Category Archives: Technology

Orson colour television and National VCR

(Flashback dated: 22/July/1988)

For 1982 Delhi Asian Games my father purchased an imported SONY colour televsion for our house, I was less than 10 at that time and I vaguely remember it from the descriptions from my elder sisters. But I remember well  when we changed that TV to a new (SONY) ORSON 20″ Inches Television in 1988. Today while going through old warranty cards I found the purchase bill and manual of that TV (given below). Look at the price it was Rs.12042.

ORSON-TV-1988-B

ORSON-TV-1988-A

After few years from that we had purchased a National VHS VCR (NV-G10EN), I was surprised to see its printed manual to be in Hindi language even in those days. Only in the last decade in Software I have seen developers talking about I18N and localization.

National-VCR

 

My first mobile connection in 1997

(Flashback date: 1/April/1997)

Around 1996 Chennai (Madras), India got its first Cellular (GSM) Mobile network setup by RPG Cellular (SkyCell). I signed up for my first cellular (SIM) connection with them (RPG SKycell) in 1997/98 around the time I started my firm (Vishwak Associates). Individual connections were pretty expensive to get with huge deposits, so I signed up with RPG through a corporate account under my client firms’ name (Focus Infotech). The instrument I purchased was the iconic Motorola phone (non flip). The calling rates in those days were exorbitant, at Rs.18 per minute it was for super rich, so I tried every thing to finish my calls in the first 10 seconds :-)

Today while going through old warranty cards I came across the customer kit I got from RPG around June 1998. Look at the tariff  below and the limited coverage of cellular towers in Chennai, from those days mobile phones in India have come a long way.

RPG-SkyCell-Mobile-Brochure-2

RPG-SkyCell-Mobile-Brochure-4

The Internet’s Own Boy

Ever since I read about the making of this movie “The Internet’s Own Boy”, I have been wanting to watch it. It is about the sad story of early demise of Aaron Swartz, the whiz kid of Internet who did pioneering work in RSS and galvanized the US public against SOPA.

The-Internets-own-boy

Last week when the movie was released it was available only as a Pay per view from Vimeo and geographically restricted to US only (later they had a different link for rest of world). It was an irony that both the restrictions (pay-wall and geography lock) was against the ethos that Aaron stood for and died for. On the other hand it raises the question of how do the producers of the movie earn their investment and livelihood, after all the $93000 raised through Kickstarter would have met only a portion of the cost. This dichotomy is not surprising as it has been the defining theme of Aaron’s life.

Fortunately the movie is now available for free from Internet Archive.

The documentary film includes original clips of Aaron Swartz at the age of 12 or 13 talking in Industry working groups on upcoming Internet standards. I have been a passive watcher in W3C lists and active member in Tamil IT standards body and first-hand I am aware on how intensive these can discussions can be. Intensive both in terms of depth of technology and the politics. Watching this kid of 12 or 13 doing that with ease was unbelievable, at the same doubles our sadness on losing him on an issue which could have been negotiated.

Aaron took his life after he was hounded by US Government (and its security agencies) with a felony carrying 75 years imprisonment and millions of dollars fine over an act of illegal download of millions of scientific papers from JSTOR (academic journal firm) archives through MIT computers. When I first read about this tragic incident early last year (January 2013) I couldn’t understand on why the US Government went all-out nuclear towards a whiz-kid who was never known to be a threat to their national security and who had potential to contribute enormous value to US economy and technology leadership. I hoped the movie will answer the question, but listening to the interview by Aaron’s father and brothers throw up more questions. They keep repeating that US Government’s actions indicated that they were hell bound to make an example of Aaron, but why?, that remains unanswered and buried along with Aaron.

For all the adulation the developing world has towards USA Justice system for its citizens, Aaron Swartz case is a proof that all around the world Law Enforcement are capable of abuse and USA is no different. Its duty of the parliament (congress) to be ever more watchful, put checks and balances adequately.

The below eulogy posted in W3C forum by Tim Berners-Lee (Father of Web) captures the essence of Aaron’s life. Period!

From: Tim Berners-Lee <timbl@w3.org>
Date: Sat, 12 Jan 2013 12:06:05 –0500

 

Aaron is dead. Wanderers in this crazy world, we have lost a mentor, a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down, we have lost one of our own. Nurtures, careers, listeners, feeders, parents all, we have lost a child. Let us all weep.

Comfy headset for my Desktop PC

My usage at work of a headset is to listen to music, see TED videos, Microsoft/Apple keynotes without disturbing meetings in next room.  And also to do Skype calls so that microphone quality is important.   For a year or two now I was using a Microsoft Lifechat LX 3000 which comes with a USB connector, this headset was good especially the microphone. My only complaint with it was that I couldn’t wear it for more than 20-30 minutes, after which my earlobes start to pain and the noise cancelling gave me a vacuum like feeling in the ear. I was shopping for a good quality headset especially one which has better frequency range and fidelity.

