Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The passing of the torch

To be honest, I've always been fascinated by North Korea. It's a country most of the world knows little about and it's powered by a ruthless hardline communist regime, unmatched in its control over its people. The death of Kim Jong-il was the ultimate wake up call for me. Here is a country, from my own continent of which I know absolutely nothing about.

The next thing I did was pick up one of those 'highly recommended' books on the country by Barbara Demick. The book is called Nothing to Envy and is pretty much regarded as the beginner's guide to North Korea. Never being a fan of non fiction, I was a bit sceptical initially. After all being fed on a steady diet of GRRM, Stephen King and their likes has its flaws. But Nothing to Envy turned out to be a page turner. It fails to fall in trap of being preachy and impersonal and comes up with something interesting.
Barbara Demick is a correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and her work over the years has led her to exotic places across the planet, most significantly, to North Korea. A country so secluded, even its population is a matter of guessing by the outside world. It's millions of citizens being constantly fed a steady diet of idealistic hard line communist propaganda, and the philosophy of 'Jucche' (loosely translated it means self-reliance) is quite astonishingly divided into a privileged class (read people who have sworn allegiance to the Worker's Party) and the impoverished. A class discrimination, as Demick says, only second to the one which was prevailing in India back in the day. Quite surprising, if course, since economic discrimination is the last thing you'd expect from a communist regime in full control of a country's political and economic landscape.

Unlike a commonly held perception, not everything Kim is associated with is evil. Kim Il-sung, the late Dear Marshall and the Eternal President, has a definite group of loyal 'authentic' followers. After the Japanese invasion of North Korea, it was he who instilled a sense of self pride and of course the philosophy of Jucche in the minds and hearts of North Koreans. Revered he was and probably still is by many North Koreans for taking socialism to whole new levels. In fact, so successful was the regime under him that in 1970, it was the North which was the prosperous of the two Koreas. Of course, after that, things went downhill. His death was followed by the rise of his son Kim Jong-il to the corridors of power and control. He assumed titles which registered him as quite frankly, the last word in North Korea. And then state sponsored propaganda was taken to a whole new level by that man they call 'Dear Leader'. So severe was the suppression of and crackdown on dissenters that even during the devastating famine of the late 90s (of which very little is known) no protesting voice was heard.
His passing away led to speculations all over the world regarding the stability and viability of the regime. Ending all those speculations, Kim jong-il's youngest son, Kim jong-un has assumed the role of the supreme leader of the country. Backed by the military and opportunistic party workers, his future seems pretty secure, at least for the time being.

Whether the onslaught of propaganda will finally force the people of North Korea into revolting against the state machinery may be a matter of speculation but we're heading into turbulent times as the last dictator of a nuclear weapons armed communist regime tries to re-emphasize its grip on its hunger stricken, grief ridden and frustrated populace.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hello World!

Nope. I can't write a single line of programing code to save my life! Okay maybe to save my life I would but the end result would be completely bug ridden. Much like Android. Oops!

The year's coming to an end isn't it? I guess that means it's time to look back and contemplate. That's something we Bengalis do very well by the way, contemplate. Compared to actually getting things done.

So what we're the highs for me this year? Hmm...okay so I didn't get high, so maybe that's a high. Other than that, I experimented a lot with photography only to realise that I knew shit about it. Another realisation? You don't need a f*ckin DSLR to take decent photos. By the way, I am indeed in the lookout for a cheap DLSR (don't smirk, I saw you) but when I indeed find one to fit my tiny fingers, I promise to stay away from the gravest error. Shooting in auto mode. Here's a tip; when done with shooting always revert to the auto mode, that way you're ready to take photos in difficult situations. See, I have picked up a few things over the years!

Random change of topic. I have seen fatal attraction towards Serious Sam. Okay fine not fatal. I doubt if I'll ever find Sam trying to stab me in the bathroom.

That was weird...

Books. Novels rather. I'm well in my way to end up reading fifty novels this year. Yeah that's an achievement. For a casual reader. And no I haven't yet read Pride and Prejudice. Neither have I read any of the Twilight books.

Random change of topic. I actually thought Kristen Stewart was the daughter of Jon Stewart! Yes, the comedy central guy. He's awesome by the way. Anyway, to my utter surprise I found out yesterday that Kristen's dad is John Stewart! Arggh the crucial H.

As for the contemplating scheme of things, I'm contemplating writing about it the next time around.

There, the Bengali in me has spoken.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Busy busy...erm Not

Of late I've developed a strange fascination for PC games. Primarily because I now have a more capable computer than ever before. Also because I've got a few days to spare before things at the studies spectrum get going.

I frankly admit, I was never the gamer. Playing games on a PC was looked down upon in my family back in the day. Mum always used to say that playing games, which she equated with wasting time, on a PC was misusing the device. One should better utilise time by doing what good boys do, searching Wikipedia all day (yeah as if that ever worked).

Anyway, since I was never the gamer (deja vu?) I never really experienced what half life 2 or crysis meant to a gamer. Trying to make up for lost time I've of late taken it upon myself the task of experiencing or if I'm lucky, completing a few contemporary critically acclaimed games. I started off by playing Crysis. The most specs heavy game probably ever created. My Nvidia GT 525M handled the game pretty well and I quite comfortably completed all the levels on a high (graphically speaking).

Then of course I realised that the holy grail for every PC gamer was the orange box. The "best game deal ever", consisting of, well an orange box having two DVDs full of five fantastic games. Half life 2, half life 2 episode 1, episode 2, team fortress 2 and the quite brilliant, portal.

