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Showing posts from August, 2012

Word of the day : Skeuomorphic user interface

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Slashdot taught me a new word today. At my age, that's not something that happens often, so I am happy!

The article points out that Skeuomorphic Graphic User interfaces are  in fashion today, pointing to Apple's leather tooled 'stitched' look for iCal. 

Skeuomorphic design  is defined as "an element of design or structure that serves little or no purpose in the artifact fashioned from the new material but was essential to the object made from the original material".



I found some interesting examples of skeuomorphic design when I looked at Pimp Your Screen, a popular screen saver/ wallpaper app for the iPad. Have a look at these designs for 'app shelves' (and the desire to arrange apps neatly on shelves is itself very skeuomorphic - if that's the right term)




Needless to say, the 'retro' look is part of this trend. It will be interesting to see how this plays out with apps. Beautiful design plays a big part in making you want to open and use app…

Nothing beats filter coffee :)

I have come full circle since I blogged in May about my new home espresso set up, and later about my acquisition of a Capresso grinder. After the daily joys of grinding beans and cleaning the espresso grinds and wiping the machine, shall we say that my enthusiasm has waned a little?

Yesterday I found some  old Mysore Concerns coffee powder and I primed up my stainless steel Madras filter to make some home style filter coffee. I tasted fresh brewed filter coffee after ages and it was simply divine paired with fresh boiled milk. It did not matter that the coffee powder was nearly a month old and stale beyond measure by espresso standards. I admired the versatility and simplicity of our traditional method of coffee brewing. It is gentle on the coffee and extracts without torturing the bean. You get a flavorful cup that is especially tasty with thick fresh milk. 

I enjoy brewing my cappucino's and espresso's but my filter coffee still holds a special place in my heart. I doubt I wil…

The end of the DAP/ MP3 player

In the early days of this blog, I rhapsodised about all the MP3 players I have ever owned, including my current one - the Cowon D2. Last week, the D2 gave me a little trouble - the sliding power button broke and I had to get it fixed. I took it to a nearby, bustling cell phone repair shop where the repair guys are unusually resourceful. They kitted it out with a slider switch from some Nokia phone and now it's back in action.

But when I realised that the player would not power up, I experienced a moment of panic. Not because I would lose the music - most of it is on the SD Card and all of it is backed up - it's because there are almost no DAPs (Digital Audio Players) left to buy in the market. I expect all of them to disappear quietly over the next 2-3 years.

As much as cellphones have killed entry level cameras, they have killed the entire category of DAPs. I see most people today listening to their music on their cell phones - and as the personal storage capacity for music thr…

What do you do with your old smartphones?

This post is  inspired by a question posed by a reader on Slashdot - what do you do with your old smartphone when you buy a new one?
Time was when I would exchange my old phones while buying a new one in order to save a new  bucks on the new purchase. I remember that dealers would endorse buying Nokia phones because they had the highest resale value.
Now life has changed. I have not exchanged a phone since the last 4 years - I have given away some phones and kept some with me. Resale values are pathetically low thanks to the general drop in cell phone prices. I would rather keep the phone for an emergency or hand it over to someone who wants to use it.
Cellphone recycling is an industry that is waiting to happen. This article in GreenBiz estimates that 140 million cellphones will end up in landfills this year. Cellphone recyclers buy your old phone and dispose of it in an environmentally friendly way. Incidentally, cellphones like most electronic devices contain a small amount of valuabl…

Speaker stands for Audioengine A5 speakers

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Since I bought my Audioengine A5 speakers nearly 3 years ago, they sat on the floor of my living room. Not an ideal solution, since they were exposed to a lot of dust, and it was a non-optimal placement for the sound to shine through. Though, I have to say that they still sounded superlatively good.
Last month, I finally bit the bullet and ordered these Samson MS100 speaker stands from Bajaao.com. I notice that the price is up, because I got them at an offer rate of Rs. 3500. They came by post within a week, and since they are rather heavy, I had to pick them up personally from the post office. 
I had done some measurement and estimation to figure if they would seat my Audioengines or whether I would have to upgrade to a heavier and more expensive pair of stands. But the Samson MS100 stands work perfectly. Here's a couple of shots:


The second picture should give you an idea of how the speakers mount. There are side clamps which you need to tighten. The speaker stands have no base, ju…

Twitter - making changes for the worse?

