Who is the Hero?

•May 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment
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iPad Demystified

•January 30, 2010 • 7 Comments
iPad

iPad

On 27th Jan, Mr Steve Jobs of Apple Computer inc unveiled the Apple iPad.
If you think that what i just wrote is mumbo-jumbo , then this is the right post for you. If you understood it, even then this is the right post πŸ™‚
I am sure you must all be aware of the iPod and the iPhone if not the macbooks that Apple manufactures. Well, iPad is the latest entry to their offerings – and it is touted to fill the gap between using an iPhone and the macbook. This post is my first impression on what I percieve the iPad to be. Instead of going on about the device itself – which most websites have a very comprehensive list of – I am going to take this as a FAQ ( Frequently Asked Questions).
Q : Where can I buy the iPad in India ?
A : Currently it is not available. It has been announced that it will be available in 60 days worldwide – that is around April. Will it be available immidiately in India ? No idea. Usually it does take a few weeks for stuff to be available in India after launch in USA.
Q: What will it cost ?
A: There are 6 different models to choose from and it will depend on you what you want to get – whether you want with 3G or not. for the 64GB non-3g model the price disclosed is $799 which at today’s conversion comes out to be approx Rs 36,900.
Compared this to a netbook like Samsung N128 – which costs 17k, this is quite an expensive device.
Q. Is it a laptop ?
A: No. Its a different category of device , which just has one screen. You do not open it up like a laptop.
Also, unlike a laptop, you cannot just install any software – but have to go with what is available on the device or use the appstore.
Q. I am planning on getting a laptop. Will this device work for me ?
A: No. This device is very limited in functionality. There is no CD/DVD drive. There is no flash card reader. There is no camera. So, if you want to transfer your music collection or your videos or your photographs , you will need to use a PC or a laptop to connect and transfer to this device.
Think of the iPad as a iPod XXXL.
Its just an iPod with a large screen. In fact , the current iPod applications will mostly run on it too.
Q. What are its drawbacks ?
A. There are many drawbacks. In no particular order :
There is no multitasking.
What this means is that you cannot have 2 applications running at the same time. For instance , lets say you are browsing a webpage and referring to it for making a document. In a usual scenario you can press ‘alt+tab’ to go between them. In the iPad – it is not possible. As soon as you get out of the web browser , it closes – so next time it will be loading back again.
There is no video camera.
This is a big drawback. All the netbooks that are available have a webcam with which you can do video chatting. You will not be able to do any such thing with this.
There is no flash support.
Most of the websites use flash. e.g. if you play farmville – it is using flash. There is no support for flash in iPad nor is there any way to install it too.
Many people think that Apple is deliberately not allowing flash onto the device and also related devices like iPod and iPhone as then their AppStore will not be getting many applications.
You are locked into iTunes and apple
This means that you will need to use the iTunes software to transfer any data to the phone.
You cannot just drag and drop your music or documents into the device. At this point it is not even clear if you will be able to read your PDF documents on the device – and if that is not available – then this device is severely crippled.
Q: Can it run word ? I do a lot of document work.
A: No. Microsoft word is not supported. Out of the box you will really not get any way to write any big documents. However you can purchase for about $10 applications from the appstore which will allow you to create documents. They will still not be compatible with MS Word though.
Q: How do I install software in it ?
A: You will need iTunes. Frankly, I think that iTunes is the crappiest bit of software available – but thats my opinion. You will have to use the iTunes to download applications from the AppStore and install it. Unfortunately, the iTunes Store – which is used to purchase and download songs – is not available in India. This is pretty bad IMO.
Since iTunes can run only on a PC or the apple mac computers – you will necessarily need to have a PC/laptop/mac to effectively use it.
Some of the apps can be downloaded and installed over WiFi – but if it works the same way as the iPhone / iPod does – and since it has an enhanced version of the iPod OS, the bigger applications will need to be installed using the PC and not wirelessly.
Q: Do you recommend me to buy it ?
A: There are various answers to that.
I do not recommend it right now, unless you have a lot of money , and you are itching to get a new device. At $499 starting price – its a damn cheap device – and inspite of limited functionality, it will do many of the things you would want to do like browse the web, check email etc. Also , since its a new user experience the snob value is very high. So, if you like new tech – yeah go ahead – but don’t say I did not warn you.
In all probability its best to wait for the next iterations of the software and the device . At least till it has a good video camera functionality. Without it , I do not see any point in buying it.

