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Showing posts from 2011

Troubleshooting wi-fi connectivity with Intel Centrino Wireless N-1030

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There is a problem which has cropped up recently on my Dell Vostro 131. It refuses to connect to my Linksys WAG54G2 router, and when it does, the connection breaks almost immediately. I established that it could not be a router issue (I sit and work on the sofa next to the damned router) and besides, other devices including my iPad and my old Dell XPS laptop are connecting perfectly well. So I figured that it's a problem with the network adaptor/ drivers.

Here is a summary of the steps that I took to address the problem. They seem to have worked, but I will be calling Dell customer support if the problem persists. Do note that I use Windows 7, and the screenshots I have posted may not be applicable for XP/Vista machines.

Intel acknowledges that there is a problem with several products - see the list in the article for details. The feature called 'Power Saving Polling' which is intended to save battery life but can cause problems if the router or access point cannot impleme…

The Handy Guide to the Samsung Galaxy Range

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There's one word to describe the Samsung Galaxy smartphone range - confusing . Well, Nokia did much worse with the endless alphanumeric combos like C2-03 and X2-01 and I spent half a day figuring out what they all stood for when I composed my handy guide to Nokia phones earlier this year. Samsung has not made it too easy either. The company tags "Galaxy" to every Android phone/tablet it makes and "Wave" to every bada phone and after that, price is really the only cue to figure out what's at the top of the heap and what's at the bottom.

So here's the low down on the Galaxy range. Earlier this year, Samsung introduced a naming convention to define the Galaxy Range (thanks, Mobile Gazette for the lowdown!) which is as follows;

S = Super Smart (Top End phones)
R = Refined (High End Devices)
W = Wonder (Upper Mid Range Phones)
M = Magical (Mid Range Phones)
Y = Young (Entry Level Smartphones)

In addition, a 'Pro' handset will feature a QWERTY key…

Review of Dell Vostro V131

I don't usually do reviews - there are so many sites who do a fantastic job (and more importantly, do it at the time of launch - whereas, I am usually  a late adopter). But the Dell Vostro V131 is likely to interest a lot of people like me who are buying on a budget so I thought I would do a quick recap after two weeks of using it. This does not purport to be an exhaustive review - I'll give you some links to reviews that helped me to make up my mind at the end of this post. It is rather a recap of the good and bad points.

I bought this laptop for work use (I am self employed). I was looking for a light, 13 inch laptop with good service support at a price point under Rs.60,000. No graphics card. Good keyboard. The choice narrowed down to  the Dell Vostro V131 and the Sony Vaio S series which features some models under Rs.60,000. I also considered the Dell XPS 14, but did not see an additional value for paying Rs.65,000 other  than the good looks. As an aside, the XPS range has…

Will Windows Phone be the third wheel in the mobile party?

It's been  a year of massive upheavals in the volatile mobile phone market. First of all, smartphones now constitute 30% of mobile shipments worldwide. Secondly, according to Gartner, in Q3 2011, Android gained more than 50% market share globally, doubling its market share over 2010. And Samsung overtook Nokia to become the world's largest cell phone manufacturer. The casualties were RIM and Nokia - Symbian lost nearly half its market share while RIM plummeted below 10% in the US market. Nokia continued to maintain some momentum thanks to a slew of low end devices aimed at  the emerging markets, but RIM did not have the same fortune.

Now in a scenario where Apple's iOS and Google's Android OS rule the market, is there room for a third player? And who is it likely to be?

The logical answer is of course Microsoft with its WP OS. Microsoft has so far not made a dent in the mobile market - it is stagnating at less than 2% market share even  after the launch of the new oper…

The best 3G data plan in Mumbai

If you use 3G a lot, on your smartphone or tablet, you would also have figured that 3G data plans are prohibitively expensive and restricted in many ways. For example, there are almost no unlimited plans, you pay extra for roaming on other networks and 3G coverage is patchy.

