Category Archives: Interviews

Interview with Ben Lang, the creator of Notification Control

Ben Lang is an 18 year old entrepreneur. He’s the founder of EpicLaunch and MySchoolHelp. Recently he’s been working on the marketing team at Wibiya and also launched Notification Control. You can follow him on Twitter @benln.

Ben Lang

Me:  What was your first leap into entrepreneurship? Why did you want to become an entrepreneur?

Ben Lang (BL): When I was 14, my grandfather gave me his camera equipment to sell online. Once I understood how profitable it could be, I started selling other people’s stuff for them for a commission.

Me: What difficulties do you run into as an entrepreneur? How do you overcome them?

BL: Time is an issue. I always find that there’s not enough time to work on everything I want to be doing. I’m always trying to optimize my time management to get the most done.

Me: Your project Notification Control has seemed to create a lot of buzz. Tell us, how you thought of the idea for Notification Control?

BL: I was inspired by the success of MyPermissions.org, a simple site for cleaning app permissions. I thought it might be an interesting experiment to see if I could make something similar yet different that could also go viral.

Me: What motivated you to create Notification Control?

BL: Email sucks. I always find myself unsubscribing from newsletters, changing my notification settings and deleting emails. So I thought it might be a solid idea to create a simple site to manage all of your email settings from most of the popular social networks in one shot.

Me: When did you start blogging? What motivated you to become a blogger?

BL: I started blogging a few years ago about my eBay business. It helped me gain clients and build credibility online. Since then I’ve continued to blog about my experiences and share what I’ve learned over time.

Me: Do you have any advice for teens who want to become an entrepreneur?

BL: For teens who are interested in the web but aren’t particularly technical (like me), my advice would be to get started by building WordPress sites. Once you have some idea, get Launchrock up on your site, test it out, see if people sign up. Then go for it, WordPress is easy to learn and just do whatever you can on your own. If you need help, there’s always the Internet out there.

Me: In your opinion, what makes a great entrepreneur?

BL: I’m a huge fan of those entrepreneurs who accomplish great things but stay humble and down to earth. There are some truly amazing entrepreneurs out there who continually help others out.

Interview with Ben Rudolph, the Architect of #smokedbywindowsphone

Smoked by Windows Phone

If you use Twitter and were following the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) tweets, it would be very hard for you to miss the #smokedbywindowsphone campaign, run by Ben Rudolph from Microsoft. I wrote about this campaign which pitted Windows Phone against a variety of today’s smartphones in conducting common tasks, in an earlier post. This campaign has been a super hit, and now that Ben has had some time to recover from CES, I asked him a few questions about the campaign. Here’s what he had to say:

Techie Buzz (TB): What was the motivation behind the campaign?

Ben Rudolph (BR): Everyone here on the Windows Phone team knew anecdotally, from talking with friends and family, and even strangers at airports, that Windows Phone is faster and easier than any other smartphone at doing the stuff that we do every day on our smartphones. We never went out to prove it in a head-to-head test. So, we decided to put our money where our mouth is at the biggest tech show in the world! What better place to put Windows Phone head to head against a huge variety of smartphone users, both in terms of their technical depth, but also in terms of the phones they have in their pocket. All in all, this was a fun way for us to stand up and say “We think we built something really awesome, and when you see it, we think you’ll agree”.

TB: What were the challenges like?

BR: All of the challenges involved tasks that smartphone users do every day – posting a photo to Facebook or Twitter, checking the weather, sending an SMS to your best friend, updating your status on your social networks, finding someplace nearby to eat – that kind of stuff.

Developer Interview: Safeer Mohiuddin

Safeer Mohiuddin is a  nineteen  year old developer and the Co-Founder of  mezz. Mezz is a real-time hyper local mobile application and platform that allows you to discover and share activities, events, food and other happenings nearby.  You can follow him on Twitter    @SafeerMohiuddin.

Safeer Mohiuddin

Me:   When did you start learning how to program and how did you learn?

Safeer Mohiuddin (SM):  I started learning how to program in my freshman year at Monta Vista High School. I took one Java course and then after that I took several other programming courses at the local community college while I was in high school.

Me:   What made you interested in learning iOS development?

SM:  I got the iPhone when it first came out and it’s been truly amazing to see how far the platform and the apps have come along. I wanted to develop an app that other people would use and I thought it was something achievable in a short amount of time.

Me:  How did you think of the idea for mezz? Has the app been successful?

