Showing posts from 2010

My ultraportable dilemma

It's time for me to get a new laptop. My Dell XPS M1330 is still running well, though a bit battle scarred. But I like to upgrade well before I see any real trouble - as a self-employed person, I have only one machine and no backup plan to deal with downtime.

Owing to heavy travel and daily commuting, I prefer ultraportables. An ultraportable is defined as a machine which weighs approximately 2kg or less and it usually has a screen size of 11 to 13 inches. However, it needs to have specs of a performance notebook, rather than a netbook ; which in today's terms means, an iCore processor, 3GB or more of RAM and 320-500 GB of Hard Drive space.

These are some of the issues I have faced in selecting an ultraportable.
1) Price : Ultraportables are mostly targeted at business users and carry a steep business tag. At the top end,  Dell Latitude and the Sony Vaio Z series go above Rs. 1 lakh and this pricing makes them more appropriate for corporations than individuals. At the lower e…

Kindle : the cheapest and best ebook reader?

Bloomberg has reported  that Amazon is likely to sell 8 million Kindles in 2010, which is 60% higher than predicted by analysts. To put this in perspective, Apple has sold 7.4 million iPads since their debut in April. And Amazon sold only 2.4 million Kindles last year. The Kindle sales figures are unofficial and based on industry sources, as Amazon does not share its sales data. But the figures reveal how the ebook reader market is booming despite predictions that tablets will wipe out the category,  and Amazon's extent of leadership over rivals like Sony and Barnes and Noble's Nook.

The latest, 3rd generation Kindle was launched earlier this year and has gotten good reviews from CNet, Engadget and a lot of other sites. Smaller and lighter than the earlier Kindle and priced at USD 139 (around Rs.6000) for the wi-fi only model, this is probably the cheapest and best ebook reader you can get at that price. Throw in a battery that goes on for a month, a rudimentary webkit browser…

Net neutrality : the debate so far

I have embarked on a difficult topic this time. Net neutrality is a subject of academic study with political and business implications. But I have decided to write about it as a layperson who reaps the benefits of a 'free' internet. and I guess this is where most of us are at.
The context of the debate is the FCC Proposal for net neutrality that goes for vote tomorrow and eventually to the US Congress. While the laws that get passed will be applicable to the US, they will definitely set a precedent for other countries.
You can download and read this mammoth-sized document here. The key points are; 1) The proposed legislation will be applicable only to all forms of broadband access (wired and wireless broadband) and will not regulate the actual content of the internet itself (in any case, it's not even possible to control what gets put up on the net). In other words, the regulations will encompass the broadband providers - ISPs and mobile companies - and their services to end …

tablets in 2011 - what to expect

Tablets have just begun to come into their own and the good news is that we are likely to see many more launches in 2011. What can we expect by way of hardware, software and of course, pricing?

1) Hardware
Hardware for tablets will approach top-end parity, as it has done for cellphones. The processor of choice is dual core, and there are several manufacturers in the fray. Samsung has already announced the Orion, with a pair of 1 GHz ARM Cortex A9 cores. The NVidia Tegra  chipset has already been integrated into several tablets and mobile phones including the newly launched LG Optimus 2X, and Notion Ink's Adam tablet. Texas Instruments has so far been powering Motorola phones with a single core chip, and will be debuting the 1.5 GHz OMAP dual core mobile processor next year. The performance will reportedly be faster than the NVidia Tegra. Qualcomm also has 1.2 GHz and 1.5 GHz processors coming up. Hopefully, a lot of these powerhouses will get showcased at CES 2011 in January. For …

More information about Notion Ink's Adam Tablet

A month ago, I had blogged about Notion Ink's Adam Tablet. A lot of action has happened since then, if you've been following Rohan Shravan's blog. The Adam has gone on global pre-order, and basically been a sell out. There have been glitches with the online ordering system, some criticism around the high shipping fees and apprehensions about buying a tablet that no one has yet seen in action. But Notion Ink will finally display the tablet at CES 2010 and that should answer a lot of questions that are currently floating around. The people who have pre-ordered will receive their tablets in the second week of January 2011.

About the pre-order sales, DNA reports Shravan saying that they are split 60-40 between Europe and USA. No one from India has bought this device? That's a shame, considering the starting price is barely Rs. 15,000.

