Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rape of the Sri Lankan consumer: Mobitel Google Apps

[There are many scenarios where various corporations rape local consumers in various ways. I'm going to start a series of blogs on such activities with the hope of helping Sri Lankan consumers be more smart and not pay extra for things they don't need to pay (extra) for!]

Recently Mobitel, the 2nd largest (I think) mobile operator in Sri Lanka, launch a commercial version of Google Apps with the brand Mobitel M3 Apps. From everything I have read and understand, Mobiletel M3 Apps is the same as the Google Apps that anyone with an address gets free, except: (a) you get a email address, (b) you get the ability to have subsidiary accounts, (c) you get to pay Rs. 50/month (which is apparently a special offer for this year) and (d) its all tied to your Mobitel account so if you cancel that you lose everything after 60 days. I got this info from their FAQ; if any of it is wrong I'm sure someone from Mobitel will correct it :-).

This is not full Google Apps. We (WSO2) are now paying customers of Google Apps (at $50/user/year .. roughly 10x what Mobitel is charging) and as long as we pay them the service will remain. Furthermore, most importantly, we own our domain and if Microsoft were to offer a better service (for example) and if we wanted to switch, we can do it without affecting our public face at all.

This is the importance of owning your own domain. That's why I set up this blog under my name - after moving twice (from Radio Userland to Bloglines and then to Blogger) I didn't want to be stuck with the same problem if I wanted to move again.

So any person who ties their email address to the ISP is IMO making a HUGE mistake. Email addresses, Web sites, blogs are all part of your personal or your organization's Internet personality. Why give that to an ISP as a hostage?? Makes no sense at all any more.

Its one reason to do it if its free. However, to pay money and do it? Absolutely not!

That brings me to my second rant about this service- unless I'm missing something crucial, the only advantage I get over simply using GMail and the other free Google Apps with an address is that I get to have "subsidiary" accounts under the same account. However, they too are under Huh? How are those subsidiary accounts different from random other accounts under They're not .. the only difference is a billing convenience for Mobitel: they get to charge for all the accounts under one Mobitel account.

So, here we have our #2 mobile company advertising away saying "Pay us Rs. 100 to sign up and Rs. 50/month" so you can get all this cool stuff. (That's approximately $1 and $0.50, respectively.) EXCEPT, all that cool stuff is TOTALLY free for all people on the Internet!!!! All you need to pay for is bandwidth.

So what Mobitel is doing is conning uninformed local subscribers that they need to pay for these services. This is utter crap and a total rape of the consumer.

From Google's point of view this is great I guess- all they need to do is support another domain (which is trivial) and they get some cash out of something they give away free. Its our stupidity for using that stuff; not Google's fault at all. I suspect there are lots of other greedy corporates in other relatively poor, developing countries where the execs see a way to sell free stuff to the uninformed masses too. Not exactly compatible with "do no evil" but I guess it is compatible with "see no evil, hear no evil."

Just say no.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

LTTE's "KP" now in Sri Lankan custody

A while ago I blogged how LTTE's global arms procurement person (and their "head of international relations") was still absconding. Well, no more .. KP is now ours :-).

He was nabbed in Malaysia by Sri Lankan military intelligence folks and then brought to Colombo .. now being interrogated. He's a PRIZE catch - he set up and lead the arms procurement and delivery networks as well as handled their $200-300m annual income (profit). There have been reports of a major power struggle within the remnants of the LTTE (including this story about the battle to take control of its drug trafficking wing), especially to control the vast sums of money they (still) have .. and KP was the winner. Well, no more.

India has already asked to get to KP .. as I'm sure are US intelligence folks given the reality of resource sharing by terrorist groups.

He's going to be tried in Sri Lanka. There's no way he'll ever see any freedom again and I don't see Sri Lanka extraditing him to India or anywhere else .. but I'm sure the Indians and Americans will get their chance of chatting with KP.

KP recently started a new Web site and a blog. See: Here's a screenshot of the home page .. I'm sure it'll change soon :):

KP was the last piece of the puzzle to give the deathblow to the terror of LTTE. RIP. No, RIH.

(There still is "Aunty" Adele Balasingham. Living in UK and the matriach and (likely) new leader of the LTTE. We're ok with the LTTE terrorism network going on in the UK. Yeah just keep it there guys; the UK government is apparently happy to ignore the ban. Just don't try to come back home.)

