only leave us spoilt for choice.