As launch date nears, Shravan has been sharing more and more info about the Adam, and this interview with Android Police answers a lot of q…

My Wi-fi nightmares

Since the past 3 months, I have been facing a problem. I connect to the internet on my laptop through a Linksys wi-fi router, and at least twice a day, I face connectivity issues. Either I just cannot find my wi-fi network, or my laptop automatically disconnects. Using a standard procedure to troubleshoot a wi-fi connection, I tried moving my router closer to the living room where I access the net. And then I tried to change the channel on which my router connects. In order to do this, I downloaded inSSIDer from Metageek. InSSIDer is a software that uses your wi-fi card to scan and display all the wireless networks in your vicinty, and also maps the signal strength of each network. You can use the information to choose a less congested channel for your router.

But I was in for an unpleasant surprise. The picture says it all
First of all, there are no less than 25 APs (access points) or wireless connections. 95% of these are Tikona wireless connections - there is a Tikona wireless acces…

Cowon is back with the X7

I realise that it's been a long time since I have written on my core passion : headphones and DAPs. To be honest, there were not a lot of developments to write about though. I sometimes wonder if DAPs as a category will survive; beyond a niche segment of audiophiles, cellphones dispense your daily dose of music and most of them do a decent job though my ears are not very tolerant of them. People praise the SQ of the Samsung Wave but to me it sounds a tad metallic.

But now I have cause to rejoice as engadget reports that the Cowon X7 is here. This player has a 4.3 " resistive touch screen, a mammoth HDD with 80/120/160 GB options and a killer battery life of 103 hours for audio. And of course, the legendary Cowon SQ. Having owned the Cowon D2, and listened to both the X5 and the S9, I can say that these guys really deliver good sound quality.

Tech2 reports that the D2 is available in India for Rs.18,000.

Like many people, I value the extra hard drive space, which has vanished a…

Tablet manufacturers woo customers with discounts, bundled offers

India has been getting a spotlight on the mobile tablet front. Both Notion Ink's Adam tablet and the Olive Pad are Indian offerings in the poised-to-explode tablet market.

Now it appears that the manufacturers are keen to lure customers to purchase, through discounts and bundled offers.

Olive Telecom is offering the OlivePad at an special online price of Rs.22,990. Available only through the Olive Telecom site, the package includes free shipping with insurance and bundled leather case, 16 GB Memory Card, lifetime subscription to MapMyIndia for GPS and 6 months free subscription to Live TV through Zenga.

Samsung is opting for tie-ups with operators according to Connect India, offering bundled data plans in partnership with Aircel, Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance Mobile and Tata Docomo. The company is also offering free leather case, stereo bluetooth headset, a copy of the movie '3 Idiots' and pre-loaded GPS software from MapMyIndia.

If you want to enjoy 3G connectivity on your t…

OS domination in smartphones - thoughts for 2011

The Q3 2010 smartphone market share figures released by Gartner recently reflect the exciting and dynamic picture of the mobile phone market today.

(Image from BGR)

It raises some interesting questions for the future in terms of operating system dominance, and when I look at it from an Indian perspective, the questions reveal that the battle could still swing any way.

1. Nokia, what's next?
Despite the hype surrounding Android, Nokia remains the market leader with 44% share, although that share is eroding. In India, Nokia still has over 50% market share in India even after losing ground to Samsung and Indian manufacturers. Nokia foreshadowed the slide in the smartphone race when they announced in Dec. 2009 that they would halve their smarphone portfolio in 2010 and put their effort behind fewer models. The delay in launching Symbian 3 and the less than enthusiastic response to it, also hurt the company. But India and the emerging low-medium cost market remains critical to Nokia. A…

Push sync or customised sync : which do you use?

I am using Exchange ActiveSync on my Samsung Wave, running BADA OS. I set up my hotmail and gmail accounts without any problem, but over months of usage, I am noticing some differences in the way the two work.

To start with, here are my settings for sync. I get several options in sync schedule, allowing me to tweak the sync settings for peak and off-peak periods.

Enter into the peak schedule menu and I get an option to set the frequency of sync - either push (instant) or with varying degrees of infrequency (5 minutes or less frequently)

I like having these options. As per my understanding, push sync is instant ie. the mail server pushes the mail to my phone as soon as it arrives. When I set a 'sync' option,  my phone checks the server and retrieves my mail, at pre-defined intervals that I can customise. Do note that in both cases, I can sync all settings like contacts, calendar, email etc. It is only the frequency of sync that we are discussing here.

