Friday, December 19, 2008

Signed up Comcast Extreme/Ultra Cable Internet

I was upset because there is no FiOS in my apartment building. Today, I noticed Comcast offers an Extreme edition, which is quite comparable to FiOS: 50MB/s download + 20MB/s upload. Both with a whopping price of >$140/month. The good thing about Comcast is that you can scale up and down at any time. It's pro-rated. No need to wait for a month. Of course, FiOS claims that they are the true fiber optical all the way, it will be interesting to see how fast Comcast extreme edition is and if it's constant. Sorry, Sergey, will support verizon when they are here.

btw: Nickolay, who is in Moscow, told me that he only pays $50 for that speed in Moscow. It made me wondering a bit.

Shall receive the new modem soon.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

CrossBrowserTesting.com

I found a great site for testing cross browser testing. Naturally, it's called as the title of the post says. They give a 5 minutes free testing window and a super-duper sign up window. I tested the site we are working with various browsers. It seems IE is always the PITA.

Great site. Recommended.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Congrats to Dan

Congrats to Dan. Linda and Dan got a consulting gig for a community college out in the west. Mostly amazingly, they mostly used what they learn in System Arch, SD stuff to win the contract. I guess this concludes a little to this Sergey's post. This stuff can be useful in some situations. I'd still have to say, in some remote situation, such as the west ;).

It seems they can get busy in the next couple of months and most likely to September.

ESD.57 and Disruptive Tech

(started writing this on Monday)
Even though there is still one more class next week, today's like the last class for me for ESD.57 since my final presentation was today. Understandably, since I am into this Voice thing, my topic is Voice 2.0. Well, this is kind of late topic for this class. My original topic was Mobile Broadband and whether it can be disruptive technology to AT&T. As we went on, I realized that Mobile Broadband is not going to be disruptive technology for AT&T. Well, it can be disruptive to AT&T if it wasn't implemented well. It is not the Clay Christensen's definition of Disruptive Technology.

This is my understanding of Disruptive Technology: a technology that
1. serves a new market. This new market must have no interests to existing players, either because their existing customers have no interests
2. Or, serves an existing, and possibley low-end market, that the existing players have no interests. The reason can be : low margin,

The true meaning of be disrupotive, I believe, is serving a market that the existing players does not want to serve (new market), and even eager to get away (low-end).

For a new market, this can because the existing customers of existing players have no interests to the tech at that moment, such as the famous disk drive case. However, this does not mean the customers will be interested in the future after new use was proven to them.

For low-end market, this can be because the very low margin of the low end, such as the famous steel mill case. The very nature of low end focus will keep drive up and away of existing players from the upper and upper market.

Or, I would say a truely disruptive tech is something that disrupts existing players in an unprepared way. In the case of AT&T and Mobile Broadband, everyone knows that's the future of telco and AT&T knows what that means to them. It is paying huge attention to it, Mostly importantly, this is also a natural extension to the existing AT&T network. It is something they are eager to get into. Mobile Broadband is an incremental innovation.

Ok, let me go back to voice2.0. For the low end, I presented JitterBug and MOSH Mobile. JitterBug's focus on senior market, a market that is not AT&T's focus. The very high operating cost (US based live call center) is also not attractive to AT&T. For MASH Mobile, its ads-sponsored free mobile service is for sure not AT&T's interest. So, how will they disrupt AT&T? It can happen in a few different ways. JitterBug could take away the whole senior market. It can then move up the value chain and focus on middle-age market. The Live Human base call center can be attractive to the middle age as well. No more fighting against the phones or all the so-called smart features (which is not truely AI).

For the new market, I promoted the future focus of the content that is actually flowing through the voice channel. There are a few reasons that why it can happen now, such as speech recognition technology, storage cost, etc. In terms of market to explore, I suggested to look into the lead users. What are their pains and how they are solving it right now.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Final Presentation for ESD.36

Hooray, ESD.36 is over for me. We got our presentation just in time (eg, this morning 10:30). The term project is a bit challenging for me for many reasons. First, I am not in particular interested in manufacturing, even true for Aircraft manufacturing. Second, both my team members are distance. Thuy got a new job yesterday and Tarek is on Beirut. Last, the schedule was super tight. We started really working on the ppt just a couple of days ago. I wasn't even sure if we can get all the slides in time.

In the end, we delivered. I am so glad that ESD.36 is done.

In retrospect, it wasn't a bad class. I think I picked up some useful stuff, such as CPM, DSM and many other tools and methods. I doubt all of them will be useful, but I think it's worth to know those tools and, more importantly, terms.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

met with Shashi

ok, this is just some doodling from my chat with Shashi last night, but some very, very important advices:
1. get the first check, don't be shy to ask for it. If you are doing work for them, you deserve to ask for it. Focus on the market.
2. Try to get a deal with voip providers and work on those leads.
3. offer something for free and charge for premium.
4. You will need someone on board full-time to get any creditability.

Man, friend is always important.

major milestone soon

We finally done with the speech training with very acceptable result. More training and improvements are obviously on the way. Training is really time consuming, every iteration takes 3-4 weeks to finish. This is important and encouraging. We will have a demo-able system in the matters of days.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mobile Monday yesterday

I went to Mobile Monday with Roger and also bumped into Ken Liu. Chatted quite a bit with Palle from RealCME ( I knew him from peHUB before). One thing he said that I totally agree is that, when you are getting started, you better focus on making sure money, the money that is real and focus on the people who is willing to pay.

Nice to see AssuredLabour, a thing founded by David Reich and another sloanie Matt Albrecht. I am still trying to remember if David was my TA for the sales class;). It's a nice eBay trust model applied to labor market.

