Posted in General, Technology

Music sans wires

It was the eve of Christmas 2015 and little did I know that I would walk into, of all the places in the mall, The Bose Store. Bose is not my favourite. I just feel they are too pricey and sickeningly lifestylish. You can get better sounding gear for less or same price.

But, Life always surprises you and so did the Bose Soundtouch series Wireless speakers. Beware that this is only an user opinion and not an expert review. After using it for nearly 8 months now, I can only say that the Bose Soundtouch 10 wireless music system is an integral part of my daily music experience.

cq5dam-web-320-320(Courtesy: Bose India)

It was quite a lucky encounter actually as I took the Soundtouch 10, 20 and 30 for a spin. 10 is the cheapest and 20 is pricier with Display unit while 30 is the humungous hulk. I had points from my credit card and it was redeemable at the store directly. I couldn’t hesitate purchasing the 10 as I took it for some spin with Hello by Adele, Mazhai vara poguthe from Yennai Arindhal and the Theri theme.

Strengths:

  1. Deep rich bass for the size of a dictionary and weight of just over a kilo. The booms in Theri theme went so deep and wide from the rear firing port. Quite unexpected.
  2. Voice and mids were quite stable at normal volumes – 50 to 60%, although going above that could be taxing to ears. But surprisingly it sounds very rich for such a small system. Perfect enough for Ilaiyaraaja Music.
  3. Highs could beg for more. But for casual listening from a small aesthetically shaped unit that can blend over your bed side table or your book shelf, this is plenty you can get. Beatles, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd etc do sound well enough.
  4. Apparently this is the “Best Value” Wifi/bluetooth enabled speaker in the market. Sonos or other similar brands would cost higher and not easily available here in India.
  5. Presets. I just love them. You can mark an album or playlist to each number on top and it will simply play it when you choose any of it. Very handy feature and I have an album set for each selection.
  6. It does Flac/Alac and High res – 24/96. Who would have thought ! If your wifi signal is weak it may stutter but otherwise it streams it rather beautifully and definitely sounds “hi-res”ish !

Weakness:

  1. I felt after a few months of usage, I could have got the 20 which has the display with clock and artists/song. The 20 also sounds richer and better.
  2. Bose probably doesn’t want to pay Apple, so they had stopped Airplay from this version on. This I miss badly as I have to bluetooth it instead of Airplay which is better streaming quality.
  3. No support for Apple music. Again I have to Bluetooth it. Give me a choice and I don’t want to use Bluetooth at all for my Music, but at least it is better that Bose has done a decent job to tune it better.

Overall, this is a good music system for your Bedroom/study room listening. Obviously you can buy more than one to make it Multi room listening, but I just haven’t started believing in the euphoria of Multi room listening yet !

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Posted in Family, Technology

Happiness from iPod and a Water Fountain

It was a cloudy saturday evening and we decided to go off on a mission to get some groceries done for the week. After finishing the ordeal that is called Grocery shopping, we thought we might want to check out the new Apple store in our area. This store has been opened up recently and we never got the time or need to drop in, until now. Apple has released a new iPod Nano and iPod Touch and we thought we could test drive it at the store. We drove around looking for the store for a few minutes, our eyes lying on several different things trying to locate a big Apple logo. My 1.5 year old daughter saw the big Apple logo sign first and said “Apple!” and that’s how we found the store. The store was slightly bigger than the one at Country Club Plaza in Kansas city.

How thin can an iPod be?

Apple has put iPod Nano on a strict fat free diet. It has squeezed the jelly out of it using a sugarcane juice maker. Then using a Chappati rolling stick, normally used by wives to beat the crap out of husbands, they have rolled the iPod Nano sideways to give it a thin oval look. This thing was so thin and light that if someone stood upside down in the store on his index fingers, I would have said “huh! Big deal!”.

The screen was brilliant and bright and the interface response time was quick. The colors were fantastic and I loved the Orange, Yellow and Silver of the lot. The screen is too small for playing a video, so it is probably just for occasional peeking and wouldn’t be usable for full length TV Shows or Movies.

The new iPod Nano shuffles beautifully. You just shake the iPod and it plays the next song in the shuffle line. Remember the days when you used to beat the top of your radio to get a clear reception, well this is sorta like that. This is a cool new feature, I don’t have to look at the screen and just have to shake it to listen to a random next song.

Available in 8GB for $149 and 16GB for $199.

