Saturday, September 24, 2011 Android App

  I have always been amazed by touch based UI and devices. So when I got myself an android phone, I thought of making an app. Here it is. A simple android app for A.R.Rahman fans who would like to keep up with the latest happenings associated with ARR.

  •  Links to Official sites of A.R.Rahman
  •  Recent posts in arrahmanfans Yahoo group
  •  Recent news about ARR from Google News
  •  Recent tweets mentioning ARR from twitter
  •  Recent videos mentioning ARR from YouTube

Select one option from the home page and you get a list of links. Pick one and you get the original page in your browser.

Download the app from here.

Please be kind enough to let me know your opinion, suggestions and bugs in the app by posting in the official Facebook Page:

Disclaimer  :)
        I have no responsibility for the links displayed in the app. I am just listing the contents provided by the websites. All trademarks and logos used in the app are the property of their respective owners.

Kinect-based Object Digitization

Kinect has been a ground breaking product in the technology arena. It is the fastest selling gadget ever as per Guinness World Records. Since the launch, Kinect hacking community has come up with interesting implementations of depth scanning. Meanwhile, Microsoft tapped MS Research to bring more Kinect based features to XBOX and introduced Kinect Fun Labs at E3 2011. It has a set of fun games utilizing the 3D models of real world objects.

The technology powering Kinect Fun Labs is named 'Kinect-Based Object Digitization' which has been developed by Microsoft Research Asia.

"The Kinect-based Object Digitization project enables the creation of 3-D objects based on just a couple of snapshots. Color/depth images of the front and the back of an object are registered quickly in two dimensions, and a GPU-based surface reconstruction results in a smooth 3-D model."

In the video below, the researchers reveal more details about this technology.

There is also another similar project called 'KinectFusion'. It is from the MSR lab in Cambridge, England. Check out the video below.

Friday, September 23, 2011

More Bling to Microsoft Bing with Video Homepage

Bing has enabled HTML5 video in their homepage today. Previewed long ago in the IE9 launch event, this feature had got so many eyeballs and users had been demanding the launch of HTML5 Bing since then. Eventhough all the HTML5 features previewed then have not been completely enabled, this is a welcome move. The HTML5 video in the homepage is a beautiful time lapse video from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Bing has said in a blog post that it will be programming new videos only on special occasions. Today's video marks the occasion of the start of Autumn season in US.

This feature is currently available in the Bing US page only. You can access it here.
(HTML5 enabled browser required)

Check out the video below to see the evolution of Bing homepage and how the team chooses content.

To see what's in store for the Bing users in the coming months, make sure that you watch the video below.

Facebook Launches Timeline : Makes Changes To Profile

  • Timeline is your collection of all the top photos, posts and apps that help tell your story- Facebook.

Facebook yesterday announced their new feature called 'Timeline' in their annual developer conference, f8. It sort of breaks down events, status updates, photos and everything else that you have on Facebook based on time and date, making it easier for people to find things in your profile in a bit more organized way like a blog archive. Also added is an ability to go back in time (no, don't too get excited about this) and add things you wanted to be there, like if you wish if you had posted something in your 1st birthday, you can just do it and it'll show up in your timeline. It kind of gets everything you have ever been doing with just a few clicks (stalking just got easier..way lot easier). Signup for the new feature here.

Check out the timeline promotional video:

Also take a look at the official keynote video:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Deals on Android Phones

Buying an Android powered mobile phone ? Don't...!!! until you read this. Dell has slashed the price of its android smartphone, XCD 35. It is now available for Rs.8499 in various websites (as well as in the shop near you). XCD 35 is a re-branded ZTE Blade marketed by Dell, India. The handset running on Android v2.2 (Froyo) offers one of the best in class resolution of 800 x 480 Pixels.

Specifications of Dell XCD35:
  • Display : 3.5 Inches, WVGA, 800 x 480 Pixels, Capacitive Touch.
  • OS : Android v2.2 (Froyo)
  • Memory: 200 MB Internal, Expandable: upto 16 GB, 256 MB RAM, 512 MB ROM
  • Camera: 3.2 Megapixel, AF
  • Processor: 600 MHZ ARM11
  • Battery:  Li-Ion, 1250 mAh
  • Others: GPS,WiFi, 3G

If you like to get one, head over to flipkart (Price: Rs. 8499 ; Offer: Free Hipstreet Blue Tooth worth Rs.999 ) or letsbuyPrice: Rs. 8499 ; Offer: Rs.7,649; after applying coupon code: icicilb ; Discount under the will be available to the customer making payment through ICICI Bank Card or Internet Banking during the promotion Period, May 1, 2011 to September 30, 2011).

