Kiruba is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, podcaster and a farmer.

The Making of the Community Christmas Tree

Every year, I set up an artificial Christmas tree at my home, decorate it with small goodies and lights. However, it just doesn’t have the festive feel nor the spirit. This time, I wanted it to be different. I wanted it to be bigger and more importantly, make our apartment folks to be involved. That’s when the idea of a community tree cropped up and quickly latched on to it.

This is the tree that’s inside our apartment that we chose. We planted this two years ago and this guys has grown fairly strong. We decided to give it the Christmas look.

Off I went to Parrys Corner. It’s a good one hour ridefrom my place. Worth the long ride. You get the best varieties and the best prices. Picked up stars, trinkets, bells, and other stuff.

There’s a special lane in Parrys corner that only deals with electrical goods. Picked up a whole bunch of ‘china made’ Christmas lights.

The whole idea attracted the apartment kids like Pied Piper. That’s just half of them. A whole lot more joined in soon.

The kids helped set things up and the adults joined in doing the hard stuff like electrical wiring and hanging.

We needed thin metal wires in order to hang the stars and the bells. There’s a nice hardware store nearby and bought these wires.

Meanwhile, another team of volunteers began work on getting the electrical wiring ready. Since all the bulbs were to be fixed as a serial connection, we had to make sure that the connections were perfect. One mistake and the rest of the bulbs won’t glow. I wanted to call in a professional electrician to help but the enthusiastic guys said they’d do it themselves. I was impressed.

A kind gentleman in our apartment helped source a ladder that greatly helped. Once the wiring was done, we began to hang the lights.

As the evening progressed, the day light began to fade making the task harder. The team didn’t want to stop mid way and we laboured on. The thin branches didn’t help either and we had to be careful. The lightest guy in the team took on the adventurous job of getting up the tree.

When we switched on the power, it was a sight to behold. The colourful lights lit up the place brightly. The kids and the folks in the apartment broke into an applause immediately. Seen here are the three guys, Nagesh, Manohar and Rajesh who took on the bulk of the work. Each of the kids went and shook their hands saying, “Thank you uncle”. The joy on the kids face was worth all the 6 hours of hard work.

The spirit was contagious. One of the neighbours even bought a whole pack ‘jalebis’ for the team. Now the folks in the apartment are enthusiastic about celebrating a joint New Year Celebrations on 30th night and plans are underway. It’s the first time in 12 years that this apartment is seeing a joint celebration.

Amazing what a little spirit and a Christmas tree can do! :)

Microsoft v/s Open Source. The Startups Win

I would assume I know a thing or two about startups. For starters, I’ve attempted a couple myself, giving me an inside view of entrepreneurship. The many entrepreneurs that I’ve gotten to know over the years of organizing help give me a peek into the overall ecosystem.

Almost the bulk of the startups that I know of start off using Open Source software or something that’s available for free. PHP is the language of choice for web development. Consequently, MySQL the pick for database. For corporate email, Hosted GMail for domains rules. Google apps for everything with collaboration. Skype for teleconferece. OpenOffice for docs & spreadsheets. If you notice, the underlying common denominator is the cost. It’s zilch. You can’t argue with ‘Free’. For an entrepreneur who is starting off on a shoestring of budget, this *is* a big deal.

It’s a good thing that Microsoft has realized this. Their latest release of the BizSpark program is a great long term vision to ally with the startups and at the same time take on the Open Source onslaught in their own home ground.

Through the BizSpark program, Microsoft is giving away most of its software for virtually free. Check this out. Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server, BizTalk Server and Systems Center, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, MSDN Premium subscription, Microsoft Express Studio (design tools), Microsoft Windows (Vista, XP, all Ultimate & enterprise editions), All SDKs, and Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Professional. In case you didn’t notice, that’s pretty much a bulk of MS’ key offerings. All free for 3 years. Add to this free support.

This reminded me of my home town, Pondicherry’s strategy to boost tourism and business. They gave tax holidays for 5 years to all new hotels and IT companies. No taxes at all. You take home all the profit you make. Ventures started flooding in. It’s been a very successful program. This year that holiday comes to an end, and now the government will benefit from its five year patience because the taxes from these companies will start flowing in.

The strategy is the same for Microsoft. Encourage the startups to use Microsoft products. The first 3 years is the most crucial for startups to grow and they are giving their help and support at this crucial period of their growth. Once these fledgling startus metamorph into an established company, they get to reap the benefits of selling both new software and support.

You have to give it to Microsoft for chalking out a long term strategy across 82 countries.

Will this affect Open Source? One would be tempted to answer ‘yes’ but in the long run, this competition is actually good for the community. It will make them push the bar even higher resulting in better products.

Competition is always good.

More Comic Relief

A few days ago, our coworking office got colourful, thanks to a certain TinTin, Dilbert and Homer Simpson. This was our second installment of comic poster collection.

The entire portrait was created from scratch by our designer, Rajesh. We got it printed at a great place in North Usman Road, T.Nagar called GLO. They have this really fancy machine who’s printing quality that I’m always impressed with. After a week of anxious wait, the poster got framed. Got it done at United Brothers who’s shop is conveniently located close to the printer. Seen here is the person carrying the finished product to my car.

Transported them safely across.

It was past midnight by the time we got down to drilling holes and nailing. Huge dollops of appreciation to the neighbours who understood our need to create a racket at wee hours. We warned them up sufficiently in advance and that helped. We wanted the painting to be done before Jimmy Wales’ visit and the start of Wikipedia Academy.

The Academy in progress and the painting looked real good. Today, I was browsing through the Economic Times in Bangalore and they had a nice colourful picture of the hall with the poster. You should have seen me beam.

Jimmy at our office. Love that dilbert Simpsons picture behind him.

The last two pictures from Jaggy’s collection of photos from Wikipedia Academy.

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