Friday, July 30, 2010

A swadesi browser

Tired of the Manga comic and James Bond themes on your browser? Well, now you can now go Desi and have Uttam Kumar or Mughal-e-Azam in the backdrop of your browser, all thanks to the Epic, the first truly Indian browser.
Don’t start thinking that the Epic is just some old browser tweaked with a bunch of Indian themes and skins. Actually, it is a bit more than a browser and seems to harbour ambitions of pushing your OS to the background, much like what the Google Chrome is planning for the world. This is evident from the fact that the browser is in full-screen mode in default. But then you realise that you don’t need to click the Start menu or the taskbar as most of what you need is there on the browser itself.

Alok Bhardwaj, CEO and Founder of Bangalore-based Hidden Reflex which developed the browser, says the browser is the most important and most-used software on a computer, but still hasn’t seen a design or functionality change in 15 years. So while browsers like Firefox, Flock and Songbird have been trying to add unique functions to the browser, Epic has gone a step ahead by giving users one-click access to most of what they would do on a computer.
Epic’s biggest tool towards this end is the sidebar, a concept that seems to be making its debut with the browser. The sidebar features almost everything you need, even access to My Computer, a ‘To do’ and Timer application, customised apps and even an inbuilt anti-virus. 

But the flavour of the browser is definitely India. Alok says, “We felt the browser should do more for you and decided to focus on delivering a product especially for the Indian market. One key inspiration was to develop a tool that could help Indian language conversation move online. At present, almost all Indian Internet activity is limited to English, but with Epic, Hindi and regional language speakers can effortlessly share their thoughts online.”
This is where the Indic text capabilities come into play. Every time you type something on the browser, a drop box appears on the right giving you the option of transliterating the text into 12 Indian languages. “India is our USP. Users can chat, send e-mails, search, post comments and do everything in Indian languages using Epic,” explains Alok, a former Wall Street investment banker who founded Hidden Reflex in 2007 inspired by the open source model.
Since the browser also features a full-fledged word processing software, you can write in English and get the text transliterated to a language of your choice. “We built Epic Write because it just makes sense. You do all your research online and when you find something, the normal browser is inefficient as you have to copy, minimise browser, maximise Word and paste. In Epic, you just have to highlight the text and drag and drop it into the Epic Write tab,” explains Alok.
The browser also gives you Indian content on a platter. The India button on the top of the sidebar provides access to top news stories, trending topics and much more.
If that was not enough, there is the option of adding hundreds of local news, business and entertainment apps. “We have around 1,500 Indian themes and wallpapers representing every state and all aspects of our culture and society,” says Alok. Since, the Epic is powered by Mozilla, the 10,000-odd add-ons used for Firefox can be installed here too. The file back-up, web snippets, video playlists and other such user-friendly feature is also likely to find many takers.

For social networking junkies, and there seems to be quite a few of them these days, there are buttons and apps that link you directly to Facebook, Twitter and other sites. The apps display feeds and updates from the sites in a smaller sidebar on the left and hence there is no need to open them separately.
The other focus is on security and privacy. “Epic includes on-demand anti-virus scanning which can scan your whole system for viruses and malware as well as automated scanning of downloaded files. Epic provides anti-phishing protection via a bigger address bar with a bold domain name which helps users discern if they’re at or Epic also warns users when they’re about to visit a potentially dangerous website,” says Alok.
Then there is the one-click private data deletion button which also deletes Flash cookies, “the only browser that does so”. You can also shift to private browsing mode with the button on top.

Hidden Reflex claims there have had over 1.5 lakh downloads in the first five days of the launch. “We’re overwhelmed by the support we’ve received from India! Every three seconds someone in India is downloading Epic. ‘Epic browser’ and ‘Epic browser download’ have also been top search terms in India on Google and Yahoo,” Alok exults.
And from what we have seen so far, it’s time for the World to go Desi.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

When looks matter

Looks have always been one of its plus points. So much so, that if the laptop box has cow spots on it, you know there is a Gateway inside. This cult American company might now be part of an Asian success story called Acer, but that doesn’t mean it has let go its style.
One look at a Gateway laptop and you know there is a conscious effort to be different. For instance, the chrome feel, the distinct metallic look, all try and give the NV 49 an edge, at least when it comes to appearance. But looks can be deceiving, well, not always in a negative sense. For inside the all the chrome-induced brawn is a computer that works its heart out, a computer which know that just looks won’t get it anywhere in today’s world. 
To realise this all you have to do is work on the NV49 for a few minutes. The new Intel Core i3-350M processor along with the 3 GB DDR3 system memory try their best to rise up to all your expectations. The 14.0" HD 1366 x 768 pixel resolution LCD is also up to the task, thanks to Intel HD Graphics9 software. Though this is another laptop where the speakers are not what they should be – it’s time everyone made Mac the standard for sound – you will definitely enjoy watching movies on the cinematic 16:9 view.
But where this Gateway laptop scores over many of its competitors is with its proprietary Social Networks software. For those of you who have used the Flock browser, the interface will be familiar, for others this is a one-stop-shop for all you social networking needs. The application puts all your connections like Facebook, Flickr and YouTube in a messenger-like interface, letting you be a step ahead of your contacts, always.
The Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit too does its bit to ensure a good user experience. For a change the keyboards are not plasticky and hence have a good feel about them. Another nice touch is the multi-gesture touchpad which has been amalgamated into the metallic wrist-rest. There is an HDMI port as well as three USB ports for you connection needs and 320 GB HDD memory. To put it straight, the Gateway NV presents you another affordable option if you are looking for a dependable laptop.
But why has Acer bought in competition for itself? Acer India’s Chief Marketing Officer S Rajendran believes Gateway differentiates itself with its “uniquely styled products, equipped with state of the art technology”. He says all Acer wants to do is give Indian consumers access to high-quality technology-rich American products. But whether the Indian consumer accepts this American sweetheart only time will tell.
The Gateway NV49 is priced Rs 37,799.