Since a few months, the tech press has been noting with concern that Twitter is changing its policies towards third party developers.
 It started in June when Twitter disabled automatic publishing of tweets to the LinkedIn timeline. Now you can automatically send a LinkedIn status update to Twitter but not vice versa.
Then in July, Twitter pulled the plug on Instagram by disabling the 'Find Friends' on Twitter feature, which allowed people to find their Twitter friends on Instagram.
Micheal Sippey of Twitter has been commenting on the Twitter developer blog about the new changes. In one of his earlier posts, he noted, "my colleague Ryan Sarver said thatdevelopers should not “build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience.” That guidance continues to apply as much as ever today. Related to that, we’ve already begun to more thoroughly enforce our Developer Rules of the Road with partners, for example with branding, and in the coming…

Do we need separate gadgets for kids?

I have found a sure-shot way to befriend my friend's kids and keep them occupied while we catch up over dinner. I introduce myself, "Hi, I am Nisha. Would you like to play a game on my iPad/ phone?" Obviously, no kid will turn down the offer.
I am amazed by the confidence with which kids will pick up a device that is completely new to them (even an operating system that's completely new) and navigate without hesitation to the games and figure them out. It takes them no time at all to learn a new device. I know adults who own a device since some months and still can't figure out basic things. 
So, I was wondering about the spate of kid-friendly gadgets like LeapFrog's LeapPad2. While I know that durability, bright colors and kid-safe design are helpful for gadgets, I think kids would still be more excited to go after dad's cell phone and tablet. They just represent a more tempting source of fun. This is not to say that gadgets for kids are dumbed down. Just …

The changing core purposes of devices

When I was making a post on Windows 8 earlier today, I was thinking about the core purpose of each device that I own and use.

The core purpose of my laptop is work. If I did not need to work, my iPad and smartphone would have been more than enough. 

Four years ago, the laptop served a core purpose of 'entertainment + work'. In those days, I would play games like Solitaire, Pinball and Minesweeper which came pre-loaded with Win OS, watch movies and browse the internet. All those activities have all but stopped now. I do them on the iPad instead. The core purpose of my iPad is entertainment and browsing. It is my chosen device for these activities and I have never picked up anything else

When I tried to define the core purpose of my smartphone I was surprised to see it read like this:  'to keep constantly connected through email, phone, SMS and chat and to provide some interesting ways to pass time. Should be able to do what my PC does in an emergency"

I clearly expect the …

Will you be more productive with a touch enabled Win 8?

Today, I read Mary Jo Foley's post which analyses a spectrum of opinions from PC users as to whether it is worthwhile to install Win 8 or no.

Windows 8 is optimised for touch enabled devices including smartphones, Windows Surface tablets and a new generation of touchscreen/ hybrid PCs.

The question is whether software which is designed for touch interfaces would function optimally on standard/ older machines.

And for me, this raised a question as to whether touch interfaces would benefit productivity at all?

Those of you who follow my blog know my opinion - touchscreens are great interfaces for browsing and running apps but when I want to type and work, I head back to my PC. In fact, touchscreen smartphones have generally reduced the amount of typing I do including the length of my SMS-es. I type slower on touch screens and I don't enjoy doing it. People who have heard my banging away furiously on my PC keyboard will testify that I type fast and well on the PC!

Equally, I enjoy bro…

Targeting women internet users

Some time ago, I made this post about the emerging female internet user, noting that the extent and depth of women's usage of the net is growing and evolving differently from men.

