Technology

Using this SlideShare WordPress plugin by Joost de Valk.

Installation is pretty straightforward:

  1. Download the plugin.
  2. Unzip the downloaded file.
  3. Upload the “slideshare” folder to the plugins directory of your WordPress blog.
  4. Activate the plugin in the WordPress admin panel.
  5. Start embedding SlideShare presentations!

You simply have to copy-paste the code (for example: [slideshare id=415548&doc=brainrulespzreview-1211213300619507-9&w=425]) provided in the “Embed (wordpress.com)” section of the SlideShare presentation page into your blog post. The plugin does the rest.

Drop a comment if you’re facing any difficulty.

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I’ll let the picture do the talking.

Saree Guard on R15

Saree guards on an R15? Seriously. How much lamer can our vehicle laws get? I wonder how a saree guard would look when fitted on a Ducati 1098S.

What do you think?

Note: Check out this photo set of the R15 taken at a Bangalore showroom. A colleague and friend at office is riding one home this weekend. I’m all J.

All images © Mithun [Da].

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Over the weekend, I was looking for a way to turn on Intel SpeedStep on my Core 2 Duo-based Desktop PC. Here’s how:

  1. Enable Intel SpeedStep in your Desktop’s BIOS.
  2. Set your Desktop’s power management setting to “Minimal Power Management.”

You can read more at this “SpeedStep How To” from Intel. My rig immediately dropped from 2.66 Ghz to 2.00 GHz.

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For context, I suggest that you read my earlier post It Takes 45 Days To Add One Phone Number To A Database first.

Now, reader Shridhar writes in with his Do Not Call (DNC) registration woes:

Yesterday, I registered – via SMS and the online facility – for DNC through Hutch. Till date (08-Sep-2007 13:40 PM IST),they have sent me 45 SMS saying “your service will be activated in 45 days.” SMS flooding is continuing. I calculate that I will get 80 SMS per day till this 45-day limit is reached. Totally fucked up. Hutch is worst.

Have you had better luck with Hutch?

I managed to mess around with Airtel’s online implementation of the Do Not Call registration mechanism. The damn thing used to think that “Stop” meant “Start” and vice versa, but they’ve set it right now. I’ve generated so many reference numbers that I don’t know which among them is the correct/valid one. I guess I’ll have to play the “I am on the DNC / I am not on the DNC” game with a rose in my hand.

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What’s Worse Than Lust?

by Vinaya HS on July 26, 2007

in Technology

The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs.

It’s worse than lust.

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Acer, the company that manufactures terrible laptops, dumps the monkey on you for a song, and finally screws you at the service centre, has chosen Hrithik Roshan to be their canary that sings: “Life is busy. Acer makes it easy,” in their latest ads.

It’s glaringly obvious that Hrithik Roshan has never booted up an Acer laptop in his life. He wouldn’t be singing “Life is busy. Acer makes it easy,” if he had. It’s a gross misuse of celebrity advertising – an area that I have been digging into of late. There’s not an iota of similarity between the two.

Which is why you shouldn’t believe what Hrithik Roshan says…ahem…sings.

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A thought that occurred to me while listening to a Zapak Mail advertisement on FM:

How ridiculous would I sound if I told you that my new email address is vinayahs@zapakmail.com? And how embarrassed would you feel when sending an email to vinayahs@zapakmail.com?

I predict an early demise for Zapak Mail.

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Because, according to the CSE I spoke to, it takes five complete days starting from the day your bill is generated before you can view your latest bill online. Now what kind of business logic is that? We generate your bill, it then sleeps for five days, and presto it’s accessible online. Brilliant!

And as a side effect, for the environmentally conscious among you who have opted against receiving paper bills (like I have), you really have no clue for these five complete days whether you have been billed correctly.

Thanks Airtel for all the hassles. Previous grouches here and here.

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It’s An Honor To Be Featured On TechDirt

by Vinaya HS on June 30, 2007

in Technology

A recent white paper on the Apple iPhone that I wrote for TechDirt’s Insight Community has been featured on the TechDirt website:

TIC’s Picks: How Can Others Respond To The iPhone?

Vinaya HS explains why it’s a mistake for other device makers to simply copy the iPhone, rather than leapfrogging it with new innovations (even though he knows that’s where they’re heading). He also plays up the benefit of separating the device from the operator (and ending operator subsidies).