On 27th Jan, Mr Steve Jobs of Apple Computer inc unveiled the Apple iPad.

If you think that what i just wrote is mumbo-jumbo , then this is the right post for you. If you understood it, even then this is the right post πŸ™‚

I am sure you must all be aware of the iPod and the iPhone if not the macbooks that Apple manufactures. Well, iPad is the latest entry to their offerings – and it is touted to fill the gap between using an iPhone and the macbook. This post is my first impression on what I percieve the iPad to be. Instead of going on about the device itself – which most websites have a very comprehensive list of – I am going to take this as a FAQ ( Frequently Asked Questions).

Q : Where can I buy the iPad in India ?

A : Currently it is not available. It has been announced that it will be available in 60 days worldwide – that is around April. Will it be available immidiately in India ? No idea. Usually it does take a few weeks for stuff to be available in India after launch in USA.

Q: What will it cost ?

A: There are 6 different models to choose from and it will depend on you what you want to get – whether you want with 3G or not. for the 64GB non-3g model the price disclosed is $799 which at today’s conversion comes out to be approx Rs 36,900.

Compared this to a netbook like Samsung N128 – which costs 17k, this is quite an expensive device.

Q. Is it a laptop ?

A: No. Its a different category of device , which just has one screen. You do not open it up like a laptop.

Also, unlike a laptop, you cannot just install any software – but have to go with what is available on the device or use the appstore.

Q. I am planning on getting a laptop. Will this device work for me ?

A: No. This device is very limited in functionality. There is no CD/DVD drive. There is no flash card reader. There is no camera. So, if you want to transfer your music collection or your videos or your photographs , you will need to use a PC or a laptop to connect and transfer to this device.

Think of the iPad as a iPod XXXL.

Its just an iPod with a large screen. In fact , the current iPod applications will mostly run on it too.

Q. What are its drawbacks ?

A. There are many drawbacks. In no particular order :

  • There is no multitasking.
    • What this means is that you cannot have 2 applications running at the same time. For instance , lets say you are browsing a webpage and referring to it for making a document. In a usual scenario you can press ‘alt+tab’ to go between them. In the iPad – it is not possible. As soon as you get out of the web browser , it closes – so next time it will be loading back again.
  • There is no video camera.
    • This is a big drawback. All the netbooks that are available have a webcam with which you can do video chatting. You will not be able to do any such thing with this.
  • There is no flash support.
    • Most of the websites use flash. e.g. if you play farmville – it is using flash. There is no support for flash in iPad nor is there any way to install it too.
    • Many people think that Apple is deliberately not allowing flash onto the device and also related devices like iPod and iPhone as then their AppStore will not be getting many applications.
  • You are locked into iTunes and apple
    • This means that you will need to use the iTunes software to transfer any data to the phone.
    • You cannot just drag and drop your music or documents into the device. At this point it is not even clear if you will be able to read your PDF documents on the device – and if that is not available – then this device is severely crippled.

Q: Can it run word ? I do a lot of document work.

A: No. Microsoft word is not supported. Out of the box you will really not get any way to write any big documents. However you can purchase for about $10 applications from the appstore which will allow you to create documents. They may still not be compatible with MS Word though (not 100% sure of this point – can someone clarify?)

Q: How do I install software in it ?

A: You will need iTunes. Frankly, I think that iTunes is the crappiest bit of software available – but thats my opinion. You will have to use the iTunes to download applications from the AppStore and install it. Unfortunately, the iTunes Store – which is used to purchase and download songs – is not available in India. This is pretty bad IMO.

Since iTunes can run only on a PC or the apple mac computers – you will necessarily need to have a PC/laptop/mac to effectively use it.

Some of the apps can be downloaded and installed over WiFi – but if it works the same way as the iPhone / iPod does – and since it has an enhanced version of the iPod OS, the bigger applications will need to be installed using the PC and not wirelessly.

Q: Do you recommend me to buy it ?

A: There are various answers to that.

I do not recommend it right now, unless you have a lot of money , and you are itching to get a new device. At $499 starting price – its a damn cheap device – and inspite of limited functionality, it will do many of the things you would want to do like browse the web, check email etc. Also , since its a new user experience the snob value is very high. So, if you like new tech – yeah go ahead – but don’t say I did not warn you.