Also chatted with guys from Cadio. A start-up for tracking your movement and give you location contextual ads, such as coupons. They claim there is nothing needs to be installed to the phone.

Friday, November 14, 2008

peHUB yesterday

I went to peHUB with a few Harvard friends last night. It was way more than what I hoped. Bumped a few VC's that I know before and collected a few more cards. Chatted with Luke Burns on the thing we are doing. Also chatted with Caleb Clark from Wind Jammer. Seems some traction there. The only thing I wish? I wish I had a proper business card, not my crappy sdm cards;).

Oh, went to Bertucci's for ice cream after (they claimed I was drunk, not suitable for driving and need ice cream for clean out the alcohol). Yum, no complains.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Took the Tunnel...

Shamely, I took the tunnel from E40 to building 7. To my argument, it's getting cold in this November of Boston;).

I haven't taken the tunnel since March. It sure was a fun experience to see those nuclear signs again ;).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reading: "Who CEO's Succeed (and why they fail)"

An interesting article to read indeed. This is another angle to discuss organizational structure and the role of leaders. Summary highlights below:

1. Human brain ability limits the number of people human can possibly directly communicate at the same time. Academic studies show that "decision-making performance ... falls of rapidly as the group size grows beyond six", "human brain... cannot simultaneously retain and process more than about seven information chunks at once". Hence the optimal working group size is six or seven.
2. Skills from experience of working one size of group does not necessarily working with a different size of group.
3. A mid size group (10-30) is most naturally organized by consensus among all memebers, but also with a leader who facilitates the decision making process.
4. Large size group is dictatorship with clear leadership. However, the election of the leader is the channel of the voice for all group members.
5. A successful department manager does not necessarily make a good entrepreneur. Different skill set is needed. A good entrepreneur of small-mid size company not only do the real job, but also facilitates the decision-making of his/her board. He/she must be good at leading the board in the decision-making process.
6. In a large organization setting, manager's job is to make decision with his/her authorized power level and receive decision from upper level. He/she has less or no need to work with a board in the decision making process.

Hehe, this is also part of my ESD.34 homework.

Monday, November 3, 2008

An Interesting Customer Interview

I just finished a customer interview with Bijay Khadka, the manager of THE au Bon Pain right around the corner of Hayward and Main St.

It went unexpected;). I was researching for the telephony thing for the SMB sector. It turned out that it wasn't quite applicable to them. (They are not in the catering business and they only take a very small amount of order (<2%) through direct calls made to the phone of their store. Most phone orders for abp go to a call center which is managed by the upper company and then dispatched to the closest abp store which does catering). The interview ended up entrepreneurial and how to manage people.

A few key points to summarize:
1. If you want other people to do something, make sure you also do or follow it.
2. treat employee with respect. be friends.
3. treat the customer with respect and demand the employee to do the same.
4. hospitality is the key in running this competitive business.
5. manage people is most difficult problem.

Also interesting is that abp also has a sales/order projection system. It computes the projection of the stuff they will sell and reduce the waste of throwing them away.

Mr. Khadka is doing his MBA from some other b-school and he's being promoted to the business of another abp tomorrow. Congrats.

A new computer for the (SDM) cluster

I finally went out and bought a powerful computer for the speech training cluster. It's a 3.2Ghz/4GB RAM with a whopping 6MB L2 Cache. It sure will speed up the speech training process.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Beer, speech input and typing...

Forgot to mention the bet wtih Sergey during the beer last week. We had a bet what is faster for human to communicate information out: speak or type on the keyboard. I voted absolutely for speak. Sergey thought otherwise.

We had a test. For a roughly 120-words paragraph from the beloved "Innovator's Solution" book, it took 35 seconds for Sergey to read it all out. The typing? It was only half-way thru after 1 minute and 5 seconds.

Ok, this further proved my theory. It's much easier for human to use speech to communicate out. Well, this is well-known. Child starts to speak when they are 2 or 3 years old. They started to read/write around age of 5?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Customer Interviews Yesterday

I phone-interviewed three customers yesterday. It was fun. I totally botched on the first interview;), oops. It seems to be not a very good idea to just read the questionnaire. Everyone is different;). Changed strategy after first interview and I let the interviewee go anywhere they'd like to explore and I only slightly guide to them to where it's more relevant to our product.

It turned out to be really helpful. They not only welcomed our service but also suggested things to look for, ideal use cases (oops, is this too techie?) and potential other market segments. And, also the important features they think.

Such a fun learning process. 3 down, 20 more to go;). Hopefully, my marketing team can take on a few next week.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

the SDM Networking session

The SDM networking session turned out to be really good. Met a whole bunch of interesting people. As usual and as a great host, Yoav was there. It's always good to see Sam. Too bad that he's moving to Shanghai. I probably should set him up with all my friends in shanghai.

Finally, I met Ilana, who was one of the first SDM blogger (at least I think). Really fun, intelligent women. Oh, and really... beautiful. Ok, enough compliments. Ilana, this is my blog.

Liked the nerd-test and couldn't believe Ilana scored 94. Sam must have made it up. To run this in SDM08, I definitely vote for Jeremy, heck, who else.

Met a few SDM09 people too. Thomas, Mario, Dan. Welcome aboard.

Too bad I can't make it tomorrow.

Last thing, Helen actually did something useful today: She gave everyone the name tag, which turned out to be really useful.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Beer with Sergey and business idea

I had a quick beer with Sergey at muddy today and some really interesting talk. We actually worked out a really good business case for big firms for the start-up thing I am trying to pull here. Let's see if I can put it into reality.