It’s an honor to be featured on TechDirt. Let me know what you think of the article.

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Let’s begin with a quick poll. How many among you would be interested in proudly owning – and more importantly, checking – the following email accounts:

  1. your-name@bangalorerocks.com
  2. your-name@chennaisucks.com
  3. your-name@jayanagar4thblock.com
  4. your-name@ilovegoa.com
  5. your-name@iclimbedeverest.com
  6. your-name@somestupidwebsite.com

Now, how many among you think that owning such email addresses makes you unique? Do they tell you what kind of Indian you are?

This hare-brained scheme is Microsoft’s idea of “providing a unique email id for every kind of Indian powered by Windows Live Hotmail.” Indian’s powered by Windows Live Hotmail? Wow! Microsoft’s forged ahead with this nonsense by unveiling an email id for the residents of Lokhandwala (in Andheri, Mumbai), who run the website www.lokhandwalarocks.com.

“The residents of Lokhandwala will now have their own email ids through www.lokhandwalarocks.com. Users can have ids such as rahul@lokhandwalarocks.com and enjoy all the added features of Windows Live Hotmail. Similarly, we aim to deliver an email id for every kind of Indian which truly reflects their identity and personality,” said Jaspreet Bindra, Country Manager, Online Services Group India, Microsoft.

And you conveniently forgot to mention about those [possible] free passes to the yet to be released Shootout at Lokhandwala.

What a scam! Are you that desperate to get people to sign up? Don’t insult our feelings towards nationality with your insane marketing campaigns.

And congratulations Rahul – whoever you are – for acquiring your lovely email id rahul@lokhandwalarocks.com.

“Our research shows that email is actually a part of one’s own identity,” says Microsoft. Oh really? Thanks for reminding me. And, by the way, how much did you pay for this research? “People use email as the primary mode of contact and hence it is important to have an email id which is unique.” How dumb (or unique) would you look with an email address such as your-name@chennaisucks.com on your resume or business card?

Microsoft claims this to be the first step towards customizing email for consumers in India. If this is the first step, I am too scared to ask what the subsequent steps are.

Oh, by the way, do people still use Hotmail?

Link:

Read the full press release.

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You probably have heard about – or worse, experienced – XM’s satellite radio service conking out in the United States. For all those hard-earned dollars paid as subscription fees, you would be forgiven for thinking that XM could have put out a better press release than simply saying:

XM Satellite Radio has resumed normal levels of service for customers who experienced outages or significantly degraded service starting yesterday.

The problem occurred during the loading of software to a critical component of the satellite broadcast system, which resulted in a temporary loss of signal from one of the company’s satellites.

After you turn on your XM radio, please allow five to ten minutes to reacquire the XM signal.

XM apologizes for any inconvenience this has caused.

Do you think the company could have done better? What if it was AirTel’s or Hutch’s network going haywire down here and you had no connectivity for a full 24 hours?

Link:

Catch the full XM story here.

Update: Here’s Engadget’s take on XM’s response:

XM looks be trying to make things right with its customers after an outage put a crimp in its service earlier this week, although the company isn’t exactly going all out to make sure they stay on board. As compensation for any withdrawal symptoms customers may have suffered (those that haven’t already jumped ship, that is), XM has deemed it suitable to dole out credits for two whole days of service (yes, days) which, at the current rate of $12.95 a month, works out to about 87 cents. Of course, you’ll have to do a bit of work to pocket all that change, with a call to XM customer service at 1-800-967-2346 required to pry it from the company’s coffers.

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“Bangalore will be unwired,” they said. The only wires I see coming out are the ones being dug up under the guile of the road-widening project. We were supposed to be hopping on to the wireless bandwagon by February, 2007. That got shifted to April, 2007. Ok. We Bangaloreans understand a delay. We are used to it. But, it’s already end-May and there’s still no unwiring in sight. In all probability, we won’t be unwired this year. What a pity!

The bureaucracy’s become a master at dishing out excuses. Here’s the latest one:

MN Vidyashankar, Secretary IT, BT and S&T, says that the delay in implementing the project is due to the expansion of the city limits and the inclusion of Greater Bangalore due to which the project will now cover 743 sq km instead of the projected 226 sq km.

