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Showing posts from June, 2010

Useful features in gmail labs

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Today, I noticed a new feature on Gmail that made me really happy. I completed a work-related mail and hit the 'send' button when a Gmail notification popped up, telling me that my mail included the body text "I am attaching a file" but there was no attachment detected in the mail. Here is a screenshot of the message from the Google Labs blog



I realised that I had actually forgotten to attach the file and promptly rectified the error. I am grateful that Gmail saved me time and trouble, and therefore helped me increase my productivity.

The Forgotten Attachment detector was part of Gmail Labs till March 2010 and has now graduated as an integrated feature in gmail. Gmail Labs, launched in 2008, is described by Google as a 'testing ground for experimental features'. As a user of gmail, you can test these features and give feedback to Google. Since its experimental, these features are disabled by default in your Gmail account but you can enable them yourself.

I ha…

Chronicles from history : all the portable music devices I have ever owned

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I really started this blog to write about MP3 players and headphones and in the recent past, I have just written about everything else. And that's the only excuse I am going to offer for this post.
1) Sony Walkman 1986
Dad got it back for me from a trip to Japan and for the life of me I cannot remember the model but it looked like this more or less (image from Audiogold UK)
I used it till it broke and I say that with pride and full approval of my dad who believes we must use and wear out all our gadgets because anyway we will replace them 2 years down the line. I recall that this player used to jam my tapes regularly, stopped fast forwarding and towards the end of its life, operated only on prayer, but it was with me for three years. At least. No recall of what headphones I used with it, I was in school at the time! Thanks Dad for my first taste of portable music. Later I had a Panasonic walkman and another Sony, but the first Sony stays in my memory.

2) Sony CD Player (1998)
This…

What is a smartphone?

This is a question that I asked myself today. Of late, I have been reading and posting about top-of-the-line models including the iPhone 4, Motorola Droid, HTC Incredible, Nexus One, Dell Lightning etc and the respective Operating Systems that each one runs on. And I wondered if I needed to update my definition of what a smartphone is in 2010.

About.com offers an interesting definition and perspective, pointing out that smartphones offer functionality that you would find on a personal computer or PDA like the ability to access high speed internet, sync your email, run productivity applications etc. The article also references an era when we possessed separate cell phones and PDAs like the Palm Pilot (where are they today?)

So we have a distinction between a smartphone and a 'feature phone' depending on the extent to which the phone can perform at least some of the  functions that we do on our computers or laptops. But obviously the amount of things that we can do on a smartph…

Geek toys for your kids!

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Anyone who has read my previous post on geek gear will realise that I drool over the stuff at ThinkGeek. Luckily shipping prices to India are untenable, else I would have bought out most of their store by now. This post is to look at  their fantastic collection of geek toys. Just the thing you should be buying for your kids in a digital age. These are my personal favs but you (and your kid) may have your own opinion. Read on...

1) Illuminated Jet Bib Feeding System



This one cracked me up totally, both concept and write up; 'for the flight into the gaping baby maw!' Red wing tip lights on the airplane shaped spoon draw your toddlers attention while the motion-activated LED lights on the runway bib light up to guide your planeload of babyfood to a safe landing. Well nothing is guaranteed really, when you land on a moving runway!

2) Newbie T-Shirt
Dad or mom in IT? Want your toddler to follow in your footsteps? You need to get him/ her this newbie shirt. Seriously, it's the …

Smartphones for 2010 : Part 4 : What is Samsung bada?

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Engadget reports that Samsung plans to corner more than 10% of the worlds' smartphone market by end 2010. Currently, the Korean company's global smartphone market share stands at just 0.5% so they have a lot of ground to cover. As of Q1 2010, the market leaders are Nokia (39.3%), RIM (19.4%) and Apple (16.1%).

Samsung hopes to ride to this ambitious market share on their home-grown bada mobile OS platform.bada  is entirely a touchphone platform.

According to the bada site, the word bada means 'ocean' in Korean, and should always be written in lowercase.



