Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nokia Needs To Do More, Much More

Finally the N8 is out in the wild. After months of delay, numerous false announcements, Nokia's latest flagship device is available to customers (to be frank there is some doubt if this is actually a release date. Especially since the preordered phones are the ones being despatched).

A lot is riding on the N8. In short, Nokia future will be defined by this device. If it turns out to be an epic failure like the N97, then lets say, its all over for the Finnish giant. If however this turns out to be a success, it will give Nokia another opportunity to prove to the world that they are capable of producing quality phons even now.

Although individual bloggers had already come up with pretty good positive reviews of the N8 (thanks to Nokia's "trial a phone" for free sweetness), Techradar's (a much more reliable source for reviews than individual blogs, and more recently even CNET's) detailed review of the phone has bared it all. From what I understood from the review here are the conclusions regarding the N8 -

Pros: good camera, good build quality, good battery life.

Cons: oh well, the same old ones to be honest. Okay you start checking if I miss anything. Symbian^3 is primitive, not nearly as good as android or ios interfaces, severe shortage of apps, sloppy internet experience, okayish touchscreen and physically "heavy". Apparently its much heavier than the likes of iPhone 4.

And from the look of things, the reviews arent going to get any better for Nokia. As someone said on a personal blog, had this phone been released a couple of years back, it would have blown everything else, but in 2010, there are simply way too many better phones out there for the N8 to even remotely create an impact.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Why I Hate Windows & Why I Still Love It

There will be very few, if at all any, who havent used Windows. Windows has been a pioneering OS for many years now, bridging the geek-noob gap when it comes to personal computing. It has in its own way, rewritten history by making computers something personal, something usable and something pleasant. What it has also done though, is make the personal computing territory their own domain. Fighting tooth and nail to register patents and copyright stuff and making life more and more difficult for people who arent using their OS. Well that has meant that Windows now, in 2010, is an expensive operating system, well beyond the reach of many. Linux on the other hand is staging a comeback. Its free, open source, has no copyright/proprietary issues and is extremely stable. When I speak of Linux, I speak of Ubuntu. Why, you might ask. Arent the other distros worth anything? My answer would be simple. You see, as I have already mentioned, the reason why Windows became popular was because it successfully bridged the geek-noob divide. None of the other distros, apart of Ubuntu is doing that when it comes to open source OSes.

Recently I had given Windows 7 a try. I had been hearing a lot about it and really wanted to use it. So after the fairly simple installation, what greeted me was a sleek looking OS with pretty nifty options which definitely takes Windows to another level. The transparent menus and the themes look really elegant and the effective firewall is definitely a welcome change. Video and audio playback was pretty smooth and hassle free. But frankly as soon as that wow-factor faded, the glaring faults of the OS became clearer and clearer. I will try and summarise them.

Windows 7 has a "veil" of security. Its firewall is definitely effective but irritatingly obtrusive and hampers the user experience. Installing softwares and games greets the user with numerous confusing firewall setting options which can get on one's nerves. Next, there are no multiple workspaces! So basically its clutter and more clutter that you have to deal with when it comes to multitasking. Windows effects are cool but absolutely nothing compared to the animations Compiz has on Linux. (I have to secretly admit here that 'rotating the compiz cube' is one of my favourite hobbies on Ubuntu) I was always a fan of Windows fonts as a kid. After all who has passed an entry level computer exam without knowing about "Times New Roman". But after having used Ubuntu for a while now, all of a sudden, the Windows fonts have started looking wobbly and weak. Its a feeling which is difficult to put down into words but something which I feel strongly about. And finally, one still needs an antivirus and an antispyware on Windows. Now thats completely okay had it not been consuming memory (RAM). But since thats not the case, I would much prefer to use a system which utilises every single byte of my 4GB RAM to the fullest without having to dedicate it for security purposes. Ubuntu offers me security and not at the cost of excessive RAM usage.

So there I was, switching back to Ubuntu after having used Windows 7...for a day.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Assassins, Heroes of the 21st Century?

شوالیه سزار سطح20Image via Wikipedia
Assassins were a notorious group of trained killers who under the leadership of Hassan-i Sabbah were responsible for murders of numerous kings during the Middle Ages in Persia. There are colourful stories about them and their extraordinary lives, replete with "a secret garden of paradise" where damsels, fairest among all, roamed and pleasured the young men who were deceived into becoming trained killers. These have been well documented by Marco Polo. Their most famous assassination was that of Nizam al-Mulk by a killer dressed as a Sufi. Of course, there are exaggerated accounts of their sex lives and drugs and strange beliefs. Nothing of which can be verified. What is however known to be true is the fact that the Assassins were a hated group of trained killers.