“We are in the process of selecting more service providers to provide the connectivity to the expanded area and do not want to offer the service in bits and pieces by providing wireless Internet access only in parts of the city like some of the Indian and American cities.”

Source: The New Indian Express

How’s that for an excuse?

It’s not as if Bangalore abruptly exploded into 743 sq km – from 226 sq km – overnight. Didn’t the experts know the dimensions of Bangalore – and the scope of the project – earlier? Further, a big-bang approach is the worst way to implement any IT project. Surely, we knew that. Right? After all, we are the Silicon Valley in this side of the world.

There’s a reason why the other Indian and American cities are adopting a piecemeal approach: it’s the correct way. Or do we know some magic formulae that they don’t?

What’s worse is that every who’s who in the WiMax industry is setting up shop in India with ambitious plans.

Last week, Aperto Networks, builder of the world’s most advanced WiMax base stations and subscriber units for fixed, portable, and mobile applications, announced that it has significantly expanded its offices in Bangalore, India. Their new facility is almost four times larger than the company’s previous regional headquarters and will house teams in engineering, marketing, and customer service for India and the global market.

And today, Solectek Corporation, a U.S.-based leading manufacturer of WiMax equipment, announced that it is forming an operating unit within India which will manage sales, marketing, customer support and local assembly operations.

My guess is that these companies will sit around twiddling their thumbs, while we and the bureaucracy wait for Bangalore to reach its correct vital statistics.

If you have been salivating for wireless broadband – like I have – the best you can do now is to pick up a rose, pluck out its petals, and play the “Will We Won’t We” game.

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The Nokia 3109: Basic Instincts

by Vinaya HS on May 20, 2007

in Technology

Nokia 3110 ClassicLast week, Avinash and I had a chat about the current state of mobile phones. We wished for a simple mobile phone that would just let us talk, message, and get on with our lives. I don’t need – to quote Avinash – a “multi-device franchise.” To my surprise, Nokia’s just about granted my wish with the new Nokia 3109.

Says John Barry, Director, Mobile Phones, Nokia: “We recognize that a sizable number of people just want a mobile phone to stay in touch on their own terms. For these individuals, and for companies who want to support their employees by providing a mobile phone, the Nokia 3109 classic offers strong functionality and adheres to certain corporate privacy and security policies.”

[What you see in the above picture is the Nokia 3110 Classic. The Nokia 3109's official pictures have not yet been released. My guess is it would look just like the 3110 sans the camera at the back.]

A quick look at the specifications:

  • 256K color display
  • 4 hours talk time; Up to 16 days stand-by time
  • microSD slot (max 2GB)
  • 2,000 entry phonebook
  • Integrated hands-free speaker; Organizer with calendar, to-do list and notes; PC suite with USB; Bluetooth connectivity; Music player; E-mail client with attachments

Although there’s no mention about the 3109′s dimensions, I expect it to be a sleek device. The keypad looks decent enough. Battery life would have been much higher but for the 256K color screen (a color depth which I think is really not necessary). I have no idea why a music player’s been thrown in – another good example of feature abuse.

The 3109′s expected in Q2, 2007 and has an estimated retail price of €140. There’s no word on when the 3109 will hit Indian shores.

Link: Nokia 3109 Press Release.

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From http://ophcrack.sourceforge.net/:

Ophcrack is a Windows password cracker based on a time-memory trade-off using rainbow tables. This is a new variant of Hellman’s original trade-off, with better performance. It recovers 99.9% of alphanumeric passwords in seconds. It is a very efficient implementation of rainbow tables done by the inventors of the method. It comes with a GTK+ Graphical User Interface and runs on Windows, Mac OS X (Intel CPU) as well as on Linux.

The Ophcrack LiveCD (462MB ISO file) contains a full Linux system (SLAX), Ophcrack for Linux and rainbow tables for alphanumerical passwords. The LiveCD cracks passwords automatically; no installation necessary; no admin password necessary (as long as you can boot from a CD).

On BSNL’s broadband-on-steroids, the 462MB was on my hard disk in 36-minutes flat! Now that’s a great home-coming gift from BSNL.

