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Showing posts from 2016

The customs nightmare for gadget lovers - a guide on what not to do

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Like most gadget lovers, I spend a fair amount of money ordering from international sites and sellers. There will always be something that I cannot find on an Indian site - it could be as small as a replacement cable for my earphones - or something as big as the new Pebble smartwatch that I have been eyeing. Or sometimes, even if I find them on Indian sites, they are at eyewatering premiums over the same product on say, Amazon USA.

To a large extent, my international purchases have been restricted to eBay sellers, or Amazon. Recently however, I was tempted by the newly launched Beddi Alarm Clock, a $99 smart alarm clock that raised Kickstarter backing and also got a lot of favorable reviews.

I ordered it direct from Witti Design, the creators, who were offering international shipping at $20, making the total order value $120(approximately Rs. 7500). It was shipped through DHL, who delayed delivery by a week, citing hold up at customs. Finally, they called me and asked me to send an invo…

Throwback Tuesday - Gadgets from the 70's and '80's

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Unless you were born in the 70's or earlier, what I'm speaking about may be gibberish to you...so here goes. Put your hand up if you have ever;

1) Extracted an entangled cassette from a player and repaired it by splicing. I have redeemed several precious tapes by cutting and sticking them with cellotape, in a pre-digital era when there were no music backups. 





Scotch Tape was a double meaning term in those days so you needed to specify if you were reffering to this;





Incidentally, Instructables has this neat tutorial on how to repair a cassette.

2) Rented LPs (Vinyl records) from a local library.

We used to have a large vinyl collection at home, including a number of Western Classical concerts.



We even had this (A reel to tape recorder, precursor of the digital tape recorders)





3) Played an arcade game OR a text based adventure game on a VGA monitor (Pre Color monitor era)







4) Been stranded with a corrupted floppy drive and lost data



5) Typed your school or college project on Word Perfect …

The Offline Internet

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Hike, India’s homegrown answer to the ubiquitous Whatsapp Messenger, launched Hike Direct in end 2015. Touted by CEO Kavin Mittal as an ‘incredibly powerful’ breakthrough technology, Hike Direct allows two users of the app who are within a 100 metre radius to chat and share pictures, stickers and files at high speed without using their data connection. Hike Direct uses Wi-Di technology that bypasses the slower Bluetooth connections, allowing data transfer speeds of upto 40 Mbps. Effectively, you can share a 100 MB file with a friend in 10 seconds, and neither of you will use a paisa of your data plan.
However, Hike is not the first mover in the offline game. That crown goes to ShareIt, which has consistently ranked amongst the Top 5 apps in the India Google Play Store since the past few years. ShareIt allows users to transfer files, movies, music and even apps to each other without a data connection, phone to phone. And like Hike, it’s completely free to use.
Both of these apps are exam…

Artificial Intelligence is the New Black

"Over time, the computer itself — whatever its form factor — will be an intelligent assistant helping you through your day. We will move from mobile first to an AI first world” – says Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
Artificial Intelligence is the technology of the future that Google, IBM, Amazon and Microsoft have been investing in for years. It represents a future that could leave Apple behind if it takes off. But what exactly is Artificial Intelligence? Is it like those computers that beat Vishy Anand at chess? And if that’s the case, how exactly is it going to change my life?
Voice Assistants like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana or Google’s newly announced Assistant represent the tip of the iceberg where Artificial Intelligence is concerned. To be understood – and to trigger actions based on voice – is not as easy as it sounds, given the huge variety of languages, dialects, accents and individual pronunciations that exist on this planet. If we have made progress in this area, it is …

Facebook Basics - Good Service, Bad Positioning!

I am adding my voice (belatedly) to the heated arguments that are being made, both for and against, Facebook's 'Free Basics' offerings via internet.org. I waited before weighing in,so that I did not react from my own initial biases, and also because this gave me a chance to understand more about internet.org and what Facebook is really trying to do. So here is my stance - I believe that Free Basics is a good servicefor EVERYONE (not just poor people, or people without internet access). It may or may not motivate people to graduate to paid internet access. It can definitely help Facebook to reach out to its future user base. It's not a bad or evil service.
What I am against is the positioning that Facebook has taken with Free Basics. The strange campaign that "the freedom of the internet is under threat", which is being thrust under our noses and news feeds all the time. We are led to believe that banning Free Basics is akin to an attack on the poor, their right…