Both options have their m…

Cellphone radiation : A compilation of facts from the Internet

Recently I started using a bluetooth headset and out of curiosity I began to google the literature available on radiation emission from both cellphones and bluetooth headsets. There is not a lot of conclusive evidence out there. In fact, it is harder to find information on this topic than it is to find the latest specs of any cellphone! I thought of compiling it all in one place in case anyone has the same queries as me:

1. Cellphones emit 'non-ionising' RF (Radio Frequency) electromagnetic radiation. This type of radiation is also emitted by microwaves and is largely considered to be safe compared to the ionising radiation emitted by Gamma Rays or XRays. However, RF radiation can still heat up the tissues over prolonged exposure. Did you know (I didn't) that your eyes are the most likely to get damaged by RF radiation because the blood flow to the eyes is less and the body controls blood flow to dissipate heat from tissues. Luckily, we do not hold our cellphones to our e…

Honeycomb and BB Playbook - tablets for 2011

The more I dig, the more reasons I come up with for not rushing into buying a tablet right away. If Notion Ink's soon to be released Adam tablet does not convince you to wait, check out the news that Samsung has downsized their production of the Galaxy Tab based on poor sales - looks like the company will not be hitting the 1 million sales mark that they had forecast when they released the tablet.

Android 2.2 is optimised for mobile screens, not for the larger 10 inch screens of tablets. Mashable reports that the next release of Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) will possibly not address this issue either. Of course, the manufacturer can tweak the operating system as Samsung has done.

Android 3 (Honeycomb) is tipped to be the full fledged tablet-ready version of Android. According to GigaOm, both LG and Lenovo have delayed their Android tablet launch to 2011 to wait for Honeycomb.And this post on Phandroid suggests that Honeycomb may be out as early as February 2011.

And all the buzz is n…

Adam from Notion Ink : India's foray into cutting-edge tablets

I had blogged in an earlier post that Indian companies are at the forefront of the tablet revolution. Indian based Olive Telecom released the Olive Pad earlier this year, providing us with our first 'affordable' tablet at Rs. 25,990 - this would fall in the same range as a high end smartphone.

Another company that has been making waves in the tablet world is Bangalore based Notion Ink. Over the past year, company founder Rohan Shravan has been sharing updates on his blog about the progress on the Adam tablet which the company hopes to put on pre-order by end of 2010/ early 2011.

(Images from Slashgear and the Notion Ink blog)
So far, the look has been kept under wraps (which adds to the excitement) but the specs have been released and some of them look very exciting.

Firstly, an NVidia Tegra 2 dual core mobile processor powers the Adam.This new-gen processor will feature in upcoming smartphones from Motorola and LG and is designed for larger screens, better graphics and fast …

I prefer QWERTY to touchscreen, what about you?

I waited nearly a month after acquiring a touchscreen phone, to make this post, but now I'm ready to say that for me, a QWERTY is a must and a pure touch phone does not cut it.

I use the Samsung Wave, and some people have told me, iPhone has a better touch screen, a larger display makes a difference, SWYPE on Android is superb etc.

But I find the touchscreen to be responsive and easy to use, so that is not the issue. In fact, I find it way more convenient for some activities like quickly accessing widgets from the homescreen, browsing the net etc. The touchscreen in these cases acts like a mouse, taking me to the portion of the screen that I want to focus my attention on.

The touchscreen irks me when I want to type. When it's an SMS or a mail, I find myself making way more mistakes than I make with a keypad. And it gets worse when I am entering passwords. Maybe I get more butter-fingered because I am concentrating, but what is a simple process with a keyboard, becomes an orde…

Tablets in India

It seems that all the advice I've been giving lately is to wait, but in this case it's justified. The wait is still on for a tablet that can give competition to Apple's iPad. At the rate things are going, Apple will provide its own competition when it upgrades the iPad next year. But only two contendors -  Samsung and Olive have launched devices and as a pleasant change, both have been officially released in India. And with Bangalore based Notion Ink annoucing an upcoming tablet with killer specs, it appears that India is in the thick of the tablet revolution. Only Apple is yet to officially launch the iPad though it sells unofficially through Ebay India for approximately Rs. 40,000 and upwards depending on configuration.

1) The Olive Pad

At  Rs. 25,990, India based Olive Telecom's Olive Pad  was the first to launch and is also the most accessibly priced in India. It's an appealing toy for the price (if you can't source an iPad from abroad) with an ARM 11 600…

The world of tweets : India is nowhere in the picture

The geek in me loves A world of tweets which I discovered through this techcrunch blog post.

Created by a company called Frog Design, the project visualises tweets, real time on a world map.

Or, in their own words;
"A World of Tweets is all about playing with geography and bits of information. Simply put, A World of Tweets shows you where people are tweeting at from the past hour. The more tweets there are from a specific region, the "hotter" or redder it becomes.

