TCA- Tritech Fast Pitch competition

Tech Coast Angels Fast Pitch

The next TriTech Fast Pitch competition is being held at the UC Riverside Campus on November 29, 2007.

Date: 11/29/2007
Location: UC Riverside
University Extension Center
1200 University Avenue - Conference Room E
Riverside , CA 92507
Time: 5:00 PM
5:00pm to 6:00pm Registration and reception
6:00pm to 9:00pm Fast Pitch

Good news on the Microsoft Excel hundred millennium bug

 Turns out there is a bit of an uh-oh in Excel land. In Excel, do the calculation 77.1*850. Your Casio (if you still have one around) would tell you that’s 65,535. But Excel says it is 100,000. Yes, a nice, even, no apologies, hundred thousand.

It is quite amazing to me that after all these years of 10s of millions of people using Excel around the world, that this is the first time that a bug like this has been reported.

There is plenty of discussion over at the Microsoft excel blog regarding whether this is a real calculation error, or it is just a display problem. According to Microsoft engineers, this is a display error, while folks on the board have run several calculations and made the point that it is a calculation error, which, of course, would be much more serious.

Well, since we just love excel, we just had to do our own checking to see what was going on, and the good news is that it indeed appears to be just a display error.

The calculation (geek alert) is below. The number N = 77.1*850 turns out to be 100,000 as expected. N-1 is 65534, N-2 is 65533 and so on. N+1, is interestingly, 100,001 while N+2 drops back to 65537. Now when you take the difference of the two series, it is well behaved (you get back 0,1,2,…. as answers) indicating that this is not a storage bug but just a flight of fancy of the numerical representation of the display.

N=77.1*850 x N-x N+x x=[(N+x)-(N-x)/2]
100000 0 100000 100000 0
  1 65534 100001 1
  2 65533 65537 2
  3 65532 65538 3
  4 65531 65539 4
  5 65530 65540 5
  6 65529 65541 6
  7 65528 65542 7
  8 65527 65543 8
  9 65526 65544 9
  10 65525 65545 10

Now 65,535 or its close cousin 65,536 should look familiar to most tech folks. Yes it is 2^16 in binary representation indicating, perhaps some integer computation error in the display. Why excel exhibits this problem for only a handful of calculations (not all) that compute to 65,535, is not clear. But Microsoft promises it will be fixed soon.

Meanwhile, if at the end of a complicated floating point calculation, you get a nice even 100000 for the answer, be sure to get out the calculator!

Roundup: Cleverest voicemail apps

There are several innovative voicemail applications that we have tested and reviewed recently. They all have very useful feature sets, with one or two whiz-bang elements that makes them quite unique.

Jott: This is a voicemail to text or voicemail to email service. You leave a voicemail message at the Jott phone number, from your registered cell phone, and the message gets translated into text and delivered to your email inbox or phone sms, if you send it to yourself (reminder, calendar item etc.), or it gets sent as an email to anyone you pick from your contacts list.

The strong point of Jott is that the translation is flawless. I’d really like to know how they do that! Having tried various desktop translation softwares, where you have to train the application endlessly to recognize your accent, I have yet to find one that has better than 90% accuracy. Yet Jott works with your normal speaking voice. One thing though, the text gets delivered after a few minutes of “processing”, so one wonders if there is not some human editing going on in the background.

YouMail: YouMail is a service that takes over the voicemail service from the carrier and routes it to their servers where you can pick up your voicemail in the usual way, or have it emailed it to you, and of course you can store it all forever.

The nicest feature of Youmail is the fun library of greetings that you can use to set up your outgoing greeting individually, by user. You can also add a “This phone is disconnected” message for people you don’t want to hear from, or use their famous “Ditchmail” for unwelcome suitors.

CAllWave is a voice mail and voice to text service. Callwave lets you set up a voicemail box on their server so your callers can leave you messages.

The really useful feature is that the messages get translated into text and forwarded into your email inbox or to SMS on your cell phone, in text form, along with the name of the person who called (from the caller ID). The text translation does not work perfectly but you can get the gist of what the caller is trying to say. The ability to “read” the voicemail (specially when you are in meetings) - and getting it filed in text fashion in your inbox is a huge plus.

Pinger is a hands free alternative to SMS. It is unobtrusive voicemail that you leave for others. If someone is in a meeting and you don’t want to bother them, you “ping” them, ie leave a voicemail on their cell phone number. The Pinger site lets you check if they picked up your message. You can also use the service like an audio Twitter, where you leave voice clips on a website using an embedable widget.

With the carriers focusing on the size of their customer bases, and innovating very little over the last decade in the areas of messaging or voicemail, the door is open for entrepreneurial companies to develop exciting applications which make the mobile phone not only more useful, but more fun. It would not take a crystal ball to see some of the carriers snapping up these companies in the future when they find that consumers are beginning to expect more clever features on their mobile phones.

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Silicon Maps: Putting tech companies on the map

Silicon Maps, has been putting companies on the map, literally, for 18 years. They are the publishers of Tech Coast maps and a host of other maps highlighting local technology companies.

According to Michael Desrosiers, founder of Silicon Maps, 30,000 maps are shipped out each year, starting in November (companies which are interested in being featured in the 2008 calendar should submit their logo at the website by October 23rd). The maps are also published on the Silicon maps website.

Companies pay a yearly subscription fee ($1400 and up) to be featured in one of their hundreds of caricature maps which provide aerial views of cities, along with landmarks, and logos of participating companies. Featured maps include the Tech coast, Bioscience west and  Silicon valley maps, which showcase tech companies in the area.

The tech map business saw a boom in the late 1990’s. That is when the company stopped producing city maps to focus on high tech maps.

According to Michael Desrosiers, their maps will soon be seen at international airports around the world. Their future plans include partnering with industry and economic authorities to highlight the local tech ecosystems.

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