Thanks, Sergey, you are the man!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Yet another funny google ads...

Google seems wasn't aware about the whole story about "Joe the plumber" that's really hot these days. In this story at nytimes.com, below is the google ads.

hey, it got plumbers all right, but it's not really about plumbing, ok?

Today's ESD.36

Today's ESD.36, aka System Project management, is quite... useful. Two points really worth noting:

1. risk management: as mentioned by Prof. de Weck, as you become more and more senior, your role will evolve towards more and more risk management, such as technology, organizational, etc. See the chart below.
2. In the BAE Denver International Airport case, one category of risk, the organizational risk, was really highlighted. In the case, the chief engineer unfortunately died after the project started. This was painted as one of the key reason for the project's failure. The key lesson, in my view, is: whenever you have a star performer, it should raise a red flag to the project manager. The resignation of the star performer could be a devastating strike to the project. I guess this is a dilemma. On one hand, you always want a star performer. On the other hand, you also want there is someone ready to substitute the star performer. As Prof de Weck pointed out to me after class, a redundancy system should be built into the system for star performer role. This, of course, can be really difficult with real systems. In the BAE case, the city can argue that, unlike other public works project, DIA is a one time deal project, so they didn't have an existing redundancy system. BAE, in theory, should have cautioned this to the city...


(Source: ESD.36 System Project Management, Prof. Olivier L. de Weck, 2008)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Disruptive Innovation

I have been reading Christensen's books (Innovator's dilemma and solution). Well, I should have read them in spring. I think it's required reading for tech strategy. Anyway, I am reading for technology based business innovation ESD.57. Awesome books. On the one hand, this book is written for the big executives. On the other hand, it's also a perfect book for start-up. The two key theme, low-end disruption and new market disruption, are very true. Of course, this is not 100% new. It is natural strategy for a start-up to go into a market where there is no competitor. However, the book systematically explains why big firms fall to recognize disruptive innovation.

Strongly, strongly recommended.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Laughable Google Ads

I got some laughable Google Ads in my gmail today. We are talking what to choose for the ESD.36. As suggested by Prof, our target is a project with the delays with A380 and B787. A lot of Boeing and Airbus surfaced in the email. Google then suggested a whole bunch of travel ads, such as Private Jet in 10 hours. However, I give some merits to google for recommending some pilot jobs with Singapore Air.

Here's the screenshot:

Monday, October 6, 2008

Gmail integration with Google Calendar...

Hmm, not sure when it came out, I noticed gmail's integration with google calendar. Hmm, something we wanted to do. See picture below.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Kicked off Speech Training...

It seems I have finally kicked off the speech training on the small SDM cluster. Too bad I cannot use those free athena machines. It appears the job can finish in a month.

Too bad the SDM cluster thing doesn't seem to quite catch on with the SDMers. I guess no one has the need. I really hoped the resource can be shared with the other SDM projects.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The 3-Year SDM Pact

Oh, we entered a 3 year pact with a bunch of SDMers a few weeks ago. The pact is to come back to MIT after 3 years and see... (there might be two versions) version 1. who travels more places; version 2: who is doing better... I'd more supportive of the 2nd one since I am in total disadvantage of traveling.

Look forward to fulfill the pact, guys.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Speech Train + Proxy Server and all

Oops, I accidentally enable proxy in my apache server (need a proxy so I can cache the fedora rpm files when building fedora livecd for speech train machines) and it was public on the internet on port 80. Well, you can image what happened. Loads of people use it;). My router constantly went down for unknown reason. I figured out the problem by disconnecting ethernet cable from the router one by one.

Surprisingly, most proxied request was not porn;). It's Ads. Almost 60% are ads. Briefly looked through the log file, most connections were from Russian and Japan. A few porn sites were logged there.

Darn, had to disable the proxy. Sorry, folks.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Speech Training and all

after 3 weeks og tweaterring around, I finally get 1500 hours of speech ready to feed into sphinx. My estimate for the training is 1 month (at least). no more athena help... Hmm, therotically, I can log into a few athena machines and use it in my cluster, but I'd have to stay in front of the machine all the time.

And, distribute on the internet wouldn't work, given the huge data size. oh, well, we shall see.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Job Hunt and all

Jobs, jobs, jobs...

I feel I just got in yesterday, but now it's time for jobs. What an experience. I do think I have done a lot though. Really enjoyed it here, but not sure the reasons. Maybe the people.

So many thing I have learned. The entrepreneurship thing, I am enjoying it. I wouldn't say the team is ideal, but hey, there is no such as ideal. Everyone is different and you have to work with what you got.

oh, I should also connect with my classmates more often, like actually go to the classes;). I also should balance study and work more. Oh, and job hunt.

Back to jobs, I am facing a little dilemma: if I go to those off-campus job hunt site, like monster.com, the jobs there are most likely immediate openings. The jobs available through campus career fair are mostly geared towards campus new-hire with no professional experience. Oh, well, I do have a few leads though.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Warning from Athena

darn, Athena admin obviously wasn't too happy of my recent athena activity. I received a wraning note from athena admin. or, whatever, I'll stick with my own cluster then. well, maybe I'll have short memory...

Benjamin,

Most recently our team received a report of configuration changes made to several hosts in the W20-575 Athena cluster on September 7 in the early morning. Your computing account was logged into console at the time these changes were made. Specifically, the TORQUE resource manager was installed and several workstations were reconfigured as compute nodes. The head node (hourglass.mit.edu) also appears to be a host belonging to you as well.