Note:

January 31st marked the end of my academics at SP Jain Institute of Management & Research. The next phase is a two-month internship that began yesterday – the 5th of February. In between the 31st and yesterday, I was savouring the sights and smells of good old Bangalore; that’s why you didn’t read a word on this blog. But I MISS Mumbai – terribly! In January last, everyone said, “Look, whatever you might say about Mumbai today, a year down the line you’ll be singing the exact opposite.” And that is exactly what has happened. In my opinion, it’s Mumbai that SHOULD be coined as “The City of Love.”

That, however, is a topic for an emotional post one of these days. Watch out!

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Trust Asus to come up with something innovative. They’ve managed to piece together the “World’s First SideShow Laptop,” the Asus W5Fe. Wow! A SideShow Laptop you say! But how do you know a SideShow Laptop when you see one? Voila…

The Asus W5Fe

In the words of the manufacturer:

SideShow is an independent operating system that can be switched on without booting up the whole system. With embedded flash memory, users can save selected data to SideShow, in the form of text, image, and audio, for later review. The external system is well synchronized with the main operating system that users can set for automatic outlook (emails, calendar and meeting appointments) update when the main system is powered on for swift refresh to ensure data consistency.

The W5Fe’s auxiliary display is a short cut to viewing a wide range of information, including meeting schedules, phone numbers, addresses, and recent e-mail messages. This comes as a very handy tool when, for instance, one needs to take a quick look at the meeting agenda in a crowded elevator. On the entertainment front, the outer display can be used to view photos, play music, and games such as Solitaire. In addition, SideShow can even act as the mobile navigation device and guide the way with map display!

I don’t know about much about using laptops in crowded elevators, but the W5Fe would certainly be of great use during all those classes where the professor forbids us from laying as much as a finger on our laptops. If ASUS could provide a teeny-weeny QWERTY keyboard below the screen and Yahoo! a special version of Yahoo! Messenger, it would be akin to nirvana. I am sure we’ll find innovative uses for the SideShow. Can you think of any?

Packed into the W5Fe are:

  • Intel Centrino Duo Mobile Technology
    • Intel Core2 Duo Processors T7600/T7400/T7200/T5600/T5500
    • Mobile Intel 945GM Express Chipset
    • Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Network Connection
  • Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium
  • DDR2 533/667 MHz, up to 1536 MB
  • 12.1″ WXGA Color Shine & Crystal Shine LCD, ASUS Splendid Video Intelligence Technology
  • SATA 80/120/160 GB
  • 1.3M pixel web-camera
  • 802.11a/b/g, BluetoothV2.0+EDR
  • 3x USB, 1x TV-Out, 1x Card-Reader, 1x Express Card, 1x VGA
  • 30.5 x 22 x 3.1cm, 1.7kg (3-cell battery pack)

SideShow Auxiliary Display

  • Display: 2.8″ QVGA TFT LCD
  • Flash: 1G NAND Flash

Good enough computing power and features for your daily needs.

Overall, a cool product from the Asus stables and one I would love to get my hands on. But I have no clue when we’ll see it in India.

{ Tip via Engadget. There’s also a video of the W5Fe in action. }

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Designing Software for Simplicity

by Vinaya HS on January 4, 2007

in Technology

Nick Bradbury, of FeedDemon fame, recently wrote a 7-part series titled “Simplicity Ain’t So Simple” that talks in depth about simplicity in software design. It’s a nice read for anyone who’s wondering about the complexity in today’s software and what should be done to reduce the madness and clutter.

Brew these over a cup of coffee.

Part I – Decide What to Hide
Part II – Stop Showing Off
Part III – Don’t Add Features You Can’t Support
Part IV – The Blessed Curse of Power Users
Part V – Combine Features
Part VI – Simple = Secure
Part VII – Know When to Stop

Let me know if you found it worthwhile.

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As long as we have service providers who care two-hoots about their customers and as long as organizations such as TRAI and RBI remain toothless-tigers, no do-not-call registry (DNCR) system is going to work in India.

The problem is simple. We’re trying to create independent do-not-call registries. For example, you have a DNCR per cellular service provider, a DNCR per banking institution, etc. That’s haphazard and is never going to succeed. How do you keep track of which DNCR you are registered on or not? The correct solution is so obviously simple, everyone is too wise (or blind) to see it.

