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Showing posts from March, 2010

About Facebook and Privacy

This post is a response to a ZDNet article on proposed changes in privacy settings on Facebook, which will basically allow Facebook to proactively share user data with 'pre-approved' third party websites. Put in plain English, this means that they could potentially share your user data without your explicit consent.

I wanted to share about the comments that I saw on ZDnet coming as a reaction to this post. Basically, an older generation of facebook users felt that they would deactivate their accounts, because they are sensitive about privacy in a way the newer generation is not. Others counter-argued saying that the younger generation is smarter and even more sensitive about privacy and security and user control.

Which perspective is true? If you are over 30, and gainfully employed, do you really want anyone (even an anonymous third party site) to know how many hours you spent playing Farmville,  that you believe in God and Fortune Cookies and various other sundry details? And…

The best EBook Reader

Quite a few people I know (including my Dad) are interested in reading ebooks and are searching for a suitable device.

I googled a few reviews on PC World, CNet, and Top Ten Reviews and it appears that overall, the Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Nobles' Nook and Sony are rated as the top devices across most sites. The IPad joins this list now, but it will be interesting to see to what extent it can compete with the Kindle as a pure ebook reader; the IPad of course, is designed to do more than just read books.

You can always read ebooks on your mobile device, PDA or DAP, but in most cases the ebook support is not properly implemented.

I personally think that we don't yet have a perfect ebook reader in the market and I would pitch that people should wait till we see the following features implemented:
1) A true open-source ebook software (Epub is a start) that makes it easy to standardise and convert. Sort of an MP3 equivalent in the ebook world
2) A device which is NOT linked to one…

Airtel Mobile Internet at Rs. 99

Airtel has recently launched an attractive offer of Mobile Internet at Rs. 99. Well worth it for non-Blackberry users like me (I use the Nokia E63) who do not have a standardised rate plan for mobile internet.

There is a 2 GB monthly cap, but given the slow speed of GPRS/ Edge connections, it is unlikely that you will ever download that much in a month :)

An interesting tidbit - when I called Airtel to activate this plan, I was told through the IVRS system that if I want to talk to a customer service representative, I would be charged at the rate of 50 paise per 3 minutes.

Of course, calls to customer service abroad are always metered and in India, many service providers like Tata Sky and Tata Indicom Broadband do not provide a toll free number. In principle, I am fine with paying for quick resolution through phone, but in that case, I do not want to hang on to the line and keep pressing buttons. Give me a dedicated  number and guarantee a resolution under 3 minutes and I will gladly …

Lemon picking - Logitech 15.4 Kinetik Backpack

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There is an inherent risk in loving and impulsively buying the latest and best tech products - the risk of lemon-picking. In other words, if you're the first to try something new, you could end up with buggy or flawed products and then you have to fight to get a refund or replacement.

This is what happened to me with the Logitech Kinetik Backpack released in 2007. Logitech no longer manufactures or lists these on its website, which is enough proof that I bought a lemon :)

Anyway, I sprung for this beautiful notebook bag to carry my very heavy 15.4" Lenovo laptop, seduced by the Mutant Ninja turtle looks of the bag, as well as positive reviews on CNet and notebook review.

The bag looked great and acted like armor at crowded airport terminal queues; anyone who pushed against me hard was liable to break a few bones if they came in contact with that hard shell on the back. I have heard a few very satisfying 'thunks' coming from persistent pushers in the rear, followed by a…

Ada Lovelace Day - celebrating women in technology

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I am late to the party with this but Ada Lovelace Day was celebrated on 24 March 2010 to commemorate the achievements of women in the tech sector.  The website asks people to pledge to blog on this day about women in science or technology whom they admire.

Ada was apparently the world's first computer programmer, way back in 1844, and a computer language is also named after her. It amused me to learn that she was Lord Byron's daughter. For entirely personal reasons, I love the combination of poet and techie....




(Image Source : Wikipedia)


For more information on women techies check out The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Website.

I got a feeling somebody's watching me....

In March last year, I purchased two LG Air Conditioners for my home office set up. Till March this year, I got 3 free services from LG. Now that the warranty/ service contract is expiring, I am beginning to get calls on my mobile from various service providers, offering me an Annual Maintenance Contract at reduced rates.

It is of course good to have options, but I wonder, how do so many different people know that I have 2 airconditioners, that my contract with LG is expiring, and who gave them my mobile number?

My contact details as a customer are registered at just 2 places - Vijay Sales (from whom I bought the ACs) and LG Customer Care. Who is responsible for the leak? My number has been passed to so many field engineers, maybe one of them has forwarded this information to a service agency? Or has the information leaked directly from LG?