Reconfiguring Athena workstations is a serious violation of the Athena Rules of Use http://mit.edu/olh/Rules/), because it interferes with other people's access to these resources. Athena is a shared resource and should be equally available to all members of the Athena community.

All Athena account holders are responsible for the actions from their account, and repeated violations of the Rules can lead to account suspension and termination. We expect that you will reacquaint yourself with your responsibilities under the Rules and abide by them.

Regards,

Monday, August 25, 2008

Brass Rat is here

After 2 month of waiting, THE Brass Rat is finally here. It is ... visible;).

Ouch, I haven't updated my blog for almost two months now. What a busy summer. The venture idea is taking up a lot of time. Hopefully, I can have more free time soon.


Ben

Monday, June 30, 2008

Friday Accounting and Beer...

The only good thing this summer is that Linda from 07 organized the Beer thing after Friday accounting class. It's good to meet SDMer at muddy.

Love it and thanks Linda.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What have I been doing....

Oh, well, long time no post. Let me check what I have done:

1. trying to start our business (or thesis, however we want to call it) with Cynthia and the rest of the gang, a lot of coding in the 3 weeks break.

2. Summer session has officially started. Classes seem really hectic now. Homework piles on and I really want to get the coding part to a certain milestone.

3. doing a lot of reading and experiment with Automated Speech Recognition (ASR). Very interesting field. Right now, doing some model training with Sphinx. It is so much .... not-fun. Well, a lot of things need to be flushed out.

Something interesting in the process was that we (Cynthia and I) had a visit to Virage about 2 weeks ago. Their VP of research gave us some good demo about their product, eViTAP and other (blinkx is one of their product). Amazing speech recognition toolkit and machine translation capbility.

Other than these, I will remember to write more.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

GPS, Buffalo, Toronto and Montreal...

On my trip to TO this weekend, I brought my trustworthy Garmin GPS along. After got the cheap economic rental car from Buffalo airport around 6:30PM, I dutifully sticked the GPS to the car window and keyed in the destination in Toronto. It all seemed well. Arrival time was 7:11. Not too bad. Buffalo to TO is quite close anyway. So, I started driving. I thought I'd hit QEW in no time.

After on the road for quite while, the road was getting smaller and smaller and it was getting wilder and wilder outside. Anyhow, I thought, my GPS has never failed on me yet.

Then I started to remember the first drive I had with Jessica from TO to Niagara Falls 8 years ago. I remembered it so clearly: it was sometime around January 2001. Well, everyone knows January in Toronto: you get really really bored since there is nothing you can do outside. Anyhow, since I just got my driver's license a month ago, we figured it would be a nice practice run to rent a car and drive to Niagara Falls. So out we went. We rented a very small Nissan. I can assure you it was very small one, since I still remember driving the car was like flying in the windy January weather.

Anyway, I started to missed Jessica so much and I dug out my cell phone to tell her that how much I was missing her.

So we exchanged our love jokes. I randomly asked what time it was. She said 7:56. I said that was impossible, since my trustworthy GPS said I'd arrive TO by 7:11. I double-checked the GPS and the screen still says arrival time is 7:11. I realized something was not right. Either I fell into a worm hole or the GPS was wrong. Since the worm hole thingy hasn't been reliable available yet, I suspect the GPS was pulling a joke on me.

After fiddled the GPS for over 5 minutes, I found out what was wrong (yes, that's MIT efficiency;)): in the navigation setting, I checked to avoid "Toll Road", which is alright for local roads. However, from Buffalo to Toronto, the only route without needing to pay for toll was to take a huge trip to Montreal/Ottawa. So, instead of 1:30 hr normal drive, the GPS was asking me to take a 12 hr drive. So basically, the 7:11 meant 7:11AM tomorrow morning, not 7:11PM today.

Gosh, what a surprise. can the device get a little smarter? I really don't mind to pay a little toll to save 10 hours.

Oh, whatever, time well wasted...

The route Garmin suggested:

Friday, May 9, 2008

PDD Presentation and Trade Show

ok, spring is officially almost over. Oh, boy, time sure flies fast. Let me check what kind of damage I have done here at MIT: well, I passed all the classes (which I think is a good sign). I am also donating time to Cognika (which is actually quite interesting). Be the boss of my own is another thing I am working on (which my wife complains that I put too much time in this). Life sure is .... challenging and .... sure is fun.

PDD presentation is pretty fun. So many idea pops up. There are some really ones with right niche. Of course, how big the niche is is another problem.

Teams so far:
Bicycle tow rack designed for a motorcycle
GearBuddy: a bicycle gear cleaner
T2GO: a tea drink lover thingy
WiMOST: a wireless ads platform?
Workhorse: a DIY garage work platform.
Zimbler: Shopping Bag holder
EMA: Elevator Maintenance Assistant

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sales, Storytelling and more

There was a very good public speaker, Craig Valentine, on the Sloan Sales Conference this afternoon. As his topic says, "Masterful Story-Telling for Better Selling", he is truly a master of storytelling. The topic, story-telling instead of just facts, has appeared in so many text, but it is still amazing to see how powerful it is when a master performs it. Oh, I love the tips on eye contact: scan and stop.

I also liked this shorten: SOFTEN
Smile
Open
Forward
Territory
Eye contact
Node

Of course, he also shared his experience when he first started public speaking.

To a broader extent, story-telling is a powerful delivery method of visioning. The way I tend to do visioning is to paint the future picture. With a story, the msg can be delivered to the audience much more vividly.

Of course, the preparation would be the key. Characters -> Conflict -> Climax -> Conclusion -> Carry out -> Your msg.