Create a secure non-repudiatable central database that is:

  1. Maintained by a single accountable organization
  2. Accessible by all service providers and their mercenary-like agents (telemarketers, direct-selling agents, etc.)
  3. Accessible by an any customer who so wishes to use it
  4. Configurable by any customer on a per-service basis

And most important, slap heavy penalties on violations. Strip the license from that service provider. Create the fear of God. Do this and there’s not going to be a single unsolicited call.

Here’s the latest update – specifically from the telecom sector – on this merry-go-round circus. My comments are interspersed in between [My comments] tags.

From the January 01, 2007 edition of The Economic Times:

Alarm bells: Telcos want commercial calls out of do-not-call registry – Demand is in line with mandate to keep consumers informed about tariff, value-added services – by Joji Thomas Philip, New Delhi

If telecom companies have their way, they will continue to trouble you with Unsolicited Commercial Calls (UCC) even after the ‘Do-Not-Call’ (DNC) registry comes into effect in mid-2007. Telecom operators have written to regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) demanding that all “communication undertaken by the service provider with his subscriber for his business and commercial purposes be exempted from UCC”.

[My comments] That’s business jargon being used by the cellular service providers. It actually means “We want to screw the customer. Make it easy and legal for us.” Enough said.

UCC includes telemarketing calls, SMS and other commercial or marketing messages. A section of the industry has demanded that calls to past and prospective customers should also be allowed.

[My comments] From a typical cellular service provider: “What? You were going to strip us of our most lucrative revenue streams? No way TRAI. We’ll make our customers pay dearly for being our customers. Worse. God save you, if you have been our ex-customer. We’ll follow you no matter where you are.”

TRAI had initiated a consultation towards creating a do-not-call registry last month, stating that UCC “disturbed a large number of subscribers by forcing them to respond to their telephones, thus invading their privacy”.

[My comments] TRAI, the toothless tiger, at work.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the GSM body, in their communication to TRAI over this issue, said: “There should be an exemption list published by the authority, which excludes certain types of communications from the purview of the definition of UCC”.

[My comments] Already commented.

According to COAI, the exemption list must include all service-related communication undertaken by the service provider for business and commercial purposes. For instance, information to the customer of his pending dues and new tariff plans being offered, COAI said. Justifying their demand, COAI pointed out that this was in line with the TRAI mandate that consumers be kept informed about changes in any item of tariff, credit limit and provision of any chargeable value added service.

[My comments] There’s a saying in Kannada: “Tirugu Baana.” Meaning, an arrow shot by you that comes back and pierces you. Kind of like a boomerang which comes back and strikes you bang between the eyes. So much for your rules TRAI.

Going a step further, the Association of Unified Service Providers of India (AUSPI), the body representing CDMA players, said that calls made to subscribers that have quit the service provider over the last 18 months also be placed in the exempted categories. Interestingly, AUSPI has also demanded that calls made to prospective customers — those subscribers who had enquired about product or services in the last three months — be permitted even to those who have registered with the DNC.

[My comments] From a typical cellular service provider: “Screw the DNC. Let’s get back to making those calls. Leave no revenue stream untapped. Screw everyone.”

“The exempted category of calls should be suitably incorporated in the definition (of UCC). This exempted category mentioned is also part of Do Not Call Registry Act of Australia and Telemarketing Rules of USA,” AUSPI stated.

[My comments] Ummm…for a change, why don’t we think for ourselves? Do we do everything Australia and The USA of A do? We have a billion+ minds. Let’s try and be different. It won’t hurt too much.

Apart from the industry bodies representing operators on both technological platforms, operators including Bharti Airtel, MTNL and Tata Teleservices have also written to TRAI requesting that the above-mentioned changes be incorporated to the definition of UCC.

[My comments] From a typical cellular service provider: “Let’s hammer home the message boys! Flood the toothless-tiger with written requests and delay the whole circus.”

What do you think?

