Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Off to Ranthambore

So I am off to Ranthambore for the new year - will put up pix once I return. I have really been ignoring my blog for some time - I guess its partly because of Twitter and partly because of Dragon Age :) Another thing - I simply share stories via Google Reader Shared Items to my Twitter account using TwitterFeed, so that dampens my enthusiasm to create a blog post of related links like I used to!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Buying Games in India

I have wanted to compile a list of places from where you can get games in India for quite some time.

Physical Shops

If you want a physical shop, one option is your local Music World/Reliance Digital/Croma etc. This usually has the more popular titles, sold at MRP only. They stock PS3/PS2/Xbox 360 AND PC games. Then you have your shops in Pallika Bazaar - specially ones like Shop No. 2, which are famous for stocking the most titles. These keep PS3/PS2/XBox 360 and PC games - the caveat is this market sells mostly imported (NTSC-J) XBox consoles so original XBox games will be NTSC region and PC games are mostly pirated. On the flip side, they do allow you to trade in your old games and sell titles at a hefty discount. If you want a game, these are usually the cheapest way to get it and they do deliver to your home for Rs. 100/- or so if you live in NCR

Online - India

Next lets look at options to buy games from online shops in India. Here we have the two best options - EBay and Indiatimes. Why these two? Well EBay has an amazing Paisa Pay system that forces vendors to manage inventory properly. When buying online in India, vendors reporting an item in-stock when it actually isnt, is a rule rather than an exception. The rating system also forces the vendors to behave. Indiatimes too aggregates goods from vendors in a manner similar to EBay - it however, does NOT have the rating system and Paisa Pay protection - I have had a vendor sell me an item when he didnt have it and then I have had Indiatimes try to give me a coupon rather than refunding my money. You may think Indiatimes is a big portal - but functionally, its no different from EBay! Indiatimes is like what EBay would be if you had a site where only Power Sellers were allowed and then they removed some of the buyer protection features - better in some ways, worse in others.

Online - Abroad

So here we have two basic options - Shop To and Play-Asia. Shop To usually offers better deals and lower prices. They also have PAL games so there is no region compatibility issue on your XBox 360. However, they charge you some amount of money as delivery charge and this places their prices in the same range as Play Asia (which does free delivery). Both are reliable, with a caveat - they deliver via Air Mail, meaning your local post office has the final control over delivery - and problems crop up accordingly. However, both of these are THE cheapest way to get games online in India - often offering games at half or one third prices in Indian stores.

Combined List

Below I have tabulated all the places I found to buy games online in India. I havent tried all of these - rather I have tried only the four listed above. However, these are all options available to buy games.
  • EBay - as noted above, the best option if you can find comparable prices from a Power Seller
  • Indiatimes - also sources items from others (like Lets Buy below) Sellers occasionally report stock when they dont have it. Site tries to give you a coupon rather than a refund for items cheaper than Rs. 2000/-
  • Shop To - Sells PAL games, usually has cheapest prices, but charges for delivery.
  • Play-Asia - Nice site, delivers to India. Has higher prices than Shop To but free delivery. Mostly NTSC games only
  • Consoul - Well stocked, managed by a gamer. Has a HUGE collection and is one of the few to regularly stock XBox Live Points and Gold Memberships. Unfortunately, no credit card transactions
  • Letsbuy - M$ themselves recommend this one at multiple places. Stocks XBox Live Cards too. Also sells via Indiatimes
  • Buy Original MS - M$'s unified selling portal for all software. Currently the front page is hijacked by a stupid obnoxious Windows 7 banner (love the OS BTW). You can get in by using a known URL. Stocks live cards. The site seems just a portal (like Indiatimes) - I doubt either M$ or the sellers will accept any liability so use at your wn risk!
  • Game4u - M$ recommends this too. Lists but not stocks XBox Live Cards. Dedicated game site - havent tried it out.
  • Groove India - Another dedicated game site. Havent tried it.
  • Zook - General portal to search for goods via mobile; links to consoul for games.
  • Game UK - I have seen people recommend this on forums.
  • Gaming Indians - used to be useful - offered exclusive pre-orders etc. Now stuck in a recursive redirect
  • Game Gears - Offers exclusive deals etc. via the forums
I dont know anything about these ones below - they just turned up via a Google search selling XBox Games in India
Digital Services

Besides the obvious options (Steam etc. - I'll make a proper list one of these days!), you some companies (such as EA) also maintain their own digital stores. Then there is Apple's iTunes Store (only useful if you own a iPod Touch/iPhone obviously!)

But there are a couple of services I really want to mention - first is XBox Live Games on Demand. This has a nicely growing library of games, all at a uniform Rs. 1500/- New games are added every Tuesday US Time (Wednesday Morning IST) You can usually find these games cheaper elsewhere, but it may be the only option if you want an older game. Currently this is useless though - RBI's rules regarding credit cards broke the site and buying a card imposes an almost 50% premium on the cost of points (M$ India was ALREADY charging a premium from the 80 points to a USD rate in the US. This is 50% OVER that)

Second, we have the Games on Demand service from Indiagames. This comes for free on many of the higher end Airtel schemes - its Rs. 200/- p.m. otherwise. This offers older games and full versions of newer casual titles like World of Goo. As an added bonus, games DLed from this do not count to your limits and the connection speed goes to 2 mbps for these downloads.

Signing Off

Well thats it for now, tell me your buying experiences with these sites or tell me if you have some additional ones you want added to this list!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Los Angeles and MAX 09 Photos

Photos from my recent trip to Los Angeles for Adobe MAX 2009 are now up.
Half of these were taken by Ankur Pathela, my fellow Speaker from the Adobe India team - so there are some duplicates! It was a very hectic trip - MAX has a pretty busy schedule and I had stuff to do as late at 10 PM on some days. However, we did get enough time to see (some) of Hollywood :) Overall it was a nice trip to the US - though the 23 hr flight time one way was a bit annoying!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Coorg Photos

Photos from my Coorg trip are now up.

I havent done any post processing on these - not that there are that many in the first place! This got cut short by my (then) upcoming MAX trip - also we had a disastrous trip to Calicut one day (7 hours by road one way) which exhausted me. So we didn't really visit too many places.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I am a Speaker at Adobe MAX

Adobe MAX is an annual event hosted by Adobe which showcases the latest innovations and technologies under development at Adobe. I have been working on Adobe LiveCycle Solution Accelerators for some time now and I have been selected to present them at MAX this year.
There are two sessions scheduled - a presentation on Solutions Accelerators in general and a lab where you can learn how to use different solution accelerators. There is also a LC Solution Accelerator T-Shirt being given away if you are interested :)

You can find out more at the Adobe MAX Website and blog. If you wish to know more about my session, open up the scheduler and filter By Speaker name (its last name first) to view the session (and a short bio :))

Sunday, September 6, 2009

September Update

I didnt blog much last month - I just couldnt find anything to write (or even rant) about for once! Lets hope this month will be better :)


First off I want to talk about my favorite whipping horse - Sony. I had stopped blogging about my Playstation since Ihave basically given up on Sony. Sometime last year, I noted that Sony India is refusing to release the PSN in India as internet speeds are too low. Whats amusing is that they are still toeing the same line... In the face of EA launching a games download store in India, Steam, XBox Live (including Games on Demand) and iTunes Store ALL being available here, Sony India still feels comfortable insulting their customers' intelligence by giving the excuse of internet speed. Its like some manager thought up some BS to be told to his acolytes and then started babbling the same nonsense to customers without thinking things through...

