Abhi 2.0 on Technology

Abhimanyu Radhakrishnan’s Tech Archive: Columns, reports and video

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Tech Tonic #4: Tech Audit

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Tech Audit

It’s the end of the financial year and while I collate my bills and claims, it’s also high time I audited FY08’s tech purchases. I bought lots of stuff, some cool, some junk so lets take a hard-nosed look and pass judgment:

ASSETS

– Shower Radio:
Technically I didn’t buy it since it was gifted but what a great gift! It really doesn’t get better than (a waterproof) FM Radio in the bathroom. This inexpensive cute chunky plastic box has just two knobs – one for controlling the frequency and one for volume.There’s a small digital clock and holes for the in-built speaker. It takes 4 AA batteries nevertheless highly recommended!

– Nintendo Wii:
This one was swung by WAF (Wife Acceptability Factor). There was no way an Xbox or PlayStation was entering the home and having me glued to it 24×7. The Nintendo Wii on the other hand is the most fun, stress-busting and yet addictive gaming experience I’ve had. We’ve thrown Wii-kend parties with friends who just can’t get enough of it. Whoever said gamers have no social life?

– iPod Touch
I bought this purely on a whim – no iPhone yet in India and I desperately wanted to “flick and pinch” (before dirty thoughts enter your mind) photos, songs and videos. But once this thing gets on the net, it’s the best handheld internet browser EVER made. Its also among the best resolution screens on so slim a device and my VCD collection is now being ripped for use solely on the Touch.

– SMC Mini Wi-Fi Router
It costs less than four thousand bucks, is incredibly easy to set up (just plug the internet cable in) and doesn’t require software installation. Multiple laptops and Wi-Fi gadgets (such as the previous two on this list) then easily share the single net connection at home. Just remember to password protect your router lest the neighbours decided they don’t need to buy their own.

– HP Scanjet 2400
I had no idea that scanners had become so cheap – less than 3k – though when I did order it, I questioned the need to pick up such a big dust collector. However, a little discipline from my side in scanning EVERYTHING to make life paperless has proven to make this the best decision of the year. I’ve not had to pull out anything from old files to xerox – just browse, attach and email/print!

LIABILITIES

– Skype Wireless Phone
This is nothing but a plastic “phone” shaped Wi-Fi device that has no software except on it except Skype. You connect to Wi-Fi, login to Skype, access your friends list and call them. Its basically a substitute for having to sit in front of your PC with headphones and mic. Nice concept, but not worth 5k considering I’ve used it less than a dozen times all year!

– Digital Photo Frame
I bought two of these as gifts, but was too tempted and opened one to keep for myself in the drawing room. The image quality is poor, it has an ugly cable for power supply that gets in the way and most importantly I haven’t had the time or “enthu” to replace the memory card with pictures that I slotted in, when I first opened it nearly a year ago.

– Onkyo Gladiator 5.1 Home Theatre
This one was heavily subsidized thanks to credit card points but took a dozen follow-ups over 4 months with HDFC bank before it landed up. It takes up tons of space and has created a wiring mess. Moreover there aren’t enough movies out there in the market with 5.1 Dolby sound to enjoy. White elephant alert!

– LG xCanvas 37″ HDTV
Its on the same table that the much bulkier “tube” was on, so the space-saving of the thin LCD is redundant. TV signal in India is not HD (High Definition) so my cable actually looks worse on this than on my old 29″. I don’t have an HD gaming console and I don’t intend to buy a Blu-Ray disc player till prices hit 10k ie. mid 2009! Early adoption be damned, this could have easily waited; I’m sure a 46″ will be the same price by next year!

– Sony Cybershot T-100
Never buy a digital camera which requires that the battery be taken out and charged separately. I have no issues with the camera itself; its only the painful charging that has ensured that I’ve never had it ready when I most needed it. In any case, in the future, I’m going either for a great mobile phone-cam or an entry level Digital SLR . The era of these in-between pocket “digicams”, for me, is over!

Written by Abhi 2.0

March 23, 2008 at 7:28 am

Tech Tonic #0: Gadgets to look out for in 2008!

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(Although this piece was published before Tech Tonic became a regular columnm it has been given an honorary title of #0 since this was the start of it all!)

Tech Tonic 0

Making predictions about the future of technology is one of the easiest things to do. Unlike astrology, palmistry, election polling, technical analysis of the stock market and other assorted hocus-pocus, tech punditry doesn’t even require the pretense of intelligence.

Heck, the wronger you are, the better company you’re in! Whether it was Bill Gates who allegedly said in the ’80s that “640K of memory ought to be good enough for anyone”, or the grand old man of IBM, Thomas Watson, who is believed to have predicted a world market for (gasp) maybe five computers or even the exasperated fellow who, legend has it, said that “everything that can be invented has been” before downing shutters at the US Patents Office in 1899, we’re all wrong every now and then. So if my five hot tech picks for 2008 turn out to be complete hogwash by the end of next year, remember… that’s your cue to BUY shares in my nascent little startup!

1. Apple iPhone 2.0: Expect a spiffier, 3G-capable iPhone in 2008 that will include some basic features like video recording, group SMSing etc. which were missing earlier, and more importantly allow users to install programmes of their choice. All the major desi operators have reportedly initiated talks with Apple to sell the iPhone. Expect it in India halfway through ’08!

2. Google Android: Like the iPhone in ’07, Google could change the mobile phone industry in ’08. But Google’s approach is different. They don’t want to make their own handset; just hope to put their software and search onto any device that claims to be a mobile phone. The ‘platform’ is codenamed Android and will most likely transform the generally poor quality of software on low-end mobile devices.

3. Polymer Screens: Not much point having fancy phones if you have to strain your eyes to peer at those tiny screens, is there? One ingenious solution is the use of flexible screens that fold in and out of handheld devices. They also solve the biggest problem with newer smartphones – battery life. LCD screens are the biggest battery hogs. Replacing them with polymer based displays reduces power consumption. The leading company in this field, Polymer Vision, began manufacturing ‘Readius’ – a phone with a 5-inch rollable display – earlier this month and Telecom Italia will be the company’s first major client in 2008.

4. GPS Cameras: In 2007, online photo sites launched a feature called Geotagging. This allowed users to pinpoint the location where a photo was taken on a map and add it to the photo information. Millions of users were geotagging photos which got camera makers’ antennae up. A number of top manufacturers have announced 2008 rollouts of cameras with built-in GPS so that pictures are automatically geotagged.

5. Wireless HD: For those who’ve pulled their hair out trying to hook up a 7.1 speaker system into an amplifier, through your PC, under your washing machine and then maybe into your TV, Wireless High Definition audio and video transfer will be the answer. Nearly all the big players in the industry have agreed to work together on a common standard that will enable your DVD player to wirelessly beam full HD audio and video to your amp and your big screen TV respectively.

Written by Abhi 2.0

December 30, 2007 at 8:28 pm

Posted in Hindustan Times

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