Half life 2 has of course been hailed as one of the best games ever created, a title I firmly believe should go to Crysis. Anyway, overrated though it may be, its vastly entertaining and brilliant. It combines the element of puzzles with the thrill of a first person shooter. And the result is a gorgeous game, and as many say, the best game ever created.

Many more games to look forward to. Not a lot of time to spare.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Guru of Ghazals

I've had my 'phases'. These ranged from the extreme depression to the exact opposite. And in one of these phases, Jagjit Singh figured prominently.

I think I was in the 10th standard back then. A sudden bout of gloom had overtaken my life. I was on the verge of literally switching career choices. I had been a 'Brilliant Tutorials' target IITJEE correspondence course student till then because well, I wanted to become an engineer. But of course things were changing drastically for me primarily due to the awesomeness of one Biology Sir (whose name I can't recall right now, and yea shame on me for that), we students of his affectionately called him that, and the ridiculously boring regimen of ICSE mathematics. I wasn't sure if that was the right thing to do, taking drastic steps with regards to career choices. My parents being neither doctors nor engineers didnt help matters. So, confused I was back then, and bored too. It was then that I found solace in someone's voice.

Jagjit Singh

My dad has always been a huge music listener. Even in my childhood I had seen cartons full of audio cassettes and photographs of musicians at every corner of the house. And dad's obsession only grew with time albeit he switched from cassettes to CDs. Jagjit Singh was someone my dad listened to back then almost daily. The Akai home theater at our place buzzed with the thick baritone of Gulzar and the melancholic voice of Singh everyday. I wasn't a fan of this 'Ghazal stuff' initially or maybe I didn't want to be. I mean lets face it, my friends were listening to Linkin Park back then, it was the cool thing, the 'in-thing'!

Yet the man grew on me, his voice did. Ghazal, which I had once thought of as 'lame' and 'slow' and 'dull' was suddenly starting to make sense. I felt as if a giant jigsaw puzzle was falling into place. The world started making sense. Soon i found myself spending hours listening to Jagjit Singh's beautiful rendition of ghazals. Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit suddenly seemed way too fake and goofy for my tastes, which of course were changing quite drastically.

It was during this 'phase' that I discovered ghazals. The entire genre became a favourite of mine. I got hold of literally every single Jagjit Singh album released till date, and my dad was only too happy to buy me all those. Now that I look back, I think he felt glad that he had finally bridged the generation gap. I was so obsessed with ghazals, especially the ones sung by Jagjit Singh, that I had almost memorised every single one! Even to this day, I can recall the lyrics of quite a few.

My interest in ghazals has since then faded. But Jagjit Singh's voice and his songs, (along with Gulzar's impeccable elocution), helped me through one of the toughest phases of my life and I can only be grateful to the man for that.

Rest in Peace, Jagjit Singh. The heavens are apparently in greater need of your songs.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The O.C. - Revisited

I remember watching The O.C. on TV back in my schooldays. In India, back then, TV series from foreign shores were rare. One either had to buy DVDs of entire shows from the stores, which was bloody expensive. Not to mention the hilarious ‘collections‘ at those stores. Simply put, TV shows from the US were plain inaccessible. Now in 2011, I find it very hard to imagine myself living in that India. Yet, as the cliche goes, those were the best days of my life.

The O.C. (season 3)Image via Wikipedia

The O.C. was a show which was actually telecast here, on some obscure English soap channel, again something which was rare during that time. I had watched a few episodes of The O.C. and found it interesting. At the time, having the television in the ‘dining room’ was in vogue. The guests come in and BAM, there’s the big screen TV, that was the logic I presume, both flaunting the ‘treasure’ and guarding it from the prying eyes of a fourteen year old searching desperately for easy access to porn. To be honest, considering the amount of ‘resources’ we kids could get our hands on, shows like The O.C., with its occasional ‘hot scenes’ almost substituted the need for the real thing (admit it, season one of the show was pretty hot and intense and Marissa Cooper, she was HOT!). I know, people will find it hilarious now, but yea, that’s what life was like back then. No internet, no porn.

Many years later, after ‘maturing’ (both porn-wise and emotionally, emotionally as in not interpreting shows like these as mini-porn), I got down to the task of finally watching that goddamn show. The O.C., which deals with the lives of the uber-rich, is all that it’s made out or blamed to be. It’s awfully fake, its surreal and its way, way over the top. Bottomline, it should have sucked. Only it didn’t.

Some terrific acting performances were put on display throughout the four seasons of the show and I had some pretty amazing revelations too.

1. Marissa Cooper is still HOT, albeit she seems a bit fake now.

2. Marissa Cooper may be hot but Mischa Barton cant act to save her life!

3. Summer Roberts is a darling (Realisation - I’m totally not a lovey-dovey-comfy-cosy person, but hey, sometimes being all that is okay)

4. Sandy Cohen and Kirsten Cohen are one of the most adorable mom-dad characters ever seen on TV.

5. Seth Cohen is my hero (in a completely non-gay way). Yes, he is. And Adam Brody is awesome. I’m surprised how underused he has been since the show ended. I have barely seen him in a couple of decent movies but that’s pretty much it. The guy deserves better.

