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Showing posts from July, 2010

PayPal suspends electronic withdrawals for India users

Yesterday, I received this mail from PayPal:

In accordance with regulatory instructions, we would like to notify you about a change in our withdrawal functionality in India starting on August 1, 2010. At present you can request for either an electronic or cheque withdrawal of funds from your PayPal account if you are an India user. From July 29, 2010 onwards, you will only be able to request for a cheque withdrawal of funds from your PayPal account.
While we are working hard to restore the electronic withdrawal service, in the meantime, we are bringing this matter to your attention so that you can plan your future withdrawal activities accordingly. To request for a cheque withdrawal:
Log into your PayPal account, click on 'Withdraw'.Click on the 'Request a cheque from PayPal' link.Enter the withdrawal amount and select your mailing address, then click 'Continue'.Click 'Submit' to confirm your request.In order to help you …

Audiophile quality IEMs in India

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I have been a fan of Ultimate Ears since 2007, when I read positive reviews of the brand on Head-Fi, where  the audiophiles of the world congregate to share their passion. Ultimate Ears specialises in creating IEMs (In-Ear Monitors) a type of earphone which is inserted into the ear canal. I like IEMs because they are light and easy to wear, drive MP3 players efficiently, allowing you to listen at lower volumes, and offer passive noise-cancelling (the silicone 'tips' seal the ear canal and cut out ambient noise, negating the need for an expensive battery operated active noise cancelling module).

The history of Ultimate Ears makes for fascinating reading. The company was founded by Jerry Harvey, who was audio engineer for Van Halen. After developing IEMs for Alex Van Halen, and getting his resounding approval, Harvey and his wife Mindy, saw a business opportunity. Initially, Ultimate Ears manufactured custom monitors which were worn onstage by the world's biggest musicians, …

High spec ultraportable laptop - Dell Vostro

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If you run a small business/home office like me, you will want a laptop that balances portability with decent specs. At the same time, you will want hassle-free service and repair, since you would have to take care of it yourself.

I regularly browse the Dell website and it seems to me that currently the Vostro range that they are offering in India is the best combination of specs and portability - at the right price. While Vostro is positioned as a small business range, there is no reason why you cannot purchase it for personal use; in fact you get the added benefit of Vostro service which is extremely prompt.

The range under Vostro which is getting my vote is the Vostro 3300. At a price range from Rs.35,000-Rs.50,000 (excluding tax) you can get an iCore processor, 3-4GB of RAM, a 13 inch screen, upto 500 GB hard drive and a machine which weighs in under 2 kg. Oh, and Dell finally has re-vamped color options, giving you a choice of silver, red or brown in an aluminium casing. Don'…

Tubeless tyres and punctures

For a self proclaimed geek, I don't know too much about cars. The proof - I did not know that my Ritz Vxi has tubeless tyres. No one told me so, but I don't think that's a good enough excuse. Anyway, the point is that I kept noticing that the air presure in the front tyre got low very fast (from 33 psi to 20 psi in 2 weeks). Then one day, the petrol pump attendant advised me to check for a puncture and sure enough, a long nail was embedded in the tyre. Got it pulled out and all was well.

For everyone's benefit, I am sharing the collective wisdom I have gathered from the Net about tubeless tyre punctures

1. The puncture may not be visible. In some cases, a nail may enter the tire and 'seal' the puncture itself, therefore slowing down the leakage of air. This is what happened in my case
2. The only indicator is the rate of loss of air pressure. In extreme cases, this may be a large figure (down to 20 psi in two days after refilling air), or it may be a slow loss …

20north - order products from US in India

E-tailer 20north offers a dream proposition for the Indian consumer "Buy anything in the world from anywhere in India". It's a seductive promise, even for a post-liberalisation India with relaxed import norms. Living in Mumbai, I can honestly say that there are more imported products on the shop shelves than I will ever need or use. If you do need anything else, provided you are willing to pay the hefty international courier fee, a lot of companies and some sellers on ebay, are willing to ship them to you.

