Books I Like

Saturday, August 29, 2009

How spirituality awakens in a human being

How spirituality awakens in a human being: "

Spirituality is like the water hidden in the depth of the earth: hidden in the heart of man, this water which is spirituality must be, so to speak, dug out. This digging is done when one takes pains in awakening ones sympathy towards others, in harmonizing with others and in understanding others. -says my beloved Sufi saint Hazrat Inayath Khan (1882-1927).

I find it a beautiful explanation of how the spirituality is generally born in a human being. The next step is when one starts seeking the Spirit everywhere – in oneself, in others, in nature. One starts seeking for the very depth, for the very essence and beauty of everything and… one day finds it!

LOVE; axinia

(image by me)

Posted in Evolutionary Learning, how to, India, meditation, philosophy, psychology, spirituality, thoughts Tagged: beautiful, God, Hazrat Inayath Khan, heart, interesting, meditation, peace, philosophy, psychology, spirituality, Sufism, thoughts

Episode 173: Screen Scraping with ScrAPI

Episode 173: Screen Scraping with ScrAPI: "Screen scraping is not pretty, but sometimes it's your only option to extract content from an external site. In this episode I show you how to fetch product prices using ScrAPI."

Amazon, Open Your eBooks or Watch Out

Amazon, Open Your eBooks or Watch Out: "

sony_reader_wireless_logo.jpgHardly a day went by this week without a major new announcement in the eBook and eReader arena. The wireless eReaders from Sony and the Irex/Barnes & Noble partnership were probably some of the most interesting announcements. In addition, Google also opened up its EPUB archive, which will give readers easy access to over 1 million free public-domain books for their eReaders. The only company that didn't have anything to announce this week was Amazon, which is now in danger of losing its early lead to Sony and Barnes & Noble.


Before this week, Amazon's Kindle still had one major advantage: wireless syncing. Now that both Sony and Barnes & Noble will offer the same functionality before the holiday season, the eBook market is once again completely open.

Everybody Now Offers Wireless Syncing

While wireless syncing and book delivery may not be that important to every potential eReader user, it did give Amazon a major leg up in marketing its Kindle and Kindle DX. In a month or two, this advantage will be gone. Amazon's competitors also offer more stylish devices, and some of the upcoming new eReaders will also offer touch screens - another feature that Amazon's Kindle doesn't currently offer.

EBook Price is Now the Same Everywhere, But Sony Supports Downloads From Local Library

In terms of pricing, Sony will soon offer an eReader for $199, which will put a lot of pressure on Amazon - though Sony's cheapest device will not offer wireless capabilities. As for books, prices everywhere are converging around a reasonable $9.99, the price Amazon pioneered as the default price for bestsellers in its Kindle store.

What's even more exciting is that eReader users will soon be able to borrow eBooks from their local libraries. Sony just announced a partnership with OverDrive, which supplies eBook technology to over 9,000 libraries. Amazon doesn't offer a similar program (yet).

Amazon's Problem: The Kindle is Closed

What's giving Amazon's competitors a major advantage right now is that their devices are far more open than the Kindle. As Slate's Farhad Manjoo points out, Sony and company could still be far more open and do away with all copyright restrictions. But at least you will be able to move your books to different devices, even though Sony still uses the standard EPUB format with a DRM wrapper, for example. Amazon's proprietary format, on the other hand, doesn't allow you to move your Kindle eBook to your new Sony Reader, for example.

For now, most publishers are still weary about releasing books without copyright. We can only assume that the book publishing industry will go through a similar cycle as the music industry, however, and that DRMed eBooks will also go the way of DRMed MP3s.

The eBook market is still young. For now, Amazon's only other advantage over its competitors is that it currently has a lot of momentum among early adopters. But, as Forrester Research's Sarah Rotman Epps argued in a recent report, as eBooks move into the mainstream, late adopters may not feel the same loyalty towards Amazon that early adopters had.

Of course, Amazon could still come out with a new eReader and a more open strategy. But for now, it doesn't look like Amazon is planning to change its strategy anytime soon, and we haven't heard any news (or even rumors) of a new Kindle for quite a while. If Amazon doesn't watch out, it could soon be left behind, because other eBook vendors and hardware manufacturers offer a more open and attractive platform for publishers and users.



Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Truth: What’s Really Going On With Apple, Google, AT&T And The FCC

The Truth: What’s Really Going On With Apple, Google, AT&T And The FCC: "

Apple has responded to the FCC’s request for information around its rejection of various Google and third party iPhone applications for the iPhone.

In short, Apple denies that they rejected the Google Voice application, but they go into great detail about how the Google Voice application hurts “the iPhone’s distinctive user experience.” All of those statements are either untrue, or misleading, or both.

The first part of Apple’s argument, that they never rejected the application, is “a total lie,” according to many sources with knowledge of the Google Voice application process.

The second part of Apple’s argument, that the Google Voice application hurts the iPhone’s distinctive user experience, is seriously misleading. I know this because I’ve become intimately familiar with the Google Voice service and applications over the last few months. See here, here, here and here, for example. I haven’t used the Google Voice app for the iPhone specifically, because it never launched. But I have been briefed by the Google team on two separate occasions on how the app would work over the last couple of months. Also, I’ve demo’d the Blackberry version of the app, and now use the Android version of the app.

Here’s the key language from Apple’s letter, with my comments:

Apple: “Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it.”