MIT Sloan Sales Conf today

Sloan sales conference today. I missed the morning part, because of my negotiation class. However, the negotiation class was well worth it. Today is a 6-party negotiation. Extremely interesting negotiation. We got some very strong character on the negotiation table: Eric Loth, Sierra Calder Towers, Andriy Ignatov, Samia A Mahjub, Yifan Zhang and ???. Sierra was in the bad position to represent the ports side. If you met her, you'd know her that she is a very strong talker. So, she tried to block the deal in any way she can (good job, Sierra;)). However, I guess she gave her intention too early and the other parties knew that the ports side had to be excluded from this deal. Anyhow, very good negotiation case and we reached deal in the end. It was quite easy for me, since I have clear instruction about what's acceptable and, more importantly, the money and the veto power;).

Back to the Sales conf. I went there for the afternoon session with jab. I was a little disappointed since I more or less wanted to see more VC there. Anyhow, not too many there. Nevertheless, the entrepreneurship: how to close your first deal was good. I also liked the storytelling session. I will share a little more tonight.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Meetup with MyVox

There was a great gathering this evening at the Cambridge Brewing Co., sponsored by MyVox.com. As usual, Shashi was there. We got Kristian and me and Shashi on Cognika side. Nick, Richard and Don on MyVox side. Last but not least, great gal Theresa Rodrigues from BostonNightLife.tv. It was certainly a pleasure talking with Theresa. Really smart and extremely good-looking;). I strongly suggest you check out her website: BostonNightLife.tv. Great local content site to check out if going out in Boston.

In other news, I personally think MyVox might be able to do some business with their model, but I honestly think they need to give up more control to survive in the API model.

Talked quite a bit the local VC funding community with Richard, Shashi and Theresa. Very interesting information. Theresa suggested this entrepreneur pitching website: http://vator.tv/. Pretty nice site.

Soooooory,

oops, I realized that I haven't update my blog for almost a month now. Has been so busy recently. Let me check: I am working on 7 courses, work with Cognika, Life science consulting and trying to start business with our partner here. Oh, and the GM case competition. Oh, whatever.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

WebInnovator 17

There were some nice innovator and entrepreneurs gathering yesterday (April 2, 2007). As usual, I met Shashi there;). Some interesting company: stylepath.com, more or less pattern recognition. MobiRazzi, a mobile picture sharing community thing.

Monday, March 31, 2008

MIT Senseable City project

I came across this cool project from MIT: http://senseable.mit.edu/wikicity/

and here is a screenshot from the project:

Madonna Concert Rome

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Peruvian restaurant with my PDD team and firends

We had a very nice dinner at a local Peruvian restaurant, Machu Picchu Boston, on Friday. Really nice restaurant and live music too. Basically my PDD team were there and Cynthia also brought her boyfriend, Zhenya, Tracy and quite a few other friends. As usual, Ken showed up too. Not sure if anyone is hitting off with anyone though;). The live music was really good. It starts at 8PM every Friday. We got there 7:30, the place was practically empty;), but after that it was practically packed. I think they also perform at some other places.

Oh, it was also the first time I brought my wife and kids to any SDM related event. The kids basically slept on their mother's lap for 2 hours. Lessons learned: bring the gameboy next time. That will keep them awake;).

bye, bye, spring break

Oops, I haven't updated this blog for long time and spring break is almost over.

Anyhow, spring break was good. I was relaxing with family for the first few days, but then got really involved with Cognika b-plan. A lot market research at least. Boy, MIT has access to a lot resources. Anyway, Meet with Kristian and Shashi this afternoon. Hopefully, we have made some concrete progress, because, H2 will be extreme HECTIC;).

Let's see what I want in H2, tech strategy and system optimization. I also want to take on some sales, branding and leadership classes. Plus Cognika and GM competition. It would be so much fun;).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

SDM Night @ Boston Beer Works

We had quite bit turn out at the Boston Beer Works last Friday (even with the looming of ERBA quiz;)). A lot of fearless people showed up. Oh, we got 3 visiting German scholars there too. I talked a lot with Michael Steinbusch (Technische Universit├Ąt Dresden). A little bit of everything, such as how architecture building design show reflect company culture and encourage people to change (some extension topic from T. Allen's class). We also talked some other very deep history, such as WWII, German and US... We all got very drunk in the end. Ken was kindly enough to drive 6 of us home with his German-made VW.

Some pictures we have.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/playingbarefoot/sets/72157604142455382/show/

Good times!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Lou Gerstner at SDM

Yesterday, we SDMers were fortunate to have a private talk with Lou Gerstner, the legendary retired IBM CEO & Chairman. Lou talked about issues such as cultural changes, why M&A rarely work, etc.

Culture changes: as Lou said in his book "Who says elephant can't dance?", is a big issue with any big company. Successful company tends to get stagnant. This is a universal problem: Change is painful; People resist change. People refuse to learn new ways to do old things. After you know how to program in C/C++, it will take quite a while for you to learn Java. When a company is successful, it will take quite something for the company to learn new ways of making money. As Lou said, it's always easier to change when in crisis, such as IBM in 1993.

How to get a huge successful company to change is yet another story. How to break people from their old cycle? In 1992/3, IBM faced enormous revenue decline in its major product line, S/390, but IBMers were still dong things the old way, such as charging enormous amount money for mainframes. What I think was missing was the change agent. You need to wake people up. Make them to innovate, accept the competition and ask them to look at the things at different perspective. Lou Gerstner, as he described himself in the book, is the change agent needed for the national icon.

This also applies to Merger & Acquisition. Making two cultures into one is enormous.