SM:  As a kid who has lived in the suburbs my entire life, I always wanted to experience the city life. The city life is always vibrant and there’s always things going on but it’s really hard to find about all that stuff. Over the summer, My friends and I hung out a lot but there were too many times where the conversation would go like What do you wanna do?I don’t know. Repeat that happening like 50 times in one day. Besides Xbox and movies we wanted to find something new to do. Whether it was just a pickup game, music in the park, concerts, new restaurants…we just wanted an easy way to find something to do.

We did a soft launch in Mid-November and have a couple thousand users. We are working on making sure we are providing the highest level of quality of local happenings. I believe that we are on a path to major success and that there have been certainly mini-successes that we have achieved. The most important thing at such an early stage is to get user’s feedback and improve and iterate.

Me:  How do you manage college and work on Mezz at the same time?

SM:  It’s extremely difficult. I tried it for a month and I wasn’t doing my best at school or Mezz. I needed to prioritize the two and dedicate 100% of my time to one. I decided that opportunities like this don’t come too often and took on Mezz full time.

Me:  What’s your work setup like and workflow on a given task?

SM:  I spend a lot of time thinking about the task before I actually go out and do it simply because as a small startup there is so much to do with so little resources and tasks need to be prioritized.

Me: How do you handle a deadline?

SM:  I’m very conscious of deadlines. Obviously things can go wrong and things can take longer but it’s important to stay focused. If working on a task is significantly delaying other tasks than it needs to be reprioritized.

Me:  What are your thoughts on Android’s Market potential as an actual sales drive? vs the App Store?

SM:  As a developer for both Android and iPhone, the fragmentation on Android in terms of development and the number of different markets is very distracting. It drives focus away from development.

Me:  Thoughts on an openvs. a closedOS? What benefits do you think each one brings to a developer?

SM:  This is a very feisty debate but as a developer I prefer a closed OS. If users want the highest level of experience on their smartphones than the opportunity must be given to developers to develop something that they can fully control. If there are too many variables in the equation, it is very difficult for developers to be able to develop an app with high quality standards.

Me:  Do you think a consumer cares about whether or not the OS they are using is open?

SM:  I don’t think they care but that doesn’t mean that they will be affected by it. I think many consumers don’t realize what are the end results of an open’ vs closed’ platform.

Me:  If you can share, what cool projects are you working on right now?

SM:  Right now I am working only on mezz. Mezz is a real-time hyper local mobile app and platform that allows you to discover activities, events, things to do, food and much more.   The content on mezz comes from anyone posting on mezz as well as locally relevant Tweets and other API’s. We envision mezz to be the aggregator of all local content.

In my little spare time, I’m helping a couple other people jumpstart their companies by giving them advice and support.

Me:  What are you most proud of?

SM:  When I was 16, I started buying and selling iPhones. I made enough money to buy my own car. It was a major personal accomplishment for me because it gave me a sense of ownership and responsibility. It wasn’t about getting a car because I could have easily asked my parents but more of a step towards independence and a start towards an entrepreneurial journey.

 

Developer Interview: Samuel Clay Of NewsBlur, a Google Reader Alternative

Newsblur Front Page

NewsBlur front page

Google Reader has been in the news of late after its recent changes, which have had a very sharply negative reaction from passionate fans. I had earlier written about how there are no good Google Reader alternatives in the market today and had mentioned NewsBlur then. Since then, I have been using NewsBlur daily, and have been extremely pleased with it. I got in touch with the developer, Samuel Clay, and he gladly made himself available to discuss life as an indie developer, developing NewsBlur, and how he plans on competing with Google.

Samuel Clay is an indie developer of NewsBlur. He just moved from Brooklyn to San Francisco. Previously, he worked at DocumentCloud, where they wrote Backbone.js, VisualSearch.js, Underscore.js, and many other open-source libraries. He is now at Tasty Labs, making a more useful social application on the web. Samuel can be reached on twitter at @samuelclay and NewsBlur is also on twitter at @newsblur.

Techie Buzz (TB): What is NewsBlur?
Samuel Clay (SC): NewsBlur is a feed reader with intelligence. It tries to do two things very well:

  1. Shows you the original site instead of a context-less feed. Read the original and NewsBlur marks the stories you’ve read as read.
  2. Filter stories you either like or dislike. A three-stop slider goes between dislike, neutral, and like (red, yellow, and green). Training is super-easy and all click-based (as opposed to you having to writing out what you like in a site, NewsBlur asks you, semi-Hunch-style, your opinions on facets of the site).

I started working on NewsBlur to see if I could do it, put the AI together with the back-end feed processing and fetching, along with the nifty front-end of the original site. This is one of those projects where I just kept pushing in all directions until I felt I had something good, not knowing if I could do it at all, but believing the entire time that I was able to complete the project.

