October 24th, 2011
11:10 AM ET

AsiaD & Start-up Saturday: the News Stream download!

I am never an early riser.

Well, except for special occasions, and last Thursday was indeed a very special occasion.


Because the first-ever “All Things D” conference – AsiaD – kicked off in Hong Kong from Oct 19th to 21st, marking a significant milestone in the region’s digital history. For the non-geeks out there, “All Things D” conference is one of the largest and most prestigious technology conventions in the world. Organized by two of the most respected tech columnists, Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, the conference brings together top-tier innovative and successful business pioneers as well as technology titans with an exclusive preview of industry trends.

Enough adjectives there?

Past conference speakers have included Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, and AsiaD’s line-up featured a mix of Asian and Western tech luminaries including Twitter Co-Founder Jack Dorsey and hometown hero Jack Ma from Alibaba Group.

Even though I didn’t get to sit through the entire programme (of course work comes first! Disclaimer: my boss reads this), I was fortunate enough to tweet-spam the first few sessions when Walt spoke to Yahoo Co-Founder Jerry Yang, ASUS Chairman Jonney Shih, among other guests. You can review all the conference-related tweets at “#AsiaD”.

For me, one noteworthy highlight from last Thursday’s morning session was the amazing “light field camera” demo by Lytro Chairman Charles Chi. The team unveiled the product in California only six hours before rushing to Hong Kong, and many reports have already coined it the “revolutionary new camera” for its ability to refocus images. Check out the company’s Living Pictures Gallery to grasp the concept.

Needless to say, a digital convention deserves a digitalized coverage, and without doubt, the team of talented and professional editors at All Things D truly defined the meaning of real-time, seamless online reporting. For more on the talks, speakers and demo at AsiaD, visit AllThingsD.

Although AsiaD concluded Friday afternoon as I obsessively refreshed my Twitter feed at work for updates, I slapped myself awake again on Saturday for another digital meet-up in Hong Kong – Startup Saturday 2011.

While D conferences occurred at the top level, local entrepreneurs are also organizing similar meet-ups in a growing grassroots movement. “Startup Saturday 2011” is a perfect testament for the booming entrepreneur community in Asia.

Co-organized by StartupsHK and BootHK, the one-day event attracted hundreds of startups, investors, developers and tech enthusiasts, including the “super angel investor” Dave McClure from 500 Startups.

AsiaD speaker AirBnB CEO Brain Chesky also made an appearance on stage as he shared his outlandish yet ingenious startup journey including selling “Obama-O” and “Captain McCains” cereals, and paying a personal visit to every single one of the early AirBnB users in New York.

Through roundtable discussions of both HK and US startups as well as an investor panel, I had quite an interactive crash course on the entrepreneurial scene in Asia. Take a look at the Twitter feed #SUS2011 for a detailed recap, and check out Jason Li’s live art notes of the entire conference.

October 5th, 2011
09:40 PM ET

A day in the life of an iPhone addict

Anyone who knows me will tell you I cannot live without my phone. It virtually holds my life together. But instead of an emotional ode to my iPhone, I thought the best way to truly show you how attached I am to it is to take you through a day in my life.

11am: iPhone alarm rings. I suppose I could have used an actual alarm clock, but I can’t eyeball my email on my alarm clock, can I? (Note that I didn’t actually say “read” my email; I just like to skim the subject lines to decide how guilty I should feel for not actually reading them.)

1pm: On the way to work, I’m struck by an inane thought. In the past, I’d keep it to myself, or use as small-talk. Now? Out comes the phone, and inane thought becomes an, er, “insightful” tweet.

130pm: Arrive at work. Instinctively use foursquare to “check in” and share the fact that Ravi Has Arrived At The Office with the world. Co-workers give me funny looks. FULL POST

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Filed under: Gadgets • General • Personal musings • Technology
August 25th, 2011
02:22 PM ET

"Stay hungry. Stay foolish." The impact of Steve Jobs on a CNN news team

Rarely is news of a CEO stepping down a worldwide trending, all-caps-making event. But it is when it's Steve Jobs.He led a company that transformed a vast array of businesses - personal computing, portable and online music, smarter mobile telephony and post-PC computing. He delivered a string of products that appealed to our emotions by focusing on the user experience and consumer happiness.

