Sunday, June 9, 2013

My only advice to those who want to build a startup

My only advice to budding business bootstrappers: accept money only if you need to. Because VC and Angel funding is always a gamble. Also, don't get carried away with the startup rockstar complex. It doesn't last long. Eventually you will have to show you can bring money.

In the end even for startups it's all about bottomline. Start studying your business fundamentals or get someone who knows how. But do remember that you must build a business. Economic indicators will always be in your favor than being an employee.

Friday, May 24, 2013

LG Optimus G

I have been using the LG Optimus G for a week to replace an aging iPhone. So far the experience is great, Android has matured to a level that most, if not all IOS apps have an Android equivalent. Having the 4.7" screen is a plus factor, but the build quality of the Optimus G is incredible (compared to the Samsung Galaxy S3 or even S4). You can think of this phone as an enhanced version of the Nexus 4.

The 13MP camera is nothing to write home about, but its not so bad either. I haven't tested LTE since Smart is not yet opening that service to other postpaid subscribers (please do it soon). But the HSPA connection is solid. Call quality is top-notch, the speaker phone is loud.

Having 2GB of memory and 32GB of storage is more than enough for my needs. Coming from an iPhone, fixed storage + non-removable battery is not an issue at all.

Some retailers include a flip cover and a bumper - they are great bonuses but I opted to get an OtterBox Commuter for the phone. I think the extra price paid is worth it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Google for Graduate School Students

I started attending Graduate School last year, taking up MBA in Entrepreneurship at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. I always felt that I was education-inclined and have always wanted to pursue higher education since I was young. But surprisingly, it was only last year that I decided to take that goal seriously.

This is not my first time to take graduate studies. After I graduated in Economics in eons ago, I took an interest on computers and the Internet (imagine what the Internet was in the 90s) which triggered me to to pursue further studies and step up in aiming for an MS in Computer Science degree. Unfortunately, I had to work and eventually got married which caused that goal to a grinding halt. Graduate School is not just an endeavor but a discipline by itself and its so easy to go astray especially when you're already working and starting a family.

A lot of grad school work involves research and group work. In the MBA courses, students are expected to collaborate as much as possible - the final grade is usually a determinant of how good the collaboration went with the project. But expect a lot of people taking MBAs are not like you. In my case, I am usually one of the few who are technical in profession, where the Internet is part of daily work. So I did what I can to educate and train classmates from simple things like properly formatting a research paper, using search strings in a Google search and similar stuff.

It's no surprise that Google, a company that prides itself with academic excellence among its employees, provides graduate school students with tools and resources that can help. So far I've been using the following in my grad school journey:

  • Drive - its very useful for creating drafts that need to be reviewed and collaborated between group mates. It's good for simple document drafts, as schools usually provide Microsoft Office templates.
  • Scholar - a great search engine for scholarly literature. If you don't have access to Jstor, Ebsco, or a local database like CIPPA, Google Scholar is a great resource to use.
  • Alerts - quite useful if you need to reference fresh news on certain topics
  • Groups - You will need to collaborate with your school mates. Email would be the easiest but archiving your discussion in Groups will help a lot. But this can get very messy if your peers do not practice bottom posting or at least trimmed top posts.
  • Translate - I use this along with Scholar for machine translating materials in a different language. Sometimes accurate, but useful most of the time.
  • Research at Google - as I wrote earlier, Google is comprised of academics and make their publications available here. But most of them are technical papers geared towards engineers. But they have interesting papers on Economics and Education.
Research at Google is also Google's way of reaching out to students who wish to apply for grants awarded by the company or try and get employed by them. I must admit there was a time I tried to pursue employment at Google but that didn't prosper. Perhaps some other time through Research.

Note that all these tools are available for everyone to use. It just so happened that my use case is probably a little bit more serious than most. Hope this list helps!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

On PCOS and Automated Elections

I am no expert on the PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scan) machine and Automated Elections in general. But I know how to distinguish a technical issue on hardware and a knowledge issue on the part of the user, as well as a process issue with the overall project.

The mid-term elections we just had in the Philippines is supposed to be a continuing process improvement in the part of automated elections. But it seems certain groups and people want progress to be aligned with their own definition of the word along with the benefits and twist it in mainstream media.

