I am not a graphic designer and do not have the dedication required to learn complex graphic applications like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. However, I do have an artistic itch. Hence when my wife endeavored to set up a business partnership for a corporate psychological training service firm, I endeavored to design their logo. It was a perfect opportunity for me to scour the graphic design application landscape on Windows for amateurs like me (or like myself?).
Paint.net is sometimes positioned as a free and better replacement to built-in Windows Paintbrush, but it is really something like Photoshop Lite. Packed in a tiny 1.6 MB package, this is truly great software considering that it is completely freeware. Check the screenshots here for a sample of what it can do.
Using its support for layers, unlimited undo, some special effects, and some great tutorials in their forum, this is what I came up with:
I know it’s not that good-looking, but hey, I’m an amateur!
Professional designers will tell you that logos should be designed as vector graphics, not as raster images like with Paint.net. This is so that they can be easily manipulated and scaled to suit different applications like web, print, etc. Adobe Illustrator and Coreldraw for example, are vector graphic imaging software. So how do you start without spending a penny on such expensive software?
Inkscape is a great open-source vector graphics application that was originally designed for Linux, but now runs on Windows too. Most of the digital graphics you see on Wikipedia are designed in Inkscape by volunteers. It takes some time getting used to working with vector graphics – for example, there is no ‘Eraser’ tool to quickly obliterate your mistakes and tweak your pixels, because there are no pixels here, only lines and curves – but it’s not difficult at all.
I also decided to get a bit creative on the logo concept. U Turn’s services all have their base in psychology. Now, the Greek letter Psi (Y) is the symbol of everything ‘psy’ – psychology, psychiatry, etc. So I wondered if I could make up Psi using U and T of U Turn:
So above are examples of some of the designs I’m proposing to the entrepreneurs. Would love to hear your feedback and suggestions as well.
If you do not want to install or learn any software, but are simply looking for a quick and dirty way to come up with some text-based logos primarily for use on the web, the following sites may interest you:
Note that logo design is a profound and complex subject. I have only focused on easy to use logo creation tools here. The design concepts, art, philosophy, and marketing strategy behind logo design is a fascinating topic by itself, and is out of bounds for this post.
Very few people I know blog about death. It is not a pleasant subject, and essentially, one reads blogs to be happy. But let’s face it, death is very real. Though cyberspace was once known as the virtual world, it is becoming increasingly real, and the overlap between online and offline is getting increasingly complex.
As bloggers, gamers, sellers, artists, online community participants – we are increasingly living very real online roles. We have our own avatars. Our own bookshelves. Our Facebook personae. Our LinkedIn profiles.
So what happens when we die? Death is sudden and unexpected for most people. What happens to their blogger friends? How do their Facebook or Orkut friends know? What about items they have put up on sale on eBay? What if they’re part of an open-source development community and are actively contributing to projects?
Don’t take this lightly. Sudden disappearance in the virtual world can cause a great deal of concern and have a wider impact than one may suspect. Our social world and legal systems take care of the eventualities in our offline life, but what about our online life when we really go offline? Who are the legal heirs of the copyrights to our creative digital content that we so meticulously safeguard?
CNET’s Technically Incorrect blog post inspired this post. It describes two website services that send out emails you’ve composed after you die. Deathswitch has a free account option with one recipient and no attachments. With a tagline of “Bridging Mortality”, it encourages you not to take your secrets to the grave. SlightlyMorbid does not have a free account, but has a “Free Trial”.
Startup Concept – WebGraveyard
- My GraveSpace – automatically imported social networking profiles like Facebook and MySpace
- My Memoirs – a diary of your blogs on Blogger/Wordpress
- My Graveiti – comments on your blog and by visitors to your eGrave
- My YouTomb – the videos you’ve uploaded to YouTube
- My Gallery – automatically imports your Picasa web albums, Flickr photos, etc.
- My GraveRoll – links to eGraves of your friends
- My Graveatar – automatically imported Gravatar
- GrMail – automated email reminders of significant events in your lifetime like anniversaries
- Users can import your birthdays and anniversaries into their Google Calendar or Outlook
- High-resolution gallery of Tombstones
- Templates for great Epitaphs
- Users can drag and drop flowers on your eGrave from an abundant gallery of beautiful arrangements
- GPod – automatically import and create a replica of your iPod
- Your favorite last.fm playlist plays in the background when visiting your eGrave
Any takers for funding this startup? Any more ideas how it can be made more ‘user-friendly and productive’?
For fun, I decided to add my restaurant in Google Maps. I found out there were two things I could do – add it as a Local Business via Google Maps, or use Google Mapmaker.
