Chennai, Gadgets

Lost without mobile for an hour

I dropped my wife & kid in front of the venue, told them I will park the car and call when I am inside the venue. They walked away, I had driven few metres, when I turned to pick my mobile phone, I couldn’t spot it. It was not in my pocket, not in the dashboard, not in the seat next to me. I looked around to see them, no sight of them, road was jam packed so I couldn’t stop the car and go after them. I began to panic!

My mind was playing tens of options on what to do next. It’s not going to be a simple matter of borrowing a phone from a stranger and calling. Wife unlikely to hear the ring in the high decibel levels inside the venue, even then she will be hesitant to pick a call from an unknown number. SMS will be best, but for that to work I need to be next to the stranger for ten minutes – the message has to go, she has to see it and reply to come back. She might be trying my number and since I won’t be pick up, she could be standing in the entrance.

I parked the vehicle, then in fast strides went to the venue. The place was crowded every inch. I couldn’t find them anywhere near the entrance. I am not an introvert, neither I am a socializing character, so speaking to strangers doesn’t come easy to me. I went around the whole place, searching for them or any other known face. After two rounds of the place, I went to information desk; the lady there kindly gave her personal mobile and allowed me to call. I called my wife, call was not going – there should have been 5000 people or more, so networks seemed to be jammed. Apologetically I asked the lady to try once more, this time 6 rings, 7 rings, no reply. I thanked the lady and went around looking. Then in one of the stalls I saw a friend of mine, borrowed his phone and kept trying my wife’s number. Luckily she picked the call this time and I asked her to come to the stall I was standing; disconnected I turned there she was few feet away from me. I called her to come near, introduced to my friend and we moved from there.

I explained to her what happened and got a good dose of how I should be careful with my phone and not leave it in the house. On our way back I thanked the lady in information desk and left the place feeling exhausted.

The whole episode made me realize how dependent we are with everyone carrying an individual mobile phone. I can’t seem to find my way without one for a single hour. I was recollecting the days till 15 years back on how we lived without mobile phones, still we went to places, dropped people, agreed on a common meeting point and life went on smoothly.

This incident happened to me two weeks back while we visited Chennai Book Fair. There was another instance when I was searching for my wife for 5 hours during our first Australian trip in 2002 but that story is for a different day.


Google Chromebook

From the time Google released Chromebook laptops I wanted to try out one, to see how effective they will be as a laptop running only one real App (Google Chrome browser). Trying it in a shop floor for few minutes or using Chrome OS as a guest OS in Parallels doesn’t give you the real taste. This week one of my colleagues returning from USA brought a Chromebook for testing in our mobile lab.

sung Chromebook 2 XE500C12-K01US 11.6-Inch Laptop

Samsung Chromebook 2 XE500C12-K01US 11.6-Inch Laptop

The device we got was a Samsung Chromebook 2 11.6-Inch Laptop costing US$250, with following configuration:

  • Model: Samsung Chromebook 2 XE500C12-K01US
  • Intel Celeron 2.16 GHz
  • 16 GB Solid-State Drive
  • 11.6-Inch Screen, Intel HD Graphics
  • Chrome, 9-hour battery life
  • USB, HDMI Ports
  • MicroSD Card slot for expansion

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Project your device screen to TV

Video Projectors in conference rooms and Televisions are two equipments which have 98% unwanted user controls and features. In my view the job of a projector or a TV is to simply show the input it gets. There is no need for 200 buttons on them and in their remote controls. In every presentation I have done in last two decades there has been only a handful of events where I could effortlessly show my laptop onto the big screen. The sad truth is that it need not be this way and Steve Jobs with obsession over simplicity proved it.

In my living room I have been using Apple TV for last four years. To throw the display from any Apple device (say iMac or iPad) to a big screen, Apple TV is still the simplest. Thanks to Apple’s AirPlay technology and their Remote App.

Life was never meant to be easy, especially technology gadgets. My world is not Apple exclusive.  In my house & work there are Windows PC, Windows Phone, Android Phone apart from iMac & iPad. So what’s is out there that can help me. When I started searching on the subject I was prepared not to find a single device that will work across all platforms. Before I write down what I found, time for a disclaimer. I am yet to try out these gadgets on my own, what I have given below are my armchair observations. 


We will start with a Bangalore (India) product. It’s called Teewe, this device is probably the cheapest you can get in India,  costing INR 1999 ($32).  It’s a small USB dongle like gadget that has just two ports, one Micro USB for power input and the second a HDMI port connects to TV/Projector to output video/audio. Teewe allows you to play content (Music, Videos and Pictures) from your local device or from YouTube, on to a big screen (TV/Projector). Teewe gadget has no controls on it (I like this). You control it remotely from an App that’s available for Android, iOS, Mac OS X & Windows PC (no Windows Phone). It requires an existing Wi-Fi Network to which both your device (Phone/Laptop) and Teewe gadget can both connect to.

One missing feature for me was Teewe not supporting screen casting. This means Teewe can’t mirror your entire device screen (say Android phone or Windows laptop) on to the big screen. This means you can’t project your Powerpoint slides or Excel spreadsheets or Internet browser.

If Music/Video/Photo/YouTube is all you want to play on a big screen and your device is Android, iOS, Mac OS X or Windows PC, you should try out Teewe.

An HDMI dongle which plugs into your TV.