The site also interestingly comments (and I quote);

"The vision of bada is smartphone for everyone. bada's main goal is not to compete with existing smartphone platforms. Instead, bada will turn Samsung's conventional customers into smartphone users by providing cost-effective smartphones. This means that bada will open and extend a new smartphone market which does not exist in the current mobile market&quo…

Smartphones for 2010 : part 3 : S^3

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Symbian is the ubiquitous mobile OS platform that runs on Nokia phones. Given the Finnish giant's huge market share, this makes it the worlds most widely used mobile OS today. According to Allaboutsymbian, devices running on Symbian include Sony Ericcson P Series, Nokia N and E Series smartphones and the Nokia Communicator.

Originally owned by  Symbian Ltd. and later acquired by Nokia, Symbian is today available as an open source software through the Symbian Foundation; the code was released in Feb 2010. This step was undertaken to interest developers to work on the platform.

S^3 (Symbian 3) will be the first entirely open source version released by the Symbian Foundation, and promises a significantly enhanced user experience over  the older S60 platform. To a large extent, it will have to catch up with competitive mobile platforms which have forged ahead, especially in touchscreen technology. Still, in  India where Nokia has regularly topped the Most Trusted Brands Survey, and m…

Do I really need a desktop?

Recently I have been debating replacing my 3 year old desktop which rarely gets used any more with a second laptop. This blog post by Christopher Dawson on ZDNet has raised some questions in my mind. He basically puts across the case that today, access to the cloud/internet is more vital for most of us, since a large portion of our time is spent working off the Net. And therefore, is there really a need to splash out money on an expensive loaded laptop? He makes a case for a good netbook/smartphone/ tablet to work on the move and a powerful desktop at home for more meaty tasks, when you need the extra performance. And in the current scenario, if you shop carefully, you can get both for a price less than 'the worlds thinnest laptop' or a desktop replacement laptop. It's a good case and worth considering for people on a budget and people who run a home office (count me in both groups)

In one of my earlier posts, I had questioned the wisdom of getting a netbook, when portable…

Office Suites Part 1 : MS Office 2010

Microsoft has launched MS Office 2010 in India a few days ago. Priced at Rs. 4999 for Home and Student version and Rs. 10999 for the Home and Business version, it should however be available at a discounted price when bundled with an OEM purchase. Dell is currently bundling the Home and Student version with new laptops at Rs. 3000 which is a fairly reasonable price.

In case you don't purchase the suite,  your machine comes pre-loaded with MS Office Starter, a free trial version that includes only MS Word and Excel. Alternatively you can download the beta version from the Microsoft site, giving you a 60 day free trial. Warning : If you do this, the default option will over-write your existing copy of MS office. During installation you have to customise to install MS Office 2010 separately.

Also note that this time, Microsoft has NOT offered upgrade pricing for users of Office 2007; you have to pay the full price unless you very recently purchased an OEM/ licenced copy which specif…

Wireless MP3 freedom

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The more you get used to being wireless the more you like it. And if it works for your laptop, won't you start wanting wire-free music on your headphones next?

I've never really been too impressed with the sound quality of bluetooth stereo headsets. They might work OK enough to play a few songs off your mobile phone but that's not enough for an audiophile like me to justify sinking a few thousands.

Sony made a solution available when they launched their W-series walkman headphones last year. (model no. NWZ-W202). Available at Rs. 4990 with 2 GB  inbuilt memory these 'phones provided a great option - Sony quality music built into the headset, playback of multiple formats (MP3/AAC/WMA). Another neat feature is the quick charge - 3 minutes charge gives 90 minutes of playback. And the hot pink color is nice, but guys can find it in black if they want. I quite like the pink myself

There were some reports of sweat affecting some pieces, prompting Sony to replace the affected …

Google Waves, should I wave back?

Anand, who comments regularly on my blog, was the first to draw my attention to Google Wave. It attracted a lot of buzz (the noun, not the Google kind) when it was launched as an invitation-based platform in the last quarter of 2009, but it does not seem to be catching on with the junta, very much as was the case with Google Buzz. Almost all my friends have a Google Account, but I do not catch up with them on Buzz, only on FB or Twitter. And none of my colleagues or friends have yet started using Wave.

It's a pity, because Wave is an attempt to introduce a new to the world concept - a virtual platform for real-time collaboration using rich media (photos, videos, chat, calls and most other things you normally do on the Net). In theory, it is a powerful tool and in my case I can see several potential applications:

1) Collaboration with colleagues in offshore locations. Wave is a fantastic platform to brainstorm a presentation or ideate in situations where we cannot be together in th…

Remember to ask for a discount on Dell accessories

Dell has done it again. Given me 40% off on the price of a replacement battery for my laptop, just because I asked.