If you are looking for something in the sub 15k bracket, then take a look at Motorola Defy. The water and dust resistant phone has scratch resistant gorilla glass too, making it a rugged android phone which can survive a bit of rough use.

Specifications of Motorola Defy:
  • Display : 3.7 Inches, WVGA, 854 x 480 Pixels, Capacitive Touch.
  • OS : Android v2.1 (Ecliar), upgradable to 2.2.
  • Memory: 2  GB Internal, Expandable: upto 32 GB,512 MB RAM.
  • Camera: 5 Megapixel, AF
  • Processor: 800MHz Cortex-A8 processor, TI OMAP3610 chipset
  • Battery:  Li-Ion, 1540 mAh
  • Others: GPS,WiFi, Motoblur UI.
If you like the spec, Defy is available for Rs. 13,990 in ebay.

Mouse Without Borders

Having more than one PC or laptop? Ever felt the urge to easily transfer files between them or rather had a wish to control all of them using a single mouse and keyboard? Look no further, 'Mouse without Borders' has arrived. Developed by Truong Do, 'Mouse without Borders' is a software tool released by Microsoft Garage which enables you to use multiple computer screens as if it were part of a single desktop. It also helps you transfer files between computers by simple drag-and-drop. It also has some other features baked into it like customization of login screen and screen capturing tools.

Download it from here.

Update : Another software with similar functionalities: Synergy.

Windows Phone 7, Anyone?

Although not officially launched in India, several WP7 models have been making rounds in the Indian market like the HTC Mozart, HD7 and the latest Dell Venue Pro. Since Microsoft has confirmed that all the first generation WP7 devices will be getting the new ‘mango’ update and is all set to launch the WP7 market place officially in India, looking at a WP7 device isn’t particularly a wrong idea considering the dirt cheap price tags of the first generation devices (The RTM version of mango has been leaked and if you already own a WP7 device and can’t wait, look here).

So what makes WP7 a serious contender to android powered devices which have been raining in all sizes and prices since its launch in India? To start off  all WP7 devices needs to have a minimum spec as per Microsoft’s guidelines (not just that, even positioning and number of buttons have been set by Microsoft) so all devices should perform equally well. The Mango update brings the ability to multitask to the WP7 platform together with 500+ other features; so in the OS front it is pretty well set. Having said that, WP7 still can not support flash playback and you are still going to need Zune for everything, from backing up to transferring media to the phone (no copy paste here). But so does Apple, so we can keep those things aside.

Now what I really want to share is not how good WP7 really is. If you like WP7 or is not particular about the phone OS, then you are in for a treat. Samsung Focus is one of the first WP7 powered devices (but Samsung decided not to bring it to India L ) and is available for less than Rs. 13,000 on ebay (after using discount coupons, actual price:Rs.13,290/-). So if you are thinking about getting a new phone at sub 15k range, then seriously consider getting a Focus.

Here are the specs:
  • 4" Super AMOLED, capacitive, multi-touch device, WVGA resolution (480x800)
  • 5 MP Camera (720p video), 0.3 MP front camera
  • 8 GB storage 
  • microSD/SDHC memory expansion (upto 32 GB)
  • Wi-Fi, microUSB
  • 1 GHz CPU, Adreno 200 GPU
  • 1500 mAh Li-Ion (6.5 h talk time, 300 h stand-by).

Honey, I Shrunk the PC

Gone are the days of your computer taking half the space in your room; Welcome the ‘all in one PC’. Although nothing new for anyone who has ever used a Mac, these computers are something to be happy for people who are tired of cleaning up the cluttered ‘desktop’ in their home and office. Almost all PC manufacturers have come up with their range of all in one PC’s and there is one for everyone. The budget models are powered with Intel Atom Dual core processors or AMD Athlon II X2 and runs on either Windows 7 Basic or Linux distros while the top of the line models are powered by Intel Core i5/i7 processors and runs on Window 7.


Besides the wired keyboard and mice on budget models, everything seems to be pretty ‘wireless’. Some top end models features touch enabled screens, inbuilt TV tuners and some even have 3D enabled displays but no such frills for the low end models. The downside of the ‘all in ones’ seems to be the lack of upgrade options like laptops since everything is built into one single frame. These are a perfect choice movie junkies and designers thanks to the large screen size offered by all of them, from the low to high end models. But if you have serious moolah and is open to Mac OSX, then consider buying an iMac instead.