Database leaks are becoming more common in India. JustDial recently sued Askme.in for content theft. And in the past, Travelocity had filed an FIR…

Java Geeks, this one's for you!

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If you're like me and love your cup of coffee, coffeegeek is the place to hang out. The site features consumer/ prosumer reviews of  truly mouthwatering equipment - espresso machines, grinders, roasters and tampers. I regularly spend some time drooling around here, but unfortunately none of these machines are available in India except a few very high end ones for commercial use. And given weight and size, shipping cost from abroad would prove uneconomical.

So here is my equipment dream list:

1) The Rancilio Rocky Coffee Grinder featured on Wholelattelove which is another place where I spend a lot of time drooling. Coffee lovers will tell you that grinding your beans fresh is even more critical to a great cup than having an expensive machine, and the Rocky is a well respected semi-pro grinder. You can read the reviews here.

2) The Francis Francis! X5 Espresso machine (featured here from Wholelattelove). It is beautifully engineered and makes great espresso according to the reviews o…

The danger of automatic updates

Today I read this post on ZDnet about a buggy update for BitDefender Anti Virus software, which deleted several vital Windows files by falsely identifying them as malware. Users of BitDefender were apparently unable to start their machines and had to re-install their OS to get up and running.

My first reaction when I heard the news, was to feel bad, because BitDefender is regularly rated as one of the best antivirus softwares on most sites. My next reaction was alarm. I use Kaspersky Internet Security, which has a good reputation, but I notice that every day, it downloads updates automatically. In fact, this is touted as one of its strengths, that everyday new virus definitions are added, so that you are always ahead of the latest virus.

The news about Bit Defender made me wonder about  the merits of automatic updates vs. manual updates. Half the time, Windows, Adobe, ITunes and dozens of softwares are updating automatically. If there are any faulty updates, I would not want to blindl…

Home Audio solution for MP3 music - Audioengine A5 speakers

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Today, by default, most of our music is in MP3 format, either high or low bitrate. The purists will flog formats like OGG and FLAC, and still greater purists will only listen to CDs, but the fact remains that most of us have ripped our music and transferred it to our MP3 players, cell phones, or PCs. And ideally, we would like to play it from our input source, for greatest convenience.

For people who love their music, I highly recommend the Audioengine A5 bookshelf speakers. I have owned a pair for 2 years and they take my MP3 music and totally rock it. Reviews like this one on audioholics.com on the Net justly praise these beautifully finished, beautiful sounding speakers. While they are designed to be attached to your PC, like me, you can place them as separate units, and directly plug in your MP3 player. Audioengine separately sells a Wi-Fi adaptor, which lets you stream your music wirelessly to the speakers.



The Audioengines pair beautifully with IPods, and with my Cowon D2. My lo…

buying audiophile headphones in India

Good sound depends on both the input source (MP3 Player) and the output source (Headphones or earbuds). Most audiophile sites will advise you to allocate a part of your budget to buy a good pair of earphones to replace the stock earbuds that come bundled free with an MP3 player. They even advise combinations that work depending on your input source.

I have found that this is true. Spending even a minimum amount on good earphones can truly deliver more listening pleasure. Unfortunately, we do not have too many options in India, even in a city like Mumbai, for buying audiophile quality headphones. Those who travel to Singapore, should visit Jaben Network at the Adelphi. This fascinating shop is tucked away in a corner of a mall devoted to music products and is worth a visit for the sheer joy of experiencing the best headphones and earphones in the world; you can try anything before you buy and the owners are happy to spend time helping you find what you want. I'm sure Jaben will als…

So many net connections, so little connectivity

I'm a bit ashamed to admit this but right now, I have three internet connections in my house. It seems to suggest a confused mind. Actually, it just happened.

OK, Internet is to my life, what the sea is to a fish; without constant connectivity at 2 mbps, I will asphyxiate. Since I work from a home office, I cannot afford down time. I first got my Tata Indicom Broadband connection three years ago. It came cheap and the service is respectful. But it goes down anytime, especially when its time to skype with a client. And recently, I figured that there is no way to wi-fi it.. That's because I have a ethernet connection with no modem, this cable comes from a switch installed on the terrace of my building and I just have to plug it into my computer. The good thing about this arrangement is that it cuts short troubleshooting by customer service at my expense. They cannot request me to plug and unplug the modem, wait till it restarts, re-check the flashing lights and other general in…

Buying from Dell India

I'm a repeat customer of Dell India for a simple reason; I always get a higher configuration at a lower price than any other notebook or desktop manufacturer can offer. And I can customise the configuration to suit my need.

I have always advised my friends to visit a Dell reseller to gauge their comfort with the notebook (ergonomics, key and touchpad size, ease of typing) but to buy online to negotiate a better deal.