Me: “I love it. I want it one now, honey! Can I buy this 8GB one? It is just $149”                                                                     (Picture: http://www.apple.com)

Wife: “You already have a perfectly good iPod Nano!”

Me: “But this is new. Owning this will make me the happiest man, please, pretty please! See even the daughter is loving the iPod.”

My daughter was getting all curious and attempting her minority report stunt to grab hold of the iPods lying on the table. She was very curious looking at all the colorful ipods.

For Bargain Hunters, I saw the older iPod Nanos at 4GB- $99 and 8GB – $129. Just put a word to your relative in US heading to a vacation in India, but don’t point them to this blog!

iPods are also Touchy!

(Picture – http://www.apple.com)

When you get rid of the phone component in the iPhone, you get the iPod Touch. The new iPod Touch is even more thinner than it’s predecessor. Thin is becoming a feature now, a fashionable demand. Whenever you think how much thinner can it get, Apple shows it in the next version of the iPod. iPod touch has WiFi and can do email, Web browsing, Games, Applications and YouTube. In the first version of the iPod touch it was difficult for me to type on the touch screen, but this new version seems much more easier to type and I was quite surprised by that. I wonder what changed, perhaps the software.

YouTube is the key here. It can be very addicting especially due to the simple and cool YouTube user interface on the iPod Touch. So I searched and watched this song and it came out really well on the device.

I also played this song, one of my daughter’s favourite. She always laughs whenever she sees Rajinikanth on the screen. Perhaps, she thinks that he is a comedian and he is always funny, especially due to this song.

She smiled wide as she saw Rajinikanth dance for the Style number in Sivaji.

Me: “This is a cool iPod. I think we can buy this. I don’t want the iPod Nano, I will have this one. It is just $229 and it will make me very happy.”

Wife: “You keep changing your mind!”

My daugther concurred with me as she was now all stimulated to grab hold of the iPod touch playing Rajinikanth’s song on Youtube.

We finished our window shopping and then came out of the store. It was a cool dark evening and the fountain just by the store was glittering beautifully in the halogen light coming from inside the fountain. We stood there for a while to enjoy a calm moment, a gentle breeze, sound of the water flowing in the fountain. It was a happy moment to just look at the fountain in silence.

I didn’t want to buy it and have it for myself, but it made me happy. It wasn’t a cool iPod with cool features, but it made me happy. My daugther was agreeing with me as she smiled wide looking at the water and the light and making attempts to try and catch the flowing water.

I realized two things:

1. Happiness is a temporary feeling that shifts from one thing to another that you like.

2. Happiness is not just in buying cool things but Happiness is in the way you like something around you.

It is amazing to see the wisdom that a child brings to you.

Posted in Music, Technology

One Act Play: Techno Wizards of Time

Characters:

Dinesh – Yours Truly.

Dinesh’s Wife.

Marconi – The guy who invented Radio.

J.L Baird – The one who gave us TV.

Time: Late evening on a Summer day.

Place: Dinesh’s Apartment.

It was a relaxing evening, I sipped a cup of tea and parked myself on the couch with Remote control on one hand. I was browsing through the TV channels, finishing up my tea with noises of daughter crashing items in dishwasher and wife asking me to take her away from there.

Suddenly, a bolt of lightning struck outside the apartment and two men appeared. The men walked the corridor and disappeared into the entrance as I was watching them from my patio door. Within 2 seconds I heard a knock at my door. A look at the peep hole showed those two men standing outside with one man restlessly standing. I opened the door for them:

Me: “Hi, Can I help you”

Restless man: “Can I use your restroom please? very urgent”

Another man: “Hi, I am Baird, Inventor of Television and he is Marconi Inventor of Radio.”

Me: “Yeah right!”

(TV Background: In a startling turn around of events, Steve Wozniak, the Co Founder of Apple inc, disappeared from his home. He is unreachable on his cell phone and no one knows where he is. He seems to be missing)

Marconi: “Please believe us, I need to pee. Here is a 100 dollars!”

I push the money away and politely ask him to enter in to use the Restroom.

Me: “So How did you guys get here?” I asked Baird.

Baird: “Oh, Marconi came to my home and we hopped in this time machine that he brought and We came straight to your home, since you were the chosen one.”

Baird was pointing me to a Hummer that was parked in front of the building.

Me: “That’s a Hummer!”

Marconi walks out of the restroom as I exclaim that.

Marconi: “I know, It was modified into a time machine by a great computer engineer.”