This continuous collection of Twitter statuses also allows for the presentation of other interesting visuals as well as statistical and historical data about the tweeting world we live in. Through the activity of Twitter users it is possible to tailor a new map of the world that evolves during the day according to the timezones and the spreading of mobile technologies."

Here is some interesting historical information from the site. The US is obviously the biggest-tweeting market (38%) but second s…

Does brand loyalty truly exist in an exploding smartphone market?

Barely a month ago, I was a happy Nokia user, till the Samsung Wave lured me into the bada world that I (somewhat reluctantly) inhabit. This year has demonstrated to me that brand loyalty can truly vanish, in a flash. Just 6 months ago, when I was buying my E63, I would not even have considered a Samsung phone. But they produced a beautiful piece of hardware and I ditched the brand I have used for 5 years, without a second thought. It's a similar story for Samsung across the globe. Take a look at sales figures for Galaxy S; Samsung has sold 1 million units (and counting)  in the US, has outsold the iPhone 4 in Japan soon after launch and overall, shipped 5 million phones worldwide, with projected sales of ten million next year. And we are talking of just one phone in Samsung's line up. 2011 promises a Samsung-branded Nexus 2 and a mysterious super phone with a 1.2 gig processor and and a 4.3 inch screen, running Android 2.3 of course. Suddenly, Samsung is at the cutting edge o…

Europe gets bada update, what about India?

Last month, Softpedia reported that Samsung would be rolling out updates of its bada operating system to handsets in Europe. The update named bada 1.0.2, offers several functionalities including an improved T9 text input system called Trace and the ability to browse or use your phone even when it is connected to your PC. It also fixes memory bugs and system errors that plague bada users, and offers a smoother browsing experience. The update allows you to set separate alerts for messages and mails; my Nokia E63 would do that from the start, but Samsung forgot to implement it!

It's impossible to find any communication from Samsung about the bada update, so I have had to fall back on the bada user forums. It appears that as of November 9, most European markets have been able to download the firmware update officially through Kies, the Samsung PC connectivity software. And many people in other parts of the world have successfully flashed the European firmware onto their device and are…

budget android smartphones in India

Like any enthusiast geek, I drool over the latest hardware, but what I will buy are budget smartphones. By budget phones, I mean something that comes in a Rs.10,000-15,000 range. This represents the limit of what I would spend on a phone because I carry and use my laptop almost everywhere so a phone is almost always a secondary screen. And it's less preferred because of the small size, except when I am on the move. I prefer to use a dedicated camera and DAP/MP3 player, so it will not really swap out either device except on the fly.

But I do find myself using my phone more often to browse at home on wi-fi when I feel too lazy to take out my laptop, in a mall when I suddenly want to check a product review, when I am in a coffee shop and planning a trip and I want to check flight schedules. It's fun to check a weather widget on my phone and see the latest weather forecast for the place I am flying to tomorrow. And it is indispensable to see and answer mail on the fly and to get n…

The latest and greatest smartphone specs - a checklist

I have blogged recently about how the cellphone industry is in a state of constant flux, with constant hardware and software upgrades making it impossible to buy the 'best' cellphone, as the best is always coming next quarter or even next month.  This is a state of affairs for which I squarely blame Android, with its Google-inspired constant beta innovation curve. Android has brought vibrancy and change into the cellphone space, both through the features of the OS, and through the enthusiastic response from handset manufacturers like Motorola, HTC and Samsung.

While this makes choice difficult for a buyer, some features seem to be stabilising, though slowly. And some have not really changed a lot over time! I thought it would be useful to make a checklist of such features for a prospective buyer to know what is the best - and then decide. This is an OS independant list, and covers purely hardware specs.

1) Display :
Currently the best displays are the Apple iPhone 4G 'Reti…

Windows Phone 7 arrives finally

Finally after nearly a year long wait, Windows Phone 7 was announced last month, and devices are now available for sale in Europe, Asia Pac (Singapore and Australia) and most recently, US. MS is backing the launch with aggressive advertising and has claimed in Computerworld that the OS is more efficient than either iOS or Android, requiring 20% fewer steps to perform daily tasks.

According to Mashable, the handset partners for Microsoft - LG, Dell, HTC and Samsung - have 9 WP7 handsets between them.All phones for the WP7 platform will all carry a '7' in the model name eg. HD7, which will distinguish them from the often similarly named Android handsets made by the same manufacturers. All of them are GSM handsets; the CDMA handsets are expected to debut only in 2011.

There's a fairly wide and confusing range on offer,across feature sets and price points. I mostly blame HTCs increasingly confusing line up for this, but Microsoft's insistence on certain base specs for all …