May 262013
 

The very first mobile I owned was Nokia N-Gage QD, a handheld gaming device and a phone combined. I had just returned from my first sail with a bank balance and mobile phone had been my object of desire for a long time. With enough cash in hand, me and my brother went to the gray market and bought the N-Gage QD costing 9500 rs. and a Sony Ericsson K700i costing 15000 rs. for my brother. The year was 2004 and the cost, if extrapolated to todays currency value, will be considered outrageous for the technology we had bought then, as compared to todays technology. But then, we had no choice. Nokia had established itself as a long term player by creating a psudo-image of being a reliable and cheap phone maker and Sony Ericsson was the only other player well worth the name. I called it a psudo image because the phone that I bought couldn’t be used in many countries and became my regret during my next sailing period.

Meanwhile, Nokia kept on flooding their phones in Indian market under lots of different brand names like E-series, N-Series etc. while Sony Ericsson had their very own walkman series to show off. There was not much technology up gradation except the camera quality, which effectively marked the beginning of the end for the digital camera market in India. So Nokia and SE, the only two major players in India, flooded the market while they could afford to, with older generation phone which had already seen few years in international market. Whenever the time to change my phone neared, it was a period of dilemma for me since I was sure what I wanted to buy but I couldn’t get it in the market. The clever ploy by Nokia was to tweek the series numbers in small ways and strip down one feature from the phone while introducing another feature. Indians were just learning about the levels of technology advances in cell phone arena and were not yet able to translate it into the phones they were buying. Marketing gimmick like “Music Edition” was liberally used while they just meant a change in series number and inclusion of high capacity storage card for storage of additional music. They called their phones “Internet enabled” which meant that they were marketing the GPRS feature already being sold in their other handsets, while I was yearning for introduction of 3G broadband launch in India. All in all, these companies were fooling people, just because the people let themselves being fooled.

So for quite a few years, when you looked around in public, if anyone was talking on a mobile phone, it had to be Nokia about 80% of the time and Sony Ericsson was seen with the kids of the rich. It was around 2008-2009 when Samsung, a small player in Indian market with few ordinary handsets, came up with  a clear plan in Korea to capture the Indian market. And it worked right from the launch of the Corby Series. They were by no means smartphone. Just simple colorful touchscreen phones with lots of features in a single handset. Samsung tried not to strip down the feature with any upgraded handset they introduced unlike Nokia. It was always an addition of features in the upgraded handset. After the launch of Corby, everyone wanted to “Touch”. Touch screen, that to capacitive, became the talk of the day. Corby series had dual effect on Indian strongmen of the Cellphone arena. They defeated the Nokia which had the knack to strip down the features and they countered the high cost of fully equipped Sony Ericsson phones. Samsung didn’t stop there. They had launched Galaxy series phones in international market with Android OS at its core, and didn’t waste much time in launching them in India at competitive price. Meanwhile Nokia shunned away from Android, which had google as its godfather and continued with Symbian with its dwindling developer base, thanks to the lucrative Android and iOS. Sony Ericsson had its hiccups in embracing android and fell behind in the race.

Meanwhile, Samsung dished out galaxy after galaxy  in International and Indian market and pampered us with choice. Now if I had to buy a phone, it was just the dilemma about which galaxy series phone to buy. The manufacturer was no longer a contention since Samsung had proven itself with the overall quality of their phones. (That I bought a Wave series phone in place of Galaxy series is another story which was due to some constrains and faith in the BADA OS. Eventually I bought a Galaxy phone recently.) LG, Motorola, and other minor players with self branded chinese phones were out of question due to their quality and service related issues.

While Samsung was evolving in India, another Indian player Micromax has few aces up its sleeve. They had launched their first dual sim phone around the year 2009, and these phones, with QWERTY keypads became objects of desire for financially constrained blackberry fans. Starting at 1500 rs, these dual sim phones literally captured the Indian pockets. There were few quality issues, but while spending 1500 rs for a dual sim QWERTY keypad phone, people had  it in their mind that they just couldn’t always have their cake and eat it too. Still the sales of these phones didn’t go down. Micromax too burned their hands with feature phones but they didn’t just sell in the market.The real turning point for Micromax was when they embraced Android for their phones and introduced the game changer Canvas A110 as their flagship with good specifications and a 5” screen. This phone came with Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box and was a real eye candy. Infact, when I said earlier that for me the dilemma was choosing between different galaxy phones, I think I can safely say that there were as many galaxy phones in the market because Micromax bridged the gap between the low end feature phones and high end smart phone by actually introducing a smartphone for the cost of low end phones. Samsung was actually forced to bridge the gap themselves by introduction of smart phones with bigger screen for lesser cost and eventually by introducing a dual sim smart phone in India.