I was about to ask who was that great computer engineer but Baird bends down and exclaims at my TV.

Baird: “So this is a high definition TV? This looks very sharp. I am glad my concept has come a long way. This is so slim, and whoa that’s a lot of wires in the back”

Me: “Actually there better and bigger TVs, this is just a small one 26 inch, middle of the line”

Marconi interrupts Baird’s curiosity.

Marconi: “We just wanted to travel in time and see how things have advanced. Do you listen to Radio?”

Me: “Not much. I used to, but now I have a huge collection of Music library, so I don’t need a radio. Besides, they just talk too much on the radio before playing any sensible song. I listen to online radio though!”

Baird is still looking around my TV set and admiring the picture quality.

Marconi: “Online Radio? What is that?”

Me: “You see I come from India and the language from where I come from is Tamil. I like to keep tab of a few online Tamil Radios and listen to them once a while. They play random songs without any commercial interruptions.”

Marconi: “How do you listen to it?”

Me: “Well it’s easy really. I go to the site where I have the internet link for the radio and download a little pls file. Usually they call it launch.pls. A Pls file is a continuously streaming playlist file. I then add that file to iTunes on my computer. iTunes is a easy to use Media Juke box. iTunes then syncs the file to my Apple TV in the living room and voila, I can now listen to Internet Radio on my TV”

Marconi: “Radio on TV sounds very interesting! Baird, We are now put together, did you see!”

Baird rises from his squat position, as he finishes up examining the TV.

Baird: “I am thrilled to hear this. My friend Marconi, I can’t believe how times have changed and how people are putting these things to use in various ways.” he turns towards me as he shakes hands with Marconi and pats his shoulder, “So, what radio stations do you listen to?”

Me: “Oh, I love Geethams. They play classic Tamil Ilayaraja songs all day interluded with some new numbers here and there. They are very focused on playing melodious songs, a good day-starter and night-put-to-sleeper.

I like Jore FM a bit, because they play with a request queue and it is interesting to see what people request.

Mudhal FM and Nila FM are also good and play nice songs. Even though I have a lot of songs in my library, Once a while I like to enjoy the randomness and the sense of not knowing what is going to play next. It is exciting and Fun to listen to, especially that I can sit in my living room and do it.”

Marconi: “This is so fun to talk about. I love what you are doing and we are glad that our inventions have been put to great use. We must now take leave. Thank you for your time!”

Marconi and Baird slowly walk towards the door and open it, I stop them for a question.

Me: “Can I ask you who invented your time machine?”

Marconi: “One of the greatest Computer Engineer of your times, Mr. Steven Wozniak, Co founder of Apple Inc. He came to my house a few days back and wanted to tinker with my Radio Invention and in return I got to travel in his time machine into the future! I picked up Baird on the way”

My mouth was open but unable to utter a word in bewilderment. Marconi and Baird looked at me with a smile and waved good bye. I was still trying to come out of bewilderment and said, “Goodbye to you both, It was nice meeting you”

Marconi & Baird: “Nice meeting you too, and oh what is your name?”

Me: “Dinesh!”

Marconi and Baird kept walking away in the pavement towards their time machine.

Marconi: “What? I can’t hear your name”

There was a roaring sound in the background and I was shouting my name as Diiinnnneessshhh. Marconi and Baird hopped onto the Hummer and disappeared in a flash of light towards the sky. I didn’t know if they got my name, but I am now hearing someone yelling my name at me. Then came a huge shake of my shoulders followed by another yelling Diiinnnesssshhhhh.

It was my wife: “You dozed off after you had the tea. Were you dreaming?”

Me (Yawning): “I guess. I dreamed like Mungerilal from Mungerilal ke Haseen Sapne!”

Wife: “You are weird, come down now, dinner is ready!”

We picked our plates and started having dinner as we alternatively fed our daughter from our plates with the music of Ilayaraja from Geetham Radio softly playing in the Background.

It is amazing to see how technology has grown over the years. A Haiku for this realization:

Sound of Radio,

Picture in Television,

Time caused their fusion!

PS: The Haiku that I wrote before are not really Haikus. Haiku is supposed to have 5-7-5 syllables structure and I was doing 3-5-3 for some reason. So it was just Hai, not Haiku. I apologize for this mistake, from now on I will have it in the proper format.