In all probability its best to wait for the next iterations of the software and the device . At least till it has a good video camera functionality. Without it , I do not see any point in buying it.

Getting in on the Hobbies

•January 19, 2010 • 1 Comment

I got a mail from an old friend of mine. We used to work together in the distant fog of our work life. It seems that everyone remembers me for biking apart from the work I have done. There was a line in his email which got into my head, and as I was explaining my point of view, it became longer and longer. After the mail was written I thought “Dang ! Thats a long mail – it could be part of a blog post ! ”

And presto, here we are. So, what did my friend write which started me on this …

I keep thinking about you as you do enjoy life along with work & hobbies.

And now for my reply. Hope you can identify with it , and apply it to your life as well ! πŸ˜€

There is a secret to having fun with hobbies. I am gonna tell you that πŸ˜€

Its simple – you will never have time. You need to make the time for it !

Most of the time we just exist, and go about our daily routing thinking that life will get better and we will have time later to do the things we want to do. Well – that does not happen. So, one fine day, we will realize that we have become grumpy ‘ol men/women !

The secret is that happiness is an ongoing thing. There is never a big chunk of happiness. Also happiness has a weird characteristic – you don’t remember the specifics – just the generics. Unlike Sorrow for instance. You can remember each and every part of the pain you have got – in technicolour details. But Happiness – nah. You will remember being generically happy – thats about it. Maybe one of the highlights of a joyous moment will be left with you – at max !

So, find the time. Take time out from your schedule to do the things you like. You will feel better. It takes a few sacrifices along the way – but what better to sacrifice than what you are not having fun with πŸ˜‰

You will be able to pull in the 5 mins / 10 mins/ 1 hr every day , but you may not be able to pull in the 1 month that are always waiting for. Its better to have an always ongoing feeling of happiness, rather than wait for the one big event !

Life also follows the 80-20 rule. Most people live the 80 percent life, and leave the 20% on fate/later/laziness/etc . If you can tap into that 20%, in the way you want, you can do much more in life. Some people use the 20% for their work – and become geniuses . Some people use the 20% of their time for charity work – and become philanthropists.Β  I use the 20% for my hobbies – be they biking or gaming. Find your 20%, and use it for what you want to do.

Netbook Impressions

•January 9, 2010 • 1 Comment
Desktop, Laptop, Netbook

Desktop, Laptop, Netbook

I always wondered about the netbook hype. How could an underpowered system be something which can be used ? I need the faster laptops. At a time where I am looking at the Macbook Pro or the Asus G50 , I got a chance to get a hands on of the Acer Aspire One , curtesy my MD (from whom I flicked the laptop for the weekend !).

Well, I think I should give the verdict first — the laptop is not for me ! πŸ™‚

Well, I am a poweruser – using the laptop for multiple stuff – multiple websites, Eclipse, word docs, twitter on almost all the time, and fast switching between them. Alternatively I use it for gaming ( though cant use the current one too much as it is not that high spec – and switch to my desktop system at home for serious gaming – World of Warcraft anyone ?)

However, for my wife – who uses it for email, chat and skype – it is an awesome thing.

Onto the review. My impressions. I am going to review based on features.

Battery Life : 6/5

Yeah. You got that right. Its beyond my expectation. The battery life rocks ! It can easily last a whole day in office – which it actually did on friday … and beyond. Just awesome .

Speed 2/5

This comes with WinXP installed. However, the system is so low spec that if you wanna do anything, its better you do it one at a time. E.g. if you open Chrome , IE and a word document, alt + tab takes a while. Totally unimpressed with the speed at which you can do work. In fact, it will keep you twiddling your thumbs if you want to do anything substantial.

Keyboard 2/5

The keyboard is small. Although the documents say that it has a full keyboard, I find myself pressing multiple keys at the same time – leading to a lot of mistakes, and a loss of time if you want to speed type.

Webcam 1/5

Seriously, this has a lousy webcam. 0.3 MP as per the documentation. WTF ! 0.3 MP ? Where are we living ? 1970s ? Due to this, the video is of damn low quality. Talking to my sis on skype, and she immediately asked me why was my video so bad. I mean its ok if you want to make a low priced product – but this is nuts !

Audio 3/5

The inbuilt speakers are squeaky. However, using the headphones gives good sound quality. Also , since the headphone/mic jacks are on the left side, its actually useful. It states its dolby compliant but I dont know how to verify that.

