Sunday, 29 November 2009

My Netbook Review

Swami Nikhilaananda said:
"It's prudent for a chatterbox to buy a cellphone with long battery life, than buying an iPhone"

I purchased a netbook recently, and I thought of posting a small review about it just in case some of you were considering buying one. I hope you find this useful. If you want anything particularly, I will write about that as well.

Well, the netbook that I bought is an Acer Aspire D250 model. The specifications are 160GB hard disk, 1 GB RAM (extensible to 2) and 1.6 GHz Intel Atom Processor, 10.1" LED backlit screen with a six cell battery. It has three USB ports, one port to connect your monitor to, one speaker out, one mic in, one ethernet port and one for charging. It has a camera and mic inbuilt. It has Wi-Fi, bluetooth and 3G for connectivity. The battery life is around 7 hours or so (for sure - sometimes more, sometimes a little lesser depending on usage). The speakers are ok, just good enough, and lacking in bass. Since I use a good pair of earphones, I don't miss it. It is very light, and weighs around 1.2 Kgs I think.

I searched a lot for netbook models to choose from, and found that it was very hard to zero in on one. The reason is the large array of netbook models and companies - However, the interesting point is that most models (nearly 90%) have the exact same specifications!! The price of this model was Rs. 15,600 at the Acer Mall, Manipal Centre, Dickenson Road when I bought it. The price will be somewhere around that.

Buy with a purpose
I found that this particular model had gotten many good reviews. I bought it for the sole purpose of portability. I have a powerful desktop to do any intensive things (including playing graphic intensive games) that I want to do, so I don't really expect the netbook to do anything of that kind. The primary purpose of netbook was to do something on the go - And the main features of the netbook that I feel you should go for, are battery life, weight and cost. Looks etc. are important, but not the main criteria. The trackpad is a little small, but is not at all a hinderance that I thought it would be.

Operating Systems
This model came pre installed with Windows XP and Android. If you are like me, then you will pretty soon feel Android to be very fast but useless. The only purpose you can use Android is to quickly boot and check your mail or do something on the net. However, Windows XP boots a few seconds later, so I never used Android. Instead, I installed Ubuntu Netbook Remix [UNR] Edition. Now this is a good idea for all of you. This version is optimised for netbooks and is very fast. You can install it like an application from inside windows, and remove from inside windows like any other application. So, I think you should go for it - Read more about it here. (How to install? Read in subsequent section)

How to install new operating system?
If you want to install Ubuntu Netbook Remix edition, download it first in the ISO format. If you want to install it through Windows, then you can just mount it on your Virtual CD drive (Netbooks don't have a built in CD drive) You can use Daemon tools or PowerISO for this. Then you can just run the wizard, and you are done. If you want to instead run a live version (To try without making any changes to your system) then first download UNetbootin (Download from here) and run the software. Plug in your USB drive, and it will make your USB drive bootable. It doesn't have to be UNR only, any other Linux distro will do. Restart your Netbook, and press F2 in the first screen to enter the BIOS screen. Go to the boot menu, and change the order to Boot from USB HDD first. Save and exit. Make sure to plug in your USB drive to boot from it the next time it starts.

Please Note
It is always better to take a backup of your default factory settings. Acer recommends putting in a USB CD/DVD writer and taking your backup though the Acer eRecovery Management tool which will take backup. If you lose your recovery partition (explained shortly) you can use this to restore your system. Normally, if your system fails, you can always press F10 just when the system starts and restore it to factory settings (you will lose all your data). Remember that the recovery system is on a hidden partition in your hard disk. So, if you format you hard disk, you will lose all your data, including factory setting recovery part. It is better to take a back up of all your data (including the hidden partition using eRecovery management tool) before experimenting too much.

It came with several applications pre-installed. Many of them are useless or annoying (mostly both). McAfee antivirus with a short expiration date which keeps telling you that again and again. Microsoft Office 2007 with a short expiration date. Many cute games (loads of fun - timepass) which can each be played not more than 60 minutes (30 mins today and 30 tomorrow means game over - forever) after which you have to purchase them. There were some useful software like Adobe reader, Google Desktop, Windows Live products etc. that also come preloaded. I installed some applications and found absolutely no lag in speed.