PPS: This is an arbitrarily weird attempt at showing that one can listen to Internet Radio on your TV using Apple TV. Of course I could have simply outlined the steps like a tech blog, but since this was a personal blog I spiced it up by bringing Marconi, Baird, asked Steve Woz to convert a Hummer into Time Machine and reminded myself of the old Doordarshan serial Mungerilal ke Haseen Sapne. I had fun writing this and I hope you enjoyed reading it 🙂

Posted in Technology

Quick Look: Google Chrome

Google Chrome is the new browser out of Google Inc. The beta version of the browser is available for download here. Here are some quick points after some brief usage of the browser (It is not a technical review):

1. Chrome is a beautiful color for a car and a fantastic super cool name for a browser. I like the name and I like the simplistic blue bordered window.

2. It is quick, seriously. I didn’t do any sort of bench mark testing but by the look of it I feel Chrome can be a serious competitor to Safari when it comes to page rendering. We can probably wait for Arstechnica or a Engadget review for this to know the exact detail. The reason for this quick rendering is it runs on Webkit, the same base as Safari.

3. Google Chrome is here because of Android, Google’s Cellphone OS just the way Safari is released for Windows due to iPhone. Chrome is released so that Webmasters can work on making their site work well with the new browser, before the Android phones are out.

4. Google wins in simplicity. The first time I saw google homepage with nothing but a search box and a couple of buttons, it stood out in stark contrast with a cluttered Yahoo homepage. I loved it and ever since I had been a Google user. Chrome looks simple, in fact so simple that there is no File menu on top, just like Google Chat. The minimalist design gives you two drop down buttons – Settings and Bookmarks. What else do you need really?

5. You can type on the address bar itself and search in Google (or any other search engine that you set up).

6. Whenever you open up a new Tab, it shows a list of pages that you most visited and a list of bookmarks on the right side. This comes in very handy as you can quickly select the page you want to go to. The response for the click on this page is a little slow sometimes. It could be because of the Beta version.

7. As a long time Firefox user, I couldn’t give up Firefox for Safari on Windows due to the extensions that Firefox supports. Chrome doesn’t have extensions either, So I will mostly be using Chrome to play around for now. I have to play neutral and wait and watch until I can decide if I can permanently switch to Chrome on Windows. For Mac, I am not giving up Safari.

8. Bookmarks are strategically placed on the bookmarks bar itself. So you don’t have to go around to a menu and choose other bookmarks not on the bookmark bar.

9. Settings is cool. It only offers 3 categories – Basics, Minor Tweaks, Under the hood. Typical google, usage of layman terms.

Overall, from a usage of about an hour or so, I like Chrome and I will be using it as my second browser. I will be waiting for Chrome for Mac and will also be looking out for a good detailed review of the browser by the technical folks. Let’s see how it fares.

P.S: It has to be a coincidence that Google released Chrome right on the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi, a Hindu festival. Happy Ganesh Chaturthi!

Posted in Technology

Formula Zero emissions

Motor racing is an expensive sport with lots of fuel burnt during practice and the race. The fuel used are usually high octane highly refined gasoline and we all know gasoline burnt amounts to more CO2 in the atmosphere. I love motor racing with a sportsman hat, but when I wear the earthly environment-friendly hat it irks me a bit whenever I see the amount of fuel that goes into the Formula 1 car during the pit stop. Even more irritating is when a minor mistake leads to a fire on the fuel tank door during the pit stop thereby burning off some fuel externally. 2008 F1 season has seen it happening more often. So in effect I have two alter egos within myself that fights everyday – a motor sports loving heart pounding at 18,000 RPM fighting against an Earth friendly brain at Rest. Battle of the minds are always difficult to handle.

But I see a ray of hope from the past few days. The future of Motor racing could be altered into zero emissions by this single most significant event. Hydrogen powered Fuel cells emit nothing but water (H2O) when burnt to convert into electrcity. Formula Zero (The website is in Dutch) is a Go Kart racing championship with cars built with Hydrogen powered fuel cells. Sure, the cars won’t do top speeds of 330 Kmph at 18,000 RPM but with much more improvement in Hydrogen Fuel cell technology we could do that speed.

A fuel cell is an electrochemical conversion device. It produces electricity from fuel (on the anode side) and an oxidant (on the cathode side), which react in the presence of an electrolyte.

(Picture: http://www.formulazero.nl)

The first ever Hydrogen powered Car racing happened last weekend at Rotterdam, Netherlands. The wise used to say “A Journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step”. I am glad that the first step in environment friendly racing has been taken. As the interest grows in Green racing the current Formula zero class is expected to grow to Formula 3 very soon. Also, the Formula zero is already recognized by the motor sport governing body FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile).