Android 2/5

Ok. Acer snuck in a surprise here. This dual boots into Android – Google’s Phone OS. Now , this is cool and frustrating at the same time.

Booting into Android makes the system run much faster. Its got Firefox (customized for it), and google’s usual stuff like gtalk, and image viewer. However thats about it. Since Android Market is not included – you cant download anything else 😦

The best feature I liked was the talk and mail notifications. Like the phone version, there is a bar at the top which doubles up as the status bar, and you can see what new chat / mail has come. Also its much easier to use the keyboard if you want to switch between chats, or check emails.

Its a neat experiment with Android, but half-baked.

Overall Rating.

Here’s my breakup based on what you want to use the device for.

Web browsing and chat : 5/5

  • +vesΒ  : Great battery life, small size to carry it anywhere

Office work : 2/5

  • +ve : small size to carry it anywhere.
  • -ve : very small screen to effectively work, multitasking becomes slow.

GamingΒ  : 1/5

  • +ve : nothing
  • -ve : no 3d acceleration, Atom chip makes this device very slow.

Verdict :

Absolutely a great buy if you want to do nothing more than browse the net and chat.

New Year Resolution

•December 30, 2009 • 4 Comments

That time of the year again.

One needs to decide a new year resolution – its quite the in thing. Resolve in great earnest, till you get up the next morning and promptly forget it again. Some people try to be too clever – they resolve not to resolve – which is still a resolution!

Contemporary resolutions dont work. “I will lose weight”. “I will quit drining/smoking/vellagardi/etc”. Tried and tested to failure.

My thought for the new year though has a resolution.

“I resolve to do atleast one cool thing in a day each day of the year”.

How cool is that πŸ˜€ ? So, each day, while brushing my teeth in the morning, I am going to think of what cool thing I will be doing. It can be anything – and since the scope of doing cool stuff is very broad, I am likely to succeed in my little endeavor. It may be writing a new blog post. It may be something uber geeky like checking out the ChromeOS (as far as i know the only guy in my office so far to have done so). It may be learning a new song on the accordion. An update to BN website. A ride. A new clever algo at work. You get it – anything that I can classify as cool.

Join me in being cool ! Pass on the word !

Chromium OS – New Kid on the Block

•December 7, 2009 • 3 Comments

Last couple of weeks were pretty interesting. Google finally announced its new OS ( Operating System ) – nicknamed Chromium OS. However, their operating system is not what you would expect from the usual OSs like Windows or Linux or MacOS.

Instead, its a bare bones browser which can run. The target is the Netbooks.

Installation

Google has said that the OS is still a year away from actual launch. So, what exists right now is more of an alpha version – not even the beta we are used to. Support for it is quite minimal, but there are some geniuses on the internet who actually are making it useful for many people. As of now, to check out the OS I would recommend you to either :

  • Use a Virtual Machine
  • Boot from a USB

You could be adventerous and install it on your hardisk – but I would discourage you from doing that at this time.

VM Ware Method

My first attempt, just the day after it was released and some enterprising people created a boot image was using a VM image. The steps required for this are :

  1. Download the file using torrent.
  2. Download and install Virtual Box ( I installed this on linux)
  3. Run the image file in the Virtual Box

My First screnshot of Chromium OS Running on Ubuntu Desktop

You use your gmail id to log in – and you are set !

USB Boot Method.

I prefer this method now to check out the OS , as it provides you faster speeds. With VM Ware, you are sharing the resources between your normal OS (ubuntu) and the VM Image (Chromium OS). However, when booting from the USB, you are giving 100% of your hardware and processing capabilities to the OS being running. Well, maybe not 100% as you are still booting from the USB – but fast enough.

The USB mode has been made possible by some stellar work by a student known as hexxeh ( follow him on twitter). Check out on his website for how to do it. In simple steps :

  1. Download the USB image
  2. Burn the image onto the USB flash drive you have ( you can use it on a 1GB flash drive).
  3. Setup your bios to boot from USB
  4. Login using the default username and password (facepunch/facepunc) as sometimes networking does not work – specially if you use a password to get onto the network.
  5. Login again with your actual credentials.