Sony has dropped the price of the PS3 in India to 19,990. So for now at least, the PS3 is MUCH cheaper here - an Arcade XBox costs Rs. 17000 in India, so M$ is definitely fleecing customers a bit here... A hardware comparison seems to indicate that the PS3 is a clear winner. Alas - the truth is that people buy consoles for games and Sony is seriously deficient in that area. This time aorund Sony has dropped the ability to install Linux from the PS3. I wonder why the PS3 is the only system that keeps losing features as time goes on...

Some good news on that front - or maybe not - having dropped backward compatibility from the PS3, Sony seems to have figured out a new business model. Since they are not getting much by the way of good games this time around, why not make people buy games they have already bought for the PS2 again - by releasing them as PS3 editions. This is just amazing - if you cant do backward compatibility HOW are you running these games on the PS3? What a scam!

The other interesting thing that has happened is the backlash on Sony's own PS3 forums against Firmware 3.0. Not that I care - I havent updated my PS3's Firmware beyond Firmware 2.50. I dont want to risk the FW update bricking my PS3, especially when none of my games need it! However, Sony as a company seems to be out of touch with what its customers want - they certainly deserve everything thats coming to them :)

P2P and Downloading

Sometime back, I had blogged about Seeqpod and the Yahoo Pipe I made for it. Well, I have taken down my Yahoo Pipe, but it seems the Songbeat people are more resilient - they are back as an Adobe AIR app this time...

Also, it seems the Pirate Bay will soon be dead. Not to fear - guides abound on how to switch to Usenet or use another tracker. Someone even cloned the entire Pirate Bay itself - pretty amazing. This is a losing proposition for MPAA/RIAA and allies - they are concentrating on shutting down means of distribution of pirated content, only to have people come up with a newer, better, technology. Instead, something is wrong with their whole business model I feel.

Signing Out

I had written about how people were combating the extremely slow Ff 3.5 by optimizing its SQLite DBs. It seems someone els ehas figured out how to do that without even requiring you to download the SQLite executable. All things said, its still amazing how much control FF gives you over itself. On the photography front, I have been taking quite a few pix with my cellphone camera with fiarly average (OK - pathetic) results. There is an article out there on how to use your DVD lens as a super macro lens for your cellphone camera. I might try that out sometime this week :) Lastly, Nokia has launched a legal music store for India. Is this the first digital music store in India? I am not sure - but still a step in the right direction :) I havent looked into this too much - its probably loaded with DRM, which means you would be well advised to steer clear of it...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kumbhalgarh Trip Photos

Photos from my trip to Kumbhalgarh are now up.

This time, I did some post processing of the photos so they should look a little cleaner. Also, my dad managed to figure out how to use a camera. Most of the "weather shots" are his :) (He also took a LOT of repeat shots - I deleted almost 60 photos)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Off To Kumbalgarh

I am off to Kumbalgarh for a week or so - I will be back in Delhi on Monday. Before I left, I wanted to give a brief update.

I got accepted into the XBox Live Update Preview program. This is an update to the XBox that contains a bevy of new features - the most important of which is Games On Demand. This allows you to download full XBox 360 games to your hard disk - meaning I no longer have to suffer the ShopTo/Play-Asia nightmare anymore.

Another interesting feature - it seems M$ figured out how to significantly reduce game installl sizes. This will be useful- once I buy a hard disk for my XBox :) Some numbers are mentioned here and here. It seems some games may save as much as 1GB of space being installed on the new dashboard. Not bad!

My trial of XBox Live Gold ran out, I doubt I will renew it - I dont really play online. However, it seems once you hand M$ your credit card, convincing them to stop charging it is complicated enough that there are entire articles on it. Wow!

On the portable front, it seems Nintendo blames Apple iPhone/iPod Touch for its financials. One developer in the meantime, went as far as to say that an iPhone is more powerful than a Wii. Amazing - which one though? The original one? 3G? 3GS? On the other side of things, Apple is evidently starting to get worried about piracy - they have put out a statement on how jailbreaking your iphone/ipod touch may cause problems for you...

Nice! For some reason, I never really liked Nintendo - maybe its because they just ignore India as a market, or maybe because they keep putting out ridiculously underpowered consoles. In any case, its good that they are finally getting some competition in the handheld space...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

July Update Part II

XBox 360

I recently bought an XBox 360 Arcade. Overall, its a pretty nice machine - the graphics quality is pretty much the same as the PS3, however, games are cheaper and M$ is actually paying attention to India as a market. XBox Live is available, there are more legit games and older games sell for as less as Rs. 1000 each. Imported games are an issue though due to region compatibility. (The PS3 has an advantage in this regard) There are multiple region compatibility lists available online - there is one by Play Asia which is possibly the most famous, but another one by xbox-sky is the most comprehensive. In general, most Western games and non-RPGs have no region locking while all JRPGs are strongly region locked.

The console came with 5 free arcade titles (Boom Boom Rocket, Feeding Frenzy, Luxor 2, Pac-Man Championship Edition, and Uno) as well as Forza Motorsport 2 and Viva Pinata. Unlike the PS3, the XBox 360 has backward compatibility with the original XBox, however, I havent bought a Hard Disk as yet so I am yet to try this out. What I care about the most - the XBox 360 has a relatively large library of RPG titles. This is an area they are focusing on - they even have a RPG page on their India site. Not all of these are available in India, but I can always order from Shop-To or Play-Asia. (I have heard Game UK also delivers to India - haven't tried it out)

It seems it will soon be possible to download full games off of XBox Live so this may not be a problem after that. (I can always use Airtel's Speed On Demand to grab the game quickly). BTW, it seems its quite hard to make M$ let go of your credit card information once you provide it to them!

Seeqpod and Yahoo Pipes

Quite some time back, I published a Yahoo Pipe that would allow you to grab music off of Seeqpod. Now, Seeqpod is dead and it seems record labels are suing developers for using its API. I have unpublished my pipe accordingly. Yahoo Pipes, meanwhile, seem to be in a decent shape while Microsoft Popfly and Google Mashup Editor are both more or less dead. I havent used it for quite some time - I used to use Pipes to monitor webages without a RSS feed. The Update Scanner extension put an end to that though! The last time I looked at it, for some reason, the thing was flooded with Spam/Porn sites. They seem to have cleaned that up now.