In the case of the PCOS, its function is very simple by itself, but expecting all 77,000 units deployed on field to work perfectly is impossible. Like any piece of electronic equipment that comes out of the factory, there is always a failure threshold. So I wouldn't be surprised if 100-200 PCOS would fail on field as long as their failures are heterogenous. I am sure most of the failures are process related or a  component blew off. If the failures are the one and the same, then we could safely assume there is a product defect.

A potential failure can also mean the operators didn't understand well how to troubleshoot the device. If so, this is a problem of training and not the hardware itself. If so, this is COMELEC and the technology partner's fault.

Then there is also the issue of delayed transmissions of results to the central servers of the COMELEC. If the PCOS had a faulty modem, then its the hardware's fault. If the connection signal is weak (coming from a telco), then why would it be the PCOS' fault? I know for a fact that the telcos have worked with COMELEC for months in preparation, lots of people were allocated to the project to ensure that things work out smoothly. Unfortunately, things happen, but it doesn't mean the project managers involved have no idea what to do next.

And lastly the process. I read and saw a lot of people and parties complained of long lines. I myself waited for half an hour under the blazing sun to vote in my hometown. But when I got my turn to vote, I saw the PCOS functioning properly - the problem was with the precinct venue (it was a single classroom for 4 clusters) and the time it took for voters to finish their ballots. Feeding the ballot to the PCOS takes less than 5 seconds. I finished shading my ballot in less than 5 minutes because I already have my list (and it also helped that I didn't even try to complete the number of needed votes). I noticed the other voters still thinking who to vote.

I am not defending the PCOS or the current process of elections. There sure are a lot of things to be improved. One thing for sure we shouldn't use the same PCOS again for the 2016 elections. But if have to, then we have to optimize the process - not just on the use of the PCOS, canvassing, etc., but on the actual voting process.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Office 365 Home Premium

I'm currently evaluating Office 365 Home Premium, Microsoft's newest subscription-based service that provides on-demand use of the Microsoft Office Platform. Like most people, I have a continuous love-hate relationship with Microsoft Office - its one of those key software that you can't live without because everyone else in your circle (professional or personal) uses it one way or another.

But with the introduction of free, SaaS-based alternatives (like Google Drive and Zoho), the needs for an office suite have been simplified (just need basic formatting or cell based computations, and the like), not to mention how bloated Microsoft Office has become through its various iterations. In my case, after moving full time to a Mac in '07, the only Office app that seems relevant to my needs is Excel. But since my daughter and I are in school (she in Grade School while I in Graduate School), the need to use Microsoft Office came back (and I don't need to use it for commercial use).

So that put me in a pinch - I needed to get Office but didn't want to pay for a perpetual license (its really expensive). So when Office 365 came out, I looked at how much it would cost me and it seemed reasonable enough to try it out.

Office 365 Home Premium costs P350/month or P3,500/year. It's up to you if you want to pay monthly or pay the full year - you can do this online. You can also avail the first month of use for free but you need to put in your credit card credentials. 

For the subscription cost, it seems reasonable - you get all Office 365 applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, Publisher and OneNote) that can be installed in 5 computers (be it a PC or Mac). Plus you get additional SkyDrive online storage (20GB) and 60 minutes worth of Skype international calls every month. I think the bonus Skype minutes here made the difference. I always make a lot of international calls and since the minutes can be used to a fair number of countries, this subscription seems to be a good deal. Since Office 365 is a subscription that means all future versions of Office 365 will be included as long as your subscription is active.

But the Office 365 deal becomes sweeter if you're involved in Higher Education (be it as a student, faculty, school staff, etc.). Microsoft offers Office 365 University - its packaged the same as Home Premium except its only for 2 computers - but will only cost you $80 for a 4-year subscription. So that's only $20/year. But your school should be accredited by Microsoft. I'm keen on moving to Office 365 University because that seems to be most ideal package for me at the moment.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Dell Inspiron 3420

Dell has a current Facebook promo for their Inspiron 3420, from P25,990 in retail to just P18,910 till May 10, 2013. If you're using Facebook Mobile, you might see it as a suggested post. I availed of the laptop today, its not bad for the price (Intel Core i3, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD). 

The laptop is probably entry-level to mid-range depending on your need. The unit has Ubuntu 12.04 LTS installed by default (that means its certified), but Dell also gives a Windows 8 installer and a bag.

For the price and specs, I'm quite happy with this purchase. I think you can only get them from the Dell Concept Stores. AFAIK, they're only at Megamall (where I got mine), SM North EDSA and Cebu.