Adding Local Business to Google Maps
After logging in to my Google Account, Google Maps let me add a business listing from the left sidebar itself.
I could correct the location marker position easily by dragging it on the map. After entering all the relevant details like contact information, restaurant details, etc., I am done. Now comes the funny part – how does Google verify that I am indeed the owner of this business?
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that Google – the symbol of our high-tech age, the epitome of cloud computing – will send me a postcard via snail mail! I get a radio button (option button) but there’s no other way to choose. Can’t they verify simply by calling up on the telephone numbers I’ve provided?!
So now, I’ve to wait for “2-3 weeks”, and after receiving the PIN via snail mail, I get to verify and add my listing. I remember the last time I had to register for Internet Banking after opening a bank account in India!
Curiously, there’s a nice little feature that’s not prominent while using the Local Business Center site – Coupons! Coupons are not as popular in India as in the US, but because of the booming IT sector and entry of multinational (read American) pizza-majors, they’re gaining widespread even if limited use. Using Google’s Coupons, you can add a few lines of text, set an expiration date, and you’re good to go. Neat stuff.
Adding to Google Mapmaker
Adding to Google Mapmaker is simpler. Google Mapmaker seems to have a Wikipedian content authoring and moderating system.
After adding all the details, I now await for the moderator to approve my entry. Phew, no snail mail this time!
Now, I wonder if there is anything like Google Analytics to find out how many ‘hits’ my restaurant had on Google Maps – that would really be an interesting proposition…
For a very long time, my post on Amul: Longest running ad campaign in the world? is one of the most favorite search engine hits. I do not know why net searchers are fascinated with Amul’s ads rather than the usual utterly salacious searches with a dose of butterly. I do not know if it has anything to do with the Amul Star Voice of India reality show currently on Indian television.
Amul: India’s No. 1 Brand
Thanks to Trak.in, I was alerted to this interesting news: Amul is India’s No. 1 brand, followed by Life Corporation of India (LIC), and Nokia.
Leading media, advertising and marketing publication Media magazine, together with regional brand consultancy Asian Integrated Media Limited and global market research company Synovate, has released the 2007 results from the annual Asia’s Top 1000 Brands survey.
About the Survey: Nine markets were included in this fourth round of the survey – China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, India and Indonesia. Synovate interviewed people aged 15-64 years old, with sample sizes per market of 500, apart from China and India, where the sample was 750 across three and four top-tier cities respectively.
Asia’s Top 10 Brands for 2007
You can see the Top 100 Asia brands and the top 3 in each market (country) here (PDF).
Word of Mouth Advertising
A Nielsen Global Survey shows that word-of-mouth advertising is still the most powerful in the world. Conducted twice-a-year among 26,486 Internet users in 47 markets from Europe, Asia Pacific, the Americas and the Middle East, Nielsen surveyed consumers on their attitudes toward thirteen types of advertising – from conventional newspaper and television ads to branded web sites and consumer-generated content.
87 percent of Internet accessing Indians still trust recommendations from others over any other kind of advertising, making word-of-mouth advertising the most powerful tool in the industry today. Let’s take a look at the interesting Indian results:
|Form of Advertising Trusted||%|
|Recommendations from Consumers||87|
|Consumer opinions posted online||73|
|Email I signed up for||58|
|Search Engine Ads||41|
|Ads before movies||41|
|Online banner ads||38|
|Text ads on mobiles||24|
This is amazing – online opinions (on blogs, social networking sites, etc.) are trusted higher than TV advertisements! And what about those ads before (and during) movies? Can this persuade the sponsors to reduce those TV ad break intervals down to zero?
Imagine you buy a car that comes with a 2 year warranty on defective parts and 3 free servicing trips. But what if those were valid only if you filled fuel from a specified provider – say Indian Oil or Shell? Or you buy a DVD player or home theater that can only play movies produced by Universal? Sounds ridiculous, right?
I’ve always been surprised how Apple gets away with its restrictive policies while Microsoft gets dragged into court over anti-trust laws for anything and everything. Until recently, you couldn’t run Windows on a Mac, while you could always run even Linux on a PC. You could choose whether you wanted an Intel or AMD processor to power your PC, but no such choice with the Mac, until recently. iPod doesn’t work with anything except iTunes. And the iPhone doesn’t work with any cellular service provider except AT&T.