Launchy is one of the coolest apps you can download for your netbook.

Google Desktop Search is also amazing, however, disable the persistent search bar, and use the Ctrl button twice hotkey instead to get more space and search results quickly.

Use AVG Free Edition and Open Office in case you don't want to invest on software.

Buying a netbook is not expensive, so buying additional hardware for it is not prudent. I connected my desktop and netbook via the netbook and was able to share the DVD drive of my desktop, along with files etc. It is a very simple process, and just in case you were thinking of buying some extra hardware, see if you can manage through networking. As of now, you cannot use desktop dvd drive for eRecovery management backups. However, you can do other type of burning. Sharing the CD drive gives you the ability to read from netbook. However, if you want to burn, you have to use Alcohol 120% software on your desktop, and Microsoft iSCSI software on your netbook. There is an excellent tutorial here

Misc. points
The netbook didn't heat up much, and was very quiet. However, remember that it has a radiator on the left, and sucks air from the bottom. So, just try to avoid blocking the air holes at the bottom.

You can consider disabling certain toolbars to ensure a greater viewing area. My computer, IE, etc. come with less commonly used toolbars disabled.

Netbooks with Windows 7 starter edition are supposed to be really good. Do try them out.

You can see how a netbook feels like by visiting a showroom such as Staples (opposite Big Bazaar, which is next to The Forum Mall in Koramangala)

Enjoy your netbook :-)

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Sunday, 22 November 2009

Google Wave - Will it just be a big splash?

Swami Nikhilaananda said :
"It is always wise to test the waters before you surf the wave"

Google is supposed to be one of the most innovative companies, a company that has decided to challenge reigning champion Microsoft head on, a company that plans to make the entire world to shrink even more using the internet. The internet definitely holds great promise - But will it truly completely eliminate all fat clients? Not in the next few years I can bet... In fact, I don't think that the internet will replace local software ever (unless something totally radical happens) and this is the reason why I don't think Google Chrome will rout Microsoft Windows... If anyone has a chance of dethroning Microsoft, it has to be either Linux or Apple Mac OSX. But definitely not Chrome.

Google's wave is the newest of their products that have been creating a lot of buzz for quite some time now. It was a product that made a lot of people to sit and wonder when the question "How would the email be if it was invented today" was asked. Emails have come a long way, and that blended with chat is a fantastic way of communicating. And Google definitely deserves credit for merging the two into a browser, and giving us unlimited space first. (Yahoo and Microsoft only followed their lead) However, all was well till then. And then *SPLASH* came wave...

I was longing for a wave invite for a long time. Iwas constantly watching different videos and reading opinions. But I slowly realised that wave is not a lot different from what email or chat is... In a way, I like the existing technology a lot better than this new thing. Don't call me biased, and don't say that I did not give it a try. Wave definitely has several great features. Here are the things that I found which were not to my liking... [Many limitations may be due to its being a preview or maybe they are not yet activated - I may have made some mistakes here and there, do let me know if you find any, so that I can correct myself amd update my knowledge and this post]

Firstly, I was unable to send myself a mail from some other account (Gmail account and Yahoo account). Which means, if I use wave right now, I cannot receive any mails. Only other people who are in wave appear in my contacts. And it also subsequently told me that I cannot communicate with a person who is not on Wave. This may be a temporary issue. But basically, it is one which prevents me from completely migrating to wave. I cannot communicate with a non wave user as of now.

Wave is supposed to be real time. The video posted by Google which shows the creators of wave talking in real time was very interesting. However, this didn't run well on our systems - perhaps the internet connection was slow? I don't know - we actually have significantly fast internet connection for chat and browsing, but apparently not fast enough for wave to show it in real time. I don't know if this is an issue with wave or my internet connection...

