Showing posts from January, 2013

Do you really want to log in to all sites with your Facebook ID?

Nowadays, it's easier to stay anonymous in your local grocery store, than online. I kid you not. I have patronised my grocer since 5 years.  I estimate that I spend upwards of Rs. 24,000 per year with him.  I doubt if he knows my full name. If I did not ask for home delivery, he would not know my address. He does not save my mobile number and he has no way of hounding me if I never visit him again.  These oases of anonymity are rare to find in modern times. As a user, have you noticed that on any news site or ecommerce site, you are being urged to sign in with Facebook, Twitter, Google or some other platform where you are an existing user? In the old days, every site would required us to sign up individually, and we did it cheerfully, because we really needed those sites. And let's face it, there were not so many sites. I recall maintaining a dog-eared notebook with a handwritten list of user IDs and passwords on different sites - Yahoo!, YouTube, ICQ, Rediff, GeoC

Aeropress is in India, coffee lovers rejoice!

When I learnt from a tweet that Aeropress  had launched in India last month, I immediately went to their ebay store and picked up one for myself. I have been coveting an Aeropress since the past two years, but to purchase it from Amazon would have entailed paying shipping and import fees that equal the price of this $30 product. At Rs.2000 in India (plus Rs. 200 shipping), it is a steal, for a simple reason. This non-technical, non-electric, not-at-all-gadgety, deceptively simple plastic contraption makes a remarkably good cup of coffee. Way better than the Rs.2000+ electric drip coffee makers, arguably more consistent than my temperamental espresso machine, and light years ahead of the stovetop mocha maker and french press. And it does not require skill or proprietary technique (though if you are technique-oriented, you will find dozens of Aeropress techniques on the web). It takes less than a minute to press out a smooth, rich and flavorsome coffee. I am disappointed to confess

Aaron Swartz and why young crusaders are needed

I did not know  Aaron Swartz  but he represents all the ideals that we value in youth, across cultures, nationalities and races. Keen intelligence which led him to co-author the RSS 1.0 specification when he was just 14 years old. Idealism and strong sense of values which made him an untiring crusader for the cause of Open Access  (free access to scholarly research materials through the internet) and SOPA. It was in support of Free Access that Swartz  undertook to download millions of paid research articles from the JSTOR archives which he intended to circulate through free P2P networks. Rare openness and honesty, manifested in his willingness to talk about his struggle with depression. A selfless, intelligent young individual who is unafraid to stand for what is right - is this not a person we would all value? So, it surprises me, when I plow through the many tech sites (all of which are carrying copious and generous tributes to Aaron), that the comments of readers are notab

Two new smartphone operating systems which are truly different

Android and iOS have hogged the headlines and market share in the mobile space this year. With 1.1 billion smartphone subscribers worldwide by end 2012, and a projected 2 billion users by end 2012, the smartphone sector still offers a lot of potential and promise for other platforms; something Microsoft with Win Phone 8 and RIM with the upcoming launch of BB10, are surely hoping to capitalise on. But is there space for even more operating systems, or will the market share pie get divided between just three big players, as many analysts have been predicting? Two interesting contenders have emerged in the smartphone space in end 2012. Neither have launched in the market yet, but both are based on years of development effort. Both are built off the  open source Linux platform and therefore enjoy popular support among the geek and tech community. Both are focusing their initial efforts on the emerging Asian smartphone markets. Both promise that they can run on ARM and x86 (Intel) hard

SOS and emergency app: ICE for Android

When I read this morning that Mumbai Police are launching an SOS App for emergency situations I was delighted. Such apps have been around for some time, but have not been actively promoted or recommended as a way for people on crime scenes to summon quick relief. It's great that Mumbai Police have teamed up with KPMG and NASSCOM to speedily launch this app in the wake of the Delhi gangrape case and growing concern about the safety of women in our cities. You can download the free app called ICE - Mumbai Police from the  Google Play Store . Currently its available only for Android devices but will soon be launched on BB and iOS platforms too. You should be able to use most of the functions in the app even if you are not in Mumbai but the pre-listed hotline numbers may be different for your city. Start-up screen Homescreen of the ICE App Three types of actions are possible from the app home screen that you see above: 1) Access to general information

The basics of good coffee - in pictures

My quest for home made espresso started with a Gaggia Espresso Color from  ID-Gourmet , Mumbai. Shortly afterwards, I realised that the pressurised baskets that come as part of the deal won't cut it for real espresso. So, I spent Rs. 1500 extra to upgrade to these real filter baskets which allow me to get the 'real' crema on my espresso.  Next was the realisation that unless coffee powder is compacted with sufficient pressure, the espresso is not thick or rich enough. Resulted in the purchase of a Rattleware 58 mm tamp from Amazon. Well worth it to replace the flimsy plastic one that Gaggia includes in the box. Ironically, the most crucial purchase came much later. This is the Capresso Infinity Burr Grinder from Amazon which added the most amazing dimension to my espresso experience - the sweet smell of freshly ground coffee. And since it's from the US and it's NOT dual voltage, it needs a step-down transformer (100W). Here is a p