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How to Add a Tag Cloud to Your Blog?

by Vinaya HS on January 3, 2007

in Technology

ZoomClouds

ZoomClouds offers both ready-made and customizable tag cloud solutions for your WordPress, TypePad, or Movable Type based blog. And it’s FREE! The tag cloud is generated based on your site’s RSS feed and uses the Yahoo! Content Analysis API plus a proprietary content analysis API. You can choose the depth of content that should be used to generate the tag cloud. For example, you can generate a tag cloud based on the last 24 hours, last 30 days, or last 90 days worth of blog posts. However, this does not imply immediate results. Says a FAQ entry:

Some people mistakenly think that if they select “Forever” the cloud they immediately get is based on everything they’ve published on their entire blog since day 1, or if they select “the last 365″ the cloud they get right away is based on the last year, and so on.

That’s not true.

When you create your cloud, ZoomClouds will go and fetch your feed, and the cloud that you get at that moment is based only on whatever content is in your feed at that time, which usually is the last 10-15 posts. What the “Days worth” option indicates is, as time goes by, how many days worth of content you want your cloud to reflect from the date you create your cloud.

It’s one of those self-learning algorithms. A perfectly valid approach in this situation.

Once you have keyed in your site details, you get a WYSIWYG editor to design the tag cloud layout. You can customize a whole bunch of things including the number of tags in the cloud, width of the cloud, minimum and maximum font sizes, border thickness, background and tag colors, etc.

Here are a couple of designs I experimented with:

ZoomClouds Example

Not too bad eh?

ZoomClouds then lets you share your tag cloud design with other users and equivalently you can search the existing database of shared tag cloud designs until one catches your fancy. Finally, you get a block of code that you need to directly copy-paste to your site layout.

Further customization is possible. For example, you can set filters to selectively add or remove tags. This is a useful-to-have feature because the ZoomClouds engine is sometimes not very good at guessing tags – at least in the early stages. For example, poor fish, higher each time, ridiculous, etc. are really not tags that will excite your blog’s visitors. You might want to filter these manually till the engine’s learning algorithm takes over (see this FAQ entry). There’s also a “Stats” page that lets you track clickthroughs on your tags. If you’re interested, you can spend time poring over the statistics and then fine tuning your tag list.

Verdict:

Overall ZoomClouds is a quick and painless tag cloud solution for your blog. I am, at present, using a plugin called Ultimate Tag Warrior to generate the tags for this blog. It’s really not working too well. I am soon going to switch to ZoomClouds.

Side Note:

Since I am now a student at a B-school, I usually try and analyze how a business is making money. Here’s something of interest from ZoomClouds’ FAQ.

ZoomClouds is and will always be free. We might add a paid version in the future that would include features not available yet, but what you see today (and other things we plan to add soon) is and will continue to be 100% free. At this point we do not include any kind of advertising anywhere.

We will never include ads in your tag clouds without your approval! If we ever offer such optional feature, it will be completely up to you, and as a way to share revenue with you. And if you’d rather keep your cloud ad-free, then your cloud will continue being ad-free for as long as you like, and for free of course, no strings attached of any kind.

It’s a typical web-based business model. A cut-down but functional free version and a souped-up feature-rich paid version.

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Switch to Internet Explorer 7

by Vinaya HS on December 23, 2006

in Technology

I couldn’t resist the temptation to switch. And switch, I did. From Internet Explorer 6 to Internet Explorer 7. My initial reaction: “Things are not where they used to be!”

Now I have unwaveringly used Internet Explorer since the days of Windows 95 and I can’t use a different browser even in my dreams. I can click my way around Internet Explorer 6 blindfolded, but with Internet Explorer 7 my blindfolded clicks would lead to chaos. Because, things are not where they used to be.

That said, I think Internet Explorer 7 is a cool browser.

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Portable Applications

by Vinaya HS on December 12, 2006

in Technology

Have you always wanted to:

  • Carry your web browser with all your favorite bookmarks?
  • Carry your calendar with all your appointments?
  • Carry your email client with all your contacts and settings?
  • Carry your instant messenger and your buddy list?
  • Carry your whole office suite along with your documents and presentations?
  • Carry your antivirus program and other computer utilities?
  • Carry all your important passwords and account information securely?

If yes, PortableApps.com is your manna from Heaven. There’s a bunch of applications waiting to get on to your USB flash drive, portable hard drive, iPod/MP3 player, etc. Download the portable app, extract it, and off you go. It’s that easy.

I am planning to try out Firefox Portable and OpenOffice.org Portable soon.

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