The question I raised was about being an outsider and needed to push a big change, such as Lou to IBM in 1993, how to find people you can trust? This might be the toughest thing, as Lou answered, and might be the important thing. One needs to work with people, to find if people have passion about what they do and be truthful.

Ok, this is getting too much. I do have ERBA exam coming up:(. I'll just list other points I got:
  • people do things you inspect, not things you expect;
  • Leadership skills: doing things with people you asked to do. Give them support;
  • You must have passion at what you do. As Lou said, in his and Andy Grove's case, passion to winning.
BTW: He is actually a very easy to talk to person.

Monday, March 10, 2008

P2P Backup

An ex-worker of mine asked for a file from quite a while ago. After so many computers changes, I have obviously no clue where to that file. This made me think of backup software. A little skeptical with the existing paid services:
  1. well, no free, or not free and unlimited;
  2. actually, more important, how can I TRUST them with my files? especially those sensitive files? Even if they claim that they encrypt your files locally in your computer before upload, how can I trust them?
  3. What if they went out business?
Even if Google offers the so-called gDrive, #2 above still remains.

OK, here's my dream backup solution:
  1. P2P based.
    • First, people will say this is such a silly idea. If I were the receiving end, why would I backup other people's files? Well, look at this way, if you offer 10MB backup space, it will try to offer you 1000MB on the network for your backup. Why, look at how much free space we have in our computer? HardDrive is getting so cheap.
    • If enough nodes in this network and your files is spread across enough nodes, your data can be VERY secure (safe from computer crashes).
    • It's free.
  2. Strongly encrypts files locally before sharing into this P2P network.
  3. In terms of implementation, prefer to built upon existing P2P protocol. Bittorrent, maybe? Why reinvent wheel?
    • This is actually interesting in that there needs to be a standard P2P protocol. This protocol definitely prefers to be: robust, decentralized, efficient...
  4. It gotta to be open source. Otherwise, I strongly doubt anyone would install it.
  5. How to recover? If password based encryption, what if the user forgot the password? If PKI based, where to store the private key file? Remember, the HDD just crashed:). Maybe store the key file in your gmail;). Need more thinking on this.
Of course, the risks:
  1. how many people will sign up this P2P network? With MPAA/RIAA suing people randomly, people are worried about running P2P software.
  2. This can be especially troublesome if this runs on existing P2P protocol.
  3. How much space people will share?
Quick search from sf.net:
  1. http://sourceforge.net/projects/peer2peerbackup/
  2. http://sourceforge.net/projects/p2pbackupsmile/
OK, get back to ERBA.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Getting a hang of study life...

Darn, I haven't written anything in 2 weeks. I don't remember what I was doing, but was very busy though;).

I think I need find a few other classes (at least to listen in), since I don't think I am busy enough and I don't think I am super smart;). It's not always comforting when your classmates are working like hell and you are not.

Anyway, as for the courses I am taking, ERBA is a little bit time sucker, but I don't find it too hard though. PDD can be time consuming, but at least not yet. Sloan courses are what really interest me though. Well, it's the main reason for me to do this program.

So many things can be written, but I just don't remember them;).

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Business Plan for Cognika

A few of us from SDM08 had a little talk with Shashi, a SDM04, CSAIL Ph.d-to-be and founder of Cognika. Quite interesting product and I can see a huge market for this new application. We were asked to help them to draw up the marketing entry strategy, business plan and other analysis. Quite interesting. This can be a very good case for class 15.390. I should check if I can get a few fellows from class 15.390 to join us.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

First Day of Spring Term and decisions need to be made

Today is the first day of spring term. We had 15.980 and ESD.802. 15.980 was .... entertaining. Looking forward to a lot of fun with Pref. T. Allen. His theory of the impact of physical location to communication pattern is quite interesting. It's like something "oh, right, now he mentioned it. I also noticed before".

ESD.802, thesis seminar, was quite ... depressing. To me, it's not like I didn't know the urgency of looking for thesis topic and advisor. I guess I just don't like to be reminded again and again. Well, I have written a few topics I'd like to look into. The biggest question I have right now is: should I do a pure technical thesis, or management+technical one?

The same question to what I want to do here at MIT: should I focus on technical side, or on the management side? I had clear answer before I came to MIT: I want to move to management side. The problem I have right now is: darn, there are so many cool technologies out there in MIT and they really get on my engineer nerves;). I can get involved with so many cool tech groups and research activities. Do I have enough energy? Let me see what I was checking tonight:
  • Semantic Web: As mentioned before, I did a little this on Tech search paper for ESD.34. It's good that Shashi Kant sent his note to ask if anyone want to volunteer working with his start-up, which I replied with yes. Then I noticed his name in DIG website and then found his SDM thesis was actually about Semantic Web and its application. Very technical thesis. I definitely need to talk to him when we meet on Friday.
  • Looked around CSAIL to validate my little thinking regarding AI, or my little theory of how a machine can learn. Obviously, I need a little more academic reading there. Not sure if my theory can totally fit into machine learning.
  • After ESD.802, I talked to Pat regarding dual degree. The conclusion is that doing dual degree makes a lot of economic sense;). I only pay $3000 for each extra term. I probably can get into TPP easily. How about other department? How hard will it be, to get in and to finish? Do they fit into my interest areas, or what my interest area should be?
  • Meanwhile, I also want to work on business skills: negotiation, finance, marketing (I want to listen in the finance and marketing classes). Damn.
Well, I really have to think about it. Am I being engineer for too long;)?

Oh, we also went to the tech fair today. It was much better than the European career fair on Saturday. Quite a few summer intern opportunities available in technology management area. Then, in the afternoon, I realized that I cannot do off-campus intern. Oh, well, a least I got 2 free T-shirt and a backpack;).