6. Say what you may, but the title track "California" by Phantom Planet, defined an entire generation.

Final words? Well I’m glad the show ended the way it did. I’m also glad that the it finally ended and didn’t keep going on with the increasingly sloppy plotline (yea, I agree season three was pretty lame). This show was a part of me growing up (in whatever weird way that may be) and I am so glad to have finally watched it in its entirety.  I do like my share of Dexter, House, True Blood and Breaking Bad, but a dash of nostalgia surely can’t hurt.

The O.C. wasn’t even close to being a great show, hell I doubt if that was even the most popular show on TV back then, it was fake and unreal, but god it was good!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Q&A: Not really that bad

Ask anyone who has read it and you'll most likely, get the same reply. It's either "isn't that the Slumdog Millionaire book?" or "yeah, read it, sucked man". Enough of a reason for me to give the book a try.

Q&A by Vikas Swarup isn't your conventional run of the mills 'coincidental' fiction novel. It's pretty well crafted and elegantly put together novel with a thrilling plot which comes alive with every single chapter. The protagonist Ram Mohammad Thomas, (weird name you would say, well even that has a pretty humourous explanation) lands up in a KBC-esque (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, for people not familiar with KBC) quiz show to win a billion rupees.

Of course, being a boy from the slums, he is left to fend for himself at the show, with the help of his extensive experiences. To the horror of the producers of the show and the surprise of everyone, he manages to answer all the questions correctly and win the prize money. The producers, who weren't prepared to pay a billion rupees to the winner in the first place, bribe the police and have him arrested on charges of cheating, only to be saved later by a lawyer.

This is where the story takes off. Q&A is essentially Ram's explanation to the lawyer (whose identity is revealed later in the plot) as to how a boy from the slums managed to scrape through the maze of all the questions on the quiz (and life) without having any formal education.

The reason why most readers hate this novel is because of its literary character (rather the lack of).  Granted its not literature. But then again, popular fiction isn't all about literature only is it? It's about entertaining the reader and making sure the reader has enough interest to not throw the book away after reading the first few pages. To that extent, Vikas Swarup definitely succeeds. And we must give him credit for that.

Its quite a departure from the movie Slumdog Millionaire, (the other way round it should be, but since this was a post-movie read I'll keep it that way) and frankly I like this one better!

Neglect the reviews for once and go read this book, you wont regret it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Shiva Trilogy

It's not very often that we Indians come across books from our compatriots which turn out to be page turners. Sure we have the Amitav Ghosh-s and the Kiran Desai-s, but the mass market popular paperbacks are what is lacking here. Chetan Bhagat broke that seemingly insurmountable barrier with Five Points Someone.

Amish Tripathi has taken it one step further. His books, The Immortals of Meluha and The Secret of the Nagas, which is a sequel to the former, have found admirers among many Indian readers who would have otherwise been loath to the idea of reading formulaic books. The Shiva Trilogy (the final book in the series yet to be released) is an epic retelling of the tale of Shiva, a subject rarely dealt with in popular culture. Amish has clearly done his research and starts off with the premise that claims Shiva as a human being who was elevated to the stature of god for his virtues and his deeds. Thus identifying with Shiva, all of sudden, for the reader is not really as difficult as it would have been had he been a god.

Writing a book on a topic yet to be 'discovered' has its advantages. But thankfully, Amish doesnt seem to take his readers for granted. Action packed to the point of being a thriller, both the novels are absolute page turners. 'Unputdownable', I'd say (as a certain newspaper in Kolkata promises to its readers).

It's not literature though and the amateurish (or populist?) writing can at times get to you, but the sheer magnanimity of the main plot, the well thought out subplots and the adequately if not well developed characters lend a certain charm to these novels, not found in most tales by Indian authors these days.

I will go as far as this, Amish is definitely the GRRM of Indian literature as of now. The scale of the plot is as grandiose as A Song of Ice and Fire. A must read. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Garden of Solitude - Review

I'll be honest here. I rarely read books from 'debut authors'. However Siddhartha Gigoo's novel had to be an exception. It just had to be. 

The Garden of Solitude deals with the plight of the Kashmiri pandits, the pain and the suffering the migration caused and the emotional turmoil the pandits had to go through. There aren't very many books on the subject. The ones which exist are either out of reach, in all senses of the word, or written in a documentary format, which to be honest, doesnt really make for an interesting reading experience.

So there I was, the book in my hand, eagerly awaiting to delve into the pages. The novel starts off lazily, describing the lives of the residents, the near utopic state which prevailed before the turmoil. Although the descriptions are vivid and eloquent, it gets pretty boring eventually. Hence, even before the real story kicks off, I felt tired and bored.

The story in itself is quite shocking and the events dealt with an amazing amount of sensitivity. However at the end of the day, it just feels like way too impersonal an account. The author does come up with a few glimpses of his literary brilliance, but those are few and far between. It almost feels like an overstretched poetry gone wrong due to the poet's over-eagerness to impress.