Dubbed the Formula Zero championship, the contest pitted teams from five countries against each other in a zero-emissions go-kart race. Each team’s entry was powered by a commercial fuel cell that produces electricity from hydrogen. A Dutch team won the endurance event, while a Spanish team clinched the award for fastest lap.

So what does this mean to Green Motor sporting and in effect leading to more Green cars?

In one word I will say it as Sponsorship. With sponsorship you will have the much needed funding to get the sport to higher levels. Funding is used to do more research on the car components and build faster, efficient and cheaper engines and fuel cell technology. Improvements in Racing always ties down to usage of those technology in parts by commercial vehicle makers. This will make way for cheaper and more efficient electric and fuel cell cars for the road. If popular car makers like Mercedes, BMW, Toyota, Honda enter this racing as teams then the technology will be more accessible for these auto makers and in turn will be easier for them to put it to use for commercial purposes.

As it grows faster and reaches Formula 3 and perhaps Formula 1 someday, Motor Racing can finally give up on oil and become a completely environment friendly sport. This is my dream and until this dream materializes my mind will be at constant battle.

In other news, MDI’s (Motor Development International) Air Car is beginning to see some light (It is out in the streets, probably for test rides) and getting ready for 2009 launch in France. This car runs on compressed air which is something that can be easily made available using existing Air Compressor machines (similar to the one that fills air in tyres). I believe Tata has some investment (Beware: Old News!) and involvement with this company and who knows we might see a Tata Indicair or Nano-air soon!

The car boasts a 50 mile range running off of compressed air, and can stretch that further by heating up the air with another power source.

So if you have to go beyond 50 miles you should either start blowing air into the fuel tank with your mouth or use the power of Flatulence caused by Sambar/Vada Paav. Obviously don’t do it alternatively!

Posted in Technology

Invisibility Cloak by bending light

An object is seen by the light that it reflects, which is why we cannot see anything in a pitch dark room. So to make oneself invisible all you have to do is stop reflecting light. This is exactly what the researchers have found, a material that can bend light around a 3D object (Via Engadget) using the concept of refraction. But what I do not understand is if the material can bend the light around it, how will we able to look at objects just behind the hiding person, to make it transparent? Will that light not get bent by the cloak on the hiding person? Does that mean we will be seeing a dark patch where the hiding person is standing with the objects behind him appearing around him due to the light bending?

In anycase an invisibility cloak will not be availble to you tomorrow at Burma Bazaar as things have only started (in Nano scale). But what if it is available? What if you have a Sirius Black like God Father who gifts the Harry Potter in You with a Invisibility cloak for Diwali/Christmas/Ramzan/Athiest’s Gift giving festival etc., What will you do with it, other than doing a Peeping tom or Peeping Mary?

I will use it enter the secret chambers of 1 infinite loop where all the future Apple gadgets are designed and prototyped. We always love to take a peek at Future iPhone, iPods and Macs. I can then blog with a spooky name, release Spy shots of future gadgets and get famous. Of course I have to wait for Apple to create the Super user-friendly touch screen based Invisibility Cloak before I can use it.

Do you have any Interesting/Weird/Whacky idea with your Imaginary Invisibility Cloak to share?

Posted in Technology

iPhone 3G Release date for India

According to Technews the iPhone release date for India will be August 22nd. (See list of countries at TUAW).

Technews says that the gadget will be priced at around Rs. 20,000 (Approx USD 500). This is not a bad price at all in India, in fact it is very competitive in my opinion. I remember 5 years back spending Rs. 10,000 on a Color Screen Sony Ericsson phone (Yes, Color screen was the latest technology during that time). I used to play Alien Ship on that phone so madly.

Anyway, Rs. 10,000 for a color screen phone back then and Rs. 20,000 for the iPhone now is a good deal. I have heard a lot through my friends that people in India spend in the order of 35 to 40K Rupees for phones, so considering that iPhone will actually be a midrange priced, if at all it is priced at Rs. 20,000. If you have any opinions on this, Please feel free to share it with me.

To count down the days to the release of iPhone in India I have 2 interesting posts for you from my archive:

iPhone’s effect in India

iPhone Line (Queues) in India

Update: It seems iPhone 3G is heard to cost a freaking 30 grand rupees in India. I am not sure how many would be interested in it if it is priced this high, given that 3G doesn’t exist in India.