Intelligence Trainer Slider
Intelligence trainer slider

Developer Interview: iOS app developer Steve Troughton-Smith

Steve Troughton-Smith

Steve Troughton-Smith is  a twenty-two year old developer and founder of High Caffeine Content, and Mobile Architect at Tethras , a company that specializes in translating apps into other languages. In short, he make things. You can follow him on Twitter   @stroughtonsmith  .

Me:  When did you start learning how to program and how did you learn?

Steve Troughton-Smith (SS):  To be honest I can’t remember a specific timeframe. I remember, as a really young kid, programming with QBASIC on a DOS computer; nothing more complex than ‘Hello World’, or making colors appear onscreen, but I think it was the initial kickstart for me. By the time I was nine or ten I had discovered a program called REALBasic (on a demo disc that came with MacFormat magazine) and was starting to use it to learn how to write Mac OS 8 and 9 programs. REALBasic was very much like Visual Basic for Mac apps, and at the time (up to version 5) was the simplest way to get into Mac development – you could drag and drop to create your app UI and it was really learner-friendly. When Mac OS X came out, REALBasic even allowed you create Carbon applications that would run on it, with all the amazing new UI that Aqua brought. I used REALBasic up until I was 15 when I literally ran into a performance wall – I wanted to create really graphical and animated things, and it just didn’t cut it. Apple had just announced Xcode 1.0, and I decided to delve straight in and not to stop until I figured out how I could remake the stuff I was making in RB in Cocoa. In the end it turned out to be much easier than I thought, and I’ve never looked back.

Me:  What’s your work setup like and workflow on a given project?

SS:  My development machine at home is a 27″ iMac (i7, so ‘8’ cores, and an SSD); most of my development I do on that in Xcode (Mac, iOS), Eclipse (Android), or Qt Creator (MeeGo/Symbian). I have a custom built gaming PC beside it on the desk which handily doubles as a Visual Studio workstation for when I’m working on Windows Phone 7 apps. When I’m away from home, I work exclusively from an i7 MacBook Air.

I sync all my projects across computers through the cloud so that I never have to worry about copying from one machine to another. I just pick up where I left off on whatever machine is nearest.

Me:  How many electronics do you own? Why so many?

Steve Troughton-Smith:  Loaded question; I own everything I need to to make sure I can test everything I build on the widest variety of hardware/software versions. And then I own a little more for devices or OSes I love, or that intrigue me.

If you’re looking for a full list…(x) = number of devices

(2) iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, (3)  iPhone 4, iPhone 4S ,  iPod,  iPod 2nd ,  iPod 3rd,  iPod 4th,  (2) iPad ,  iPad 2,  Nokia N9,  Nokia N950,  Nokia E7, (2)  Nokia N8,  Nokia 5800,  HTC ADP1,  Nexus One,  Nexus S,  HTC G2,  HTC Sensation,  Dell Streak,  NOOKcolor,  Galaxy Tab 7,  XOOM,  Galaxy Tab 10.1,  LG Optimus 7  Samsung Wave,  PrÄ“,  PrÄ“ Plus,  PrÄ“ 2,  PrÄ“ 3,  Pixi Plus,  Veer,  TouchPad,  BlackBerry PlayBook,  Samsung Windows 8 Developer Tablet, and  Countless Macs & PCs, and probably some I’ve missed from the above.

Developer Interview: gReadie app developer Chris Sainty

gReadie screenshot

gReadie screenshot

This is the first in, hopefully what will become, a series of interview with independent developers. The goal is to profile developers building great apps (mobile, desktop, web) and hopefully get some honest answers about what works and what does not work being an independent developer.

Chris Sainty is an Australian software developer with over 10 years experience developing desktop and web applications for retail clients. An early and eager supporter of the direction Microsoft has taken with the Windows Phone 7 platform, Chris had an app in the marketplace and a phone in his hand at launch. A year later his app, gReadie, remains a popular choice for Google Reader users on Windows Phone 7.

Techie Buzz (TB): What is gReadie?

Chris Sainty (CS): gReadie is a Google Reader client for Windows Phone 7. In a highly competitive segment of the app marketplace, gReadie targets powerusers who follow a lot of feeds and need to quickly scan their feeds to find the posts of real importance. This is done by using a clean and simple UI, that is well tuned for finding the posts you want and then either reading them in-app or saving them to an external services (such as Read It Later, Instapaper etc.) for later follow up.

A sampling of gReadie’s settings

TB: What made you decide to write a gReader client and that too for an unknown platform?