It is therefore very surprising that in this day and age, someone would want to glorify them and turn their acts of barbarism into noble deeds. Assassin's Creed is an immensely popular game released a few years back. It revolves around the quest for a machine Animus, "which allows viewing of the protagonist's genetic memories of his ancestors". Now this is where I protest. The protagonist here is/are the Assassin(s). Painting a barbaric killer as a protagonist, is plain obnoxious. I seriously dont know why in our quest for eternal happiness and unimaginable wealth (much like the Assassins, thats what all of us are looking for) we tend to sacrifice our basic conscience! Gamers unaware of these killers of yore, will now think of them as heroes, as people with a mission. A one man army whose courage and killing skills are to be worshiped. Is this what we want? The next time we will have a game with Hitler as a protagonist! Where is this leading us? Just because the gaming industry is profitable, does that mean they can impose on us whatever junk they decide to come up with?

I leave the rest to your good conscience.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rare Indo-Pak Collaboration

Bopanna/QureshiImage by Rahul and Gayatri via Flickr
How many times have you seen India and Pakistan collaborate, for anything? You'll have to google that one coz no instances come to mind immediately. Well, this US Open is quite legendary in that aspect. Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, from India and Pakistan respectively, have achieved the unimaginable. This duo has managed to reach the finals of the US Open in men's doubles as partners, at a time when tensions between the two countries are at an all time high.

With Pakistan reeling with the flood disaster and the cricket world blaming its board, PCB, for bot doing enough in the match fixing fiasco, the nation has been under considerable amount of pressure recently. The news of Qureshi reaching the finals in the US Open men's doubles with Bopanna and becoming the runners up at the mixed doubles, should come as a welcome relief. For India this heralds another chapter in Indo-Pak politics with sportsmen leading the way in creating an incredible goodwill gestures infront of the entire world.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Buying via ebay in West Bengal

Its practially impossible for electronics goods to enter West Bengal without having paid millions of taxes and furnished thousands of documents. Why do I say this?

The other day after signing up on and almost placing an order for an item, I found out that the seller wasnt shipping to West Bengal, specifically. Why? Coz apprently one has to supply the customs officer with a certain form 50, a mythical piece of document which is applicable to professional buyers and sellers in the state. This is done to stop people from evading taxes like VAT etc. Fine? Oh yeah, fine indeed. I'm totally okay with that. But here's the thing, even non professional buyers and sellers (I mean a normal individual simply wanting to buy something for personal use) has to furnish that document! Now how irritating is that?

I want to pay my taxes and all other duties that the government levies, but please, cant they make the whole process simpler? At present most sellers on ebay wont ship you any item if you hail from West Bengal. Let me rephrase that; if you 'live' in West Bengal.

Now this buying via third or even fourth party dealers not only increases the price of the product manifold, it also makes it impossible for the dealers to provide an appropriate discount. Fortunately though, these weird tax rules dont apply to books bought from online stores. Dunno who created these strange laws but I honestly hope someone realises the utter stupidity of the situation and comes up with a solution. Till then, no ebay for me.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

5 Reasons Why You Should Buy A Mac

iMac goodness...Image by [kilodelta] via Flickr
1. They look good - Yes, Macs are the ultimate toys for someone into computers. They dont look geeky but they do look classy. The minimalistic design has won it fans all over the world and is a winning fecture of all Macs.

2. They have no driver issues - Since Macs are custom made by Apple to run OSX, it doesnt have any driver issues at all. All the hardware components are Apple certified for top notch performance.

3. Synchronisation - if you own and iPhone or any other Apple device, owning a Mac is going to improve the whole "Apple" experience by a thousand times! It is this synchronisation with its other devices which has convinced many users of the need for a Mac.

4. Support System - Let's face it, Apple's support system is superb. If you ever face any sort of problem with your Mac, support and help is only a phone call or an email away.

5. A class of its own - Apple users are a hallowed species. Only around 2-3% people of the entire planet own Macs and hence the moment you buy one, you are immediately elevated to this supreme class of ultra rich users. This is in contrast to the "everyone is equal" philosophy of Linux and open source softwares.

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Buy A Mac

Contract employee rageImage by chrismear via Flickr
1. Macs are expensive - Its no secret that Macs are expensive toys, well out of reach of many, infact most of PC users. In an age where "value-for-money" has acquired a whole new meaning, expensive Macs do tend to go against the consumer friendly trend.

