Gadgets, Technology

We won’t be using smartphones by 2025

Favourite this post in your browser, as I am daring to make predictions on the state of smartphones for next 10 years. Before I do that, I have no qualification or experience in designing or manufacturing or marketing Smartphones, and that is what makes me qualified to do the predictions as an user.

1.By 2020 phones will get smaller & smaller – reversing current trend

When mobile phones were invented in 1973 at Motorola they weighed 2 Kilograms and were bulky. They continued to look more or less the same when they got commercially released after ten years in 1983. In the next 25 years when phone subscribers grew from zero to several billions it was all about how to make the “brick” like phones smaller, lighter and easier to carry. An example was Ericsson’s most loved model T39, introduced in 2001 it weighed just 86 grams. Then iPhone happened in 2007, at 135 grams and 4.5 inches it began reversing the trend of previous 25 years of phones becoming smaller. Today in 2015, iPhone in its latest avatar iPhone 6 Plus weighs 172 grams and 6.22 inches, phones are becoming bigger and bigger. They have blurred the line separating a phone and a tablet.

When iPhone came, following which Samsung continued to introduce larger phones it made sense, as a larger surface area made it easier to use the Touch interface. And users were reading more content in the phones, whether it’s Kindle ebooks or long form (TL;DR) articles or see in retina display the photographs of their loved ones, all of which was happening away from their PCs and Tablets to smartphones since you were carrying one always in your pocket. Smartphones have become the one gadget that you carry with you when you are sitting in restroom stall or when even you are in your bed with your lover.mobile-phones-initial-days

Now looking forward to next five years, in 2018 I predict Smartphones (or phones from now on) will become smaller and smaller, reversing the trend and going back to basics. Why?

Number One reason I see for this to happen is not due to wearables (I see them as a by product than a cause) but due to evolution of software and change in our usage pattern. For the first time in Human history we are at an inflection point where machines (computers and software) can understand what they see, what we speak and make choices based on them within the parameters of our individual preferences, think of simplest example of Google Now & Apple Siri to Google Cars & XBOX Kinect. In the next five years the capabilities in Artificial Intelligence are going to grow exponentially and have profound impact in the way computers interface with humans, I am talking here of the reverse of Humans communicating to Computers. As you read the last line, you may already be discounting it, but remember as humans we understand incremental growth easily but our brains can’t visualize exponential growth. That’s what is currently happening in Artificial Intelligence powered by Cloud, Big Data & Sensors.

As a result of this, computers need to offer fewer and fewer options and commands to us, they can predict & decide on what we want even before we want it. This means less or zero real estate is needed in a phone to present to us with menus, buttons, textboxes and other GUI elements. What about TL;DR articles and ebooks you may ask, there is a growing trend here that can answer it. With more millennial born growing up along with their short attention spans, the reading habits are fast changing. Majority of the content they consume will be video & audio, the only reading they do will be of extremely shortened summaries crafted personally for them by ubiquitous software. For viewing pictures you will want to use ever larger screens that are to be found in your work place & homes, in the initial years it will continue to be Tablets (iPads) and cheap laptops. For those bibliophiles like me we will use specialized devices like Amazon Kindle in its tenth iteration.

2.By 2025 phones will cease to exist in its current avatar

This one is easier to extrapolate from my previous prediction, it’s just logical progression of phones becoming smaller and smaller, then suddenly disappearing altogether. I don’t mean to say we will not be making calls, reading messages or viewing videos, it’s just that the devices we use for these activities will not be in the form of a phone as we see it today. These capabilities will be part of our everyday objects, invisible individually but all of them are connected to a cloud based neural network like in Avatar’s Pandoran biosphere.

In the technology landscape of 2025, operating systems like Windows, Android or iOS will matter less, web browsers like IE, Chrome & FireFox will cease to exist in their current form, mobile apps would have all transformed to neural nodes. And when all that has happened, remember you read it here at venkatarangan.com in April 2015.