If you are in for an upgrade soon and is short on ‘desk’ space consider buying an 'all in one PC. You can check out some of the models here. If you don't have the money to get one, but love the 'all in one',  you can build yourself one from an old laptop. Here is how:

Archos 80 G9 : With Love From France

Airtel's soon to be released Beetle Magiq has an impressive hardware, at least on paper. So does RCom's new tablet 'Reliance 3G Tab' which is already available on the market. Both are rebranded products from chinese manufacturers Huawei and ZTE, and are offered at a dirt cheap price tag. Running on Android 2.2 (which is designed for handsets, unlike Android honeycomb, tailor made for tablets) and sporting 1 GHz processor, Magiq is just a re-branded Huawei Ideos S7c which is good at nothing other than being cheap so no magic with this one, while the ZTE tablet which RCom has brought in, runs on the proper Honeycomb OS. The 1 GHz processor might get things a bit zippy in Magiq but the resistive touch screen ruins everything. If you are still interested in buying this one head over to flipkart and pre-order it for INR 9,100.(Estimated Release Date: 5th week of September). For others, RComs 3G Tablet is available for INR 12,999. iBall has launched their own tablet, 'Slide' which again seems to be just another sub 15k worthless tablet for the masses.

If you really want a tablet and is kind of empty on the wallet front, try Archos 80 G9. (Available in UK for preorder @ £ 199.99 incl. taxes. ~Rs.15,000).

Here are the main features for the 8GB Archos 80 G9:

  • 1GHz OMAP4 Dual Core processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • 8 inch 1024 x 768 (4:3) capacitive touchscreen
  • Android Honeycomb 3.2 with Google Mobile Apps Suite including Android Market
  • ARCHOS made multimedia apps for extra format and codec support including H.264 HP support
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n and upgradable to 3G via the ARCHOS G9 3G Stick (sold separately)
  •  microSD Slot (SDHC compatible)
  • 720p front camera.

Nikon launches Interchangeable Lens Cameras: Nikon 1 J1 / V1

Nikon launched  two mirror less system cameras particularly aimed at beginners and casual shooters who wants the quality of a DSLR in a much smaller form factor this Wednesday. Named 'Nikon 1' these cameras have  a much smaller sensor size compared to the Olympus and Panasonic MicroFour Third camera sensor and Sony and Samsungs APS-C sensor. Priced at less than INR 30,000, these new cameras could be a serious contender to the existing mirror less interchangeable lens system cameras. Out of the two models in the lineup, J1 doesn't have an optical viewfinder (but an accessory is available) but has more color choices unlike V1 which is available in black or white only. Nikon has also announced four lenses 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6, 1 NIKKOR VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6, 1 NIKKOR 10mm f/2.8 and 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-ZOOM. Also added to the list of accessories are two speed lights and one lens mount for mounting the lens from the larger cousins. Geo tagging is enabled using an optional accessory as well.

 You can read more about this, here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

‘Play with your life’ – Not literally !

It has been more than a month since EA launched the ‘online’ version of their popular god sim game, ‘The Sims’ for facebook as ‘The Sims: Social’. One of the most liked apps for facebook pre release; the game has more than 53,178,785 fans worldwide. If you don't know anything about The Sims, it is a game were you get to play God. You can create a virtual human of sort and decide what happens in his life. The Sims Social brings this experience to facebook. You can play along with your friends (and the only place where you can get away after peeing in your friends shower), be friends or enemies (being an enemy is lot of fun), fall in love and more.

Like in the real world your sim has his needs. He will become hungry, would complain if didn’t have any fun, get lonely, would stink if didn’t take a shower for too long, feel sleepy and get bored if did the same activity over and over again. For the sim to be happy his needs should be taken care of; If not he would refuse to do what you tell him to do as well. You start off with a basic lot, with necessary furnishing to take of your Sims needs. As the game progresses, you earn money and can upgrade it to a large mansion (but unlike the original game, you need to build this room by room and needs help of your friends to complete it). In the beginning you earn very little money and like in other Facebook games, there is an option to convert your (or your dads) hard earned money to simcash (or lifetime points). You can buy new cloths, get new hair cut, buy paintings, and other stuff to give your sim all sort of pleasures. As you level up you unlock more and more things for your home and can buy them with your simcash. There are some things which requires social points (usually requires you to build it with help of some friends) and life time points (very hard to get, and insane amounts are required to buy so there is no way other than spending some of your money to get these).