Impressions

The Advantages

  1. Its fast ! Its damn Fast !
    • Remember it is just a browser running without the usual baggage of the OS.
    • Boot time on my T61 from USB was like 10 seconds ( stopwatch timer – non scientific method etc)
    • Pages load a lot faster, than if you use chrome within an OS like Wondows or Linux.
  2. As far as I have understood, they are using the Chrome browser to be the only interface on the machine. So, when booting, instead of the OS’s usual set of checks, it will do very few checks and get the browser up and running.
  3. Ultimately, what they are aiming at is no Desktop. Quite a radical change if you ask me. But then this is more targetted towards Netbooks. The hardware specs are fixed by google so that device manufacturers know what to use.
  4. Stuff like Flash, audio decoders etc will be part of the OS. No separate downloading. Any updates will also be through the OS – so if Google does not provide a codec, I don’t think it will play it.
  5. Demos show stuff about plugingin a camera etc. But I am still in the dark when it comes to things like play back from DVD. Will the device even have a DVD ?
  6. As per the demos , nothing will be kept on the device – but will be available in the cloud. So technically, once you have this device and any supporting device like an Android based phone – you will have the same thing available whichever device you choose.

This OS is pretty much targetted at low end machines – e.g. people using mostly browsing. Google is betting on taking the cloud to the next level. So, everything you do, you will do on the internet . Already we do much of the stuff there – like email, browsing , buying stuff, chatting, etc. This browser/OS is going to push it out even more.

Disadvantages

The disadvantages of this approach are quite many – but I think almost 80% of the junta wont miss it , as they usually get onto the net only for a few activities. So, mostly this disadvantage list is based on my impression – and probably most techie people will agree.

  • Browser lockin
    • We will be using only chrome as the browser. You will not have an option to use firefox or IE. This will mean a lot of hearburn, and also website compatability issues as many website (e.g. banks) are developed to work well exclusively with IE.
    • Microsoft websites will have issues. e.g. Hotmail still does not show a nice interface when logging in with anything except IE.
  • Development issues
    • I suppose someone will come up with a browser IDE, but for me that will be a bit strange.
    • I suppose it will also leverage the cloud to build your code – so that you can actually build code much faster than you would on your machine.
  • Google Lockin
    • This is the one creating the most fear.
    • Once all your data is with google, and you want out, how do you do it ? with a current Desktop machine, you would be able to download your emails, and keep your docs etc for offline storage. Here, there is no such thing.
  • Games
    • There are many games available which use flash and play in the browser. However, almost all great games are made specifically for the OS. I am talking about games like World of Warcraft, Dragon Age Origins etc. You will not be able to play them there.
  • Multimedia
    • This is a big blocker I feel.
    • As of now, I rip my CDs and play them using winamp or something similar. Though Chromium will be able to play off the net, if you want to own a collection – hard luck.

Conclusions

I think that this is an interesting spin to the OS wars. However, I do not think that this will be a threat to Microsoft and Linux in taking up the main desktops. However, for most businesses where they just require email and documents, this will be a big thing – as well as secondary PCs for people who want to have something light for the internet needs.

Credits

Its a long post , and actually would not have been possible without a few people. I feel that credits are due.

  • Google – for giving us this idea of a browser as an OS
  • hexxeh – for creating the USB boot image to use.
  • Vinay, Shantanu, Binil, Vineet, Praveen, Ashish for the discussion we had on this topic on Google Wave. Yes, we actually figured out how to use that ! πŸ˜€

Retweet Guinea-Pig

•November 19, 2009 • 1 Comment

Late post as Twitter website has been blocked in office via the ever powerful HR. Sigh.

Anyways, I am now part of the ‘beta testers’ aka ‘guinea pigs’ for a retweet functionality that twitter is offering on the website – its called Retweet.

You are a beta tester

Unfortunately, it does not look at all like the RT that twitter users are used to. I think if Twitter had given some other name to it , it would have caused much less grief than it is doing now.

How To Retweet

How To Retweet

This is how it works :

  • When you want to retweet someone’s tweet, click on the retweet button (which only shows when you hover above the tweet).
  • Then, instead of just retweeting, it asks you to confirm ( what nonsense!)
  • At that point it changes the link to retweeted.

What you loose :

  • Your followers can see that you retweeted, but you cant ! Talk about bad user interface !
  • Lets say someone retweets you – you dont know it has happened – unless you do a search for yourself.
  • You cannot add your own witticism.

Some links already doing the web round :