Creating a Website?

godaddy_logoAs part of my back to basics series, I’m going to walk you through a quick and cheap way to create a web presence for under USD 55 a year.  I hear people all the time tell me they are going to hire a web developer to create a website for thousands of dollars, my first reaction is to cringe. 80% of the time you can get away with a website that I’m going to describe. Then if you really want to hire a graphics designer and not a web developer. You can create a website in 3 easy steps:

1. Register a name with a domain register.  The one I recommend and have been using for years is, if you want a .in address for India then head to The domain name should cost around USD 10 a year. Update: GoDaddy can now can register .IN addresses for about USD 5/year.

2. Select a hosting provider.  I’ve been using for the past 4 years and have had no issues. But there are others such as Rackspace or 1and1. A yearly GoDaddy plan can be had for USD 45 a year.

3. Install WordPress. This is the critical step and the secret sauce. WordPress is an open source blogging package but also a content management system.  Thousands of companies use it for their corporate website not to mention the millions that use it for blogging.  As you can imagine this blog uses WordPress and has been for the past 5 years. Once you install WordPress you no longer have to deal with the technical details of a website from this point forward you use the WordPress GUI dashboard.

4. Pick a theme for WordPress.  A theme is what sets your website apart from others.  The beauty of WordPress is the community of developers that are creating tons on themes. Most are free and some can cost USD 100 which is cheap for a corporate website. Below are two places that have a ton of themes to pick from: Themes Directory
Weblog Tools Collection

So who can benefit from this quick and cheap tutorial? Doctors, consultants, architects, jewelry stores, media professional, ad agencies, etc…the list goes on and on.

So there you have it, a quick and cheap web presence that should work for more then 80% of the people looking to create a website.

Skype for iPhone

Yes, I’m on vacation but I had to blog about my Skype usage on the iPhone. I was able to download the app via the hotel Wi-Fi and started making calls right away. I’m in Thailand and used Skype to call back to India at 9 cents a minute. The prepaid SIM card rate is something like 80 cents a minute. I love it…now back to my vacation.

And yes, this entire blog entry was done via the open source WordPress iPhone app.

Social Investing in India

Web 1.0 was about commerce and Web 2.0 is all about social.  MoneyVidya is a social stock investing site geared for the Indian stock market. The idea is pretty simple – once you sign up for MoneyVidya you can make stock recommendations, then MoneyVidya tracks the return and riskiness of the stock picks. Based on the aggregate performance of your stock picks, you get a rating based on 1 to 5 stars. The concept makes sense and thrives off the idea that a good portfolio manager can be found anywhere and not necessarily have to wear a suit or show up on CNBC.

However, the timing of the site might be a bit off as many people are turned off by the stock market but that might separate the real portfolio managers from the posers. Gautam Kshatriya, the founder, sums it up best “It would be silly to deny that market conditions have hit us. But we’re going to hang on. Besides, the users that join a site like this in the beginning are ‘passionate’ investors anyway, who are likely to be in the market no matter what.”

The Voice of Google

google_voice_logoI finally got around to migrating my GrandCentral account to Google Voice (GV)…feel stupid for not doing it earlier. GV is loaded with a ton of features and takes voice messaging to a whole new level.  The idea behind GV is that you get one phone number issued by Google and hand out that number to people.  Then behind the scenes you connect it to your cell phone, home, work, or Skype number.  Currently, GV is only available for the US and thus you can only get a US issued number. Also, GV does not forward to an international number which is an issue for me so I get around this by using a SkypeIn number. But of course, that means I have to be near my computer to answer calls and that defeats the whole purpose of mobility.