Google Reader

Google Reader just introduced an extremely obnoxious "Like" feature. It shows a "Like" button in the toolbar. If you Like something, it gets shared and your username is broadcast to all and sundry as having like this item. What is even more annoying are the "X people liked this" links that show up on every item. Much like Google Reader's earlier shared items feature, they cant be turned off (except via a Greasemonkey/Stylish User script) Of course, the Shared Items feature was 10,000 times more annoying - some random guy who you mailed 3-4 times starts sharing stuff and AFTER he starts sharing, you can go uncheck his name - anyone who isnt as yet sharing stuff but is in your friends list cannot be unchecked. The Google Reader team needs to figure the market segment they are operating in - they seem to think they are building the next Digg, their users just want a new reader!


I am sure just about anyone browsing tech/gaming sites has been running into the Evony or Civony series of ads. Many of them are vaguely suggestive - meaning it suddenly renders your average tech site NSFW, specially in prudish India. Others on the net are also complaining about these ads. Still others are performing analysis of the game and how it is run by "chinese gold farmers" (wow! borderline racist!). You can file a complaint about these ads with Google if you like.

Other Stuff

The World eBook Fair is now on. While most of it is the same Project Gutenberg and all, smaller collections (with less than 500 titles) have got newer/better books. Lastly, you can submit your home WiFi Access Point to SkyHook, thus allowing an iPod Touch (and ultimately Google Maps) to locate you using the AP name/MAC. There is no submission page for Google Maps Wifi based location - it works by quietly reading your location and nearby APs whenever you use the Maps App in the iPod Touch/iPhone.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Graceful 3 column to 2 column to 1 column degradation using CSS

I have been wanting to update my blog profile from rounders3 to something a bit more malleable for some time now.

This week I finally got around to it. You can see the results on this blog. It now degrades gracefully from 3-column to 2-column to 1-column mode.

If you are running the latest Safari/Opera/Firefox/Chrome, you can see it in action - just resize the browser window and the layout goes from 3 column, to 2 columns (with the Twitter/Archives sections moving below the profile) to 1 column (with the footer replaced with a helpful message)

This works on all browsers - except IE of course. Older browsers may require the page to be refreshed.

Also, in Print mode, the columns disappear and the footer is replaced with copyright text.

This is all done using CSS 3 Media Queries. These are not supported in Internet Explorer - even v8. Get The Facts - "Firefox and Chrome have more support for emerging standards like HTML5 and CSS3, but Internet Explorer 8 invested heavily in having world-class, consistent support for the entire CSS2.1 specification." Remember?

How did I actually do this? I started off with the instructions given here. They point out that you can use a CSS left and right float to get a three column layout. They also point out an important fact - in the absence of a float, elements will be displayed in the order they are mentioned. Also, clear can be used to ensure that there are no floating elements next to a given element.

Besides this, we have Media Queries. These allow you to specify your display type (for e.g. print for a printer, handheld for a mobile device etc) as well as query on other things such as screen resolution or browser window size/aspect ratio.

Normally you would expect the iPod to respond to handheld, but unfortunately, Apple ignores the handheld tag. In its place, they ask you to query on screen resolution instead.

Finally a couple of things: if your default specification for an object attempts to float to the left, you can override and move it to the right using the CSS !important qualifier. Also, if two rules with !important are triggered at the same time, the one which occurs first is given priority.

Armed with all this, I could write the following to move to two column mode if the browser Window has less than 1000px (view source on this page to see this code). Notice how I changed the margins to accommodate less space required on the right of main-wrap1 in two column mode.
@media only screen and (max-width: 1000px) {
.sidebar-wrap-left {
margin:15px 0px 0px 20px !important;
.sidebar-wrap-right {
clear: both !important;
margin:15px 0px 0px 20px !important;
float:left !important;
#main-wrap1 {
margin:15px 20px 0px 290px !important;
This comes below the above for 600-1000 (Note the overlap):
@media print, handheld, only screen and (max-width: 600px) {
.sidebar-wrap-left {
display: none !important;
.sidebar-wrap-right {
display: none !important;
#main-wrap1 {
margin:15px 20px 0px 20px !important;
There were a few more tweaks required. For example, the Footer actually has three different messages inside, one each triggerring on Print, sub-600 and Everything Else. Also, the Google Search box in the header (another addition from my side) is layouted using floats - meaning it doesnt play well with the blog layout by default. I had to add the following to get it working (it had a nonsense tab bar on top that I hated)
#uds-searchControl .gsc-resultsbox-visible {
clear:none !important;

#uds-searchControl .gsc-tabsArea {
display:none !important;
None of this would have been possible without the amazing Firebug extension - its an invaluable tool for use while designing web pages, allowing you to add/view/remove attributes from an element at the same time showing all the CSS attributes (inherited or direct) applicable to an element.

Not surprisingly, the iPod Touch's browser supports media queries. But, it sticks to the 600-1000 rule no matter what. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my 5800's browser also supports media queries. In retrospecitve, since it does Flash too, maybe I shouldnt have been surprise. The 5800 uses sub-600 in portrait/landscape mode and 600-1000 in landscape fullscreen mode (after refresh - using Older/Newer Posts button.) The 5800's UI fails its back end engine as usual - there is no way to refresh the page while in fullscreen mode. Nokia has been taking quite a beating recently by the way. I don't think they deserve it - the 5800/N97 are pretty decent phones, it just that they suddenly have to compete in a field of handheld computers (which is essence is what the iPhone/Palm Pre etc. are - whatever you may choose to call them)

Lastly, I have been having a lot of trouble with FF 3.5 - it seems VERY slow now, much slower than FF3. Most of my friends have switched to Chrome - maybe I will do so too. People are recommending unusual steps to deal with it - from optimizing FF3.5's SQLite databases to clearing out your Temp Folder, Recycle Bin and Temporary Internet Files - it seems its a bug. Mozilla have to get their act together - Chrome will soon have extension support, and the plight of Nokia and Sony should teach them that people have no brand loyalty in the tech domain.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July Update

Nokia 5800

Nokia is trying to get its act together on Symbian. Symbian is possibly one of the strangest platforms to exist - one that ensures no consistency across even devices that have the same version of the OS. Nokia also tends to release newer features on newer phones rather than adding them to older phones. While Symbian runs very lightweight and responsive, the sheer popularity and quality of the apps on the iPhone Appstore shows easily the problems faced by developers while trying to use Symbian. From a user POV, consider the horrible Download app used by Nokia (that till recently used to show every single apps as free - only to have the app ask for money on installation)

Nokia is trying to improve on this - by launching the Ovi store, having more frequent firmware updates and now, by decoupling features from the OS. Adobe Flash Lite 3.1 recently became available for download over App Update - independently of the Firmware version. This is followed by the Java runtime being updated to 2.0 again independently of the firmware. This has a frightening disclaimer though - it seems if you interrupt the update, your device may need servicing. I am not risking that on a beta version!