Standard
Gadgets

Shaving Razors – Manual or Electric

I have written earlier about how I solved the problem of maintaining my moustache trimmed regularly using Philips electric beard trimmer. Going by that experience I purchased online a full Electric Shaver – Philips AT 620 for Rs.2200. It turned out to be a mixed bag experience. While the Electric shaver gives a great shave, clean and soft, it has turned out to be more work.

Electric Shaver and Razor

Electric Shaver and Razor

With the manual Razor shaving once in 3 days takes me about 3-4 minutes from the time of washing my face, applying cream and actual shaving. I am careful and with 3 blade razors it’s rare for me to get the small razor cuts. With the Philips Electric Shaver (AT620) it’s an elaborate ritual. I have to plan the shave the day before so that the Shaver can be charged the fully overnight. Unlike the Beard Trimmer, the Shaver doesn’t work when plugged in, it needs to be charged before hand, a quick 10 minutes charge doesn’t help either. If that’s not enough, each shave takes about 10-12 minutes in total. The actual shave, the cyclic motions as shown in this tutorial (yes you need a video to use this), makes it a slower process. Every rinse after few strokes is not as easy as the manual razors. At the end of it, most often I had to use a razor to do the small leftover areas I couldn’t get off with the Electric shaver. What I found irritating the most compared to razor was the washing of blades, drying and storing away after each shave. I have to be careful not to leave the parts in the wash counter, for risk of losing it.  I suppose expecting a Rs.200 bag is too much for the manufacturer to provide to store safely the unit and charger. My Rs.300 Gillette Razor gives me a good store-away case.

Do I recommend an electric shaver?

Yes for those who care about how their face skin feels, needs extra close and soft shave. If you are getting photographed in close-up and for models/actors, electric shaver is a professional investment. For mere mortals who are impatient, a Razor blade is good enough. For myself, since I spent the money on buying the Philips Aquatouch I will be using it till it dies, that too only over weekends when I have the time.

While on the subject of shaving, I have in the past posted about how irritated I get whenever I had to use Gillette shaving foam can. For one the can is made by Gillette to get rusted in the first use, second the press button is designed poorly as to not work or break easily on the slightest touch, inducing you to buy a new one more often.

Gillette shaving foam. New can, button came off, sprayed all over

Gillette shaving foam. New can, button came off, sprayed all over

I never liked the foams from other brands or they were not suited for my sensitive skin, that was all until I found the one below – Nivea Men Sensitive Shaving Gel Ultra Glide with 0% alcohol. The can of this gel is powder coated, so doesn’t rust, the button is broad and wide making it less likely to break on regular usage.

Nivea Men Shaving Gel with a well designed can and easy to use button

Nivea Men Shaving Gel with a well designed can and easy to use button

Disclaimer: I don’t work for any of these brands, I am not a professional or qualified stylist in any sense, I haven’t been paid in any fashion by these brands or their competitors. I have paid on my own for all these products and tried it for my personal usage.

Standard
Flashback, Gadgets

Apple iMac Summer 2001

Today I had my computer gallery moved from office to my home. After unloading the boxes in my room, I remembered an old iMac G3 being in one of the boxes and got curious to check out whether it still worked. It was a iMac Summer 2001 model, Power PC 600Mhz with 256MB RAM. The machine should have been last switched OFF around 2005, a whole decade ago.

iMac Summer 2001 - 600Mhz PowerPC G3

iMac Summer 2001 – 600Mhz PowerPC G3

I got busy in connecting power cable, USB Keyboard & Mouse, Ethernet LAN and powered ON.  To my surprise the machine booted up after several minutes and I luckily remembered the password to Login, which was totally fluke!

About iMac  - 256MB RAM, 600Mhz Power PC G3

About iMac – 256MB RAM, 600Mhz Power PC G3

I checked out the apps that was there, first was Safari, I was able to  browse websites, even this blog using the Safari 1.x  that was present in the iMac G3.