MTNL Mumbai has some extremely attractive unlimited 3G packs. The pick of the bunch is the 3G 4500 plan which gives you unlimited data for 6 months at just Rs.4500. Pair this with the seamless 3G roaming on BSNL networks at no extra charge and you have the best plan for Mumbaikars as of now. This plan is available for both prepaid and postpaid MTNL users and can now be purchased online.

Do bear in mind that MTNL Mumbai does not offer MicroSims for iPad so you will have to purchase and cut the SIM yourself to use with an iPad. That's easy to do, and TechRadar has an excellent guide which I followed to create my own MicroSim.

Here are the MTNL 3G settings for iPad in Mumbai.

How to increase partition size of C (System) Drive in Win 7

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I am back to blogging after a long gap!

This post is based on my practical experience (Read : struggle) with partitions in my new Windows 7 PC. Windows 7 provides a disk management tool which makes it very easy to create new partitions. You simply go to Control Panel/ System and Security/ Create and Format HD Partitions and you get a window which lets you  easily and intuitively create partitions.

So creating partitions is easy. The problem starts when you later decide that you want to increase the partition size of C Drive. There is an option called Extend Volume but it shows up greyed out and it cannot be used. So you are stuck with lots of extra free space elsewhere and you can't use it on C Drive. What do you  do?

At this stage, you need  to get a third party software to help you. I used EaseUS Partition Manager which is a great freeware tool. Ten  minutes and one boot up and my C drive volume got extended.

Here are the steps:

1) Backup your data!

2) Download the partition man…

MTNL broadband plans are more expensive, less attractive

I have been a huge fan of MTNL Broadband on this blog. Out of all the internet service providers I have used, they have proved to be the most reliable and most reasonably priced till date and the customer service experience has not been bad either. Of course with the shrinking base of landline customers, it also stands to reason that they are able to service them better.

But the latest TriBand plans from MTNL Mumbai have been a huge disappointment. They favour low-bandwidth unlimited usage and are seem to be priced higher to discourage high-bandwidth, heavy data users. High bandwidth is a misnomer - 2 Mbps is not considered high speed in most developed countries and 256 kbps is not even broadband anyway. With most households now connecting multiple devices wirelessly to the internet (laptops, smartphones, even tablets), speeds below 512 kbps are not going to cut it anymore.

With multiple device access, and heavier web pages, the data download has also increased and I have experienced …

Property Tax for Mumbaikars simplified - pay online

Since last year, my housing society discontinued the practice of paying property tax on behalf of the residents and now hands our individual property tax bills to us to take care of. I have been once to the local Municipal Office, and while it's not as bad an experience as I thought it would be, it does take up half the day till I reach, park the car, stand in a queue and get the job done.

Thanks to my dad, I discovered the online property tax payment facility offered by the BMC. You can find it here.
To enter the site, you just need to enter the SAC number (usually an alphanumeric code) printed on your property tax bill. 
The payment gateway accepts payment through credit card or netbanking from a whole list of nationalised banks, but not from too many private ones. However, you can use the ItzCash or BillDesk facilities to pay through any credit card or netbanking account. A small service fee is levied per transaction, but in these days, with the petrol prices what they are, yo…

Will Daily Deals do well in India?

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Ben Parr's  post on Mashable sums up the rather bleak international scenario for daily deals sites - things are not looking good. Groupon, which created the online coupons category, is struggling to make profits despite large revenues. Facebook has withdrawn its Facebook Deals product after a short experimental stint and Yelp is scaling down its deals offerings, with an intent to exit the category. It appears that the industry is headed for a shakedown and only a few players are going to survive.

Meanwhile, the sector has just begun to explode in India. At least 30 different players, some large, some small, have sprung up. The market leader is the homegrown Snapdeal, which recently raised 40 Million USD in funding. Times Group, EBay India, Rediff and Groupon (via a buy out of SoSaasta.com) have also entered the fray. Makes you wonder whether the bubble will burst in India soon, as it already has abroad

But at least for now, the going is good. Data shows that 4.6 million users acc…

Low cost tablets hit the Indian market, will they succeed?