This is a must-read though. The plight of the Kashmiri pandits has been a neglected topic for many years now. The author should get all the kudos just for bringing the subject to light.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Why is an Epic #fail

Indian music is synonymous with piracy. People from all walks of life however law abiding they may be in reality, find this urge to download songs for free from shady unverified sites irresistible.
But can the music labels blame these people? Till a few years back, there was no option to download legal music. Then came offering music downloads at great prices. And so started the era of the Indian version of iTunes music store...or so we thought. has the worst customer service on the planet. I have done business with innumerable online portals and is clearly the worst of the lot. Its shocking how a company in the 21st century can survive with such callous attitude towards its customers. Repeated mails, no matter what the complaint or no matter how harsh the language yields no replies. This obviously comes from my personal experience.
Tracks/songs at are offered at such low bitrates, you are left to wonder if its really worth the money you are spending. 128kbps is so low a bitrate, it transforms music tracks from music to noise. Its a shame that when obscure music portals across the planet are able to offer downloads at 256/320kbps, the biggest music portal in the country, which apparently aims to curb piracy is offering extreme low quality downloads. Its a national shame that such a company is in charge of music content's online distribution in India.
After such harassments can the music industry really blame people for not buying music? In an era when lossless music is available across the web (FLAC), isn't it a shame that paid portals are offering music downloads at a measly 128kbps?
Can then these Hungama folks and the people from the music industry really blame people who head over to torrent portals to download music?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Samsung Story

If you're a regular reader of the blog, you'd know that I had got myself a Galaxy SL i9003 a few months back. I was pretty happy with the phone initially, primarily because on paper its a great device.

A couple of weeks back, however I noticed something. The top right corner of the touchscreen was coming off. It was pretty clear that the pasting/glueing was to blame for it. Simultaneously a few marks were starting to appear on the undersurface of the touschreen, as a result no amount of wiping the panel would remove the marks. It was very clear to me that I was using a defective handset and feared that more problems may be lurking around the corner. I wanted the phone replaced. 

I was left with no other option but to call the customer care of Samsung. There I met with a rude shock. "We give you a warranty and not a guarantee" blared the customer care executive. Well I pretty much knew what the terms and conditions said and the last thing I needed was the company guy telling me that I had no legal ground for my claim. All of a sudden, I went from being a Samsung customer to almost a legal opponent fighting against the company in a court of law.

Frustrated, angry and furious at the response, I started posting status updates and tweets regarding this treatment of the company to a customer. Finally they sort of gave in, after incessant calls to the customer care service. Samsung cared enough to give me a standby phone for use while they took my i9003 for replacement. A nice touch indeed.

I now have received a fresh i9003 from Samsung. 

An effort from the company I thoroughly appreciate but also wish I didn't have to go through such a huge process of trying to explain my situation to various people at Samsung.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Self Discovery

Allow me dear reader, to be a little emotional today. I have been writing blogs for a very long time. Yes, a long time indeed. Quite a few of them are still online and “live”. A lot more, I have removed. Partly out of sheer embarrassment at my inability to write a proper sentence. Or partly out of a lack of commitment.

There are however a lot of blogs out there, which are worth reading. Worth your time. And definitely worth that “subscription”. These blogs tend to put mine to shame. Its as if I have been writing complete nonsensical gibberish for all these years. I had started this blog when I moved all my existing ones from wordpress to blogger. Since then, I have been writing posts on Explore Ubuntu ( and here, mostly about my experiences with gadgets and gizmos and stuff like that. I feel, this isn’t really the place to write emotional pieces.

So, I have created another blog. Its called Scribbled Thoughts. Yes, the name gives it away. It wont be about any particular theme, idea or topic. It will be an attempt to maybe figure out if I really have that talent to write a proper article without making a fool out of myself. A tough task, yes, but one I’m willing to undertake.

Do head over to and subscribe. I will try and make sure that my attempts are worth your time. If however, you feel that I’m failing, do not, dear reader, hesitate to hit the unsubscribe option.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Android Strengths and Ailments

I posted these on my twitter timeline. So, if you haven't already, follow me @arnab_das

Android Strengths:

Android Strengths #1 : Extremely user friendly interface. Widgets, home screens, etc. make this one of the most user friendly OSes.

Android Strengths #2 : Notifications. Even the iOS users admit that the notification system is THE feature of Android.

Android Strengths #3 : 15 minutes payment return policy on apps. Okay maybe 15 minutes isnt enough, but for most apps, it is actually.

Android Strengths #4 : OS compatibility. Most android phones work perfectly with Windows, Mac and Linux, at least in the Mass Storage mode.

Android Strengths #5 : Root Access. This can be done with the "other" OS as well, but being open source it can give unprecedented control

Android Ailments:

Android Ailments #1 : Extremely Poor Support. Getting support from Google is tougher than seeing God Himself. No form of official support.

Android Ailments #2 : No policy to control apps. Malicious, unstable apps are flooding the market. Google is taking action way too late.

Android Ailments #3 : Compatibility. There is absolutely no guarantee that an app which runs on one android device will work on another. This is actually worst when the apps one is talking about turn out to be "paid" apps. Thats when it hurts.

Android Ailments #4 : No control over updates. One has absolutely no idea when one's phone will go out of date. Could be a year or a month!

Android Ailments #5 : Overall app interface, stability and usability still needs a lot of work. Force-close/hangs still very common issues.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It's official, Gingerbread by second week of July

Samsung has made it clear that the Gingerbread update for Galaxy SL (i9003) will be available to users by the second week of July.

Here's the link:!/Samsung_India/status/75890096288702464

Then again, this is Samsung, so I guess one will have to wait till August for sure. :)

So, now we wait.

Monday, May 30, 2011

My favourite paid apps on Android 2.2

I recently got myself an i9003, a Galaxy S variant. This is my first android device and so it took me some time to figure out what apps to download and what to avoid.

So here's a list of my favourite apps.

1. Poweramp - Without a doubt the most functional and versatile music player on the android market. Plays any audio file you throw at it and has exceptional library/organizational abilities. A must have app for around $4.