2. Hardware Issues - Yes the Macs do come with pretty decent (decent as in okayish) configuration. But frankly its standard models are nowhere near as powerful as today's PCs. Most games (the few ones which run on a Mac) have more demanding system requirements specifications for the OSX versions than their Windows counterparts. Also, ports (or lack of it) have forever plagued the Macs. Apple somehow enjoys sticking to dated ports and trying to dodge recent trends.

3. Upgrading Issues - I think most of us are aware of this drawback, because the Mac is such a compact piece of work, it does not give the user much upgrading options. Upgrading a hard drive in many models is impossible and changing the motherboard could kill the device altogether.

4. Its closed source - Its a fact that Mac laves you with no other option but to run Apple's OSX. Now that is a really good OS, but since its closed source, development wise its prospects are limited and security feature solidifications completely dependent on the whims and fancies of the developers employed by Apple.

5. Lack of softwares - Like it or not this is a big issue. Windows has a plethora of softwares for various purposes but OSX has few. Even Linux has more softwares than OSX. The reason is of course the closed source nature of the OS and the lack of users.

So these were my top 5 reasons why I think you shouldnt buy a Mac. To keep the argument fair, I will blog next about why you should buy a Mac.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Purchase Apps from Ubuntu Software Center?

Official Ubuntu circle with wordmark. Replace ...Image via Wikipedia
I have been pretty open in the past about my love of open source softwares. The best thing about open source is that development doesnt get stagnated if the developer gets bored of the project. Also, since most open source softwares are free (as in free for downloding) their popularity is guaranteed.

What is not guaranteed though is the popularity of the OS 'for' open source. Most Linux based distributions these days suffer from the acute problem of sheer obscurity! Even Ubuntu which is (quite wrongly) said to be almost synonymous with Linux suffers from this problem. After all more that 90% of the world's PCs run on Windows. This sheer lack of popularity is one of the reasons why big developers and companies have stayed away from Linux. Most think that since Linux is all about free and open source, there's no money to be made here. Thats partly true. But shattering that myth Canonical has now introduced an option to purchase apps right from the Ubuntu Software Center.

I know many will be up in arms about this and a few might stop using Ubuntu altogether crying foul. But the fact is (and rude as it might sound), we need to grow up, desperately. Most Linux based distros suffer from acute shortage of funds and to sustain development of a distribution, funds are a necessity. There's another theory. Linux is a hotbed of open source apps, and there are many. However sad as it might sound, there are very few professional grade apps with support system out there. GIMP is a great application, but only a fool would compare it with Adobe Photoshop (I used to be one such fool). Similarly I think there is a severe shortage of games on the Linux platform. If developers and companies are encouraged to come up with more decent quality applications and those are featured on the Ubuntu Software Center, I think it can only be good. After all, even the Canonical online store has options to buy closed softwares from them.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Janko Tipsarevic training in Roland Garros 2009Image via Wikipedia
Janko Tipsarevic is perhaps better known for his sense of style than his tennis. But he changed all that today when he ousted one of the top players in men's tennis of our time, Andy Roddick. The class, the power and the entire persona of Tipsarevic looked magnificent at the Flushing Meadows.

What was impressive was how Tipsarevic never really let go and constantly troubled Roddick by returning even his most potent serves. The US Open 2010 is now truly open. With this sort of form, I wouldnt doubt Tipsarevic's ability to tame another giant. As I always say, we are living in privileged times. Anyone who rises to the occasion to beat a champion without any support from the crowd whatsoever deserves a pat on the back.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nothing New From Apple

Image representing Steve Jobs as depicted in C...Image via CrunchBase
Apple has nothing drastically new on offer this time around, surprisingly. In its press conference at San Francisco, Steve Jobs mentioned about the new reinvented Apple TV, the elusive product which has so far never really 'clicked'. They have a new lineup of contracts with television channels with high definition content.

The other major announcement was about the new iPod Touch range which has the same features as the new iPhone 4 (including the retina display, touch screen, face time capabilities etc) without having the 'phony' features of the phone. As the Jobs jokingly put it, the new iPod Touch is the iPhone 4 without the contract. He also announced the lauch of Ping, a new music social networking site.e

Other than that, there werent any other announcements. I wonder if Apple really has something on offer to surprise us any more. After all, havent we already seen the enough of the iPods and the odd set top boxes?