Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Why heat/cool the whole car?

At this age of skyrocketting energy costs why can't we just heat the front portion of the car alone? A whole majority of the cars on road carry just a single person (the driver) or utmost one additional passenger. So can't we have a movable separation (like the ones in some cabs or the cover of a convertible) that slides behind the two front seats? At the push of a button we can close this "door". This way we just need to cool/heat only the portion where the occupants are present. No need to waste energy heating the back row of seats and avoid heat loss due to leakage associated with a larger area.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Are images SPAM's latest avatar?

I'm seeing more spams using images. Basically the spammer embeds the text in a .gif file. So most of the spam filtering software cannot make out from the text portion of the mail, if it is spam or not. See the spam picture that I got today.

I think the spam software these days use some form of AI -- machine learning using known patterns of good text and bad ones. So when an unknown mail arrives, it matches the text to the nearest known "point" in the "good mail space" and in the "bad mail space". If it is too close to the bad mail, it flags it as spam.

But can software handle spam inside images? We know computers aren't (yet) good at image recognition. In fact Amazon's HITs and mturk are built over this fact. Considering machines can easily generate images which they can't understand but humans can, is this the next step in bypassing spam filters?

Wondering how yahoo/gmail are weeding out such stuff... btw google image search on 'image spam' turns out lot of eatable spam pics! ;)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

When will S&P hit 900?

Call me a permabear but I'm hoping to see S&P go below 900 or at least 1000 soon. I was one of those who got out way too early (around 1075, Aug 2004) and I've been waiting to get in. The cyclical bull started in March 2003 (800) and as per Bob Brinker the cyclical cycles last on average 1 to 3 years. But this bull seems to be going stronger and stronger and seems it will last over 3 years. I should've just stayed in the market..but after seeing much red since 2000, I was happy to see my numbers back in black and thought I shouldn't get greedy and got out in Aug 2004.

Considering the long time horizon, I should've stuck to the basics and stayed in equity. I am surprised at how S&P P/E continues to remain low (16) -- its all about outstanding growth in earnings. I guess the enormous cost savings and productivity boost (due to technology, world flattening) could be the basic driving force. Anyway its hard if not impossible to predict the future; I'm looking for an opportunity to get back into the market. And stay put for a really long time. It is not that nice a feeling to be out of the market and see it go up and up (was that 1263 recently?).

I was lucky to learn the bubble lessons just by watching CNBC in 2000.
That permanently pushed me into indices and never run behind individual stocks. The lesson didn't cost me financially; but this premature exit is costing me terms of lost time. I'm just wishing the end of this cyclical bull sooner than later so that I can just get in and not think about getting out.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Outsource my driving?

I am reading 'The world is flat' by Thomas L. Friedman and was surprised at how more and more work are being done remotely. There was this instance of McDonald's drive-ins using a remote call-center to take orders. The operator sits thousands of miles away in a different state and the customer doesn't even know that. They not only saw a reduction in operation cost, but also in error rates.

As we are seeing in the outsourcing boom, anything that can be digitized and
worked on remotely, will tend to get done that way. There was also a mention of hiring personal assistants in India for busy professionals in US. The Indian at Bangalore can be hired at a fraction of the US cost.

So here I was commuting back from work on Stevens Creek and there was bumper to bumper traffic. It is a 35mph stretch and doesn't demand the extra caution of a freeway driving. It is a tedious stop and go traffic and I felt wouldn't it be cool to just relax and allow someone to remotely drive my car?

There is enough technology today for someone to be sitting in, say Madras, and control my car here in California. The basics -- high quality video transmission, low latency wireless network connectivity are already available (I think a related buzzword is 'Telepresence'). There is lot of research on self driving cars -- using smart lanes and software to replace the human totally. What I'm thinking is why not just hire a pair of eyes for the time of the drive?

People may not feel the same level of safety as a physical chauffeur; after all an accident doesn't harm him physically. So at least in low risk driving environments (like low speed, less congested in-city driving), the approach seems to have some merit. And how about just having someone to watch over you on a long drive -- say to ensure you don't fall asleep. The aging population and people incapacitated (say DUI??) can hire the service.

There are also applications in other transportation areas -- trucking, railroads, even flights (I read recently the spy drones over Iraqi villages are in fact controlled and flown from Nevada, US -- in real time).

It would be fun to hire a driver just at the push of a button in your car. How about helping your friend in his long drive while you are sitting at your home and driving his car! Who knows we may see a 'push to drive' button sooner in future cars.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Just started...

I started this blog primarily to get a blog id so that I don't have to comment as Anonymous in replying to other blogger's post. Though I heard about blogging for a long while; I never cared to start one till now. Considering the ease with which one can create a blog (not to mention I don't have to shell out any money for it), I thought its time. In fact the last push was on seeing Priya's (my wife) blog ( I'm planning to scribble thoughts -- mostly my opinions on things.

Most of my views are extreme left to give you an idea. I'm primarily a left brain guy (a CT-Scan
during my high school days shocked doctors as I was missing the right half ;) ) and driven by logic.

Thanks for stopping by... I hope to put some of my thoughts in near future