According to this report published on trak.in, India saw fairly healthy tablet sales in 2010-11. A total of 85,000 tablets were sold from November 2010 to March 2011, with Samsung's Galaxy Tab taking a lion's share of 85%. Apple's iPad 1 was launched in India in April 2010, but managed only 5.9% market share in the same period. The same article mentions that tablet sales in India are projected as 250,00 units for the current financial year. That's a drop in the ocean compared to the approximately 40 million iPads that Apple will be shipping globally in 2011.

All major tablets launched internationally including the iPad 2, the Motorola Xoom, Acer Iconia and the Galaxy Tab 750 are now available in India While these premium offerings are hovering at or above the Rs.30,000 mark, there are also some low cost options.

Reliance has launched a 3G tablet and the specs are decent for the asking price of Rs.12,999. You get a 7 inch capacative TFT/LCD screen, 800 MHz processor, A…

Could we have an India-specific mobile platform?

Chinese search giant Baidu recently announced  the launch of an Android-based mobile platform called Yi, which means 'easy' in English. Currently, the platform comprises a set of tools available to developers to create mobile apps for Baidu products and services. But there seem to be strong indications that Baidu is taking steps towards developing an operating system with a user interface, which will eventually find its way onto phones. Chinese e-commerce portal Alibaba has already launched its own Linux-based Aliyun OS.

With 200 million registered users, Baidu is one of the largest sites in the world - to be precise, the sixth largest. And as China's Google, with 80% market share, it certainly has enough user base to develop its own mobile operating system.

Update : Dell has just confirmed that it will partner with Baidu to produce tablets and handsets.

There's more. Now the South Korean government has plans to join hands with local companies like Samsung and LG to …

Strategy to gain market share with low cost tablets

After deciding to end support for the webOS software, HP dropped the price of its TouchPad tablet to $99 for the 16GB version and $149 for 32GB and within a short span of time, the existing stock was sold out. Now, the company plans to manufacture at least one more limited run of tablets to meet the overwhelming demand. When it was priced competitively to the iPad there were no takers, but at the new price, people are apparently prepared to invest, even without the promise of a future ecosystem. Efforts are on to release an Android port for the TouchPad, which would link it to the Android marketplace, and that would make the TouchPad an attractive buy. But the story of the TouchPad makes an interesting case study about how to fuel mass adoption for a new alternative platform. Discount the hardware, create a large user base in a short time span, and then automatically the developer community will step in to build applications. It's a viable market strategy for a company with long t…

BlackBerry's 2011 line up

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BlackBerry is currently in the thick of a huge launch and re-vamp of its product line - a measure that the company must be banking on to stem the eroding mind share and market share in the smartphone segment. India is a important market for BlackBerry, and one where the company has lost less momentum compared to the US, so we can surely expect the latest releases to land early on our shores.

First of all, the new BB range debuts with BB 7 OS, the newest RIM mobile software. Preliminary reviews suggest that it represents in terms of user experience modest upgrade over OS 6, though not changing the way the operating system looks and behaves - that's probably a good thing. But BB 7 still lags behind iOS and Android in two critical areas - the browsing experience and the app ecosystem. This should not be of concern to loyal BlackBerry users, who will be welcomed to a new OS that runs way faster (especially on the top-end Bold), offers NFC, HD Video recording, better graphics support a…

The handy must-read guide to buying a Nokia phone (Symbian only)

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Nokia has been off my radar for sometime now, but they have gotten my attention again with a slew of launches. While most of us are pre-occupied with the world of Android and iOS, the Finnish phone maker has quietly been adding budget handsets and mid-range smartphones to their vast range, offering great functionality and solid build quality as always. The dropped prices make the purchases a little sweeter.

