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Exponential Times

Posted in Uncategorized by Pankaj Gudimella on March 29, 2009

Here is a remixed and revised piece of good research by Karl Fisch,Scott Mcleod and XPlane

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Save the local economy!

Posted in Uncategorized by Pankaj Gudimella on March 28, 2009

A cool idea to save your local economy.

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More here.

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The Browser Wars

Posted in Uncategorized by Pankaj Gudimella on March 28, 2009

Cloud computing has one major ingredient which is vital to its success – the browser. Below is a primer on the four major players from FT.

The internet has seen the creation of many browsers in the course of its short existence, but the main story has only four protagonists: Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome.

In terms of popular usage, Netscape Navigator was the first. Everyone used Navigator – in part because there weren’t any serious alternatives – and it worked fine. Then came Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE), which was integrated into the company’s dominant Windows operating system, driving its growth. By 1998, IE had overtaken Netscape in terms of usage.

An antitrust suit was filed against Microsoft, but by then it was too late. IE controlled over 90 per cent market share and, despite the legal wrangling, to this day it is still shipped as the default browser on most of the world’s PCs. Netscape was bought by AOL, and after much dithering was taken out of development in 2007.

The story would end there but for the “open-source” community. Open-source software was (and to an extent still is) the scourge of Microsoft. Chief executive Steve Ballmer once referred to the Linux open-source operating system as a “cancer”. Software like this is constantly improved by a community of software developers who work on the project for little or nothing. The fruits of their labour are usually distributed free. In 1998, Netscape turned the code of Navigator into an open-source project called Mozilla – and out of that grew Firefox.

Firefox has taken 20 per cent of IE’s market share, and is still growing. Many of its features – such as tabbed browsing and accessibility settings – were available earlier on other products, such as the browser Opera, but thanks to word-of-mouth, good marketing and Firefox’s appeal to more technically literate users, it has grown to be IE’s biggest challenger. And because it is open-source, third-party developers can extend Firefox’s capabilities by building new applications, making it an even more powerful tool.

The browser market was looking like a two-horse race between IE and Firefox, with an honourable mention for the Mac-based Safari, until Google launched Chrome in 2008.

Chrome still has only about 1 per cent of the browser share but that will grow. With Lars Bak’s V8 engine, Chrome is incredibly quick. The browser uses a lot of open-source code and open standards, but has also introduced some important innovations, such as its use of independent tabs. This sounds dull, but it’s critical. Here’s why: normally, running several web-based applications through the browser can lead to a crash. And when one browser tab crashes, the whole program needs to be restarted, losing any work or activity going on in other tabs.

Chrome runs in a way that means any browser crash is limited to just that tab, so that if you are composing an e-mail in one screen, and a video crashes in another, the e-mail you are writing is not affected. You can close the crashed tab and continue working. Making the browser operate in this way –like the desktop – is crucial for the future of web applications.

Of course, the speed at which Chrome functions is also vital. For web-based applications to be a success, they need to respond quickly, or users will become frustrated. Speed, stability, security – these are all critical areas for the future of everything we do online. And the browser is the gateway.

With the launch of Chrome, many tests were made by tech enthusiasts to determine which browser is the best performance wise. Below is an interesting post from Dave Winer:

In the last few days there’s been a discussion in the blogosphere as to the future of browsers, and the continued charm of Firefox, or whether there’s any serious movement to Chrome. My original piece basically said that no matter how attractive Chrome might be, I can’t switch because so much of what I do depends on plugins that are only available in Firefox.

But part of the the discussion centered around whether or not Firefox is slow relative to the other browsers. David Naylor posted a series of tests that show that, if anything, it’s getting more efficient. His numbers are impressive. Less than half a second to launch. I’ve never measured the performance of Firefox or any other browser, and I don’t plan to. But when people talk about the speed of a browser, I don’t think of how quickly it launches or even how fast it renders a page right after it launches.

Here’s what I do care about — how slow it gets after it has been running for a number of hours with a full complement of tabs. That’s the A-B comparison that we should be looking at. I think that’s the subjective measure people use to say whether a browser is fast or slow. Ideally you only launch a browser once every time your machine boots. But how often do you have to quit the browser because it has become so bogged down and is using up so much of the machine’s resources? I wonder if most users know that you can make the browser faster by quitting and relaunching?

It’s also possible that people who use Chrome fit a different profile and don’t load it up with a lot of tabs, or the UI of Chrome discourages lots of tabs — I don’t know since I have only tried Chrome, I have not used it as my daily browser.