2. Read It Later - This is a special app. What this does is that it gives you a reformatted version of web pages so that's it's easier for you to read articles. This is much like the article view on Kindle 3. Although not free, this is very much worth what the guys are charging for the app. Also future developments and browser integration only justifies that price tag.

3. Doggcatcher - One of the more expensive softwares out there. This $6 app is a podcast manager like no other. With integrated Google listen/reader syncing ability, the ability to auto download content, this one app is a must have for any podcast enthusiast. There are of course other free and paid podcast apps in the market, but none are nearly as efficient and customizable.

4. CacheMate - This thing is only available for users who have rooted their phones. Outstandingly simple to use this extremely cheap app lets you clean cache memory from each and every app saving you precious disk space.

5. Juice Defender (Ultimate) - Juice Defender is actually quite a popular app. It lets you save up on and reduce data usage on your mobile device thereby substantially increasing battery life. Although it is difficult to say the extent to which this battery saving ability works, its pretty evident that it does take visible measures to reduce data loss. I would recommended the ultimate version as its more useful and cheaper in the long run.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

No online music stores? Really?

I was at a complete loss for words the other day when I found out that India does not have any online music stores. Sure there are the ones like flipkart and infibeam which will ask you to buy entire albums, CDs to be more specific. But nothing in the lines of iTunes or Amazon mp3 store. Hence we are left with no other option but to physically go out and buy music CDs of entire albums even if just one track in the entire album is worth listening to.

This is quite a shame to be honest. India is regarded throughout the world as a music loving nation. To stifle the average music lover with lack of digital downloads is a sin. Fortunately for the native music industry there are places like raaga and saregama which will offers digital downloads but those online stores are strictly without anything remotely western music.

I have stopped blaming iTunes for this though, as Apple is a company which likes to believe that the world has just one country and the rest don't exist. Well that's why Apple doesn't matter to me. But I really can't understand why companies like Amazon and Google are shutting their doors to international users.

No wonder then that music piracy at least of international albums is rampant throughout the country. People willing to pay are being forced to take the illegal route as its way simpler. For heaven's sake downloading torrents is the easiest thing ever. Why would anyone stop doing that and spend money on fuel to drive to the music store? Its not that I support piracy, I totally don't.  But I do understand why people would want to pirate music.

Message to the music labels? Make internationally recognisable stores available in this country. Give users the option to buy individual tracks instead of forcing them to pay big bucks for entire CDs. Make music accessible to users, the users will be accessible to you.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Aww That Was Sweet!

This is one of those "I know what you did when you were a kid" videos. Innocent. Pure. Beautiful.

Watch "High five for first kiss (original)" on YouTube

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kolkata needs to get rid of Sourav-mania

Sourav Ganguly has been one f the most successful cricket captains of our time. He has lead India to the 2003 world cup finals and has done so in many test matches over the years. He is one if the highest run fetters of the country and was and still is an immensely respected individual. Then all of a sudden he was dropped from the team for reasons which would qualify as "politics". A word we Bengalis are obsessed with. This force the man to retire prematurely from the game, something which broke a lot of fan's hearts. But it goes without saying that Sourav has had his fair share at everything Indian Cricket has on offer.

Many years after his official retirement, Kolkatans still feel an  emotional connect with Sourav. Maybe that has got to do with the bong socio-political scenario in the state. This is totally understandable. What is not though, is the fact that some people still feel detected when Sourav isn't included in "private" tournaments like the IPL. For heaven's sake its a businessman's tournament! One has to be accommodating when it acmes to the whims and fancies of the team owner to survive in a league Luke this. Sourav unfortunately brings his set of ego baggage with him. It's almost as if he is trying to prove something to someone every time he  pads up and lands on the crease. A great player and captain like him need not feel this way. And journos cash on on this. They talk of the rejection, dejection and humiliation that he had to face during his cricketing days. This without a doubt is a sure shot way to getting some major TRPs and other stupid ratings these people care about. Its therefore not surprising that every single day we have some or the other written about him, the way he gets treated etc. After a point it gets really irritating, this. We bongs need to get of this Sourav mania. The best way to pay a tribute to Sourav's achievements would be to create the infrastructure and opportunities so many Sourav's can come out in the forefront and represent the national in its unofficial national game.

Paid apps on android market

The biggest difference I have felt since I switched from Symbian to Android was the availability of good apps. Not crap ones. Not ones which are useless, but good apps. Apps which can be used on a day to day basis and for which I wouldn't mind paying.

In about a month's use, I have already bought 2 really good apps. One if them I'm using currently as I type. And the other is a really good media player. Poweramp is without a doubt THE music player for android. Not only because of its innumerable options ranging from a seriously addictive graphic equalizer to awesomely useful tweaks, but also because of the UI.

The other app I bought today is the android gingerbread modded keyboard. It is available in the market for around $0.99. Something which I'd say is a steal for the features it has on offer. This is without a doubt the best android custom keyboard out there. I'd rate it higher than swype or the default Samsung keyboard it even the other keyboards available in the market. I've used quite a few of them and found this to be the very very best. Kudos must go out to the app developer.

Compare this to the experience I've had with symbian. Nokia had actually sent me an email long back stating reasons of helplessness when I had complained about the inability to download paid apps from the Indian version of the ovi store.

I'm enjoying the android experience more than I'd imagined. I hope my opinion of android doesn't change anytime soon.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

And then it finally happened

Yup, it did. The inevitable.