It  is virtually impossible to order Dell accessories online in India and I gave up after a 1 hour search. Instead I dialled the (non-toll-free) number to Bangalore and resigned myself  to the 10 minute wait time to be connected to the right person. The only good thing, is that at the end of the wait, your work does get done efficiently.

Dell quoted the cost of a replacement battery for my XPS 1330 at Rs. 9000. I pointed out that aftermarket replacements are retailing for as low as Rs. 3000 in the market. The Dell rep promised to check (which took 5 minutes) and came back to me with a revised cost of around Rs.5000, which I took. Thereafter, the replacement battery was delivered to me within 3 working days.

I've said it before and I will say it again, it pays to ask boldly for discounts when dealing with Dell, whether buying new equipment or accessories. I have expe…

Tablets : roundup

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The response of consumers clearly demonstrates that the iPad has a place in their lives as an entertainment device. It may be hard for other manufacturers to create a product that competes head-on with it. But they are launching a range of interesting devices in the tablet/e-book reader space that can do things the iPad cannot. And I for one, am definitely interested.

I went back to read this article on The History of Tablet PCs which is pretty interesting. It started off as something called 'pen computing', using input from a pen or stylus. This Huffington Post article shows a pictoral history of tablet PCs starting with the Rand GRAFACON  (1964) which sold for $18,000!

Pen computing never really took off although products were launched in the 1990s by companies like Microsoft, Toshiba, IBM and Samsung. In the past few years, tablets and slates have made a big comeback with varied applications, better software and touch interface, long battery life and prices that are competit…

Supercomputers, powered by Linux

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The biannual list of the worlds' top 500 Supercomputers was released on 1st June and The Linux Magazine reports that 455 (91%) of them run some version of Linux!

Now I think that is a great ad for Linux to pull in more users "Runs Supercomputers, and your desktop". What say?

Some more interesting stats from the Top 500 site
USA has the highest number of supercomputers in the list (282) as well as the fastest one, the Cray XT Jaguar, but China has moved to the No. 2 position with 24 supercomputers in the shortlist, tying with Germany.
Two Chinese supercomputers are in the Top 10, including the Nebulae at No.2  which is actually the fastest in theoretical peak performance. (Now when will we see India up there?!)
India has 4 supercomputers in the top 500 list. The fastest is EKA owned by Tata Sons at No. 33. The remaining supercomputers are in IIT Kanpur, IITM (Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology) and C-DAC.
85% of the computers use Quad Core processors with 408 system…

Blackberry OS 6 preview

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In the flurry of tech press news surrounding Android and the launch of iPhone OS 4.0, Blackberry coverage has been a little low key. But in late April, the company released videos of its new Bold 9800 running the BB OS 6.0, which it claims will be a significant upgrade over the OS 5.0.

Pictures of the phone from The Berry Fix reveal a pretty cool looking device, a slider with a virtual QWERTY keyboard in addition to the regular keypad and trackpad.





Bonny Cha reports on Crave that OS 6.0 will feature the new, improved, faster WebKit browser with support for tabbed browsing. In addition, it will have new interfaces, graphics and animations.

RIM has always had a reputation for reliable push email support making it a logical corporate choice. But in an era when iPhone and Android powered smartphones bring in more apps and powerful processors to run them on, clearly RIM recognises that this alone cannot remain a competitive advantage for them.

The device is expected to come to launch in Ju…

Check your telecom operators QoS!

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Recently, TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) has made it mandatory for telcos to display their QoS (quality of service) performance against the benchmark on their websites. The QoS (quality of service) survey is a quarterly survery conducted by TRAI in all telecom circles across the country. In addition, TRAI also publishes the Performance Indication Report for telecom services (Currently the April 2010 report is up for 2009). You can access the TRAI performance indicator reports here and the QoS reports for individual circles here. And of course, your local newspaper will also report QoS scores for your circle.

I believe that it is worthwhile to go through these scores when you are deciding to switch to a new cell service provider, or simply to press for a better service delivery from your existing one. And definitely you must look at this information alongside the tariff plans and schemes, and weight both aspects when you take a decision.

I have scanned below a table showi…