Next, a wave is supposed to be like a small mail or an IM. Now, people can reply to waves. They have showed in the video that the advantage of a wave is that edits can be made anywhere in the wave by whoever is in the wave. I didn't like this feature because after some time, we start losing track of who is doing what and where... You may say - go for the time line feature... But I think that would defeat the purpose of real time if I kept scrolling back and forth in time. In conventional chat, all messages were coming at the very end of the chat window which makes it convenient for us to see and keep track at only one point. With wave, things are growing all over the place... Mind you, I am talking about just one wave with minimum two people. Imagine how it will be when you have some four people chatting with you in multiple waves, with content growing in the middle and at the end and all over... You have to keep going up and down, left and right...

The above feature is only useful if we are having a collaborative discussion, which is not very much in real time. Now let us say I write some points, with questions. My friend can come, write answers, and perhaps make some corrections a little later... and then someone else can do something a little later. So, when I come back to this wave a lot later, I will be able to see all the changes made, and now I can use the timeline feature to see how the wave developed.

Another feature I didn't like was that older waves when updated, didn't come to the top. So, you can't expect me to go up and down to see if some really old wave got updated (is this a bug or a feature?)

And wave doesn't work in IE unless I install Chrome Frame :O How can you design something that doesn't work in the most used browser in the world? (Oh Firefox fans, IE still dominates in terms of number of users - I am not saying IE is better, but IE numbers are higher) Somehow, I am sceptical of using Chrome Frame (is this a ploy to get Chrome numbers higher?) and so I tried it out on Firefox.

While conventional IMs go across when I type a message and press Enter, wave insists on typing Shift + Enter... If this is not the IM equivalent and instead is the mail equivalent, someone please enlighten me about it. Ctrl + Enter on the other hand, creates a sub reply...

Wave may become the next big thing after Google fixes their issues. After all, it is still a baby and is just out... But apart from some ordinary annoyances like being able to communicate with wave users only (which is definitely a temporary problem), other issues like being able to make changes all over the place, etc. are all design features which will not go away. These are definitely things which would prove to be deterrants, at least for ordinary users like myself. But with the current set of features (which I saw in Google's video and used some myself) I am not very impressed and feel that wave will take a lot more time to wash away current technology. Right now, it is only a splash...

Friday, 6 November 2009

To each his own

Swami Gulagulaananda challenged

"It's time to have the greatest discussion now for a face-off... I dare all religious 'experts' to come here and put your thoughts across"

The reason I am writing this article is simple - I recently got some scraps on Orkut from a person who calls himself (montse) Jesus Loves You. And they were some really interesting scraps. They are pasted here as is:

(montse) Jesus:

hi i don't know u, but all i have to say is that Jesus loves you, died for ur sins
believe Jesus for eternity


Hi, I don't know you - But I want to tell you that Sri Krishna loves you - Read the Bhagavad Gita and free yourself from the cycle of rebirth. Believe in Him.

(montse) Jesus:

but none died for your sins except Jesus, you should receive your salvation only by believing Jesus as your saviour


See, that's where you are wrong - You start off with the assumption that one has to die for someone else's sins. Sri Krishna makes it clear that you can repent for your sins and walk to path of Dharma by accepting Sri Krishna in your heart who didn't have to die (couldn't die) as He was God Himself

(montse) Jesus:

unfortunatley you are wrong, but you cannot realise it, cause the truth been hidden to you and Jesus Christ is the truth,way & the life, the truth'll set you free,
bye friend. hope this's my last message,God Bless you.

(montse) Jesus:

remember Jesus loves you forever none could replace it


Think about it logically. If Jesus is the truth, why is he hidden from me? If he wanted me to realise it, he should have come forth. The problem with you is that you think that Jesus is the only one. Sri Krishna never said "Worship ONLY me"

Sri Krishna, in the Gita says that you can attain salvation through many paths - though in the end, it all comes to Him. One of the paths is faith, one is righteousness, Dharma and good behaviour, and so on... So, your belief and faith in Jesus will also take you to Sri Krishna in the end - Continue to believe in Jesus, my friend... Sri Krishna loves you.