Nokia still needs to work on a few things. Their customer care is one - you cant have the same people who service the 50,000 Rs. 1500 phone owners also try to service the 5000 Rs. 15000 phone owners. In India, Nokia tries to do that - and people tell horror stories of Nokia support as a result. Then there's the region coding issue - Ovi store launched months ago but I STILL don't see the Ovi app in the Download app, so officially, it hasnt hit India as yet. Similarly Firmware - Nokia it seems has 500 different Firmwares for the 5800, with minor tweaks for each country. You can easily change a phone's region code and install another firmware - the hardware is identical! But Nokia still makes you wait months for updates if you live in India.

BTW, it seems you can install Python on the 5800 and then that becomes available as a platform - much like J2ME. Amazing!


I am sure many people remember M$'s much maligned Get The Facts campaign, which somehow managed to prove that Linux was 10 times more expensive than Windows 2003 - by comparing the cost of running Windows on Intel Xeons and Linux on a hyper-expensive IBM box. Well, they recently came out with a similar campaign for IE8. IE8 somehow manages to beat Firefox on every single category - and even get a "tie" on "customizability." I don't understand why M$ does these things - surely the negative publicity and ill-will generates through this would annul any advantages. Of course, the Firefox team occasionally does annoying things too.

In any case, I have been using FF3.5 for a week now. The only extension which is not working with it is Block Site. Unfortunately, as noted earlier, the browser offers only minimal memory usage improvements - after a week with it, I find FF3.5 using pretty much the same amount of memory of FF3.

In the meantime, the Mozilla team is rushing ahead on the "customizability" front. They recently introduced JetPack - a sort of hybrid between Greasemonkey and normal Extensions. This allows you to write Javascript/CSS that not only changes a page's look and feel (Greasemonkey) but also interacts with the browser chrome (like an extension). The other interesting thing is the ability to create collections of addons on the Firefox site. This allows you to use the Add On Collector extension to create a set of addons which will get installed together. Check out this link to see some collections assembled by Lifehacker.

Customizability is the crux of reason why I use Firefox - even if its slower, uses more memory, has less features etc, I have it customized way too much to my liking using extensions to giv eup on it. The FF team though has an uphill task - jokes aside, IE8 is the best browser by M$ ever and Chrome/Safari/Opera are definitely tough competitors.

Other Stuff

Lifehacker regularly publishes a Hive Five - a comparison of various software in a category, followed by allowing users to vote on their favorite. A few months ago, they came out with a best of the best post - listing the winners of past Hive Fives. This was updated recently with a updated list of new comparisons added since March. Note that these are not free softwares - these are just the best softwares in each cateory, whether paid or free. They recently came out with a separate set 0f the essential free software which any machine needs - called the Lifehacker pack, much like the Google Pack. Of course there is another way to get all these softwares - you can use a installer app, like RadarSync/FileHippo etc. to download and install these for you. These apps are pretty interesting - they serve the same purpose on Windows that Apt does on Linux. Not too many Windows users (even geeks) know about them though, which often leads to many of my friends claiming that there is no Apt-like option for Windows.

It is now possible to synch Outlook to Google Apps, much like Exchange. This is only for the premium version of Google apps. Considering GMail's UI and feature set, one would expect it to be far more widely used than right now. The reason its not, is first and foremost because most organizations are (rightly) not comfortable having their data on the cloud. Retraining requirements for administrators is a factor too, but I feel that is easier to overcome - its a hinderance not a deal breaker. If Google comes out with a Maill Appliance like they have a Search Appliance, Google Apps would be much more popular in the enterprise.

I downloaded M$ Morro - M$'s free antivirus a few days ago. For some reason, the site was non-functional (possibly due to overload) when I opened it. M$ were only going to allow 100,000 people to download Morro. For some reason, I couldn't download Morro during the timeframe allowed, but my MSN ID got registered as a valid tester and I was able to download it the next day. Not that I have installed it of course - I am fully satisfied with Avast thank you very much

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Firefox 3.5 Released

Firefox 3.5 has been released. It adds several new features - including private browsing and HTML5 support. One feature I disabled the moment I installed Firefox 3.5 - Geolocation. (See the link, I also updated my tweak guide) The other strange thing - all the buttons in the Google Toolbar disappeared, and whenever I stop moving my mouse, an annoying small yellow box pops up under the cursor. (Update - See the last paragraph in this post)

This time, I didn't have as many extensions die on me as for Firefox 3.0. Automatic Save Folder died, but its usable up to Firefox 3.5b4, so possibly it will be updated to fix this. BlockSite is gone too, but I only use to it block Beacon, so I installed Facebook Beacon Blocker instead. This blocks Beacon, but it doesn't replace links with text or show a warning message on block via address bar. It'll do until BlockSite works again...

Mouse Gestures Redox has an updated version you can download from their site, so does Tab Mix Plus. Unfortunately, I use Widefox and on installing Firefox 3.5, everything went blank. So here's how to get Widefox running on Firefox 3.5:
  1. After installing Firefox 3.5, everything will be blank. Exit Firefox. (Use the Task Manager to make sure it REALLY exits - on my machine it has a nasty habit of running in the background while the window closes)
  2. Go to your profile folder - %USERPROFILE%\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles
  3. There will be a folder called <gibberish>.default. Navigate to it
  4. Navigate to chrome.
  5. Rename userChrome.css to _userChrome.css
  6. Start Firefox
  7. Install the latest TabMixPlus Dev Build
  8. Restart Firefox (make sure)
  9. On restart, TMP will be enabled again. This is important. Do not go to next step unless TMP is enabled first
  10. Shut down Firefox (make sure), rename _userChrome.css back to userChrome.css and follow the instructions here as before.
BTW, if you are installing Widefox for the first time with Firefox 3.5, just install TMP, follow the instructions here (after making sure TMP is working on restart) and then setting up Widefox as per the normal instructions here.

I am noticing Firefox 3.5 use less memory - it also seems faster. Lets see how it goes :) BTW, the Widefox pages are hosted on Googlepages - they will be gone soon. Might be a good idea to copy them to your hard disk :) I have shared them on my Office Live Workspace, just in case.

Update: I just uninstalled Google Toolbar and restarted. The small box is gone. Looks like Google Toolbar is not working well with Firefox 3.5. Lets reinstall and see what happens... Yup - that fixes it!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Gaming and India

Gaming has always been an expensive hobby. More so if you live in India. The government charges exorbitant import duties, driving the price of an Arcade Xbox 360 up to Rs. 17,000 from $199.