Micromax has in its kitty a large profile of smart phones from their current flagship, Canvas HD with quadcore chipset and RAM comparable to the Samsung’s previous flagship SIII at half the price, Canvas 3D, Ninja(am sure this will connect with Ninja fans), Canvas Doodle(to fight against the Galaxy Note series), Canvas Music etc.. With the exception of Canvas HD, the other phones are sold between 8000-11000 rs. I have had a hands on experience on Canvas 110 and CanvasA88 Music and I was amazed that they performed well. Infact Canvas Music comes with Android Jelly Bean out of the box, so 512 MB ram does not hold it back.

Look around you in India at this moment and you will see about 70% people talking on a Samsung handset. But are things about to change? Has the David of yesteryears turned into a Goliath, ready to be defeated by the new David(Micromax)? Or will the Goliath rule for few more years? My intuition says that Samsung is about to reach peak very soon and make way for Micromax in India. Time will tell.

Till then enjoy my blog.

(Disclaimer: This post is my personal take on the Cell phone market in India and not intended to promote/create negative publicity for any phone maker. A person buying a cell phone should act on his own fair judgment while making the purchase. After all, you are spending your own money)

Mar 042013
 

We have been using internet for quite some time now. We use it for entertainment, news, knowledge enhancement, communication and many other purposes on a large scale via computers, mobiles, tablets and other internet enabled devices. One of the main reason for logging on to the net (as we call it) is accessing information. And the largest cache of information is available on one and the only wikipedia.org, the website hosted and maintained by wikimedia foundation. This is the largest manmade cache of information available to mankind. An encyclopedia for the people, of the people and by the people. The information is uploaded by common people like us and validated by similar other common people. Even though being a non profit organisation, wikimedia has been able to sustain throughout all these years of its existance.

But if you have ever hosted a website, you will surely know how costly it is to maintain a website. It requires lots of resources to maintain a #5 website at that position without any revenue from advertisement. Yes, you might have noticed that wikimedia websites do not host any advertisements, thus making maximum area available for information while we have fastest loading pages. This all while serving about 450 million people every month with billions of page views. And to complicate the matters, the websites are maintained by miniscule staff to reduce overheads.

With all such logistics involved, it is natural that the founders of this organisation ask for a helping hand from us users time and again. And its more appropriate from our part to provide assistance. They don’t ask for much. They simply calculate that if everyone reading the request for donations donate Rs. 100 their fund raiser would finish in an hour. That may not be possible in practical world, but what’s possible is for us to skip that pizza once a year so that everyone can access wikimedia websites for another year.

I on my part have been putting in my minimum since 2 years. That and this informative blog. Its up to you readers to increase their funds.

Be a Wiki Donor.

Feb 192013
 

Smartphone users have been using whatsapp for quite a while now. There have always been talks about how whatsapp will be a paid service after first year of use. I’ve not yet come across such case except for iPhone users for whom the app is not free. But to avoid being charged at a later stage,I am sure that we all have been on a lookout for an alternative. It seems my friend has introduced me to such an alternative today.
‘hike’ the name of the application is similar in use to whatsapp, except for a fresh interface. And an additional facility of being able to send sms to mobiles which are not using the app, for free. You need to download the app on your smartphone( as far as I am aware, this app is available on android, blackberry,ios and symbian as of now), register your mobile number and you are ready.You’re account gets credited with 100 free sms. Promote the app on facebook and twitter and you get 100+100 additional credits. Meanwhile, you can continue using free unlimited hike to hike messages even if you consume all this credits. The fun doesn’t stop here. Invite a friend and once he/she downloads the application you get 50 free SMS per months per friend who signs on. And the best part; your account is credited with 20 rs in addition to initial 10 Rs credited by hike in to your account per person joining. Accumulate 50 rs and you can recharge your phone using that amount. Isn’t this a deal!!

Download the app at http://get.hike.in/ to start messaging for free!