Clearly the conversation appears like two people who are saying their religions are nicer. However, if you clearly look at it - This person montse started this discussion. He comes to me saying that Jesus is the only way to heaven. This is one thing that ALWAYS puts me off. These people (He is not the first one to tell me this - remember the priest who played chess?) start their arguments and debates by saying "I am right, Jesus is God, and you are wrong" ... Why? Is it that hard for these people to accept that God is one, and we have different means of reaching Him? Apparently it is very hard for them to accept this - in fact, impossible.

And to top this, this guy's friend comes to me and says that I have to read the Bible to realise why this guy is speaking the truth. This is his message to me, and I quote...
Hi Nik
I saw ure scarp in one of my friend's scrap book.
If you're ready for a healthy debate, then scrap back.
To understand Christianity, you have to read the bible. Then you'll know why man was created and what sin is, how sin was atoned for the Israelites through blood shed of cattles. What happened when God came himself in flesh and died for mankind's sins once and for all. The supreme sacrifice which nobody could do or will do. This is the message of love Christians profess.
Why is there no evidence about Krishna. Krishna is a myth created by a person long back. He is nothing but an idol made of stone/metal.
I am an Indian and believe all religions are important for respective individuals. But I wouldn't agree that religions are same. Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation.
If you truly seek Him, you will find Him. But look for Him earnestly. Read the bible like how you would read any book and try to understand. God will show you the way.
You will understand the prophecies mentioned in the bible and realize how many of them have been fulfilled. You will know how the world is going to end with the second coming of Lord Jesus Christ.
Dear friend, have you ever wondered why missionaries worldwide are ready even to sacrifice their is to spread the good news - the message of love to all the world. No other religion has this message.
If God has given you the intelligence then search for the true living God.

Obviously a Christian believer will ask me to believe what he believes - But what puts me off is his insulting the God we believe in., which is ridiculous. Have you ever wondered what will happen if the ONE thing that you have been believing all your life, turns out to be false? That's what happens to people who shut their eyes, and simply follow what is being told to them like blind sheep. The Church said that the earth was flat, and that the sun is revolving around the earth. So I guess we have to believe it now, because the "Church" told me and ask the scientists who send expensive equipment to space to go to hell (clearly they are wasting precious resources since the church has already told us)

All these people who keep asking me to read the Bible have never once read the Bhagavad Gita or the Vedas themselves... Why? The reason is because - Hey, the Bible is right. Why go elsewhere? Why can't they accept the fact that maybe others are already satisfied with what have? To each his own... I believe in Krishna and you believe in Jesus - So make peace with it. Don't go around saying that those who don't believe in Jesus are heretics and will go to hell - That's your belief which you are entitled to have, but don't enforce it on others. These are the kinds of arguments that often trigger violence in India which believes in Secularism. And this concept of secularism is clearly not entering the minds of people who blindly argue without being rational, open or logical. If you look around, you will not see a single Hindu who says "Worship only Krishna" including me. But you will see scores of people (two in this post and one chess-playing priest) who ask others to get converted. Shame on you.

The way in which these people argue with confidence is like they actually have seen or understood. What makes matters worse is that these people are not even scholars and continue to argue like they know it all. They don't know the size and depth of the Vedas - everything from metaphysics to nuclear technology has been mentioned in the various Hindu scriptures. But we don't go around flaunting it. The time has come for Hindus to become more vocal - We will NOT take this kind of crap from anyone who speaks without knowledge. First read all Hindu scriptures and then talk. To talk with ignorance is something all of us can do - I can talk about rocket science or genetic engineering!

If you have any comments to make - do post them here. Let us have a healthy debate. Remember, I am not saying I am better or that you are not. I reiterate "To each his own". I am saying this because a debate should always consider that the other person is correct, and then logically and conclusively prove them to be wrong. Not saying in the beginning - I am right, you are wrong, problem solved. So, only mature people are allowed to participate in this debate

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