Category Archives: Gadgets

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

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.

My first scanner 1996

(Flashback dated: 01/Oct/1996)

While searching for images in the web I came across an image of the brand of my first scanner that I owned – Genius Scanmate/Color SE.Made by KYE Systems Corp, Taipei.

It was a handheld scanner that you need to pull over the page and it came with Photo Finish software for editing the images. Drivers and photo editing software came in 3.5 Inches floppy drives. The scanner connected to your PC to a custom serial port, you needed to insert a ISA daughter card (came along with the scanner package) into your PC motherboard for this.

GENIUS-SCANMATE-COLORSE-SCANNERI had used this scanner extensively (no mobile phone cameras around those days, remember) to scan everything from pictures (chemical/paper photos) to college mark sheet.