He even pioneered a retail experience that was shanzhai'd in China.

Anyone who's held an iPod has no doubt pressed a mental pause button today to consider an Apple without Steve Jobs. And yet, Steve Jobs has made an impact not only on consumers the world over, but producers as well - producers of business plans, even producers of one hour news bulletins.

In 2009, a colleague and I threw out a question. "If Steve Jobs produced a news show, what would it look like?"


August 16th, 2011
03:22 PM ET

Fighting famine, one packet at a time

This is what emergency food aid looks like.

I'm holding a packet of “Plumpy Nut,” a high-calorie peanut-based paste donated by UNICEF for tonight’s News Stream focus on famine relief.

Some 12 million people are facing starvation in Africa today. “Plumpy Nut” is one of many nutrition supplements being used to stave off starvation.

“Plumpy Nut” looks like and tastes much like peanut butter. It’s a nut-based product that contains milk, soy, sugar, minerals and vitamins.

And it hits the top needs of the malnourished - it has a significant calorie count (500 kcal), high-quality protein, and a long shelf life. They’re also sweet so young children are willing to eat it.

A parent can simply tear off a corner of the packet, and feed it to a child straight from the package. Each packet has enough nutrition for an infant, but not enough for a teenager.

It is not a miracle cure. “Plumpy Nut” and other emergency food aid supplements do not address long-term malnutrition.

But it is helping fight the acute famine we’re seeing today in the Horn of Africa, fighting famine one packet at a time.

August 10th, 2011
10:32 PM ET

Want an explanation for the UK riots? Go back to school

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We were about to put the “Great” back into Britain. Just as the Swinging Sixties and Cool Britannia defined the youth of previous generations, the twin beacons of the Royal Wedding and the London Olympics were expected to give today’s young ‘uns something to shout about. Well, they’re shouting alright. And looting. And trashing. And burning.

Clearly, those partaking represent a tiny minority. But they’re making the majority of headlines out of Fleet Street this week.


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Filed under: General • Personal musings
July 13th, 2011
08:07 PM ET

Harry Potter’s heart’s in the Highlands

From Harry Potter's roots in Edinburgh's Old Town (where a young Joanne Rowling started scribbling her saga) right up to the climactic, cinematic Battle of Hogwarts, Scotland has cast its spell over the series. And just as Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy had viewers salivating over New Zealand, the Potter movie anthology has done a first-class branding job for my home country.

A quick admission before I proceed. I am a former employee of VisitScotland, the national tourism board. Indeed, I was working for the organization in London when the first Potter film was released. Times were hard. The motherland was still reeling from the double ignominy of the foot and mouth outbreak and Madonna’s Highland wedding to Guy Ritchie. We were grateful for small mercies, such as Madge’s decision to leave her leotard at home.

Then, with a wave of his little wizard wand, Harry Potter breathed new life into our industry. Hagrid’s hut sprung up on a Highland hillside. Small Scottish children hopped aboard the Hogwarts Express as it chugged its way west from Fort William. The national newspapers were full of it. The rest of the world would follow.

Much attention has focused on filming locations such as London’s Kings Cross Station (bearing a remarkable resemblance to its neighbor St Pancras) and Gloucester Cathedral (whose corridors are recognizable as the haunt of Nearly Headless Nick and Moaning Myrtle). But for me - and millions of Potterphiles - the majesty of the wizarding world is most potent in its landscapes. These made me homesick as a 21-year old in London, just as they do as a 31-year old in Hong Kong. And, as such, I offer you my five favorite Scottish Potter scene-stealers:


July 9th, 2011
12:14 AM ET

Atlantis Adventure

AFP/Getty Images

Around T-5 minutes to the launch of shuttle Atlantis, I overhear a man say, "The uncertainty makes it exciting." Thousands of us have been sitting in the Rocket Garden of Kennedy Space Center for the last five hours. And in the last few minutes, butterflies started to flutter in my stomach. We were so close... but the blast off could still be called off at any second.