Nov 082012
 

The name nexus commands respect in the field of mobiles and tablets due to its association with Google, which has been marketing such devices under the nexus brand name for some time now. Nexus phones are known to flaunt the latest hardware and coupled with Google’s own android, nexus turns into a device to race against. Nexus phones have been highly popular in the united states and elsewhere as they were guaranteed to latest updates as soon as Google released them.
But Google has strangely avoided Indian market all this while. Anyone with a desire to own a nexus phone has to get it imported, which would be deterrent due to warranty and customs issues.
Not anymore.As per the latest new, Nexus 7 tablets will be available in India from today. The tablets will be available in croma across the country. With this move expectations are high that the last Nexus 4 mobile will also be launched very soon in India.But all’s not merry from here on. Read on.

Upside :

  • G.O.O.G.L.E. N.E.X.U.S……wow!!
  • Extraordinarily and ridiculously(are we there yet to utilise its full powers)powerful hardware configuration.
  • Assurance of update to the future upgrades to the operating system.
  • "Project Butter" jelly bean out of the box.

Downside:

  • As compared to US market, ridiculously costly. In US it costs 199$. I expected it to be priced around 15000 in India.But the cost is19990, ie. 20000. It’s better to buy imported piece from ebay which is priced at 24000 for 32 GB.
  • Not available online. Only in CROMA stores as of now.
  • Older model, which is not sold anymore in US(they still think India is not ready)
  • No android 4.2 out of the box.
  • No 3g connectivity.
  • Compared to other tablets, no expandable memory.

Setting aside these drawbacks and the discrimination in pricing, this will be one device to look out for, while we hope that Google releases the 3g version in India soon and follow it up with Nexus 4.
Sadly, I didn’t wait for it. I ordered my new phone yesterday.

Nov 042012
 

It has always been my opinion that if software is made cheap, the menace of piracy can be curbed very easily. People would go for the licensed version instead of pirated versions which are normally loaded with viruses and malwares. Lots of open source communities have put in efforts to provide free software which include almost all the bells and whistles present in the paid licensed software. But due to deep penetration of licensed software in corporate world, people are forces to learn and use these applications and ultimately are forced in to piracy.

Though not very much a fan of Microsoft applications and operating systems due to exorbitant costs and lots security threats in the past, I am beginning to feel better about the efforts being put in by Microsoft lately to reduce piracy by of providing software at a reduced cost under some pretext or the other. One of it being the Home Use Program(HUP). Under this program, if your company is registered with Microsoft for the HUP, you can buy the entire suite of Microsoft applications for rs. 450. That’s less than 10$ for MS Office 2010. Isn’t it a great deals!! I even found out that they provide software like Microsoft Visio and Microsoft Projects at the same price. So check out with the IT team of your respective organisation if they have applied for this offer.

Secondly Microsoft has given out upgrades to its latest Operating Systems like Vista, Windows 7 in past for a nominal price(I think it was around 800rs in India when windows 8 was launched). The offer seemed quite generous at that time. The catch was that you had to be in possession of a licensed copy/machine with OEM license which was purchased not more than a couple of months before the launch of the new OS. Upgrading from pirated version was out of question. But with Windows 8, Microsoft has given an option to upgrade while turning a blind eye on your license status(legal or pirated). They upgrade you to the top version, Windows 8 Pro for 1999 Rs. (about 38$). No questions asked. The only qualifier is the compatibility of your machine with windows 8 which is checked by a the upgrade assistant. I found that my 2008 machine was compatible if I choose to transfer just my files and not my settings, . I am now planning to upgrade to Windows 8 once positive reviews about the OS are out. The upgrade is available until 31st Jan 2013 so there is quite some time.

The main purpose of providing this may be to drive up sales but who cares about that. This offer can be viewed as the Christmas present by the people who have not yet bought any licensed copy of windows.

More details here.

Oct 222012
 

Those times of rewinding your celluloid films before opening the back of your camera are long gone. Infact, still cameras with celluloid film are very rare sight, with manufacturers stopping mass production of the films. The advent of digital cameras and high resolution cameras on mobile phones have fueled their decline. Of course, old time professionals and die hard fans still swear by it. But the younger generation has born in the digital age and accepted it rapidly. I, neither am from the  older, nor the younger generation. I belong to the generation which witnessed this change and was a part of it.

That being said, the methods of printing photos have also changed. First, it was rewinding the film and handing over to the studio, which developed the roll and we could print whichever photos we wanted. To save the hassle of going twice to the studio to select the photos, I used to just get the entire film printed. Now, printing is so out of fashion. It’s the age of sharing online. That way, we spend less, the photos need no preserving/salvaging, and they are accessible to friends and family, anywhere, anytime.