There are few places which sell games - online shopping is not popular in India and traditional sites' inventories are woefully inadequate. Thankfully there is some movement on this front - Groove India is the first Indian site I have found that specializes in selling games. Another useful site - Consoul where you can buy/sell and trade games. Unfortunately, they don't accept credit cards and require money to be tranferred to their bank account via net banking instead. Then there's the occasional discounts/schemes offered by Gaming Indians - mostly on PC games. Lastly, in Delhi at least, there's Gamer Dreamz, a site that offers console games on rent for charges from Rs. 1000 to Rs. 1200 per month. I am not sure if this is such a good option - I can buy one game every 2 months in place of this.

Note that you can import games too - in the past I have bought stuff off Play-Asia and Shop To. Both are good, but my experience with Shop To was much better. Play-Asia has an advantage though - it often offers quirky JRPGs that dont get a US release but have an English translated Asian versions - consider Demon's Souls for example.

Also worth mentioning is Electronic Arts' India Store - this offers many EA games, at good price but only for download. Of course, you can also download many of these through Steam. The only thing is, I have long ago given up gaming on my PC - I got tired of constantly having to update my PC to in the end get pathetic framerates on games. Good PC exclusives are few and far in between and publishers seem to think its OK to release PC games with huge numbers of bugs, ridiculous requirement and invasive DRM. Consider the list of patches released for Neverwinter Nights 2. Do you know the default patcher in NWN 2 requires 10GB free hard disk space on the install hard disk? Or that patch 1.03 had over 250 fixes?

The other interesting thing that has been happening is the advent of free games - these are usually ad or micro-transaction supported. While earlier this would usually be casual games, of late even big publishers are getting into this. Of note are Battleforge and Battlefield Heroes which are based on EA's play 4 Free platform. Some other publishers are also moving to this model.

On the handheld front, Nintendo ignores India. The PSP is hugely popular here (I don't own one and never will - I have sworn never to buy another PlayStation console remember?). The interesting about the DS though is that it is thoroughly cracked - every single shop in Pallika sells a DS with a R4 or M3 or something, but I have yet to see anyone selling actual pirated DS games. You will find loads of pirated PS2 games on display, but nothing for the DS. Maybe they load ROMs if you ask them. The DS is an interesting platform - bad graphics, but popular for RPGs. There's a long list of games I want to play on it when I get time (and enthusiasm to squint on a teeny screen) But my personal favorite in this category is the iPod Touch. You can get one in Pallika for just Rs. 12,000/- and its covered by Apple's worldwide warranty. Most games on the App Store are also available in India and I have bought quite a few of them over the past months - especially because many cost less than Rs. 50, which constitutes an impulse buy - even in India.

Signing Off, Kotaku points out a list of the 100 best games to play today, as well as a list of 25 hardest games of all time. Also, there's an interesting chart of LCD screen size and Resolution vs Optimum Viewing Distance (aka Lechner Distance) linked to by Gizmodo - this shows that, for the most part people sit way too far away from their TVs to perceive the full resolution. For example, for my 32" LCD, I should not sit more than 75" away. BTW, in spite of the fact that I bought a BenQ projector several month ago, I have yet to play a single game on it :) The effort of dismantling my gaming setup and moving it the drawing room (which is where the projector has enough space for its screen) has proved to be too much for me to even try!

p.s. The PS2 is on a stand and the PS3 is hidden behind the monitor under a cloth - you can see the DualShock 3 though

Sunday, June 21, 2009

June Update

Credit Card Theft

I just had a pretty exhaustive week at work - a critical performance issue somehow found its way to a client production system and I barely got a few hours of sleep last week. Then on Friday when it seemed the issue was finally solved, I thought I would get some rest and wake up late... Nope - my dad woke me up at 6:00 AM in the morning to tell me someone was using his ICICI credit card from Lucknow to recharge their Airtel account. Now here's the interesting thing - ICICI Bank has recently force switched all their customers to iMint. My dad was so upset with this that he refused to use his ICICI card for several months. Then he used it (or rather had me use it) to pay his BSES Yamuna bill online on the 9th of this month. He hasnt used it after that - but exactly 10 days after using the card for BSES Yamuna, this happens. Suspicious isnt it?

In any case, I learnt some interesting things from that - how to send a fax via my laptop's inbuilt modem for one, how to add a fax printer and print to it from a Windows program, via the built in Fax service. Its a good idea to wipe the CVV code from your credit card so no one can copy it when you hand it off at a restaurant. Try to set up Verified By Visa or MasterCard SecureCode for all your cards. I used to use HDFC Bank Netsafe to generate temporary credit cards extensively when I started buying things online, keeping my credit card only for trusted sites that forced me to store the credit card info (like iTunes!) - I guess I got really lax on this one!

Also, use Firefox/Chrome/Opera/Safari for all transactions - anything except IE! By the way, M$ used one of their recent security updates (!) to sneakily install a nasty little .Net Framework Assistant into Firefox - which essentially allows ActiveX like code to run in Firefox - destroying the very reliability which forms one of the frameworks of Firefox. Initially, you had to do registry manipulations to get rid of it. After a lot of people cried foul on the web, M$ quietly released an update that allow you to uninstall it from within Firefox itself. Sigh... One last thing - I found a nifty little extension that will warn you when a password field is being submitted on a non-secure page - I wish Firefox hadn't removed the Yellow URL Field feature with 3.0. While you can bring it back (using Stylish) or make Firefox hilight secure pages, it still greatly reduces the security of Firefox in my POV. The extension is still experimental though.

iPod Touch Firmware 3.0

The other big thing to happen this week was the release of Firmware 3.0 for the iPod Touch. The three biggest features according to me? Micro-transactions, Spotlight and Bluetooth (Peer-To-Peer as well as Audio). The bluetooth thing is pretty amazing - here's some hardware that was always there in my iPod, I just had no way to access it and bang - its there, I can use it. Spotlight is nice in that I no longer have to scroll pages and pages of apps to get to what I need (I have 6 pages of Apps), thus allowing someone (who's crazy enough) to have more than 11 pages of apps if they want. Apple has added a lot of stuff with this update, although some people seem to have gone a bit nuts documenting every single thing.

Of course the update didnt go completely smoothely - I (very foolishly) had ZoneAlarm Firewall and Avast! Antivirus running while updating, and the update promptly failed with "Unknown Error 1604", leaving my iPod dead and me scared for a few minutes. A bit of searching and I found someone mentioning turning off their Firewall/Anti-Virus and trying again. I did that, restarted iTunes and lo! it restored and updated my iPod. Luckily I had bought the update for $9.99, not grabbed it off the internet, or else I would have been twice as scared - just having successfully voided my warranty.

I am very impressed (possibly even awed) with Apple's attention to detail. Not only did my apps, bookmarks, wireless settings get saved, but also all my app data. This was pretty significant, since I use Stanza and also have a lot of save games:) The only thing it seemed to miss was Contacts synched from Google, which came back the moment I opened the Contacts app. But what really took the biscuit was that they even backed up my wallpaper and the location of every single app on each page. As a fellow programmer, I understand how much hard work this would entail. Amazing! I am pretty satisfied with my iPod Touch right now - at least until 3GS exclusive games start coming up (although hopefully that wont be soon!)