But do I still feel a need gap? Yes, I do and it is in geek land. I regret that I cannot buy a top class espresso machine or coffee grinder, the latest Westone IEMs, the fantastic geek gear at thinkgeek. Well, I could, but not without a lot of interaction with customer service and at a huge premium over the discounted prices available in US or other international markets. Oh, and also the 5% foreign exchange transaction fee which will be slapped on my credit card on e…

iPhone 4 is jinxed

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It seems that the guns and knives are out against iPhone 4 and how. Apple's latest toy is plagued with jinxes since launch and  the troubles are only escalating.

The issues started when reports of a possible antenna design flaw causing calls to drop, began trickling into technology news sites and discussion forums. Users are divided, some claiming that they do not experience the problem and an increasingly vociferous majority asserting that they do face the problem. Meanwhile, tech sites ran a battery of tests and confirmed that the issue was caused by the antenna design. I am reproducing a  image from Anandtech, which conducted testing on the device.

They report that the steel band shown in the image is the external antenna of the iPhone. Today, most smartphones have internal antennas positioned at the bottom of the 'phone but Apple apparently chose this design for improved reception. This also created a huge potential problem.

To summarise what the engineers are saying in non…

the future of mobile internet in India

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My attention was grabbed by this article in Advertising Age by Steve Rubel, dramatically titled "It's time to prepare for the end of the Web as we know it." The article references a Morgan Stanley report which predicts that within 5 years, global internet consumption on mobile devices will overtake internet consumption on PCs.

Based on this prediction, the author goes on to say;

"Mobile devices, by their nature, force users to become more mission-oriented. As more internet consumption shifts to gadgets, it's increasingly becoming an app world and we just live in it. Innovation, fun, simplicity and single-purpose utility will rule while grandiose design and complexity will fall by the wayside.
It won't be enough just to build branded mobile applications that repurpose content across all of the different platforms. That's like newspapers taking the print experience and replicating it on the web as they tried back in the 1990s. Rather, we will need …

Using Snaptu on my Nokia E63

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Ok, so we live in a 3G-less country (at least till October). And there's not much you can do on a painfully slow GPRS connection on your phone right? Especially if it's not an Android-powered phone or an iPhone with those cool apps, or a Blackberry.

Actually, you can do quite a bit even with a smartphone which is no longer a smartphone (like my Nokia E63) which runs the now-outdated Symbian  S60 3rd edition. For the past 6 months, I have been using Snaptu on this phone and I am quite pleased with the results.

Snaptu is free to use and install. If you use Airtel, you can download it to your phone from the App Store. Otherwise point your mobile browser to m.snaptu.com to start the download.

Snaptu is a strange animal. According to Ewan Spence's reviewat All About Symbian, it is a Java based app that launches a home screen with a bundle of web services - Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, news feeds and dozens of others. It has an attractive tiled interface which is pretty cool loo…

Foursquare and Yelp : new flavors of social networking

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So Facebook is generating more negative than positive publicity of late, MySpace is kinda passe, LinkedIn is great for professional networking and Twitter's something you either dig or don't get at all.

Want one more social networking tool in your life? There are two hot services which are rapidly capturing the imagination of users, though both are still US based. They will add a different dimension and flavor to your networking experience..and yes, I am posting this hoping that my friends in India who read my blog, will be tempted to log into these sites as well.


1) Foursquare
A small, barely year old New York based startup, FourSquare has already acquired 2 million users after crossing a million users only 3 months ago.  Seems the service is picking up steam.

Foursquare is a location-based social networking service. With the ability to link to your FB or Twitter account, Foursquare lets you share your location with your friends by 'checking in' at different places - …

Your smartphone platform choice and why it matters

I have made several posts over the last few months about Android, S^3 (Symbian 3)Blackberry OS 6.0 and other smartphone platforms. As I mentioned earlier, very soon, your choice of a cellphone will not be purely about the brand and feature set that you prefer. You will also have to commit to a choice of mobile operating system.