CS: Prior to Windows Phone 7, I was using an iPhone 3GS. By far, my most used app on iOS was a Google Reader client. So I knew when switching to WP7, I was going to need an app to do the same. Having prior C# and Silverlight knowledge, I was very keen to write something for the WP7 platform. So it was a natural fit that my most used app should be my own.

It was a risk to invest so much effort into a new platform, and one that has not been financially rewarding yet. However, I believe things are just getting started for apps on Microsoft platforms and do not regret for a moment the experience gained from being an early mover on the platform.

TB: What technology/ies have been used in the making of gReadie? Any open source tech/libraries? Is the gReadie code open sourced?

CS: The current version of gReadie is using only two open source libraries ServiceStack.Text (https://github.com/ServiceStack/ServiceStack.Text) for JSON processing and the Silverlight Toolkit (http://silverlight.codeplex.com/) for a couple of UI elements. Though, I am very unhappy with the latest version of the Silverlight toolkit which broke every single control I was using without explanation or documentation. Previously gReadie has used many other libraries for various purposes, but these are the only two still in use. Internally gReadie is using the new SQL Compact support enabled in Mangowhich allows it to provide excellent offline reading capabilities even with thousands of posts downloaded.

[Interview] Dell is Committed to PC Business: GM, Dell India

According to IDC, Dell is the number one PC vendor in the consumer, small & medium business, as well as the enterprise space. Dell has channel presence across hundreds of cities and sells at thousands of retail outlets across the country. Apart from a variety of product lines to suit diverse customers, the after-sales support options from Dell has garnered several fans and loyalists, including me.

Last week I met Mahesh Bhalla, Executive Director and General Manager (Consumer & SMB) at Dell India. We talked about Dell’s business in India, the revolution in devices and form factors, and Dell’s newest line of business the mobile phones.

  • Dell is fully committed to the PC business. The high-volume business is tricky, which is why HP recently announced that they are looking to spin-off their PC business
  • Mahesh dismisses the myth that to succeed in Indian market, one has to sell the product at the cheapest. Dell’s number one status testifies this assertion since Dell prices it products higher than the regional industry average.
  • Dell succeeds in getting positive mindshare on basis of support options since it builds those with an astute understanding of the local market. In India, on-site service is the best option. Dell provides on-site service in 650 cities
  • There are a variety of form factors in the market at this moment. After a certain time, the market would crystallize. One can always give choice to customers, but too many choices add to costs.
  • Dell has been in mobile business for less than a year, and is working to improve the distribution channels and also offer different form factors and device options.

Interview with a Teenage Hacker

When Keith asked if anyone from the team wanted to interview a self-professed teenage hackerfrom India, I was cynical. Usually script kiddies in India who are also kids in real life suffer from delusions of grandeur along with the need to impress the fellow man his or her importance to India’s Cyber War against (who else?) Pakistan.

hack

minhal mehdiis no different, for he is quite the teenager (but asked me to refrain from revealing his true age in this post) and has been hacking his way into some low security websites for about six months now, along with his friend and seniorNoTty_rAJ.

Minhal claims to hail from Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh and is [hopefully] a high-schooler with some years of school still left. He also believes hacking is not always a crime, and that it is an art and his passion.

He also has a blog with a single post and twelve comments from his own person about how good his hacking skills are. (Thank you Pallab!)

In his introductory email, minhal claimed to have hacked manywebsites a short list being posted here. His claim to fame, in other words, is hacking one server’s root with an SQL vulnerability.

An abridged chat transcript follows with minimal editing pertaining to minhal’s answers.

Techie-Buzz (TB): What prompted you to start hacking?

minhal: i saw many forign hackers are hacking indian website, feeling of revenge motivated me for hacking. My hacks are payback to forign hackers for hacking indian websites.

TB: Which Indian websites were hacked that motivated you?

minhal: cbi website and thousends of indian websites.

TB: But you’ve mostly hacked low-security websites whose domain registrations have expired by now.

minhal: i’m new in cyber wolrd and trying to do my best for india

TB: What kind of loopholes did you find in these websites?

minhal: shell upload vlun. or SQL vlun. i found XSS in nasa’s website.

TB: So these were from exploit-db or bugtraq, right?

minhal: nah ,, its was my own

TB: So did you hack the NASA website?

minhal: it was president Xss but XSS is too long and boring

Interview With Notion Ink’s CEO Rohan Shravan On “Adam” And More

The Internet Tablets niche is going to see a huge amount of innovation coming through in the next few months. "Adam" is a Internet tablet and e-Book reader, which was announced back in December by a India based startup Notion Ink.

Adam Notion Ink Tablet

Notion Ink also demoed the gadget during the electronics expo at . We got a chance to catch up with Notion Ink’s CEO Rohan Shravan and asked him a few questions about "Adam" and other interesting developments around it. So without ado, here is the interview with Rohan Shravan.