Safari 1.x displaying this blog in March 2015

Safari 1.x displaying this blog in March 2015

I got curious to try the Internet Explorer 5.2 for Mac, I suppose this was the last version that Microsoft released for Mac, 11 years ago. Even that worked but layout of  this blog was  broken.

Internet Explorer 5.2 for Mac working in March 2015

Internet Explorer 5.2 for Mac working in March 2015

Being adventurous I inserted an audio CD to the CD bay, it went in and that’s all. It didn’t appear in the Desktop, iTunes or Disk Utility. Rebooting machine with Mouse button being pressed or physical insertion of a pin into the right hand side edge of the CD bay, nothing got the CD out. I think I stretched my luck too thin for the day. I could hear wife shouting to me to store away all the boxes and come for Dinner, so I have  shutdown the iMac for one last time, packed the iMac in a carton and dutifully cleared my room. I hope to unbox and switch on the iMac 10 years from now in 2025 and see what happens.

Standard
Gadgets, Technology

SSD upgrade for iMac mid 2011

It was exactly three years back I purchased an Apple iMac 21.5″ Mid 2011 computer for my home usage.  I have grown comfortable with Mac OS X over the years, enjoy the media management & sync capabilities with iTunes, the ease of backup/restore with Time Machine with the accompanying Time Capsule device. I consider Windows PC is powerful and productive for work, that’s why I got recently a HP Envy Windows workstation for my office, but iMac is the best PC for home if you can afford it.

In iMac, I use Parallels virtualisation software to use Windows 7 and Ubuntu for testing purposes and when I plugin USB drives from outside. While I am satisfied with performance of my iMac, over last few months it was becoming slower and slower. Apps took long time to launch and switch. I tried moving my data (iTunes media, iPhotos, Documents) from my user folder to a new folder “data” in root, then deleting my user profile, recreating a new user profile. While this gave temporary relief, it was few days before the sluggishness came back.

Discussing with my vendor, he suggested I get the 7200 RPM, 1 TB Hard disk replaced with a Solid State Drive (SSD). Unfortunately SSD are commonly available in India  for a maximum capacity of 256GB only. To manage the storage needs, he suggested to connect the Apple 1TB Hard disk as an external drive using an external USB hard disk enclosure. After much thought I went with the option.

The 256GB SSD costed Rs.10,500 (USD 170). Apple authorised service centre charged a replacement fee of Rs.1500 (USD 25), they were nice to do a fresh clean install of OS X Yosemite in the “new” SSD. With the SSD, the machine feels better than it was when new, Mac boots within seconds (still slower than my Windows 8.1 Surface Pro) and app launches and performance are great. I highly recommend SSD for anyone with ageing iMacs.

iMac-mid-2011 iMac-SSD

One issue was the old 1TB hard disk connected through USB (USB 2.0 port as the Apple 1TB hard disk was a 3.5″ drive and there were no USB 3.0 enclosures for that) was slow. Accessing iTunes media from the external hard disk was slow (better than before, but still slow). After some experimentation, I connected a WD My Passport Studio 1TB drive through Firewire800 interface, copied the data from Apple 1TB, disconnected and stored away the Apple drive. WD drive through Firewire was fast, iTunes media were now available instantly.

WD-My-Passport-Firewire800-iMac

I recommend this combination for anyone with an old iMac with sufficient RAM – replace the iMac internal Hard drive with a 256GB or more SSD, connect an external drive for 1TB or more storage through Firewire 800 or Thunderbolt interface.

Standard
Gadgets

High Tech Broom

Even broom in my house has gone high tech.

high-tech-broom

Today as I was doing Yoga in the terrace of my house, I noticed something “interesting” tied to the broom there. As I zoomed in, I discovered a (working) 8 GB USB drive attached to the lanyard holding the broom straws together. This was not by design, it’s the handy work of our house maid who should have used the lanyard lying around.

Standard