The real fight in the cellphone market is no longer just among brands.  The name of the game is platform ownership and the real tussle we are seeing is the one between Apple and its iOS (for iPhone) and the Google-backed Android which runs on multiple handsets of Motorola, HTC, Samsung etc. Among the top-end phones like HTC Evo, Droid X, iPhone 4 etc, hardware parity is rapidly becoming a reality. It is the operating system that runs on the phone and therefore, the user experience, that will differentiate the top-end of the market.

Why is this happening? Primarily because mobile phones are rapidly taking over the mantle of mobile computing devices and thin cl…

Luxury cellphones

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Here are some of the cellphones that most of us will never buy, but you can bet your sweet life some celebrity somewhere (maybe even in Bollywood) will. No talk about (possibly non-existent) specs, let's just roll our eyes at the images.

1. GoldVish, Geneva
These Swiss luxury phones are well...bejewelled.

The Goldvish Revolution with a built in watch movement. I can't confirm but apparently it is priced at approximately 50000 USD or Rs. 22 lakhs



And the Goldvish Le Million touted as the most expensive mobile phone in the world - it actually costs slightly more than a million dollars.



And finally, the slightly more normal looking Goldvish Illusion, which you can buy if you prefer, in yellow gold, with a crocodile leather back inlay, and several choices of colors




If you really crave this, the Google search throws up some Chinese sites offering cheap replicas starting at 2000 dollars.


2) TAG Heur Meridist
The Swiss engineered phone comes in at a relatively modest 7000 USD (Rs. …

The Microsoft Kin Story

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While Apple gets flamed for its iPhone 4 reception debacle, can Microsoft be far behind?

The cellphone market today is defined by a punishing rate of innovation and demanding users who expect their devices to push the envelope with each launch. Even the much-hyped Google Nexus One failed to hold its own against the superior offerings from HTC and Motorola. And even the iPhone it seems, is facing a tough time from its competition.

Microsoft, yet to launch its much-awaited Windows Phone 7, put one exploratory toe into the mobile market and got rather badly burnt. The Microsoft Kin (in two versions, Kin One and Kin Two) targeted at the teenage demographic, was launched in May and already, MS has announced that the project is being shut down and merged into the W7; apparently they barely managed to sell 10000 units of the phone. With just 6 weeks on the shelves, it's the shortest lifespan of any product put out by MS in its history

Zack Whittaker gives the Kin a tongue lashing on his …

Your car security system and the monsoons

I am sharing this bad experience with other car owners - if you have a remote security system for your car, be careful in the monsoons!

This weekend, I dropped my car security remote into a puddle in the rain. Now, I have butterfingers and it is not the first time I have dropped things (cell phone, MP3 player, camera - hope my Dad is not reading this!). The remote peversely worked fine immediately after that and I drove off to Pune down the expressway. Then disaster struck when I stopped at the Food Court for a snack and toilet break. The remote went completely dead and refused to unlock the car. I was forced to use the key and I set off a siren which went on for 20 minutes. The Food Court crowd watched disinterestedly as I struggled and finally drove off with lights flashing and sirens blaring (alternate howling and singing) feeling like a cross between a thief and some action movie stunt girl . After some time, the Nippon Security system decided that either the car had been stolen o…

Smartphones come of age

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I am a regular reader of CNET reviews. Over the years, I have seen the site give fantastic reviews to various Apple products (including earlier versions of iPhone). Recently, Kent Gerrman  reviewed the Apple iPhone 4 on CNET and wrote this remark, which I am quoting:

"We won't say that the iPhone 4 is the best smartphone on the market today. To do so would ignore so many great competing handsets, not to mention the fierce rate of change in the technology world. If you prefer Apple's vision of a polished, highly organized, and slightly closed user experience, then by all means you'll be pleased. But if you prefer a smartphone that offers more personalization, that isn't shackled to AT&T, or that is equal parts phone and mobile computer, than there are plenty of smartphones in the sea." 

It is an interesting reaction to Apple's best iPhone yet. And this comment does not detract from the favorable review and 'Excellent' rating that the site…