Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Instantbird is like Firefox for chat

Windows/Mac/Linux (All platforms): There are tons of great instant messaging applications available, but one nagging problem in the IM world is that there's no great, fully cross-platform chat app (unless you count Meebo). Free, open source application Instantbird aims to do for chat what Firefox does for the browser. Based on the same tools used to create Firefox and Thunderbird, Instantbird should ultimately be just as extensible as the former—which means IM customization will be as simple as installing a Firefox extension. Right now Instantbird connects to virtually any IM network and supports a tabbed chat interface. Beyond that, the application is still very barebones, but its upcoming features are very exciting.Aside from the basics you'd expect from any chat app (like status notifications, contact management, and IM notifications), the ultimate roadmap for Instantbird includes video and voice support. What's most exciting, though, is the possibility that the chat application will be subject to the same community of creative extension developers that make Firefox such a killer browser—so that Instantbird can easily be customized to deliver exactly what you want from it. Instantbird is free, works with Windows, Mac, and Linux. It's still a very young app, so this one's for the early adopters.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Microsoft Launches Drag-And-Drop App Builder Popfly

Microsoft just demoed on stage at the Web 2.0 conference a slick Silverlight application development service called Popfly, which just opened up in beta.
Popfly lets anyone, even non-coders, create web mashups without writing a single line of code.
It’s all drag-and-drop in the browser (based on Silverlight, Microsoft’s answer to Flash/Flex and Ajax).
The demo showed how to build a digital photo book of all your Facebook friends. It started with a box representing Facebook, and in a pane on the left were listed other data sets that can connect to Facebook, such as photos on another service or Technorati rankings. By simply dragging and dropping icons representing these sets of data and connecting them together with lines, a Silverlight application was built on the fly.
Of course, like any demo, this one was a bit canned. But if Popfly turns out to be half as easy as Microsoft made it look on stage, it should have lots of takers.
Microsoft Launches Drag-And-Drop App Builder Popfly: Techcrunch

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Hindu Business Line : What are ‘Participatory notes’?

There has been talk about 'banning' Participatory Notes after the unexplicable rise in the Indian stock markets in the last few days. What exactly are 'Participatory Notes' or PNs?

The article below in The Hindu Business Line attempts to throw some light on PNs

What are ‘Participatory notes’?

D. Sampathkumar

Mumbai, Oct. 17

‘Participatory notes’ are instruments that derive their value from an underlying financial instrument such as an equity share and, hence, the word, ‘derivative instruments’.

When the Indian capital market regulator permitted, back in 1992, foreign institutional investors (FIIs) to register and trade in Indian securities, every one assumed that they would make proprietary investments out of their own capital.
3rd-party investments

There was no question of their trading on anyone else’s behalf. But as it turned out, FIIs were merely acting as a conduit for third-party investments.

But some of these third-party investors had their own preferences in the matter of what Indian stocks that they would like to own with its own risk and reward characteristics. In order to ring fence, each such pool of investments they created accounts or ‘sub-accounts’ in FII parlance.
Sub-account holders

But even sub-account holders, it turned out, were not investing their own money but were in fact raising money from a multitude of high net worth individuals.

They were issued pieces of paper that derived its value from underlying equity instruments of Indian corporates.

The participatory notes were now well truly launched. International investments got a little more complicated with sub-account investment institutions raising loan funds as securitised paper, with a pool of underlying equity shares of Indian companies.

All this leveraged money got further leveraged with the investments going into not just equity shares but derivative instruments (futures and options) of shares of Indian corporates.

Thus one could have a sub account holder of a registered FII investing a combination of subscriptions by a group of investors topped up with funds borrowed by floating yet another piece of tradable instrument using a pool of participatory notes as collateral.

But the tale of leveraged investments became a little more complex with a $100 of such funds getting invested, for example, not in Reliance shares but into futures contract on Reliance shares.
Futures contract

Now, in a futures contract, one did not have to invest the full value of the contract. It is enough if put up a small margin and topped it up each depending on how the share price moved.

The potential of $100 got further magnified.

It is easy to see the super structure of heavily leveraged investments flowing into the Indian stock market. That is without even thinking of whatever private financial arrangements that each one of investors in the original pool of investments that gave rise to the participatory notes.
Global liquidity

All of this became possible when there was a global liquidity thanks to the economic policies of the West and more particularly the US.

A financial distress for one lender who participated in leveraged transaction of investments of a sub-account holder of an FII who had invested in the Indian stock market can cause him to call back his loan.

This could lead to the sub-account holder closing out his futures position in the underlying share which caused the latter’s future price to fall.
Share prices

Since future prices are in turn linked to the spot prices of the same share, there is a price correction in the spot price as well.

The fall in share price erodes not just the overseas investor’s wealth but that of domestic investors as well.

The depreciation of the rupee’s value against other currencies or wiping out huge chunk of the RBI’s currency reserves when the liquidated investments goes out of the country, are the other unintended consequences of the FII play on the Indian stock market.

The Hindu Business Line : What are ‘Participatory notes’?

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Facebook's friend grouping

Facebook is creating friend grouping last month. By specifying certain friends as professional contacts, a whole different set of content can be shown to them (sans the dating status and pictures of you getting drunk). Or as Nick O’Neil puts it, Facebook may be growing up.And now Facebook is quietly making changes to their data structure to allow for the concept of “networking.” Currently on Facebook, users can say they are looking for friendship, dating, a relationship, random play or “whatever I can get.” But networking was recently added as a desired relationship type to the API (note that it is not yet an option on Facebook itself yet).

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