The number of activities you can do is limited by an energy system (and you can’t get a nice nap and get your energy doesn’t roll that way) which has a cap of 15. Irrelevant stuff like making food, using the toilet etc doesn’t take up energy but flirting with your girlfriend certainly does. You can earn sim cash by composing music in your guitar, writing articles or hacking in your computer, painting, photographing interesting things that pop up in your lot like a set of birds, or growing up fruits or cleaning up the lot. The wild plants in the lot grow like on some tonic and you’ll have a home in the middle of a jungle if not cleaned up frequently (Cleaning the mess gives you a very small amount of money and takes away 3 energy slots, which is one of things I hate about this game). You can ask your friends for energy or make energy drinks (which requires lot of hard to get ingredients, so make sure your friends are playing it too…like Farmville and other games). As you play the game, each activity gives you some sort of ingredient for making something like instant good mood, instant fun etc. And achieving some goals can get your sim ‘inspired’ which gives bonus simcash for every activity for a short time.

To interact with other players you need to visit their lot after the player approves you as a neighbor. You can do lot of activities like talking, sharing a joke, watching TV together, flirting, dancing, playing music for the other sim etc. The activities can either boost your relationship with the sim or ruin it (peeing certainly does that). Bella is your first neighbor (Sims players will recognize this sim from the actual game. One of the most popular sim in the whole series) and you can visit her to fulfill your sims social needs. ;)

EA keeps on adding more and more contents each day and the game is certainly a lot of fun to play with your friends. EA has fixed most of the bugs that it had and the game doesn’t crash often as it did in the first few weeks of its launch. So try this game, if you are a facebook junkie and play with ‘your’ life.

Save money when buying LCD TV

It is time for taking out the trash and the old stupid box needs to make way for the smart and sleek LCD TV. But you can’t buy any TV, can you ? After all it is in front of this, where you are going to spent most of your time. So you go to this shop and check out the latest arrivals. To your surprise most of them looks kind of the same, so you decides to take a closer look and finds out that at least the colors feel different in each one. But unable to choose, you read the labels of each one; LED, IPS, Full HD, HDMI…(but you have no clue what each one mean). So you just stare at everything, confused. Then comes the smartly dressed guy; after asking a few questions he takes you to a nice looking TV and starts describing things which you already read on the label, but you just hear out the guy anyway. After he is done, you ask the price hoping you could settle for one. But as it turns out, they are either too cheap or too expensive and the ones priced just right doesn’t have the Full HD label (you can’t settle for something less than Full, can you?). The time is running out, so you decide to choose the brand you heard the most. And within seconds you are in front of either a Sony or a Samsung, you like it and just before closing the deal the little ‘cheap’ in you wants to check out how bad are its cheap cousins. You can’t believe your eyes; the cheap ones actually look the same and you are confused again.
What most people doesn’t know is that companies doesn’t build everything by themselves and often buy components from other manufactures and sell them along with the ones they manufacture (and that is how you end up witha Samsung that is actually an LG, at least the for the panel part). Almost everyone does that, so don’t go with just the brand name. Most stores have their display models set to a 'high saturation' mode, which makes colors stand out, so before you zero in on one switch through the modes and see how it looks on the settings that you would probably use.

A feature rich HD Ready TV is better than a basic Full HD TV and the differences are far less what you would expect.Full HD or not, it doesn’t matter much when you are looking at anything less than 50” size.(There is noticeable difference when you stand close to the TV, but you are never going to watch that close, are you ?). Also insisting on Full HD is meaning less (unless you are movie buff), when none of the DTH service providers in India offers you a Full HD service (even the number of HD Ready channels is skimpy). Also what is called an LED LCD TV, use LED technology for lighting up instead of a fluorescent lighting and is not actually an LED TV (which is awfully expensive). So don’t pay a premium for an LED LCD TV when you can have almost similar quality for a lot less. The advantage for LED TV is that they consume less power, produce deeper blacks and is comparatively compact (unless you are a movie junky and style 'does' matter to you, give LED a pass).

USB support and SD card playback are pretty common now, so when you are going to buy one, carry a flash drive loaded with some videos you watched recently, so that you can check them out on  the TV (even formats like .mkv are supported in most models). DLNA (which lets you play your music, videos and pictures from you DLNA enabled phone on the TV) and support for youtube, skype and facebook is pretty common now (most budget models comes with a LAN port and an optional Wifi adapter as an accessory) and the remote is used for input (USB keyboard may be an optional accessory). HDMI port lets you connect your laptop or projector which has the HDMI connector (usually HDMI cable doesn’t come as an accessory, buy a cheap HDMI cable if you own a laptop with HDMI interface). Buying a TV that can play contents out of the box can save you the money for a new player and all you would have to do is plug in a flash drive or pop in a memory card to get started.