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Sheakspeare Ensemble

Eli, Jill, John Kluza, Ken and I went to see Sheakspeare Ensemble last night. It was very good. This was a student acting group. Quite a few programs in there: Much ado abut nothing, Merry Wives of Windsor, Sure thing and The importance of being Earnest. I liked "Sure thing" the most. It was something like you can go back to re-do something until it's something you like. Here's the link to their group: http://mit.edu/ensemble/www/

Before we went to the show, we had dinner at Eli's place, small but comfy place. I was stupid to blindly trust google map. It sent me to the Elm street near Davis Sq, instead of the Elm street in cambridge. I ended up taking a taxi from Davis to Eli's place.

After the show, we went back to Eli's place and had some dessert. We then played some weird board game John brought. It's called Killer Bunny. It was actually quite fun. The game was about winning the carrots, but in the process of it, you need to keep your bunnies alive. The fun part is that you can trade your cards with other players by fair exchange, bribing, or in Eli's way, blackmailing;). It was fun. Oh, I also played Chinese Checker with Eli. I didn't know that he knows how to play. BTW: not surprisingly, I won the Chinese Checker;). Eli, Jill, thanks again for having us. I had fun.

ESD.34, Technology Research paper

Jeremy, Rob and I turned in the technology research paper for ESD.34 couple of days ago. I figure I should write something about it.

The main idea is to go to various MIT communities to look for emerging technologies. The deliverables are a memo to your boss and a detailed research paper on the technology selected. My topic was Semantic Web, aka Web 3.0. Jeremy was doing some version control stuff and Rob was doing something called MapJAX (in hope of his boss will hire him back to do the upgrades, nah, just kidding).

I had a chance to go to CSAIL and talked to the DIG gorup (they are not responsive by email;)), namely Eric and Lalana Kagel. I also had quite a bit of talks with Drew Volpe, director of technology development of Endeca and Karun Bakshi, a past MIT graduate who used Semantic Web in his research project. Thanks!


I am quite interested in joining some research projects in DIG and W3C. However, I am not sure if I can find the time though.

TechVenture on Jan 26.

I attended TechVenture on Jan 26. Nice event to meet some entrepreneurs and venture capitalists and listen to their stories. I talked to Anand about my RFID idea. Well, I still need to do a lot of research on this thing though.

I also had a chance to talk about Semantic Web with Drew Volpe, Director of Technology development of Endeca (I was doing my technology research paper on Semantic Web). It's good to know that some companies are starting to support Semantic Web.

IT outsourcing and India

I had lunch with Nitin and Nisheeth after the Europe career fair. We had a little talk about the outsourcing thing. It's interesting to know that the salary for an average (5+ yr) programmer in India is 50+ k USD/yr. This is quite high in my opinion. If this is really true, it will definitely will slow down the IT outsourcing trend. (note: the pay for an average programmer in China should be around 10k USD/yr).

This is somewhat related to the thesis topic I want to do, IT outsourcing and its trend. Oh, well, I still haven't decided yet. We'll see what will come up in the thesis seminar this Tuesday.

PDD and SmartBidder

Finally, I had a chance to talk to jab about this SmartBidder he was bragging;). Sounds very interesting. It would be more interesting to see the market research results from Jeff and Eric though. It's good to know that Rob is also on board too.


To be honest, I am a little worried about the market research results. Well, I am worried about any market research results for IT Web business;). Here's my point: IT/Web requires very little investment and therefore anyone can do it as long as he has a good idea. This business is basically a competition of idea creation. Given the number of people in the world, this is a very competitive business. Up until now, anything I can come up with is either done by some else, or too hard to do.

However, I am NOT pessimistic though. One thing I learned from Pref. Ralph Katz: Inventing is not the only way to be successful. Most of the times, it's about find new application for inventions. This is very true.

MIT Europe Career Fair and MIT China

Intended as preview for next year's job hunting, a bunch of SDMers (Nitin, Nisheeth, John Webb, Jeff) went to the Europe Career Fair today. I found this fair was not really targeted for us Sloanies/SDMers. Its main focus was some technical positions aimed for undergrads (entry level technical) or PhDs (senior level technicals). At this moment, my area of interests is still with technology management or general management positions (don't give up the hope;) ).


However, I did get a chance to talk to the MIT-Spain program. They have quite a bunch of internships available in Spain. This made me to look into MIT-China program. Not surprisingly, MIT-China can help you arrange internship in China too. I fired away an email to the director there. Hopefully, I can do a internship in Beijing or Shanghai in my area of interests (management). It would be very helpful to gain some experience of working for western company in China. Let's see how it will turn out.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Jan celebration

OK, Jan session is officially over (well, a few homework still left to be done). We went to John Harvard brew house near Harvard square. It turned to be pretty good. Almost everybody showed up and a few SDM07 folks. It's sad that the distance learning folks are leaving town though. Well, they will be famous though (since they'll be on TV:)).

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The SDM Dinner 2 weeks ago

Not sure if I wrote this down or not. About 2 weeks ago, we finally had a SDM dinner with a whole bunch alumni and 07 guys. I should write this down since this is sort of first SDM dinner with alums and 07 people. I didn't write this down because I didn't have this blog yet;). We had huge number of people showed up (+30) and Beacon Street Tarven was totally understaffed (for us at least). It's hard to collect the names now. Quite a few 08 and 07 people. Yoav was there. I finally got a chance to meet him. I read his blog intensively when I was deciding whether to take this program.