It was one thing with computers, but another with cell phones. The cell phone market is much, much bigger. How long will this restrictive practice of binding you to a specific service provider work? The reasons why Apple did it are clear. Apple gets a monthly revenue cut from AT&T for each iPhone user. Though some say that there are alleged benefits to this restrictive policy, it just doesn’t cut it for me. After all, these revenues are not comparable to what Apple gets from the actual sale of iPhones.
Well, the inevitable has already happened. The iPhone is now unlocked. What this means is that anyone anywhere in the world can buy an iPhone in the US (or get their friends to buy it for them) and use it in their country. Yes, so you can now use the iPhone in India. Read the original Engadget news here. The second image below shows the iPhone working with the T-Mobile service provider in the US.
Is it illegal in the US to unlock your iPhone? Engadget says no, as long as you’re doing it for your personal benefit, and and agree to forego your warranty and Apple support. Predictably, the second team developing such an unlocking software has already received threatening calls from AT&T’s legal team. Being one of the worst service providers in the US in terms of quality, they need to get their act together quickly!
How will the iPhone be marketed outside the US? How can Apple force consumers in Europe and fastest growing cellular phone markets like India to select Apple’s choice of service provider? I just don’t think it’s possible. And if that’s true, can Apple have different marketing strategies for the US and outside the US?Can the iPhone withstand competition if an equally sophisticated telephone were to offer users their choice of providers?
The Business Standard has just broken a story that has made headlines all over cyberspace. It says the Google Phone, or GPhone, is just two weeks away from an international launch:
Talks are believed to be taking place with Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Essar, respectively India’s first and third largest mobile telephony operators, and state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam.
Sources close to the development said a simultaneous launch across the US and Europe is expected, and announcements would be sent to media firms in India and other parts of the world. US regulatory approval, which is expected soon, is the only hurdle that Google is waiting to cross, they added. Google plans to invest $7-8 billion for its global telephony foray.
TechCrunch gives a nice summary of the history of the GPhone rumors and says that a 3G GPhone worldwide release can be a strong competitor to the iPhone. Also see this ComputerWorld article that quotes the Wall Street Journal. If you’re skeptic about whether Google will indeed foray into consumer electronics, or simply want to know how studying a company’s job listings is being used for competitive analysis, I’d highly recommend this Forbes article.
So, will the GPhone kill the iPhone? I believe it can, provided Google comes up with something comparable to the iPhone. And just like Apple eased its restrictive policies with other products, I think it will soon have to warm up to the competition in this case.
Photo Credits: CNET, Engadget.
Here’s some interesting news stories from the past few days.
It’s not 42, like Douglas Adams thought it would be. It’s 26. BBC reports that research has proved that a Rubik’s cube can be returned to its original state in no more than 26 moves. A supercomputer took 63 hours to crank out the proof which goes one better than the previous best solution.
The study brings scientists one step closer to finding the so-called “God’s Number” which is the minimum number of moves needed to solve any disordered Rubik’s cube.
It is so named because God would only need the smallest number of moves to solve a cube. Theoretical work suggests that God’s Number is in the “low 20s”.
Did you know that the world record for solving the Rubik cube was 11.13 seconds? And if you’re interested in this kind of stuff, do you know that the game of checkers is solved? I mean really, solved?
An Ohio man charged with statutory rape says he thought a 13-year-old girl was actually 18. He tried to bring in evidence of her MySpace.com page, which falsely said she was. The appeals court rejected the evidence, and convicted him.
On a lighter note, there were many centuries during which mankind used to keep time using the Sun. Now, Sun was itself 5 days late.
Just like every major candidate for the White House has a health care plan, every major technology company has one, reports the New York Times:
The Google and Microsoft initiatives would give much more control to individuals, a trend many health experts see as inevitable. “Patients will ultimately be the stewards of their own information,” said John D. Halamka, a doctor and the chief information officer of the Harvard Medical School.
More importantly, every major Search Engine is capitulating on the healthcare scenario: Ask.com is offering ‘smart answers’, Google is coming up with Google Health! For screen shots of Google Health, see First Google Health Screen Shots.
On another note, I just love Wikipedia, in the sense that it is so transparent! In this context, it is indeed interesting to observe how folks at Fox News and the New York Times have engaged in tweaking and manipulating the content on Wikipedia about themselves and their competitors. This is not just corporate espionage, this is corporate mudslinging!
This shows the empowerment of the public. These corporations or media houses cannot influence the content or description about them in, say, the Encyclopedia Britannica. But when they think they can manipulate Wikipedia, their antics are exposed! Three cheers to open source Wikipedia!
On the occasion of India’s 60th Independence Day, the news world and blogosphere is abuzz with the news story that Calculus was created in India, 250 years before Newton.