It pays to bargain hard for a good offer. I have gotten the octroi waived off twice (that's a big deal if you live in Mumbai, paying the highest octroi in the country; it translates to a discount of Rs. 4000-5000).

And you can put that money you've earned to a better use. A techie friend advised me to always ask for the extended warranty (they cap it at 3 years, but if you can get a longer one, go for it). It's frighteningly expensive at the rates listed on the website but the good news is that you can negotiate it down too. My friend got a 3 year comprehensi…

Buy the MTNL Router, just buy it!

It's one of those rare cases where the advice on the Internet did not serve my best interest.

So, I took an MTNL connection in January and following general popular advice, I decided to 'invest' in my own router. I called my computer supplier and he recommended Linksys. Strongly. So strongly that I should have suspected something. I paid out Rs. 3500 for Linksys WAG54G2.

I soon realised my mistake. That damn router refuses to 'talk' to my Dell laptop. Depending on its mood, it has to be switched on and switched off repeatedly until it condescends to connect. I have checked every setting on the router home page, I have upgraded the firmware, I have read tonnes of stuff about routers and I am still stuck with no option but to bicker with my supplier in the hope that he will take it back.

The whole issue of routers is so complicated, it just bypasses my modest knowledge of technology. I mean, the Net is flooded with complaints by people who can't get their routers…

Got a burning complaint? Send an email.

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This is something I have cracked after filing a series of complaints with various technology service providers and manufacturers. The quickest way to resolve a complaint is to send an e-mail.

For most of us, toll-free numbers and call centres have not really measured up to great customer service. Spending ten minutes navigating a remarkably dense caller menu or listening to brand advertisements at the expense of your own airtime, does not exactly elevate your mood. Then, once the cust. service representative finally comes on line, with tech issues, it's a hit or miss whether he/she can figure it out, resolve it or fix it. Mostly you end up with a complaint number and a vague promise that everything will be fixed 'on priority'

Here are some cases where sending an e-mail actually helped the issue to get sorted out ASAP. And, I spent no time and no money.

1) MTNL : I have a pre-paid broadband and I was trying to re-charge it online. During money transfer from my ICICI Bank Accou…

Is it worth it to get a Netbook?

I've been lugging my laptop for all my business meetings and on flights, for the last few years of my life. First it was a very heavy and rugged IBM think pad, then a rather unfortunate Lenovo purchase that I would like to forget and now my one year old Dell XPS 1330, which is the lightest and most high-end laptop I have ever owned.

So you can't really blame me for salivating over the ultra portable netbooks that are now flooding the market. Most of them hit the sweet spot under Rs. 20,000; about the same price you would pay for a high end cellphone. Why not? Yet I have hesitated before springing for one of the HP, Dell or Asus models that are available.

This article that I read yesterday on ZDnet puts the issue into perspective. For most of us, laptops are used for business and we therefore need a certain level of computing power. Specs such as Atom Processor and Win XP Home leave me fairly cold. The slowness and clunkiness of my Vista OS has made me very scared about low end …

Large capacity MP3 Players

Not so long ago, it was easy to find MP3 players with high capacity storage : Creative, IRiver and of course Apple, all offered options ranging from 20 GB to 110 GB. It was the era when hard drive storage was fairly cheap and accessible.

Now, as the world moves to flash drives and solid state storage, capacities of MP3 players have dropped sharply. There are enough people to point out very rationally that you should not need to carry your entire music collection around, but let's leave out that argument. Some of us just need to. Period.

My Beatles collection is 3 GB even when ripped to low bit-rate MP3 and I want it with me. What are my options?

Surprisingly few. There is the Ipod Touch 64 GB, but that is prohibitively priced at Rs. 20,000 or more through most reputable retailers. The IPod Classic 160 GB is a decently priced option at Rs. 11,000 but read this review on CNET , which basically warns of sub-optimal audio quality. If you are more interested in this subject, read these in…

Warranty return for Seagate Drives in India

If you are a Seagate customer in India and want to make a return under warranty, you should read this post.

Recently, I had to return a Seagate External Hard Drive (500 GB) under warranty, purchased for office back up. The device broke down within 3 months of purchase, which was enough to annoy me. Plus, I had already dumped 40 GB of data onto the drive, which I would have to now transfer again.  You can guess that I was not a very happy camper at this point.

I set out to browse the Seagate website, figuring that warranty return information should be pretty easy to obtain. It was not. the India warranties page told me nothing.

Shouldn't the website mention somewhere that Accel Frontline services Seagate warranty claims? I knew this only because I had already visited one of their service centres in another city to get my Sony cellphone repaired, and seen the queues of customers with defective hard drives.

So I got the address, figured the working hours and went there to return the …