I am now an official Android fanboy. Okay, maybe not the trolling, FUD spreading anti Apple one I used to be, but a fan of the Linux based OS I am.

Fact is, I was getting a pretty good deal on my N97 Mini, something which I thought was a decent amount considering that it was running a pretty much dead (now officially dead) OS. I exchanged that phone and spared a few bucks for a blazingly fast Galaxy S.

First impressions? WOW!

Still reading? I usually stop watching videos the moment the unboxing happens and the reviewer goes WOW! Thats a turn off. But now that I'm about to write a review (albeit a very boringly crappy one), I realise that its only a natural reaction.

What was I talking about again? Oh yeah. So basically this thing has some pretty nifty features with a sleek UI. The processor is decent and so is the RAM. TouchWiz never really looked like a Sense UI competitor to me, but after using it for a few days now, I think its pretty good, although Sense still gets my vote.

Audio quality on the phone is a bit on the suckier side. And so are the earphones. Apart from that its a pretty nifty phone. If you're in the market for a new phone. Get an android and let the OS take over your life.

Friday, April 8, 2011

How the DTH can be made better

There is no denying the fact that DTH is pretty much the pinnacle of the tv experience here in India. With a host of mega corporations investing big bucks, this business of keeping people entertained is only likely to get bigger with each passing year. With increasing competition though, companies, be it Tata Sky, Dish TV, Airtel, Reliance had come up with something extra, something more than just television. They called it the interactive services. Although most of these are available to the customers for free, some like Tata Sky, do charge the consumers for availing these features.

And this is where this post of mine comes in. There are a lot of interactive features available on DTH platforms, but most of them are literally spam attempts to get money out of you. To be fair, none of these are of real help to the consumers. I feel there is a lot of scope in these services and if implemented well, some new truly interactive features could be revolutionary.

Like what you say? Okay, lets start with something basic. How about a weather application? An app which will help you get the latest information of the weather in your city. Considering the fact that almost all mobile platforms have a weather app, I assume it should be pretty easy to implement.
How about a facebook/twitter app? An app which will help you post links to facebook, post status updates based on what programmes you are watching, etc. (I do recall seeing something like this on Gadget Guru the other day, the country where this is already a reality being Japan)
How about a news app? Something which will aggregate news content from various news sources and present it to you in a reader friendly format.

Of course, these features wont be commercially viable unless some in-app ads were introduced and that is perfectly alright. I dont think many would mind paying a premium (albeit not an outrageous one) for these apps. Even then, implementing them wont be easy, a massive overhaul of the insanely ugly interface of most set top boxes is the need of the hour. User friendliness is definitely on the top of the agenda right now for most companies, but frankly, one must not lose sight of aesthtics. It seems to me that in an attempt to pack in maximum advertising and other money making options, the pure quality of the interface has taken a backseat. With the increased competition I hop some of this will change, otherwise, watching television in India (both content-wise and otherwise) is an absolute pain in the ass.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

28 Years In The Making

It has been a long wait. Almost three decades. A generation of cricketers and cricket fans have come and gone in this huge gap. And then it happens!

They say its the biggest prize a cricketer can get, the greatest privilege of them all, the moment where a simple cricketer becomes a legend. Its a World Cup victory. Not many Indians remember the time when India last won the world cup. Eg. I wasnt even born when Kapil Dev had lifted that coveted trophy in 1983 at Lord's. So for us, Indians, to have our own cricketing heroes is something special, very very special. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the man who lead the Indian team to world cup victory has now entered the history books as the most successful captain in the nation's cricket history. So has Sachin Tendulkar, the only Indian cricketer to have played in six world cup tournaments.

It was an emotionally charged final against neighbours Sri Lanka. After a controversial toss and an amazing innings by Mahela Jayawardena, it was left to the class of Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and of course, captain courageous, Mahendra Singh Dhoni to rescue the Indian team from the clutches of sure defeat. The icing on the cake was the way Dhoni finished off the proceedings, with an enormous six, which will be clearly etched in the memory of the 100 billion Indians watching the match with bated breath.

As the celebrations continue, I make it a point to savour every single moment of this amazing moment in not only India's cricketing history but in world cricket history as well.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

iPad 2...thoughts

SAN FRANCISCO - MARCH 02:  An attendee holds t...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
As the fanboys say, "its finally here"!

The ever eloquent Steve Jobs revealed to us all the new iPad 2 today. The specifications are pretty much what most tech sites had predicted. If you have missed those, here's a summary of the specs (at least what little Apple has revealed officially):

Screen Size - 9.7 inch LED backlit (same as the iPad)
Resolution - 1027 x 768 pixels (same as the iPad)
Processor - 1GHz Dual Core Apple A5 processor (no other details revealed)
RAM - not revealed (some sources are claiming it to be 512MB)
Camera - Rear camera (720p, 30fps) and Front camera (VGA)
HDMI out - via a $39 Apple accessory (NOT supplied with the iPad 2)
Others - 16, 32, 64 GB storage; gyroscope, same 10 hour battery life


1. No storage expansion slots
2. Front camera resolution too low for a high resolution iPad
3. HDMI out only via the accessory, not available straight out of the box
4. Price points remain the same, hence okayish. Nothing to be overly crazy about
5. No path-breaking hardware or OS features
6. Will face tough competition from Android tablets, hence maybe outdated earlier than expected.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Nokia: Looking Ahead

In what appears to be one of the most dramatic moves in its history, Nokia, the mobile phone Finnish giant, has made a deal with Microsoft regarding extensive use of Windows Phone 7 on its mobile devices. While this may come as no surprise to many, for fans of the company though this development is quite a shock.