So I spent some time poking around Nokia's new launches and here's the deal - the current Nokia range is bafflingly complex to figure out. Full of nomenclature like C5-03, X1-01 and stuff like that - you get the idea. There is a mix of touchscreen, 'touch and type' and QWERTY/physical keyboard across price points. So this is an attempt to present my own categorisation, based on my understanding of the prices and features on offer. It would be handy to read this if you are considering buying a Nokia phone right now.

This post will only deal with Symbian phones, which…

The real future of tablets

As far back as 2001, Bill Gates predicted that tablets would become the most  popular form of PC sold in America. It's not yet happening, but the tablet segment is poised to grow rapidly - research firm In-Sat estimates that 250 million tablets will ship in 2017, with the number reaching 100 million by end 2012. It's perhaps a little ironic that the pace of growth is driven by not by Microsoft but by arch rival Apple.

Today, it seems like everyone has a theory about the future of tablets. And these predictions have value as a measure of the decisions that companies will take, which will ultimately shape the future of the market. In that sense, the tech sector is similar to the fashion industry. It decides what will will be the 'next big thing' and we as consumers just follow it. Today we have a choice between Android and Apple, but that's just a fallout of the industry leaders' decision that mobile phones would become mini-computers and browsing devices rather …

The mobile landscape is changing rapidly, but not through innovation

The last month and especially the last week, have been eventful for the world of mobile devices. The hot topic today is Steve Job's resignation as CEO of Apple, but several other top business stories have been foreshadowing the shape of things to come.

The big shocker was HPs decision to move out from its Web OS (tablets and smartphones) business - just 16 short months after purchasing Palm and just a few months after launching the HP Touch Pad, Veer and Pre 2 smartphones. WebOS received a lot of positive feedback from the tech community - a rare occurrence in a world ruled and defined by iOS and Android. But sales did not inspire confidence : until HP discounted the TouchPad to prices starting at $99 two days later. HP did not wait or persevere but inexplicably decided to give up. And what's more, the company has also announced that it will move out of the personal PC business. Horace Dideu beautifully analyses the demise of HP in this post on Asymco.

Then there was the annou…

Budget Android Phones in 2011 : part 2

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As the buzz about Android grows bigger, more and more people are keen to sample it. The good news is that Android handsets are getting cheaper and more accessible thanks to initiatives by HTC and Samsung. And there's more good news - you are getting more bang for your buck with the latest flavor of OS available on at least a few phones.

There are some disclaimers for budget Android phones. Today top-end smartphones today are becoming like powerful mini-computers with dual core (and soon, Quad Core) processors, huge RAM and large displays. You can think of budget smartphones as being like netbooks in comparison. They will be underpowered, the interface will be slow and gaming may be a less enjoyable experience. The display will not be the best. To the best of my knowledge, these phones will also not play Flash video due to lower processor speed and performance. You could get a workaround for YouTube videos, but you might have to forego other sites with flash content.

 If you are pr…

threebudget ultraportable notebooks - finally

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(This post has been edited to include a new ultraportable entrant, the Dell Inspiron 13z)

Sometime ago, I was struggling to find a decent ultraportable at a reasonable budget, and now it seems that there are three available in the market. The heartening news is that they carry the latest specs, and have been launched pretty much in line with international launch dates. Maybe Sony and Dell will inspire Asus and Toshiba to follow suit and launch their top of the line ultraportables in India too!

1. Dell V131 (13.3 inch)



The Dell V131 is a successor to the one year old V130, a slick ultraportable which suffered from poor battery life, underpowered ULV processor and finally a non-replaceable battery which drove the last nail into its coffin as far as I was concerned.

This time round, Dell has refreshed the V131 with a large 6 cell removeable battery promising upto 9 hours of battery life, and given options of a second generation (Sandy Bridge) Intel Core i3 or Core i5 processor. Overall, …