Rohan Shravan, CEO of Notion Ink

Keith: First of All Could You Introduce Notion Ink to us?
Rohan:
Notion Ink is a firm for Innovation. Very very young and very different. Average age of employees is 22 yrs! Based out of India. It was my dream to design devices which can do anything. And thats what we are doing right now. The first thing you do to realize your dream is to write is somewhere. And thats what we will help other to do. We will be their Notion Ink.

Keith: Back in December 2009, we were surprised to see a tablet from an Indian startup? Why did you choose to get into an industry which was not yet established worldwide, leave aside India?
Rohan: We are working on it since last 3 years. It took the final shape in 2008 end. The device we want to make is still technologically not possible and we will work till we achieve the same.

Keith: How and why did you come up with the name "Adam" for your Tablet? Did it have to do anything with "Adam & Eve"?
Rohan: I wanted a named series. Something people can relate to. Adam tablet is the first of its kind. Its an ebook reader and tablet, both, hence a new species which brings a new convergence. And hence the name Adam. Eve will be there, soon.

Keith: What according to you sets Adam apart from the rest of the competition?
Rohan:
It will bring in new user input mechanisms, new UI trends, OS behaviors, Cloud computing relations, Content Eco-system, ebook and tablet convergence, open system and already a huge fan base!

Keith: Do you follow the developments behind iPad, Joojoo, Slate and other upcoming tablets? How do you see them as a competition?
Rohan: I do. But only as developments. Competition is healthy. It is good for end user. And it brings innovation.

Keith: How was your experience at CES 2010? Did you find recognitions for Adam there?
Rohan:
CES was wonderful. It made it clear that people are waiting for it. And it is the right time for this product.

Keith: Given the current Indian market which basically is made up of cheap or mid-range cell phones, do you think that Adam will do well, or do you have different markets in mind right now?
Rohan: Firstly, thats not true. There is a huge market for smart phones and mobile internet adoption is one of the fastest.

Secondly, Notion Ink does belong from India, but Adam was not designed with India as its reach. It is designed for people who are ahead of others. For those who will be the leaders in technology. And they happen to belong in all the countries. Some have many, some have few.

Keith: Are you collaborating with big partners to get the device out?
Rohan:
Yes, we are in good stages of these collaborations. 

Keith: What are the Specifications for Adam, not that we don’t know it, but we would love to hear it from the horse’s mouth?
Rohan: I believe what we don’t know is not in the public domain yet. 

Keith: Are you planning any variations in the device based on where you launch it, to narrow down the costing?
Rohan: Not necessarily. 

Keith: Where do you plan to manufacture the device? Will it be in India or from within US, considering that your major market will be US and Europe, and you have to pass through tough manufacturing standards to be able to export to these continents?
Rohan: Even the educated people in India would demand FCC certifications. Quality is first goal. Nothing gets manufactured in US. Our bases will be same as US houses. 

Keith: How do you foresee the future of Internet tablets, not as a manufacturer, but as a end-user?
Rohan:
As end user, i see carrying only tablets. All other things will vanish. Phones will be just headphones, laptops will be on clouds, and tablet will even replace books and notepads.

Keith: Lastly, would you be able to tell us when this device will be out and how much it will cost along with how people can buy it?
Rohan: It is definitely not as costly as iPad.

Thanks to Mr. Rohan for sparing the time to answer our questions. Hope you had a great time catching up with the CEO of one of the most waited upon device, the "Adam". You can check what Notion Ink is all about by visiting their website, or keep up with the latest updates from the company by visiting their blog.

For those who haven’t yet got a chance to see "Adam" in action can watch the embedded video below.

Image courtesy Rohan Shravan’s account @rohanshravan

Techie Interview: Aravind Jose From AravindJose.com

After a brief (rather long) break, we are back with , where we interviewed several interesting bloggers from the tech world, we are once again open to receiving Techie interviews and you can submit yours by visiting this interview form, which we created using , and if you are interested here is how you can create online surveys using Google Docs.

So let us kick start this interview by introducing you to a Aravind Jose a young tech blogger from India, Aravind blogs at AravindJose.com so make sure to follow him through his website.

aravind_jose

Some of this info may be outdated, Aravind please feel free to update us, if you think that some of the info is old and we will refresh them right away.

Introduction

Can you Introduce yourself and your blog to our readers?

Aravind from Kerala, India. I blog at AravindJose.com giving out Fresh Thoughts and Insights, which are mostly tech/web related.

Continue reading Techie Interview: Aravind Jose From AravindJose.com