Nokia has been a bleeding company for quite sometime now, recording diminishing marketshare especially in the high end of the smartphone spectrum. A few days back Stephen Elop in a memo to his company employees openly admitted as having no device till date which could match the iPhone experience. That very frankly set the tone for things to come. It became quite apparent that the once largest mobile company was really in decline and needed some strong partnership to help bolster sales and reputation.


For one, Nokia has announced that it will concentrate on Windows Mobile as its primary mobile OS. Now that clearly spells out the doom for Symbian, the ageing OS which has been the cornerstone for Nokia's success in the pre-touchscreen age. Nokia had till recently advocated the use of Qt among its developers to bridge the platform divide that affects it. However this recent shift in strategy will surely come as a shock to the hundreds of independent developers working on that platform. And the repercussions have already started showing. Thousands of  Nokia employees staged a walkout yesterday at Helsinki. Expect more episodes like this to hog the headlines in the next few weeks.


First and foremost this means gaining legitimacy as a viable and robust mobile platform. Windows Mobile 7 hasn't really seen much of developer adoption and hasn't really attracted much consumer attention either. Now that the largest manufacturer of mobile phones on the planet has chosen their platform as their primary one will please everyone in the Microsoft campus. Microsoft wont feel alienated anymore when it comes to mobiles.

Secondly, Microsoft will now have access to a huge market base across the world. Nokia is massively popular in Asia and quite formidable still in Europe even though it has a non existent presence in the US. This means a lot of market share for Windows Mobile, currently one of the least used platforms.

No one can deny the fact that Nokia has forever produced brilliantly engineered hardware. Its the software part that has often bothered the company. Now with Nokia lending its support to Microsoft, it will have a better chance of attracting consumers, especially since none of the Windows Mobile Phones have exceptionally outstanding technical specs.


This without a doubt is a huge loss of face for Nokia. It has now practically admitted that its incapable of competing with the current market leaders Apple and Android and that billions of dollars it spent on creating a platform which would become a viable third alternative was a huge mistake. To be frank, it has basically admitted that its developers are incapable of producing world class softwares. Now if that isn't the biggest embarrassment for a company, I don't know what is!

Apart from this massive setback though, there are a few positives for the company. First, it now has almost stopped itself from going into oblivion. Nokia has assured itself a future in the mobile arena. It may not be as bright as its past but it surely exists.

Nokia will now have access to the US market thanks to Microsoft's presence and the relative 'popularity' of Windows Mobiles in the US compared to Symbian. Nokia could also benefit from Microsoft's other brand names like Xbox etc.

Now you might wonder why I havent talked about Windows Mobile platform as being an advantage in the first place. Well thats mainly because once you browse through the Windows Phone 7 (WP7) interface, you might actually end up regretting the loss of Symbian. Multitasking on WP7 is nearly not as elegant as in Symbian or the iPhone or Android. The menu system is immensely user-unfriendly to say the least. And the home screen in short, is disastrous (I would anyday prefer the widgetised interface of Symbian). However not everything in WP7 is a failure. The browser is beautiful. Much better than the web browser on Symbian and much more organised. The applications look and feel much better on WP7 than on Symbian (well most apps on Symbian do get the job done, but interface wise are very very basic). There are a few other advantages as well, but not really something which would make someone fall in love with WP7.

In conclusion, this has been a huge week for Nokia. It now has to rebuild its brand from scratch. All over again. Although this may seem like an uphill (read next to impossible) task, there may just be light at the end of the tunnel.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Amazon Kindle: My Review

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...Cover via Amazon
After tinkering with my new Amazon Kindle 3 for a few days, I felt an urge to write a review. You know, there are millions of reviews all over the web regarding the Kindle, why not join the herd? And to add to that feeble excuse, I needed to blog again after a long-ish interval. So yeah here I am bragging about my new Kindle and trying to present an unbiased (yeah, as if thats possible) review of this truly amazing device from the jungles of Amazon basin. Oh wait, its! (Applause please at this insanely juvenile attempt of eliciting a laugh out of the reader)

Okay let me get serious now (frankly if you're still reading this, I'd better present to you a decent unbiased review of the product, you deserve it).

So it will the standard Pros and Cons format. Makes things simpler to read that way.


1. Its the Kindle! Okay apart from that, this really is a device which has been built well. Every single inch of the device (there arent too many inches of it though, incase you're indeed counting) shows signs of a well thought out, well constructed device. Its ultra thin, ultra lightweight and more importantly, portable. The read aloud feature is quite handy too.
2. E-ink is great. Yeah it really is, reading books on this device is an absolute pleasure. It really is. The contrast (which has been substantially increased since the last Kindle) does make a significant contribution to the reading experience.

3. Buying books was never easier. If you sign up for Amazon's one click buying, you will be able to do just that from the Kindle or from the Kindle Store. Its as simple as a one click "Buy", and bam, the next thing you know, the book/magazine/other stuff is neatly waiting in the home screem of your device.

4. 3 GB of memory is massive. Lets face it, no one's gonna read 3 GB of stuff at one go. Considering the fact that this is a reading device, 3 GB is more than sufficient for e-books.

5. The Amazon Kindle Store. With its ever increasing collection of books, newspapers, magazines and singles, the Kindle Store is quite literally the ultimate place to go on a shopping spree.