There are several real benefits for me:
– When people call my GV number, the voice message get’s transcribed and sent as an email in addition to the audio MP3 file
– I can use GV to call any US number for free by utilizing my SkypeIn number
– The iPhone interface for GV is slick but good be better

After using GV for the past several days, I’ve realized Google is intent on taking over my digital life.  There are several things that I would like to see before they announce a general launch:
– International numbers
– Forward calls to int’l numbers
– Integrate GV with Gmail for true unified messaging
– Ability to use PayPal and not just Google CheckOut to buy credits

Below are some screenshots

Apple previews iPhone 3.0

iphone_v3On Tuesday, Apple gave a preview of what new features can be expected in their latest software (v3.0) for the iPhone. The event was a mix between features for end users and also for developers.  Apple said the latest Software Development Kit (SDK) includes over 1000 new API’s and over 100 new features.  v3.0 will be released later this summer (June/July) which is exactly two years from the launch of the iPhone in June 2007. It’s a bit sad that some of basic features in a USD 30 phone are finally arriving such as ability to forward an SMS. Below is my wish list, items crossed off are coming in 3.0.

  • Smart groups in contacts
  • Export Business cards
  • Implement copy and paste
  • Notes program syncs to computer
  • iCal to-do list syncs to iPhone
  • Play DivX files
  • Forward SMS’s
  • Multiple signatures for different mail accounts

Check out Terry White’s massive wish list, it seems Apple still has a long way to go.

Video Conferencing Done Right

Wow…is all I have to say after getting a chance to use Cisco’s video conferencing solution called TelePresence, it’s the way video conferencing should be. Over the years I’ve used video conferencing products from Cisco, Polycom and Tandberg to name a few and they were all kludgy and just never really worked. Granted, you can never replicate an in person meeting but TelePresence gets pretty close. I was in Bombay and initiated a call with several people in Irvine, California and you felt as if everyone was in the same room.

The Cisco team built TelePresence from the ground up and went as far as designing the room, chairs and table that need to be used. The unit I was using cost around USD 300k per side and had three 65″ LCD’s running full 1080p…yes 1920 x 1080. That means several gig’s of data was compressed to under 15Mbps which is still a lot of bandwidth but it is so worth it. Below are some pictures but they really don’t do justice, first 5 pics are from Bombay and the last 2 are from Irvine. I really should have taken a video!

More info on TelePresence from the Cisco website.

Google Sync

goog_largeOver the past couple of weeks, I’ve been debating whether to upload my personal data contained in my address book and calender to the Googleplex. I figured Google is already a massive part of my life with search and Gmail do I really want to hand over more of my life to Google? I have no doubt Google will not profile my data or pilfer it, but in this current environment of anything is possible (countries going bankrupt, USD 50 billion ponzi schemes, Starbucks closing stores etc…) you never know.

For me, it comes down to hardware independence.  I would love to buy a cheap USD 100 phone when I travel and not have to tinker with all the settings. Currently, I use a MacBook Pro (MBP) and iPhone combo to organize and manage my life, the two make sweet music like Hall and Oates.  My iPhone data is backed up to my MBP and my MBP is backed up to an external 250GB Toshiba drive.  My dilemma is I’m locked into an iPhone only solution at the moment and living in India means if something happens to my iPhone I have to shell out USD 640 for a new iPhone…that is a HUGH deal breaker for me.

There are two solutions to this:

1. Apple expands it’s iSync software to natively work with many of the new phones from BlackBerry, Nokia and Google’s Android platform. Most likely won’t happen as Apple historically is a closed platform. I’m a hugh iPhone fan, but the power of open source technology is no match for a closed architecture platform.

2. Move my data to Google which would be my central data repository.  Then using the various Google tools such as Google Sync I could download my data to a new phone and sync on the fly. And as more companies offer Android based phones I would have a much larger selection of phones to choose from. For example, Motorola just scraped their own phone OS and decided to exclusively use the Android platform.

I hope the competition between Apple’s iSync and Google’s Sync make both products better in the near future. Ideally, I’d like to stick with Apple’s iSync and not have my address book and calendar reside in the cloud but I’m guessing it’s just a matter of time.