But people who like to have print handover the digital copies on pendrive/cd to the studios and get them printed. The prints either plain photo prints or artistically designed albums. Since quite some time now, photo editing softwares are being used to mix and match and create albums which add a better perspective and visual appearance to the albums. But it can be a rip off for your wallet if you want to create albums with lots of photos.

A cheaper alternative to this is getting the albums printed online. I’ve been using this for quite sometime now and I get excited when I see the results. It requires bit of work on my part, but then I get the album exactly as I want. Couple of site offering this service are Zoomin, Snapfish, Picsquare, Myprint etc. Personally I’ve used zoomin and snapfish and I am satisfied with both.

Upon registering on these sites, you will either receive coupons or few free prints as a welcome gift. You need to upload the photos using their photo upload utilities, or if you have uploaded on picasa, zoomin has the feature of linking the account, thus “pulling” your photos from picasa on to zoomin. The user interface for creating the albums is quite user friendly. You can customise according to your choice and budget. It gives you an option to choose from a plain paper flipbook, to hard bound and leather covered album for a premium.(which, I feel is less then what normal studios would charge). You can select the type of paper used, the number of pages, size of the album etc. You can allow the software to automatically arrange the photos, which normally doesn’t give good results, or manually insert individual photos. The theme for the album can be selected from the available options and if it does not satisfy you, you have an option to individually design the pages with individual background from the available choice or even your high resolution photo. Then there are lots of cliparts to decorate the photos, just like the ones shown below. While organising the photos, they can be cropped, resized, rotated inplace thus getting the actual effect of the final finished page. Captions can be added to the page as and when required.

For Zoomin, this entire activity has to be done online and hence requires a stable internet connections. Snapfish used to provides a downloadable software which could be used to create the album offline and then uploaded. I found the offline utility tedious to use and while uploading, it would be a very big file at a time. I highly doubt they still provide it. Check it out. Zoomin on the other hand has the feature of saving online so that the album can be worked on at a later stage.

Once completed with creation of album, the user needs to just pay for the print, give the delivery details and the album reaches in major cities within 3-4 days. (I created the album below and applied 40% discount coupon available online.I got a discount of about 600 rs. and paid some 1300 rs. for the below shown, 45 page album.

For people looking for a home project to spend time on something creative, this kind of job is exciting and a standard 2 hour job for about 130 photos. The pleasure and satisfaction you’ll get after you receive the album is worth the 2 hours.

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Front of the Album

 

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A random page inside

P.S.:The project need not be just for albums. There are lots of other products on offer on these sites like tea/coffee mugs, calendars, collages, name tags, cards, keychains etc.

Oct 202012
 

With the advent of digital cameras and lots of free space available online in form of Picasa, Google Drive, Photobucket, quickly archiving your current photos has become and easy job. Just click and synchronize via the software provided by the websites. But the real deal is about preserving your old photos, dating back to celluloid film era.

I didn’t have a digital camera till year 2007. So all my old photos are in print format. All seen once or twice, bundled up and stored in a cupboard. Recently it occurred to me to create collage of all the events right from my parents marriage till current times. After few days of procrastination, we got the bundle out. It was disheartening and shocking to see that some photos are losing colors due to age and some are almost glued together due to damp environment, thus damaging the surface. I am trying to salvage whatever I can at this moment, but I guess, best of my memories will be all smudgy.

Luckily I have a scanner and I have taken it as a home project to scan as many photos as I can and preserve them. I may want to look back at my childhood in some years. I may want to recount those memorable moments in my life.

I still repent the day I lost all my Honeymoon photos when I wrongly configured and then formatted my Hard Drive.

A flatbed scanner will cost somewhere around 4000 rs. but when you have all your memories backed up, the trouble will be worth it.

May 162012
 

I am an e-shopaholic. I love buying things online, due to its super convenience. The offers available online on few websites cannot be matched by shops on the street. My love for shopping online started with baazee.com and later increased with tradus.in during the good old days when they had auctions online. Those days are gone and baazee has been bought by ebay and tradus sells for a higher than street prices. But I still buy from ebay.in since I get good deals with discount coupons that they send to my inbox. Meanwhile, I keep an eye open for sites with good deals.

My brother-in-law intoduced me to this website. He got a very good deal on a pair of shoes and I was tempted. I logged in to jabong.com and instantly an ecoupon was delivered to my inbox. The coupon can be used four times until 31st may 2012, with a discount of 500 rs each time. I need to shop for 1500 rs or above each time, which is not such a huge sum considering the deduction after coupon. I had a quick look on the products and found that the catalogue was quite extensive. They sell major brands online, not some cheap stuff sold at fashion street. You can buy anything from clothing, fashion accessories, house hold furnishing, fragrances etc.