The other interesting thing I tried out was installing iTunes 64-bit on my Window 7 installation and sharing my iTunes library between the 32-bit and 64-bit versions. It seems to work, but I would still backup my ITL file before trying!


Lastly, it seems Airtel is now censoring the internet although they seem to have backed off from their ridiculous Fair Usage Policy a bit. Time to break out the Tor Browser Bundle people!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

IM Apps on the 5800 and more

I wanted to round up a list of some IM apps for the 5800 - there are quite a few of them and its easy to forget what all they are sometimes.

First and foremost, there is the inbuilt IMPS client on the 5800. This allows you to use push notification for chat messages. Unfortunately, it also requires you to store your Yahoo/GTalk credentials on a site such as Mobjab. Then there are clients like Fring, which is primarily a VoIP solution, and its interface is similar to that of Fring for iPhone. Then there's flash/browser based clients such as Google Talkgadget. However, for some reason, this does not seem to work with the 5800 - the app loads perfectly but no contacts show up. After playing around a bit I found another option - Google Talk's iPhone website works perfectly well with the 5800.

Then there are apps such as Nimbuzz, Talkonaut and Palringo. These are dedicated chatting apps for the 5800. They allow logging into multiple services such as Yahoo, GTalk and MSN. In general they provide provide great but similar features. Nimbuzz seems to be the most popular out of all these - it is available via Download! and also via Ovi Store, thus giving it something of an unfair advantage in this regard.

One last option is to use an app such as iSMS to turn SMSes into chat like screens. This is an interesting application - if you are into sending a lot of SMSes and have a plan, this is a good option.

5800 and Static IP

When I first got my 5800, I had quite a list of complaints. One of the most critical was the lack of Static IP support on the 5800 - not having DHCP enabled is one of the things I consider critical to securing my home Wifi network. Besides that, my LinkSys WRT54G router doesn't support MAC based IP assignment - which could play havoc with my routing rules configuration. The router constantly restarts if I enable UPnP and its a v7, so DD-WRT is not supported. I was managing by running a DHCP server via TFTPD32 on my machine, but it still required me to have my computer or laptop on to browse on my phone. With the new firmware, it is now possible to specify a static IP. A detailed guide is present on this page, but its wrong on one point - it asks you to set the device to Ad Hoc mode. You dont need to do this. In fact, don't do this - at all! Just skip steps 17 -18 and go straight to step 19. In a nutshell, while WLAN settings won't let you configure static IP, you can go into "Advanced Settings" under "Destinations" and set it up through that. Nokia need to organize their apps a bit better - it took me quite a while to find Sync too! (Settings>Connectivity>Data Transfer)

Yahoo 360 and Mail

In other news, Yahoo 360 is finally closing down - for real this time. I have moved my blog around quite a bit - first it was on Yahoo 360, then JRoller, then blogspot and finally I purchased my own domain. Out of all these, Yahoo has been the weirdest experience. It was pretty easy to set up a blog, but then virtually impossible to customize it. And would you look at the URL? They wouldnt allow me to embed flash, edit HTML - nothing. And now, it seems they will be moving my blog to my profile. Which means my Yahoo 360 blog is now moved to this url. Genius... pure genius. Just look at that URL! My username is unique Yahoo - you can use it in place of that weird UUID or whatever it is! Also, the posts keep appearing and disappearing - I have had to run the migration twice till now. Just to be safe, I downloaded everything too.

BTW, as far as I am concerned, Yahoo is now officially the worst mail service out there. Its one thing to block features like POP3 available from every single other mail service. Its something else entirely to shamelessly try to scam your users outright. It seems Yahoo has struck a deal with Airtel wherein Airtel users pay Rs.10 every 7 days to access Yahoo Mail and Messenger OVER and ABOVE the normal web browsing charges(WTF!!?). So I try to access Yahoo Mail Mobile via GPRS and it gets me to this page. Wow - just wow.

Nokia 5800 and Ovi

During my recent Thailand trip, I really came to appreciate my decision to go in for a 5800 rather than an iPhone.
  1. You can swap SIM cards easily. I reached Thailand and found Airtel charging me Rs. 100/- per min incoming and some equally exorbitant charges for SMS etc. Browsing around a bit in the airport itself, I found a dtac shop selling a dtac happy prepaid card for just 99/- Baht which allowed free incoming for a month. Also, browsing via GPRS was 1 Baht a minute - I quickly sent off an EMail to all my friends and colleagues teling them about my new temporary number and I was all set.
  2. Maps are downloaded to hard disk. Before I left for Thailand, I downloaded all Thailand maps to my device. It is really convenient in a foreign country to be able to find your way with GPS without paying data charges (and GPRS is not that fast in the first place)
  3. Dictionary App. OK, I am sure no one has even heard of this before. But Dictionary is Nokia's free dictionary and translation app that gets installed with Firmware v20. Sitting at home, its pretty useless. Out in a Thai market, surrounded by people who dont know English, it becomes a killer app. I installed Thai language and text to speech file on my phone and it was amazingly useful while roaming around
I also tried out geo-tagging a few images this time around. I havent gotten them uploaded yet, lets see how they turn out...

Once I got back one of the first things I did was upgrade my frimware to v21.0.025. For some reason, the firmware had disappeared in Nokia Software Updater, but I managed to get it via OTA update - which supposedly is not supported in India. Nokia India seem almost drunk in the way they manage things sometimes - firmware appear, disappear, reappear months later. Ovi store is available over a browser, but the phone app cannot be downloaded via "Download!". I install the app by downloading it off an unofficial website and it works perfectly - meaning there is no logical reason for it not to be available in India.

Still Nokia is a pretty good company - their approach to a phone is to treat it like a computer. You can download just about anything from anywhere and install it. More and more apps have been coming out for the 5800 - Nokia Mobile VPN is now supported on the 5800. Also, I managed to successfully register myself on My Nokia for the first time - till date, whenever I went to the site, it would somehow manage to crash at the registration screen. Another cool thing I got working is Ovi Sync. This synchs your contacts and calendar to Nokia Ovi over Wifi via the 5800's inbuilt Synchronization app. After this, you can edit your contacts/calendar in your browser, and synch it back to your phone all without ever attaching a single cable. Adobe Flash Lite 3.1 is also now available for 5800, it adds quite a few new features.

Nokia India offers Wavesecure as a free app. This allows you to backup your data to Nokia's servers. In case of phone theft or loss, your phone will automatically lock itself, preventing the use of another SIM with it. Also the data can be restored onto a new phone, essentially keeping eveything on the phone safe.