On a friends recommendation I bought Sony MDR-10RBT Bluetooth headphone. I was hesitant initially to buy it as it was wireless so and it was expensive, around Rs.12,000 (USD 200) in India. I tend to prefer Wired Keyboard/Mouse/Headsets over wireless, as I feel wireless tends to be slower and spotty due to interferences.  The headphone has a 3.5mm headphone port which means I can connect a cable to my PC and listen music if Bluetooth has a problem. The headphone charges using standard MicroUSB port (which means I can reuse my Nokia Lumia 925 charger).  Reading the online reviews for this headphone I got convinced and went for it from Flipkart for Rs.11720.

sony-mdr-10rbt

I had to use this in my Desktop PC which didn’t have Bluetooth inbuilt. So I purchased a small  Bluetooth 3.0 USB adapter by Kinivo (BTD 300) from Amazon India for Rs.760 (USD 12).

kinivo-bluetooth

The headset & Bluetooth adapter worked OOB flawlessly and I am pleased. The headphone paired with my Nokia Lumia 925 phone as well effortlessly as both supports NFC. The headset is comfortable on my earlobes (its not perfect but the best I have used), it is not noise-cancelling which makes it pleasing for me. Sony ships a small cloth cover to store the headphone when not in use, quite handy. The Bluetooth adapter when connected it blinks in blue colour indicating successful setup and pairing. In Windows 8 the headphone automatically configures as default communications device & default device as appropriate under Playback & Recording devices.

bluetooth-windows8-sony-mdr10rbt

Few tips that I learned while I was getting this working with my PC:

  • Before I got the Kinivo Bluetooth adapter I tried with an old unbranded adapter, the audio was choppy and the device detection was sporadic in Windows 8. With Kinivo adapter I had no trouble. If you are using the headphone with a laptop or a smartphone with built-in Bluetooth you have nothing to worry
  • In Windows 8 ensure you have the 3 Bluetooth services set to “Automatic” start-up in Windows Services applet
  • If you have a Wireless Keyboard or Mouse like Microsoft Wireless Mouse 5000 that I have, they come with their own Bluetooth USB dongle. Ensure you plug this USB dongle and your Kinivo Bluetooth adapter to USB ports in your PC that are far apart, I used a USB hub for one of them to ensure there are no interference

Laptop for a commerce student

Today my uncle asked me to help him shop for a laptop for his daughter who is studying her graduate course from CA institute.  Requirement was a Windows PC (trust me I asked her about Google Chromebook  she didn’t want one and Apple Macbook was way out of budget), Microsoft Office and Tally accounting software (which is free for download from their website for education purposes). My uncle’s budget was Rs.30,000 (USD 500). I did some research online on models available and average pricing, then took him to Croma electronic store in Phoenix Mall, Velachery. I should have known better, going on a Sunday evening to this mall was a bad idea, the car parking entry was clogged for miles.

Laptop

In the store I selected HP 15 R036TU laptop which was selling at a discounted price of Rs.22999. I ruled out any of the higher end models which were around Rs.30000 which will no money for buying MS Office, Mouse or an Antivirus.

HP-15-R036TU

HP 15 R036TU specs (below) was ideal for what as a commerce student my cousin sister will be needing:

  • Intel Pentium (4th Gen) Quad Core (though not i3 or i5 enough for the purpose)
  • Good Display at 15.6 Inches, 1366 x 768 LED Blacklit
  • Sufficient memory at 4GB, 500GB HDD (most other models even those at Rs.30000 came with only 2GB which is inadequate for Windows8)
  • 3 USB Ports, 1 HDMI port to connect to TV/Projector, Ethernet Port, 3.5 mm headphone port
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • DVD Drive for using learning DVDs & occasional movie watching
  • SD media card reader for copying photos from their digital camera
  • Dual speakers which were loud enough for normal music & movie viewing
  • Lastly at 2.25 Kgs quite easy to carry with them daily to college
  • A shoulder carrying bag for the laptop that was sporty

Software & Accessories

Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 was retailing at Rs.5499 at Croma.  I spotted the same was selling Rs.1000 less in Snapdeal and Flipkart. Noticing this Croma manager offered to match the price and I got it for Rs.4400 from Croma itself. I didn’t go with Office 365 subscription as I don’t see them needing any of its features for next 3 years till they graduate.

Next item was a Logitech wireless mouse at Rs.700. Croma gave an “Enter” accessories kit (USB light, Mouse, Headset, etc) as complimentary with the laptop. The kit included a small mouse but I was not comfortable with it.

AccessoriesKit

Last in my list was Antivirus, for which I went with a brand I trust. I got K7 Computing’s Antivirus Premium 1 PC/3 Years for Rs.1199. This edition of K7 was the right mix of features and protection that was adequate for this need. Buying subscription for 3 years meant for the expected lifetime of this laptop they should be covered.

k7computing-antivirus-premium

Now the total spend for my uncle was Rs.29298, a good Rs.700 below his budget. I felt good !!!

Installation

The setup was straight forward except for two irritants. One was that I had to spend two hours in burning the 5 Recovery DVDs manually, I would have been happy to pay USD 10 more to HP for shipping this out of box.  Second was installing all the Microsoft Updates (which happens in all platforms now whether its Apple or Google) and uninstalling of HP Crapware (like some games,  3rd party tools and mcAfee Antivirus

I was pleasantly surprised to find the Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 including for free “Hindi Language Pack for Office 2013” which separately retails for Rs.1299. The Hindi language pack includes features for spell checking & grammar which are needed for all other Indian Languages like Tamil as well.