Payment options are by credit card, Cash on Delivery or net banking. Quite impressive. Don’t miss it. It won’t hurt to have a coupon in your inbox in case you feel like shopping online in near future.

May 082012
 

Technology! It fascinates me!!

I may not be the richest kid in the town but I sure love to buy what my heart craves. I have seen many people flaunt their expensive high end mobiles or those iPads. But when it comes to using those gadgets, they limit themselves to making calls or just watching movies or browsing he internet. The true potential of that device remains unlocked, almost always. It’s very disheartening to find out that people buy high end android phone and play tetris on it.

If you read the autobiography of those devices, you’ll know that they feel their life’s wasted.

Not with me. I try to live my life with technology the fullest and get every bit of juice out of it. And to keep in line with that, I just bought the active 3D glasses for my Samsung SMART TV.

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Found a very good offer on ebay.in and decided instantly that I had waited long enough. The seller shipped it to me within 3 days, enough time for me to download two 3D videos. The model number for these Active 3D glasses is SSG 3050GB and is compatible with D6000 and above LED TV released in 2011 and D490, 550 Series and above for Samsung Plasma TV released in 2011. The glasses came in cute packaging and the seller took extra care to pack it in a plastic container to avoid damage. Included in the pack is a short, multilingual, handy operation manual, which doesn’t specify if I should remove the plastic protective covers on the glasses. I guess I have to. The box also contains lint free cloth for cleaning the glass and a non rechargeable battery(standard 3V CR2025). Insert the battery and the glasses are ready for use.

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Since this glasses use active shutter technology, you require a dual frame video(L/R). Sadly, we do not have any 3D transmission in India as of now, but the glasses also work with the video running from a pendrive. All you need to do is switch on the glasses using the white poser button on top and place them neat the TV. This will enable the glasses to pair with the TV and once paired, the TV will display a message confirming the pairing. After that, the video can be viewed from a distance of about 2 m to 6 m. For 3D effect, the 3D button on the remote should be pressed and the L/R image mode should be selected.

I had no problems whatsoever in carrying out the process. The pairing went on smoothly and before I realised, I was watching an IMAX video in 3D. The glasses can get a bit uncomfortable due to its weight. Also since there is no provision for recharging, the battery needs to be changed after about 150 hours. Also the design of these glasses is not exactly orthodox and for some they may look strange. But for me, they are entertainment at the fullest.

May 042012
 

3G revolution has taken India in its stride since some time now and almost every telecom operator offers you internet connectivity via various means. One dominantly used connectivity option is the use of a data card dongle. Starting from 1x speeds, the operators have improved our connectivity options to mbps speeds in major cities.

One drawback of using a data card dongle has been the non availability of network on a single card throughout India,  reason being the flawed licensing methods of our governing bodies. They may have their reasons for doing it their way but being a consumer, I feel cheated when I need to possess many data cards if I roam a lot. Data cards, though bought in bulk for very cheap by the operators, are sold at a premium to the subscribers without any add-on. That’s the second level of cheating we are forced to endure. Then these cards are locked to the operator’s network even though the consumer has paid for it in full. Take these three levels of cheating schemes to the US of A and all the Kokomos and Fairtels and Bodafones will be biting dust. But we are Indians and we are born to suffer.

Unlocked

There is a way out. Infact two ways, one legal, and one not so legal. These methods use the fact that all the data cards use SIMs(Subscriber Identification Modules) to gain connectivity. The legal way is buying network free data card dongle that supports the 3G SIM of the network which you want to use. SIMs are very cheap and one can afford to possess many at a time. Install the SIM in to the data card, activate a good 3G data plan and you are good to go. Few top data cards are described here.

(Disclaimer : The above method is not yet tested by me hence the compatibility of SIM with card should be checked by interested user.)

The other method is unlocking your data card dongle.

(Disclaimer : Legality of this method needs to be checked but I think if you have paid for it fully, it should be legal. These methods are not for novice and may brick your data card if not followed properly. Again, the reliability of this method should be check on internet)

In this method, the IMEI number of your dongle is used to get the unlock code online. Once you get the code, you swap the SIM and connect the dongle to pc. Once it asks for unlock code, enter the generated code. Follow steps as detailed here.

Alternatively you can use this website to download the software for unlocking.

I myself am will be trying the first method soon. Go ahead, unlock your connectivity options.

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