The odds seemed stacked against Atlantis lifting off on the first try. Clouds rolled in overnight Thursday and refused to blow over. NASA rated the weather as only 30% favorable for launch. "The Sunshine State" was not living up to its nickname... and was threatening to disappoint around one million space fans.

We had arrived at KSC shortly after 5 in the morning. The last thing I heard on the radio was an announcer saying, "You know that shuttle launch today? Not gonna happen. It's raining." The security guard at the front gate also joked, "The launch is cancelled." I didn't laugh.


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Filed under: General • Personal musings • Space
July 7th, 2011
10:16 PM ET

Harry Potter and the Decade-long Obsession

Before I have even written a word, there it is, laid out for all to see, in that picture: I am a huge Harry Potter geek.

I am one of those fans who pre-ordered the books and stayed up all night to finish them so no-one could spoil the ending for me. I have seen all of the films on their opening weekends, even taken days off work to see them on opening night, and I have seen most of the movies more than once in the cinema. But there is more. I have hung out in the crowd of not one, but two of the London premieres, snapping pictures of the stars. I own all the DVDs (including double copies of some) and yes, this weekend I am hosting a Potter viewing party.

So, as you may well imagine, this month's release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" is both a source of great excitement and gloom for me.

Why? Well, because to quote the tagline of that film for all you Muggles out there, "It all ends here." The final instalment of a film franchise that has clocked up more than a thousand minutes of screen time and over $6.3 billion at the box-office to date premieres on July 7th, and is released worldwide on July 15th. Four years have already passed since the last in JK Rowling's best-selling series of books was published, and with the author swearing she has no more books in the pipeline, this is the end of an era for fans of Harry, Ron, Hermione and Hogwarts.

But before regaling you with how the wizarding world has become nothing short of an obsession, I have a confession to make.


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Filed under: General • Personal musings
July 1st, 2011
02:45 PM ET

Value of the vote in Thailand

The first time I ever voted was in 2000. I turned 18 exactly two weeks before election day. I was excited to finally take part in the democratic process. After making my selections, I eagerly waited to find out who would be the next President of the United States. And waited. That was the year of the "hanging chad" and the final decision ultimately rested on the Supreme Court.

To put it mildly, the democratic process did not work the way I had expected.

So I  wonder what it must be like for young voters ahead of Thailand's election. The country has been through 18 attempted military coups since becoming a democracy in 1932. It has had the same number of constitutions. That's a new governing document just about every 4.5 years.

The 2006 coup that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was actually the first in 15 years. His allies won the following election held in 2007. But courts essentially overturned the result, throwing out the next two pro-Thaksin prime ministers. Lawmakers then voted to put current prime minister, Abihisit Vejjajiva, in office.

That somewhat daunting precedent does not discourage 18-year-old Pattariya Jusakul. She is a first-year student at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University. Pattariya says, "I'm really excited to vote for the first time. Every vote makes a small difference and people must not have the attitude that their single vote is insignificant."

Fellow members of her school's debating society echoed her sentiment. But believing in the value of the vote is not the same as supporting the system.


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Filed under: General • Personal musings
June 23rd, 2011
02:41 PM ET

Accio Pottermore!

Pottermore.com preview

Hold onto your wizard's hats Harry Potter fans, Hogwarts creator JK Rowling has unveiled a new project: Pottermore.

The author kept geeks like me guessing for a week what the website could hold, all the while taunting us with a countdown clock on YouTube populated by an increasing number of animated owls. Rumors were rampant across the web: could it be a new book? An encyclopedia of the wizarding world? A video game? The Pottermore teaser webpage – bearing nothing but a title, JK Rowling's signature and the words "Coming Soon" – racked up a million hits within 36 hours of its launch.

Then the countdown clock stopped, the website was revealed, and a video message from Rowling herself appeared. FULL POST

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