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The financial oligarchs

Posted in Finance by Pankaj Gudimella on March 27, 2009

Big banks, it seems, have only gained political strength since the crisis began. And this is not surprising. With the financial system so fragile, the damage that a major bank failure could cause—Lehman was small relative to Citigroup or Bank of America—is much greater than it would be during ordinary times. The banks have been exploiting this fear as they wring favorable deals out of Washington. Bank of America obtained its second bailout package (in January) after warning the government that it might not be able to go through with the acquisition of Merrill Lynch, a prospect that Treasury did not want to consider.

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The challenges the United States faces are familiar territory to the people at the IMF. If you hid the name of the country and just showed them the numbers, there is no doubt what old IMF hands would say: nationalize troubled banks and break them up as necessary.

Excellent piece from The Atlantic. More here.

State of the economy

Posted in Finance by Pankaj Gudimella on March 27, 2009

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Nice interactive updated 15th of every month from Russell

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Geither Plan Explained

Posted in Finance, NYTimes by Pankaj Gudimella on March 27, 2009

Leave on one side the question of whether the Geither plan is a good idea or not. One thing is clearly false in the way it’s being presented: administration officials keep saying that there’s no subsidy involved, that investors would share in the downside. That’s just wrong. Why? Because of the non-recourse loans, which reportedly will finance 85 percent of the asset purchases.

Let me offer a numerical example. Suppose that there’s an asset with an uncertain value: there’s an equal chance that it will be worth either 150 or 50. So the expected value is 100.

But suppose that I can buy this asset with a nonrecourse loan equal to 85 percent of the purchase price. How much would I be willing to pay for the asset?

The answer is, slightly over 130. Why? All I have to put up is 15 percent of the price — 19.5, if the asset costs 130. That’s the most I can lose. On the other hand, if the asset turns out to be worth 150, I gain 20. So it’s a good deal for me.

Notice that the government equity stake doesn’t matter — the calculation is the same whether private investors put up all or only part of the equity. It’s the loan that provides the subsidy.

And in this example it’s a large subsidy — 30 percent.

The only way to argue that the subsidy is small is to claim that there’s very little chance that assets purchased under the scheme will lose as much as 15 percent of their purchase price. Given what’s happened over the past 2 years, is that a reasonable assertion?

Source:NYTimes

FT has a 3 min video explaining the plan.

User Generated Content

Posted in Amazon, Business Intelligence, Data, Data Mining by Pankaj Gudimella on March 27, 2009

Dave Winer says

The thing I like best about shopping at Amazon are the user comments. They really are good. And I often base purchasing decisions on what the other users say. It got so bad that when I went shopping at Fry’s for some sound equipment I fumbled around until I realized what I was missing was the advice of other shoppers. I did the unfair thing, listened to a bunch of stuff and then went home and bought what I liked and what the others liked, from Amazon.

The gold mine of data Amazon is collecting from its user’s via their reviews has been increasing their bottom line for years’ now. Amazon is very prudent in how it uses this data and provides it to the customer.

Facebook is the other company that is sitting on such a gold mine and will unleash its true potential soon. Here is a piece from Scoble about facebook and Zuckerberg and the phase the business is in.

History of Business Intelligence

Posted in Analytics, Business Intelligence, Microsoft by Pankaj Gudimella on March 26, 2009

A fascinating story from Nic at Microsoft BI

Hat tip:The BI Blog

Business of Excellence

Posted in Harvard by Pankaj Gudimella on March 19, 2009

At a well-known five-star hotel, I asked if I could extend my checkout time by two hours. I was told no; the hotel was full. Unless I paid for a half day; then they’d accommodate me.

Huh?

If the hotel was full and needed my room, why would it make a difference if I paid them? And if they did have the ability to extend my checkout, why would they charge me? I spoke with the manager. Same answer.

That was the last time I stayed at that hotel franchise.

Contrast that to my recent experience at the Four Seasons in Dallas, TX, a hotel where I’ve stayed several times.

When I arrived I didn’t have to stand in line to check in; the valet simply handed me the key to my room. Which was set-up exactly as I like it: a yoga mat and an exercise schedule on the bed; a bowl of fruit on the table. And they automatically extended my check out time.

I am a customer for life.

More here from Peter Bregman.

Quantitative Easing

Posted in Finance by Pankaj Gudimella on March 18, 2009

Finally the Fed pushed the much dreaded red button today.

Reminds me of the following words from Bill Fleckenstein:

America is now well down the path of trying to print its way to prosperity. Of course, the reason we are trying to print our way to prosperity is because initially, in the late 1990s, we tried to speculate our way to prosperity via the stock bubble. After that didn’t work, we attempted to borrow our way to prosperity during the real-estate bubble.

Those two bubbles ended in the epic disaster of today. Now the United States and other countries will attempt to print their way to prosperity, which also won’t work.