Reality: One third party Google Voice app developer disclosed to us in July that Apple SVP Phil Schiller told them that Google’s own app would be or already was rejected. Google also confirmed this to us later. There is overwhelming evidence that Apple did in fact reject the application.

Apple: “The application has not been approved because, as submitted for review, it appears to alter the iPhone’s distinctive user experience by replacing the iPhone’s core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface with its own user interface for telephone calls, text messaging and voicemail. Apple spent a lot of time and effort developing this distinct and innovative way to seamlessly deliver core functionality of the iPhone.”

Reality: This strongly suggests that the Google Voice app replaces much of the core Apple iPhone OS function. This certainly isn’t accurate, and we believe the statement is misleading. More details below, but in general the iPhone app is a very light touch and doesn’t interfere with any native iPhone apps at all.

Apple: “For example, on an iPhone, the “Phone” icon that is always shown at the bottom of the Home Screen launches Apple’s mobile telephone application, providing access to Favorites, Recents, Contacts, a Keypad, and Visual Voicemail. The Google Voice application replaces Apple’s Visual Voicemail by routing calls through a separate Google Voice telephone number that stores any voicemail, preventing voicemail from being stored on the iPhone, i.e., disabling Apple’s Visual Voicemail.”

Reality: Not true and misleading. The Google Voice application has its own voicemail function, which also transcribes messages. But it only works for incoming Google Voice calls, not calls to the iPhone. The Google Voice app in no way “replaces” Apple’s voicemail function.

Apple: “Similarly, SMS text messages are managed through the Google hub—replacing the iPhone’s text messaging feature.”

Reality: Not true and misleading. The Google Voice app doesn’t replace or in any way interfere wtih the iPhone’s text messaging feature. If someone sends a text message to your Google Voice number, the Google Voice app shows it. If it is sent directly to the iPhone phone number, nothing is different.

Apple: “In addition, the iPhone user’s entire Contacts database is transferred to Google’s servers, and we have yet to obtain any assurances from Google that this data will only be used in appropriate ways. These factors present several new issues and questions to us that we are still pondering at this time.”

Reality: Complete fabrication, way beyond misleading. The Google Voice app can access the iPhone’s contacts database, like thousands of other iPhone apps. But the Google Voice app never syncs the contacts database to their own servers. There is no option for users to do this. However, Apple offers the ability to sync iPhone contacts with Google via iTunes. So not only is Apple’s statement untrue, but they also provide this exact feature themselves via their own service.

So how did Google answer the same question in their own separate letter to the FCC, also made publicly available today? We don’t know, because Google requested that the answer be redacted. But my guess is that the answer, which the FCC has and can compare to Apple’s response, tells a significantly different (approximately the exact opposite) story:

Our sources at Google tell us in no uncertain terms that Apple rejected the application. And we have an independent third party app developer who tells us that an Apple Exec also told them back in July that the Google Voice Application was rejected.

In other words, there is strong evidence that Apple is, well, lying.

Which also is the easiest was to explain Apple’s long rambling letter to the FCC. Why go into so much detail about the problems with the Google Voice application, and then say that it was never rejected? If the app does actually replace all of those core apple phone, contact and SMS features, why not reject it out of hand? I don’t believe anyone would say Apple made the wrong decision if that laundry list of nonsense had any truth to it (we have an answer to that, below).

Multiple sources at Google tell us that in informal discussions with Apple over the last few months Apple expressed dismay at the number of core iPhone apps that are powered by Google. Search, maps, YouTube, and other key popular apps are powered by Google. Other than the browser, Apple has little else to call its own other than the core phone, contacts and calendar features. The Google Voice App takes things one step further, by giving users an incentive to abandon their iPhone phone number and use their Google Voice phone number instead (transcription of voicemails is reason enough alone). Apple was afraid, say our sources, that Google was gaining too much power on the iPhone, and that’s why they rejected the application.

Apple seemed to be fine telling Google and others that the real reason they wouldn’t accept the Google Voice app on the iPhone was a fear of being turned into little more than a hardware manufacturer over time as users spent more and more time on Google Voice and less time on the competing native iPhone apps. Or simply letting people believe that AT&T was behind the rejection. Until the FCC got involved, that is. Then Apple denied the rejections and directed the FCCs attention to misleading or simply untrue factual statements about the App.

Of course, now both Google and AT&T are required to tell their side of the story to the FCC, too. And those stories aren’t adding up.

What Happens Next?

Here’s what we believe Apple is preparing to do next. Their statement that they haven’t rejected the app, along with the long laundry list of complaints (none of which are true) tells us that they’re backtracking, and fast. Sometime soon, we guess, Apple will simply accept the Google Voice application. They have to - any serious investigation into the app by the FCC will show that the complaints around the app are unfounded and that it does none of the things Apple accuses it of doing. So Apple will save face by simply asking Google to ensure that the App doesn’t take over native phone, sms and other functions, and doesn’t sync the contacts to Google’s servers. Google will comply (they already have), and Apple will graciously accept the application.

But we’ll all know exactly where Apple stands - jealously guarding control of their users and trying to block Google and other third party developers at every turn from getting their superior applications in front those users.

This isn’t about protecting users, it’s about controlling them. And that’s not what Apple should be about. Put the users first, Steve, and don’t lie to us. We’re not that dumb.

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