Today, while reading up on tech news, a few diverse articles suggested some thoughts on how to target women users. Hint - they are almost all connected to food, eating or shopping as these areas are clearly interesting to women!

1) Catch them in the kitchen

This article on TUAW highlights the growing role of the smartphone in the kitchen to access and view recipes. 15% of all cooks have viewed a recipe video on their smartphone, while many have read blogs, redeemed coupons for food, or snapped and uploaded their meal to a social networking site.

2) Pinterest - the female dominated site

We know from multiple researches that Pinterest is a female dominated site. Why this is the case, is something we will learn more about with time as the phenomenon unfolds. It is still a relatively new concept and is rapidly at…

The future of search

Despite growing competition from Bing, specialised search engines like Wolfram Alpha and now from Apple's voice assistant Siri, Google remains the dominant player in the search space, servicing 100 billion queries per month. And this is a dominance that they will fight to retain, because it is the basis of their bread and butter business of ad serving.
In the last few  months, Google has announced several important decisions that will affect the future of search. In fact, these decisions will revolutionise and completely transform the search function as we know it today. Here's the low down;
1) Giving direct answers to mobile search
When we use our mobiles to search, we expect to speedily find information rather than have to browse many pages for it. BGR reports that Google will start giving answers to questions in mobile search  rather than providing a list of links - for example, queries about weather, traffic or flight timings can be met with direct answers, given that locatio…

The Handy Guide to Microsoft - 2012 and beyond

So much is happening on the Microsoft front this year, that I thought it worthwhile to create a guide on what's happening on the PC, smartphone and tablet front. This guide does not cover Kinect/XBox but includes everything else on the hardware and software front.


1) Windows 8 for mobile and PC


The next iteration of Windows is an ambitious re-vamp of the entire operating system. It will be designed to operate on both mobile devices and conventional PCs/laptops. This is going to require some 'unlearning' on the part of regular Windows users, as it will introduce new 'gestures' and interfaces which are primarily touch driven, but will also work with newly redesigned mice and keyboards. Some of the elements of Windows as we know it will disappear from our PC/laptop screens. Notably, the 'start' menu will be replaced by a 'Metro' user interface comprising large, colorful tiles like what you see on Windows Phone. 


Windows 8 is due to launch on October 26. I…

Why I will switch to an iPhone and an Android tab

I currently own a Galaxy Nexus and an iPad 2. Oh, and my laptop runs Windows and will continue to do so, owing to many reasons listed here. It makes sense for me to run different OS'  on my devices as no one is queuing up (yet) to loan me devices for review. Within my budget, I try to get an exposure to all the platforms out there.

To come back to the topic, this post was inspired by Fraser Speir's review of Google's newly launched Nexus 7 tablet. He makes an interesting point, which I quote. 
My general opinion of the whole market is that tablet hardware is not interesting, except insofar as it enables the user to have wonderful experiences of software...The whole point of tablet computing is that the device becomes the thing you're doing with it.
I agree entirely with him if we are talking about smartphones. I disagree, when we are talking about tablets, except when he says the hardware is not interesting. I kind of buy that.
In my personal experience with a 3G enabled i…

New age women - savvy users of tech and internet

Over the past few months, a lot of interesting facts and figures have emerged, painting a clearer picture of what women are doing with technology and on the internet. While a lot of trends are international, some of them can still apply to the Indian context. 


1) Women use social media for personal networking, men for information and business networking


Jezebel carried an interesting piece titled Men are from youtube, women are from instagram. The accompanying infographic from Life is Beautiful paints a fascination picture of gender balance on social networking sites. Women dominate Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and MySpace. While men dominate LinkedIn, Google +, YouTube, Digg, Stumbeupon, DeviantArt and Reddit. All these sites have a social element, but it appears that socialising on the net is skewed towards women while business or information networking is skewed towards men.


It's also interesting to note that the sites patronised largely by women allow a more fluid netw…