Absolutely brilliant of our intelligence folks to track him down (when Interpol which had an arrest warrant for him for years couldn't (or maybe didn't want to?)), grab him and bring him back home for chit-chat. AFAIK this is the first international operation by Sri Lankan intelligence.

And the funniest part of the whole thing: LTTE is upset that he was nabbed and says his nabbing was illegal. At least these guys have a great sense of humor!

Hiking with Jonathan

Jonathan and I recently did a 2-night hike thru some parts of the Sierra-Nevada mountains recently. I was planning to write my own story but still haven't been able to get to it .. so I'll start with pointing to Jonathan's blog on our trip!

This is the first time I've done any true backpacking and it was an awesome experience. The amazing natural beauty of the American west never ceases to amaze me. We climbed up to more than 8000ft and even ski'd down some snow fields (yes in July). I have some video of Jonathan trying to kill himself by coming down one field with a potential drop off of a few hundred feet; will upload somewhere!

This was a bit of a trial run to set us up for more ambitious hikes (well for me at least; Jonathan's done a lot of hiking). If all goes well we plan to do a major hike next summer but more on that later.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

WSO2 is 4 years old

Today is our "unofficial" official birthday - and today we celebrate 4 years of life!

Actually there's no one start date .. there was the day we incorporated the US company, the day the Sri Lankan company was incorporated, the UK company, the day we closed the funding (after changing name to WSO2 from Serendib Systems because James refused to invest without that change!), the day the US company bought the LK company, then the UK company, etc. etc. etc.. However, August 4th is around the center of all of that - which happened between July and September basically. Plus it happens to be a (chance) choice day for me .. so I was a bit selfish in declaring August 4th as our birthday ;-).

Its pretty cool to see how far we've come since the old days. Check out our Web site as of Sept. 24th, 2005 (for some reason the banner image at the top of the page is missing though). Compare that to our current site and, um, yeah we have a few more things to offer!

Its been a fun, challenging, entertaining, interesting and everything 4 years. I have no regrets whatsoever in leaving IBM to start WSO2. IBM was an awesome place, but this experience has been several notches better :-).

Working with Paul as my co-founder (going back to a "secret" meeting he, myself and one other person [who ended up not joining but who I hope to bring into WSO2 one of these days] had at his mom's place in London back in December 2004 while all three of us were still in IBM) has been the single most fun thing out of everything in WSO2. Paul and I are a team in every sense - we challenge each other to excel and there's no doubt that everything we've achieved is due to that superb teamwork. Paul's stubbornness combined (and equaled or maybe exceeded!) with mine has made us a potent team ;-). The beauty is that while we're both stubborn we also compromise and do it with no baggage. We believe in challenging ourselves and everyone to make real, pragmatic, hard-nosed, concrete decisions - we don't lie to ourselves about our capabilities or software or customers or anything.

Oh yes, its not been just 2 people who got us here. And that's the really really special gift WSO2 has given me- the chance to work with an amazing set of young and not-so-young people primarily in Sri Lanka but also in the US (with Jonathan and Katie now) and see everyone grow to becoming global personalities. We're now more than 70 strong and have an amazing group of talented, passionate, hard-working and committed people working on making WSO2 become the global success we all believe we will be.

We have people who've been with us nearly the entire 4 years and several of them are now the key leaders in various aspects: Samisa (now Director of Engineering), Hasmin (now Senior Manager of Communications), and Azeez (Architect of Carbon) being some of the key players.

I think more than 20 people have left WSO2 to join various grad schools all over the world to do PhDs in CS and related areas. I expect probably half of our current team (of more than 70) to leave for higher studies over the near few years as well. In fact, from the original group of people who joined WSO2 right at the inception, only Paul, myself and Flora (our office assistant here in Sri Lanka) are left - almost everyone else has gone to grad school!

We're a very R&D oriented company and group of people - we believe in continuous learning, graduate school and every possible way of learning as ways to continually innovate. Its hard to understand the culture of WSO2 from outside but its quite unusual :).

In summary, I will just say to every one of my WSO2 family members: Thank you.

And to our customers: Thank you for placing your trust in us and for giving us the opportunity to show you that the disgustingly corrupt software industry and the complex software it produces are not the only way.

And to our competitors: better buckle up - its gonna be a rough ride. We've only just begun.