Teepee – An HDMI dongle which plugs into your TV

Google Chromecast

In this HDMI dongle, this is the widely familiar product – Google Chromecast, costing $35 in USA. This week Google India that Chromecast will be coming soon to India for Rs.2999 ($49). This too looks like Teewe, has a HDMI and Micro USB Port (for Power), has an App for Android, iOS, Mac OS X and Windows PC devices (again no Windows Phone). It allows you to play any media (Video, Picture, Music) and YouTube content. Apart from this you can screencast what’s on your Android device (this works only for Android) and Google Chrome browser tabs. There is currently an “experimental” mode to screencast your entire desktop (PC screen) using Chromecast as well.

This gadget is a widely supported one across many apps and platforms, apps including Plex.TV support Chromecast.

Google Chromecast

Google Chromecast

Update 12/Dec/2014: Google updated screen casting to work with any device running Android 4.4.2 or higher with the Chromecast app, which can now share screen to Chromecast.

Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter

You know it’s a Microsoft product because of the uncool name it has – Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter. Its available only in USA and it costs $60.

This is also a USB dongle like device with HDMI and MicroUSB port for power. It has apps for Android & Windows 8 that allows you to play not only media but entire screen including presentations from your Windows PC or Android devices. This is the only device that I could find that supports Windows Phone. It’s a Miracast supported device. Microsoft’s device uses Wi-Fi Direct which means even if you don’t have a Wi-Fi network your mobile device and Wireless Display Adapter can work together.

Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter

Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter

Windows 7 Screencasting

If your device that you want to project is not an Android/iOS/Mac OS/Windows 8 but old Windows 7, then you need to buy any one of the 3rd party gadgets out there. I found this one called Actiontec Screenbeam costing $70 or so.


Apart from the above products, I noticed there are two other popular gadgets. First is Amazon Fire TV Stick costing $39 and supports voice commands. Second is Roku Streaming stick costing $50. Both come with convenient remote control as well.


USB to Ethernet Adapter

I have a  Surface Pro that I use when I am travelling. When you are travelling (I do little of it nowadays) you will find yourself in locations (strangely) that still has an Ethernet port available but no Wi-Fi. In some hotels Wired (Ethernet) Internet may be free, but Wi-Fi  chargeable. So it’s good always to be able to connect one of your device to wired ethernet. Surface Pro, just like MacBook Air or iPad doesn’t have an Ethernet Port. To connect you will need a USB to Ethernet Adapter. I was having one inexpensive one when I was using MacBook Air few years back, that I seemed to have misplaced.

I went to my local electronics shop and bought the below device. It was a Chinese made device called “Live Tech USB 2.0 LAN Adapter” that costed Rs.390 (USD 6) . Plugging it in Surface Pro, Windows 8.1 immediately recognised the device and installed the necessary drivers. I was up and running in few minutes. Speed was good for normal usage that I tested on.

Live Tech USB 2.0 to LAN Adapter

Live Tech USB 2.0 to LAN Adapter


Washing Machine I bought

When we think of upgrading appliances in our house I suppose mixer grinders and washing machines are bought impulsively. After purchase they are left to do their job until they break down to the point the service engineer says you got to buy a new one. Both these are extensively used almost every day in all households and so I would like to spend a bit more time in the showroom when selecting one. Why am I writing about appliances here?

For last few days, wife has been reminding me that soon I have to go to work on dirty clothes if I don’t buy a new washing machine. It was over a week ago the Whirlpool service engineer had declared with tears in his eyes that our old washing machine (7 years old Whirlpool sixth sense top loading model) is in its last days and we should give it a respectable sendoff. He was so moved by its age that he offered to buy it from us for Rs.800, I declined the offer.

I had in my mind that this time we will go for a front loading model with some latest! features. Being married for more than a decade, had taught me not to go alone when buying household appliances. So when I went to buy a new machine, I took my wife to Vivek’s in T.Nagar to check out various models and buy one. By the time the sales guy started explaining about a Siemens top of the line model, it was love at first sight for me. But wife was near me, so no time for any affairs. I stayed 10 feet away when when the sales guy was explaining the models to my wife. You see, I don’t want to be influencing “her” decision and be held responsible for rest of my life, whenever the damn machine breaks down (which it will certainly). After a tour of the whole shop, she asked me what to buy. I dutifully said, whatever you want honey, thinking in my mind “you are the one who is going to use it all the time why ask me”.

I slowly walked near the Siemens model I had decided, staying there for sometime, communicating non-verbally to the sales guy that I have selected this. He got the message and started to repeat the greatness of this machine over WhirlPool and others. Finally, wife declared let us buy it if I am okay with the price. Yes, I am. I asked her to confirm the decision, repeated to her its a big change in life from top loading to front loading washing machine. There is a good chance my mother (her M-I-L) may reject the selection for that very reason. Wife declared “I am the one who is going to use and the decision will be mine“. Again, I said yes honey and rushed to the counter to pay money and seal the deal.

The model I purchased was Siemens WM10K260IN, 7KG, 1000 RPM front loading model for Rs.32,500 after Rs.800 as buy back for our old model.  The machine has wash modes that includes Monsoon (smell free washing), Hygiene (to wash clothes worn when they are ill), Kids (for extra cleaning) and manual water drain knob. The machine got delivered and installed in two days and wife is happy she made this important selection!

Siemens WM10K260IN (iQ300) Front loading automatic washing machine

Siemens WM10K260IN
(iQ300) Front loading automatic washing machine