Yes, January is almost over

Ok, the suffer is almost over. Tomorrow is last day on the calendar for Jan session (with some leadership soft class;)).

Something good happened to me. Well, not that I met an angel or something;). It's the System Arch class today. After today's System Arch's class, the SDM program started to make some sense to me. Pref. Crawley explained in some quite detail about how SDM was designed, or in his word, architected. Quite interesting. Thanks, Mr. Crawley!

btw: I still don't quite agree with some core courses (supply chain, for example).

Looking back, DC1 and DC2 are totally ... and they didn't ...(hehe, really don't steal the spoil for any future SDMer;)). With that being said, I still have to say there is no way to prepare anyone ready for the boot-camp. Well, most of them are peer pressure and competition nature of DC1 and DC2. Anyhow, I think it's time well ..... spent. Please don't let it happen again;).


Since yesterday, I have been scambling to find what books are needed for spring. I will post after I have the whole list.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

DC2 is...

Finally, DC2 is done. The importance of DC2 is waiting to be seen though(only weighs 3.75% in the total system arch score). Oh, well, we had fun though. Honestly, I wasn't a believer at first. We only got TWO weeks to come up the solution for global warming or nutrition problem. After today's presentations, I actually felt some solutions (especially team 1's;)) might actually work if implemented. How long it will take is totally another question though:).

In other news, we had a kiss-good-bye beer event at the Characters. It turned to be nice. I finally got a chance to talk quite a few people, Paul, Kandarp, SY, Ken and Dennman, about their plans after January and after SDM. Well, maybe I talked these topic with them before, but one can have short memory, especially if he only sleeps 3 hours.

It's kind of sad though, since almost half of SDM08 cohort will have to leave and do their remote thing. Oh well, at least we can laugh at them picking their nose while video conferencing;).

Three more homeworks need to be finished this weekend. What kind of life we got!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

DC2, tech research and the beer event...

I went to sleep at around 4am this morning. The reason was that, as part of System Architecture class's tech research topic, I did a lot of reading on the Semantic Web group from MIT's CSAIL SIG group. I am really interested in their stuff because I did a lot of web stuff in the past. I sent a few emails to a research scientist and a past graduate student Harvey Jones there. It was very kind of Harvey to respond so quickly. I then shamelessly asked a few questions:). I think those can be very useful for the tech research paper.

In other news, DC2 is near (just one more day left) and we haven't 100% agreed on the skinny problem yet. Oh, well, tomorrow will be a very productive day (I mean, hopefully).

For no particular reason (again;-o), SDM organized a pizza dinner event at the Thirsty Ear. It turned out to be nice though. I had a few beers and chatted to Chad about his plan to become an Admiral. With the peace time and the brand name of MIT, I certainly think these navy folks have a lot of potential. I ended up having a long talk with Amy's husband, Brian, an LFM07 student. We talked about the rise of China's manufacturing sector and how we should take advantage of it. Apparently, LFM07 is doing a tour to China. Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai and ShengZheng. It would be very interesting to see how it will turn out.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Business Plan and tech research development

I did quite a bit of work with the business plan development in Dewey. The Business Plans Handbook is really handy. I am in charge of the financial section for the GROFP program of our PFF org. I believe I am almost done with that.

Another interesting development today is the tech research paper. I know my interests is in the software areas (or anything that can make $$ quick;)). I discovered MediaLab site (medialab.mit.edu) and Rob sent me the link for casil (http://www.csail.mit.edu/research/activities/activities.php). After some brief reading, I am quite interested in the Software Design group from casil and the software agent thing from MediaLab. I will have to spend quite a bit more time with them. Also, Jeremy mentioned that he may want to join the tech research group me and Rob formed. It would be interesting to see some OS level and version control aspect to our group.

oh, I also like the fact that the homeless guy is wondering around in Hayden. I really don't mind this guy (he's quiet) except the smell.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

drinks last night

A bunch of us headed to the Muddy last night for no particular reason;). Oh, let's just say a little celebration that stats class was FINALLY over. Good times. I had quite bit of talks with the navy folks, Matt, Doug and Chad. I had some major dispute with Amy over the so-called beer-pong. Such a lame college sport. I wouldn't mind playing it though;). As usual, Jorge and Antonio were there.

I headed home a little after midnight, crashed straight into bed after got home and woke up at 4am due to major stomach pain (aka hungry). Then I realized that we only had beer for dinner. What a night.

we are getting a hang with DC2...

I think we are making some good progress with DC2. We got the business plan going and we split up the tasks.

From the talks I got, people are starting to loosing up a bit. We are looking at this way: Jan portion of system arch only counts 25% of total grades. DC1 only counts 5% of the 25%=1.25%. DC2=15%*25%=3.75%. We almost killed ourselves during the last night of DC1. Is it really worth killing ourselves for the 3.75%? Hehe, Not sure if this is good though;).

I am also thinking of doing the TPP program Arun suggested. Well, it would be really interesting to me if I can get a a discount for doing SDM and TPP at the same time;).


I also did some brief reading on the 15.665. Really interesting course with a little game theory. I found a little course notes from Jia Lou (Thanks a bunch;)): http://web.mit.edu/jlou/Public/15.665/. Some skills I need to develop.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Let's start blogging...

Finally, I did it. I created this blog to document my journey here at the MIT SDM program. Oh, half of the January bootcamp session is over. Oh, darn, still 10+ sleepless nights to go. So many things needs to be done: Tech research paper, System arch homework, paper for human side, DC2, stats, resume... What can I say? January session is ABSOLUTELY CRAZY!

btw:
A few useful items I created here:
MIT school calendar on google:
My spring term courses on google:

later,
Ben