Ovi store is a very nice addition to Nokia's services. When I first got a 5800, I complained that the Download! app was truly pathetic - even lying about app prices. Nokia has improved on that a bit - at least it now shows "Payment in App" as an option. Still, Download! is no App Store. Ovi Store on the other hand is a decent competitor - the interface is clean and functional, and browsing apps, games and videos is really easy. I found the selection of apps on it rather limited - the best thing I found so far is free videos from Lonely Planet. However, its shaping up to be a real value add for Nokia customers. Lets hope it gets better as time goes on...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Thailand Trip Photos

Photos from my Thailand trip are now up. I have bulk uploaded more or less all the photos here. This is the first time I was able to use my 55-200 lens and some of the wildlife shots are really nice. Normally, I am too lazy to post process my photos, but this time, I will trying to do a bit of that (using Photoshop Express :)) and will upload the results to my Flickr account...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Windows 7 RC

Considering the elections on last Thursday, I took Friday off too to get a looong :) weekend. Luckily for me, Windows 7 RC was released at the same time and I downloaded it. I had the 64-bit beta version installed and despite various warnings that I would have to reinstall from scratch, I was able to find a guide (thanks to LifeHacker) on how to upgrade from Beta.
  1. Extract the ISO to a Flash drive
  2. Open sources\cversion.ini in Notepad
  3. Set MinClient to 7000.0 and save it
  4. Run setup from the flash drive inside Windows 7 Beta to upgrade to the RC version
  5. Wait and watch as your system reboots 4 (maybe 5!!) times
RC seems pretty much same as Beta - there are minor UI differences, but unfortunately, according to SecurAble, XP mode is not available in my cheap E2200 processor. It seems this problem is Intel specific - most AMD processwors will not face this issue. Not that I care - I am not planning to move to Windows 7 full time anytime soon - XP works well for me, and I still havent got my TV Tuner working in Windows 7. In the meantime, Anandtech has a great article on Windows 7 RC, you can also hit Lifehacker and Microsoft Springboard to find whats new in Windows 7 RC. There's also a video from Microsoft in WMV format if you are interested.

BTW, there's a new firmware v21.0.025 available for the Nokia 5800. In typical Nokia style, its NOT available for India region as yet.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Of Shozu and Telephoto Lenses

March seems to be jinxed for me - blogging wise. Last year I didnt get a single post out and I literally forced myself to write something this year to avoid the same situation. Lets hope April will be better :) At least I am not ranting about my PS3 anymore!

I finally got my 5800 updated to v20 firmware - and its BIG improvement. The UI looks glossier, the response is snappier, it doesnt crash as often on USB Storage Device mode in Windows XP, you can use the front camera for photos and geo-tagging of photos is also supported. The firmware was out on March 6 in India, but I only realized it was available on the 31st - I was trying to use FOTA and that is not supported in India so it kept telling me no new firmware available. I finally got it installed on April 4 after being forced to install Ovi Suite to backup my data. This time, I found that the suite is reasonably lightweight. It does install some services but as long as you dont install Nokia Music and Video apps, its not the nightmare I was visited with last time.

Nokia has been releasing some cool apps for its phone. However, the best app I have found by far as yet is Shozu. This amazing app allows me take a photo with my phone, and upload it to Twitpic, while sending a backup copy to Picasa, or any other of 50+ sites. Twitpic also Twitters the photo. This then updates my Facebook status using the Twitter Facebook App. Net result - a real killer app (and money waster considering Airtel's GPRS rates). Unfortunately, its multi-platform so no advantage Nokia here. BTW, it seems there is a HelloOX hack like a jailbreak for Nokia phones - why you would need it though, I dont know...

Besides this, I had been a bit dissatisfied with the zoom capability of the 18-55mm kit lens on my D40, so I decided to buy a better telephoto. After some research on the available lenses, I decided to go for the 55-200mm VR lens from Nikon. I was lucky enough to run into a nice promotion on EBay - and now I am getting a Aiptek 7" Digital Photo Frame for free with the lens :) Here's how the lens looks like (ya I know the pic sux - taken with my 5800!)
Here are some comparison shots with my D40. First the image using the Kit Lens (18-55mm, maximum zoom)
Then the image using the 55-200mm VR on, maximum zoom
Finally, the image using 55-200mm VR off, maximum zoom.
As expected, VR is not much use during daytime, i.e with fast shutter speeds.

Lastly, I had been trying out Echopic for the last couple of posts since I felt too lazy to go through the hoops Imageshack forces on you... Well, my patience (or lack thereof) has been rewarded - Echopic seems dead and I will have to re-upload the images and update the blog posts anyway. Alas!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Gaming and the iPod Touch

Just when it became possible to jailbreak my iPod Touch 2G without all manner of convoluted contortions, this happens. (I haven't actually jailbroken it yet - but still, it is doable... for now) While the new OS is all shiny and exciting (or will be once its released "sometime in summer 2009"), I am sure it will only add to the amount of time it takes to release a proper QuickPWN type solution for the iPod Touch.

The other interesting thing in the announcement of the new OS is the possible addition of a new iPod Touch model. Apple has historically shown a tendency to not maintain hardware capabilies across hardware iterations. Basically, each time a new hardware revision comes out, the processing power of the device increases - this is an unusual policy for a company which demands that apps work equally well across all hardware iterations. Console makers normally throttle performance on newer hardware even if they have faster CPUs for example, to make sure games run on launch consoles just as well. In Apple's case, the device capability goes something like this: iPod Touch (1G) < iPhone < iPhone (3G) < iPod Touch 2G. So the release of a new hardware will lead to more work for both developers and testers (as well as loss of my bragging rights for having the most powerful iPod Touch)

I have been buying quite a few iPhone games, the latest being ExZeus and Enigmo. I know I can probably get them for free if I jailbreak, but the things are quite cheap ($5 at max) and I really don't want to void my warranty over that. In fact, one of the best iPhone games I have found (iDracula) costs only $0.99 and recently added a ton of content - additional maps and gameplay modes.

There are quite a few sites where you can get reviews of iPhone apps and games - for some reason, traditional gaming sites (like IGN) haven't really caught up to the gaming appeal of the device and as a result are rarely consulted. Some of these are my personal favorites SlidetoPlay and Touch Arcade. There also some sites that cater to all types of apps - such as AppVee and 148 Apps.

The quality of games coming out is also steadily improving - ExZeus's graphics are stunning and show what the hardware is really capable of (alas -it kills the battery though) Apple is trying to push the iPod Touch as a gaming console, I think they are largely going to succeed. Japanese console makers have never really been comfortable with online models, and the DS just might have finally met its match with the iPod Touch and its extensive AppStore. (The PSP and UMD never even had a chance I think)

In other notes, Nokia is releasing quite a few free apps for the 5800, go grab them :) Support from third party developers is also increasing - see this list of chat applications for example...

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Gadgets Update

Its been a few weeks since I posted an update on my 5800 and Windows 7 so here goes...