The smart projector

A projector that can bring 3D to your home? Now, that's worth a look
Everyone these days wants a slice of the three-dimensional pie. Viewsonic too can’t afford to be left out and has come out with the PJD6381 3D-ready projector which uses the state-of-the-art DLP technology from Texas Instruments.

But don’t confuse this with a 3D projector, for this can’t convert existing content to three-dimension. But it does a decent job of reproducing 3D images and video, provided you have a good pair for polariser glasses – the old plastic red-blue goggles is just not as good. It is better to use the 3D as an additional feature, maybe to show off to friends or watch a movie, if you manage to get the required content.
Another thing that sets this projector apart is its extreme short throw ratio. This one can produce a 50-inch image from just 27-inches away. Which means you can literally project on to your wall from your computer table and get rid of the monitor. 

There are many presentation modes to choose from. While the movie mode gives a theatre like quality to the images, the daylight mode allows you to make sense of the display even in a bright room. Despite the 2,500 ANSI lumens projection power, the unit weighs just 2.68kg and boasts of a high 2400:1 contrast ratio.
The unit comes with two 5W speakers, which will be handy if you are watching a movie. There is a full-function remote with the kit, which also has a laser pointer to help you with presentations. The remote also has a backlit option to guide you in dark rooms.

The unit can project from multiple sources, automatically selecting which one has content that needs to be displayed. On the flip side, unlike earlier offerings from Viewsonic, this one does not sport an iPod dock and can’t project directly from USB or flash drives.
The Eco Mode, which has of late become a standard in projectors, extends the lamp life by up to 6,000 hours and drastically reduces noise output. The new off-to-go feature lets users simply unplug the projector and go without waiting for the usual cool down period. This also protects lamp life from sudden power blackout.
The Viewsonic PJD6381 projector costs Rs 66,399.

What is DLP?
The DLP projection system owes its powers to an optical semiconductor known as the DLP chip, invented by Dr Larry Hornbeck of Texas Instruments in 1987. Arguably the world's most sophisticated light switch, the DLP chip contains a rectangular array of up to 2 million hinge-mounted microscopic mirrors, each of which measure less than one-fifth the width of a human hair. When a DLP chip is coordinated with a digital video or graphic signal, a light source, and a projection lens, its mirrors can reflect a digital image onto a screen or other surface. The DLP chip combined with the advanced electronics that surround it produce stunning images and video that have redefined picture quality.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Fluid pleasure

Nothing compares to the pleasure of using a Mac, if you can afford it
THERE are times when even writers find themselves at a loss for words. For me, one of those moments came when I was fiddling around with the new upgraded 17” MacBook Pro. If there is one word that can summarise a Mac, it has to be fluid – from the unibody design to the lightning fast OS X Snow Leopard, everything about the MacBook has a liquid quality to it.

But before I go more gaga over this aluminum dream box, let me alert you that buying one of these is like getting yourself a yacht. It’s great to ride and show off, but you need to have serious moolah to even get to the wharf where it is anchored. Plus, if you are really attached to your Windows PC, an Apple might actually land you up in front of a doctor. The OS is very different from Windows, and despite its ease-of-use, takes some getting used to. But this is also the sort of thing you would want to get used to once you get a feel of it. 
The MacBook Pro might not be the thing for regular PC users, but if you are a photographer, graphic artist, musician or painter, this is as close to the Holy Grail as you can be. With the 2.53 GHz Intel Core i5 with 3MB shared L3 cache and Apple’s new automatic graphics switching technology that toggles seamlessly between powerful NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M and energy efficient Intel HD Graphics processors, this one renders pictures and graphics like no others. Pictures from my Digital SLR, which take half a minute to load on regular PCs, were zipping through in the iPhoto slideshow and clearer than I have ever seen them before. In fact, Mac claims its new Pro 15” and 17” are “50 per cent faster than the previous systems” – it sure feels so, especially during start-up and shut down.  
Push a DVD into the slot drive and you get another feel of this fluidity. While running a movie, push the cursor to the top of the screen to make a filmstrip of the chapters appear. You can just click the screenshots to jump to the part of the movie you want to see, with not even a second’s lag.
Then this also has the best pair of speakers I have ever encountered on a laptop. Even the constant drone of the vuvuzelas from the TV behind could not drown out the dialogues of the movie playing on the Mac.

If that doesn’t impress you, there is the glass Multi-Touch trackpad and illuminated keyboard, nestled in the midst of some serious wrist space, to give you second thoughts. The 17-inch widescreen LED-backlit 1920 x 1200 glossy display means there is also extra large real estate facing it. Then there is the built-in, 95WHr lithium polymer battery; which Apple promises can deliver “up to 10 hours of wireless productivity on a single charge and up to 1,000 recharges”. 
The 17” version features a 4GB 1066 MHz DDR3 SDRAM, expandable to 8GB, 500GB serial ATA hard drive with Sudden Motion Sensor, AirPort Extreme 802.11n wireless networking, Gigabit Ethernet port, a state-of-the art iSight video camera and three USB 2.0 ports for connectivity options. All you have to do now is apply for a bank loan so that you can pay Rs 1.36 lakh to get hold of this wonder machine. 

By the Taj

By the Taj
Originally uploaded by kamikazengp
I consider this among my best pics