6. Its more than an e-book reader. Kindle 3 has a web browser and a music player to boast of. So thats a welcome addition. It also has an integrated PDF reader, so that will come in handy for reading personal documents.

7. Extraordinary battery life. Although I'm yet to put Amazon's claim of 30 days of charge-less backup to test, its pretty evident from my heavy use that the Kindle might live up to that expectation.


1. The 3 GB limit isnt really enough, especially since one's expected to have MP3s as well as PDFs on the device. The fact that you cant expand this memory is a bit of a letdown.

2. The browser is very, very basic. Its pretty much unusable to be honest. Although the "Article Mode" which sort of lets Kindle do its own processing, is quite handy.

3. The page turning buttons are very smartly constructed but badly placed. You will very easily end up turning the page while picking up the device.

4. The audio output is very basic. Dont expect Kindle to replace your iPod.

5. Page turning is a bit slow. Although its fast by e-ink standards, oh well, it still is far from satisfactory.

6. Not many accessories available right now. (Thats mainly because its a new device. Expect loads of additions in the coming months though)

Monday, January 10, 2011

My E-book Reader Dilemma

With the multitude of tablets being released almost everyday, one would have been excused for thinking that the days of e-book readers were numbered. And I was among the many who thought so. But as one delves deeper into the tablet-world, one is bound to realise something, that tablets arent really a replacement of the good old Kindle-esque devices.

The very fact that most tablets become virtually useless out in the sun, is a huge minus in the tablet category. None of the tablets, expect the Notion Ink Adam has the capacity to make itself readable under the sun.

So what do I go for, a tablet or an E-book reader? Check out the flowchart below:

Okay so now I hope you have decided what you need. If its a tablet, there are a million of them, and basically it depends so much on individual tastes and needs, that its impossible to recommend something for everyone. But generally speaking, iPad and the Galaxy tab are safe bets. Notion Ink Adam is a great choice but it will not have access to the Android Market. Or if you want a more customised tablet friendly OS, then I think its better to wait for the release of Motorola Xoom.

If however your choice is an e-book reader, read on...

There are primarily 2 major e-book readers in the market right now. The Amazon Kindle and The Nook (the Nook Color being the latest). Amazon Kindle has released a newer version a few months back and quite confusingly its called...the Amazon Kindle, again. It has a better contrast and a better battery life (almost a month of usage after charging once) than older Kindles, not to mention the faster speeds.

The Nook Color though is a different product altogether, its more of a tablet than an e-book reader. It has the capability to display "coloured images", has a touchscreen interface and the glare-free screen. (The Nook has been quite famously the target of various developers, aka hackers, who have hacked the device to run Ubuntu on it!) However these features does take its toll on the battery life of the device and its battery life is substantially shorter than the Kindle (many users report the battery life to be around a day at the most, which is quite unsatisfactory for an e-book reader).

Hence, Nook is more of a wannabe tablet and less of an e-book reader. But then again, if you want a really cheap tablet, maybe the Nook is your bet. Beware though, there arent many apps around, so forget about playing Angry Birds on this device (although I hear someone has infact rooted the Nook to run Angry Birds! But its not officially supported, so basically if you manage to brick your device, be ready to pay some hefty bills to get it back in running condition).

And finally, the Indian market has a few e-book readers as well. Most famously, the Infibeam Pi and the Wink. (Pi being the one immediately below this text)

But these e-book readers have their faults and that is pretty evident with a little bit of googling. The Pi lacks 3G and Wifi. Wink has the Wifi but I believe their 3G version will be releasing later this year. However one of the biggest positives of these devices is their ability to read Indian fonts/languages. Infibeam and  Wink both have amassed a vast collection and wide range of e-books.

Finally I guess after going through everything, it all boils down to personal preference. If one is more into reading Indian texts, it makes little sense to go for the Kindles and Nooks. Again, if one is in pursuit of a quality product which will be your "gadget of the year", Kindle and Nook are irreplaceable.

(As for me, I have decided to go for the Kindle)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The tragedy of Indian comedy

Indian television never really usghered in terms of quality comedy. Sure there were great comedians who did movies, but none of them were interested in television or make a mark on the small screen. The early 2000s was the era od forced mindless laughter, pioneered by the great Navjot Singh Siddhu and his partner in crime Shekhar Suman. These silly comedy shows gave rise to some quality comedians after a long time, Raju Shrivastav being one of them. However to be fair, he never really made it big on television. Maybe the Indian tv producers were stuck in the reality tv cliche. Or maybe they didnt like laughing.

And so Indians had to satisfy their comic thirst by tuning in to 'phoren' tv personalities, Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel and others in that league. And even then we remained largely ignorant of some of the greatest comedians of our time. Ricky Gervais, the famous group Monty Python, among the many. It was only when the phenomenon of youtube came into effect that we got a taste of what we were missing.

Why am I saying all this? Well the other day I say Vir Das on star world (Ripping the decade). I cant thank those guys at star enough for having the courage to telecast something like that. Stand up comedy has been very boring, out of context and...very boring in this country. I dont know if Vir can change that but he sure has talent. Watching his show made me realise what stupid entertainment we are being forced to watch. Dolly Bindra's madness and Rakhi Sawant's imbelice stupidity. What sin have we committed that producers and directors of these shows think that the audience doesnt have any amount of grey matter?

I would love to believe that the appearance of people like Vir Das in a stand up comedy format has stirred up some lazy dumbass tv channel arses.