5800 - It seems I am not the only one who finds Nokia's Download App broken. Of course, this being Symbian, I can just download and install apps without requiring jailbreaking or app store like approval, so its not a mjor issue - just an annoyance. Nokia has released a major firmware update (v20) to the 5800 - unfortunately, for some reason, the update is region locked - for some reason, its available in Europe and other regions but not available in India and some other parts of Asia. Unlike Apple, Nokia has literally dozens of product codes for the phone across different regions. This region code is how they control the accessibility of the update. There are methods to change the product code, unfortunately, they will all void your warranty. Still, the update doesnt add much - except Geotagging - so I am not too upset.

I have been finding websites and quite a few apps for the 5800, some of them really cool - especially the handwriting calculator. Unfortunately, they shut down wifi access for handheld devices at my office recently (due to security concerns) - so I have been thinking of sneaky ways of getting it back. One way seems to be using internet over bluetooth for the 5800. Unfortunately, this requires Windows Firewall/Internet Connection Sharing enabled and that doesnt seem to work on either my laptop or my desktop - I already tried that when I attempted to set up my Nintendo Wifi USB Adapter as a SoftAP. The other interesting thing is the inbuilt IM app which is present in most newer Nintendo phones - it seems it actually works after all (I havent yet gottent around to trying it though - I dislike trusting my Yahoo credentials to a third party website)

Windows 7 - I just upgraded the RAM on my home machine to 4GB. I can now confirm that Windows 7 x64 successfully shows the RAM as 4GB :) (a friend and I were discussing if Windows 7 x32 would show 4GB - alas I have no intention of installing the 32-bit version of Windows 7 just to test this out) Windows XP of course, shows 3.5 GB - which means that considering the 1GB ReadyBoost drive I have connected, Windows 7 has now, strangely, got more memory to play with than XP.

I have yet to get my TV Tuner working with Windows 7 - the process is a bit involved and requires a bit of research. Basically you end up enabling test signing mode in Windows 7 (which places a annoying message on all four corners of your screen). After that you add a certificate to your system's root certificates and then install a driver signed using that certificate. I am hesitant to do this - adding a publicly available certificate to my system's root certificates leaves it wide open to attack. Anyone can grab this certificate, sign an infected file with it or even execute a MiTM or phishing attack (although I dont actually use IE often enough to be really at risk)

So I have to download the unsigned driver, create and install my own root certificate, and then sign the driver with it - just to play my PS2 (thats all I do with my TV Tuner - use it as an upscaler for my PS2). Maybe I would do it if I had no other option, but with my XP installation fully functional, I doubt I will take the time to do this... BTW, did you know that Win 7 adds a lot of shortcuts to the Win key

iPod Touch - I already blogged about my iPod this week, but I just wanted to briefly mention more about using a mic with the iPod Touch. This is needed if you want to use the iPod Touch for VoIP (Fring etc). Apple sells some exorbitantly priced In-Ear headphones, although you can find cheaper, regular Apple Earphones with mic on Amazon. There are alternatives - the cheapest being Philips' Mic Adapter (Target, in-store only - no online orders) and Smarttalk from Griffin. None are available in India though :(

There's no update on redsn0w. I wish it would get released soon so I can finally try out all the cool jailbroken apps (although this will mostly void my warranty)

Ubuntu - Lastly, something interesting as I sign off: a friend recently brought a 320GB external hard disk (Seagate - yikes! bad decision) We decided to install Ubuntu 8.10 onto it. The process was surprisingly simple (the 8.04 instructions still work for 8.10) The only deivation from the process was how we partitioned the hard disk. Its generally better to have a separate 100 MB or so boot partition. I have installed Ubuntu onto a pen drive in the past - but seeing it install and run off a USB HDD so easily is really cool. Ubuntu is my favorite Linux dsitribution and it seems to be getting better and better.

Sadly, Kubuntu is drowning though - I cant tolerate KDE 4, and like many people, I am thinking of switching to Gnome rather than have it forced down my throat. Every single person in my office who uses KDE as his primary work environment (I use Windows XP) is planning to switch to Gnome rather than KDE 4, so if that is any indicator, the future looks really bleak for KDE in general.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Other App Store

Apple's App Store is an amazing success - the thousands of free and paid apps add lots of utility and entertainment value to the iPod Touch and iPhone. In the middle of all this, its easy to forget that the first iPhone shipped without any custom app capability at all - all your apps had to be webapps accessed via Safari. With the launch of the App Store and iPhone 3G, the earlier option of installing webapps has been largely forgotten, however, the capability and the webapp directory still exist. Upon installation, webapps look surprisingly similar to normal apps
iPod Touch Webapps
However, a webapp is essentially a bookmark - clicking it opens Safari and takes you to the relevant webpage. This works fine for certain types of apps - such as Google Talk and Remember The Milk which run perfectly well in a browser in the first place. What is interesting is when someone creates an entire game (with graphics and effects) entirely as a webapp - Gravity Swarm is a good example. The amount of interactivity this app achieves using only JavaScript is really impressive, also while essentially built on an old concept, the game has been customized to make the controls intuitive with a touch interface.

Apple certainly still seems to be supporting webapps - they even have a separate section for them in the Apple Design Awards. With the iPhone/iPod Tocuch browser supporting HTML 5, this is certainly a viable option for developers - as demonstrated by Google recently.

In other news, Apple is actively pushing the iPhone/iPod Touch as a gaming platform. Some of the paid apps are amazing - I recently bought Enigmo (only $0.99!) and am really impressed with the quality of the app. Traditional gaming sites are also taking notice of the device - I guess because a lot of their writers own the device and actively play games on it! I certainly use my iPod Touch a lot more than my DS - the iPod with its multiple capabilities rarely leaves my side, while the DS rarely leaves home... Whats missing on the App Store though is deeper games that require 20-30 hours to finish, let alone stuff like the Final Fantasy games which can give more than 50 hours of gameplay each. Apple needs to launch a App Store section with "premium" games by established publishers, with a minimum quality level, if they want to really unseat Nintendo from their handheld throne.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Launch Dead - SoundExchange Most Likely Cause

Launchcast is officially dead - well, not dead exactly, but effectively useless with the plus option gone. A lot of people on the official Yahoo Launchcast group are pretty upset about it - and understandably. Launch has shutdown taking people's years of ratings without giving them any way of getting them out.

Some comments by Yahoo staff on this group clearly point to SoundExchange being the root cause of the decision.

See this message:
"We considered just about every alternative, including raising the price of a subscription and making it a subscription-only service. The numbers just didn't add up. "

and this one:
"However, with royalty rates on the rise, we really couldn't afford to keep the service as-is"

So what options does someone wanting to discover new music have? Well first, I would suggest getting all your ratings out of Launch. Either using the LaunchScrobbler or using this tool to grab the data in CSV format. Then its off to Last.fm or maybe Rhapsody. Pandora is region locked of course so no use in India :) If you have a lot of music in your iTunes library, you could always use this tool. Or maybe, if you just wont to kill some time, you could watch a movie or read a book :)