The official news source says:
A little known school of scholars in southwest India discovered one of the founding principles of modern mathematics hundreds of years before Newton according to new research. Dr George Gheverghese Joseph from The University of Manchester says the ‘Kerala School’ identified the ‘infinite series’- one of the basic components of calculus – in about 1350.
And there is strong circumstantial evidence that the Indians passed on their discoveries to mathematically knowledgeable Jesuit missionaries who visited India during the fifteenth century. That knowledge, they argue, may have eventually been passed on to Newton himself.
While admitting factors such as the obscure medieval Malayalam language of the source, Dr. Joseph further adds the European imperialist angle:
There were many reasons why the contribution of the Kerala school has not been acknowledged – a prime reason is neglect of scientific ideas emanating from the Non-European world – a legacy of European colonialism and beyond.
For some unfathomable reasons, the standard of evidence required to claim transmission of knowledge from East to West is greater than the standard of evidence required to knowledge from West to East.
There are several cynical responses to this current news item. From ‘What’s new? We knew this all along!’, to ’So what? Of what use was the Indian invention if it remained in obscurity in a remote Indian region?’.
To be fair, the press journalists obviously not trained in mathematics, did exaggerate. The Taylor Series of trigonometric functions and representation of Pi are building blocks of Calculus. They do not, in themselves, form the entire branch of mathematics that is Calculus. Not surprisingly, Dr. Joseph’s origins are from Kerala!
There is nothing new in this discovery as Wikipedia shows. But I’m inclined against dismissing and ignoring this news altogether, for three reasons:
1. Imperialism certainly plays a factor in how knowledge spreads. While these medieval Indians used mathematics to create almanacs and calendars, the Europeans used it for navigating to conquer other lands. It is because of imperialist adventurous travelers that knowledge spread during most of mankind’s history. Imperialism and its derivatives are still very much in action. For instance, check the history of Wikipedia’s article on the Kerala School, after this story broke out in major news circles.
2. The truth about this was known before, but it was known only to a select few. Forget calculus, how many knew the truth about Pi? Shashi Tharoor wrote about it, but we couldn’t make him the UN Secretary General. The excellent project and site, History of Indian Science and Technology provides fascinating insights into the scientific achievements of Indians in fields such as township planning, water management, healthcare, surgery, metallurgy, etc. It even has a paper on exactly how and why the Taylor series and building blocks of Calculus were imported to Europe from India (PDF).
But how many of us know all this? Indians need to learn the art of marketing from the Westerners. We excel in science and technology, arts and philosophy. But we cannot sell well. We cannot put the right ‘spin’, such that the world takes notice. Once the exaggerated headlines hit the world press, the blogosphere pounces on them, tearing them to shreds in analysis and comments and trackbacks. That’s how information is disseminated. True, it’s not always correct. But at least more people will think of India the next time they encounter Calculus!
3. This story highlights how we must cherish and safeguard our knowledge assets. Most scientific texts of the ancient times are in a dilapidated condition, neglected in universities and shrines. There are projects by the Government and Google to digitize them, as I’d written earlier. Just like corporations prize knowledge management, countries should too!
Mechai Viravaidya, a former Cabinet minister in Thailand, emerged as an AIDS-fighting crusader in the ’90s with an aggressive campaign to distribute condoms and educate the Thai public about HIV, helping to significantly cut that country’s infection rate.
K. Sujatha Rao, the head of India’s National AIDS Control Program told The Times of India newspaper, that India needs a similar figure.
“We are very serious about finding India’s very own Mr. Condom. He has to have a dynamic personality to change both government policy and public perceptions about HIV, AIDS, sex and condoms,” Rao said.
In Thailand, Mechai’s award-winning campaigning included visiting notorious nightspots to hand out condoms and holding contests to see who could blow condom-shaped balloons the fastest.
However, such antics may not work in India, because people are not only using condoms for balloons, but also for various ingenuous purposes already:
Of the 891 million condoms meant to be handed out free, most were used by road contractors, who mixed them with concrete and tar to create a smooth surface.
Health activists said millions of condoms were melted down for their latex and made into toys. Others were dyed and sold as balloons.
In rural areas, villagers used them as water containers. India’s soldiers covered their gun barrels with condoms as protection against dust.
Only a quarter of about 1.5 billion condoms made each year were “properly utilised”.
If this continues, the six-fold increase in spending will just go up as hot air in a condom-balloon.
Protests in Madhya Pradesh over Crezendo, a vibration-enhanced condom, reached a crescendo in political circles. Kudos to the Union Health Minister, Ramadoss, for sticking to his guns!