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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Initial Impressions of the MacBook Pro

Being a PC wanderer, I have jumped the fence to the other side, where everything white is cool, premium and the "in thing".

I'm personally not a fan of the features to cost ratio of Apple products but somewhere down the line, Windows based products were really letting me down in terms of features and execution. Windows Vista was nearly a killer but it was killing the systems it was running on and not the competition. Windows 7 and Windows Mobile have come and saved the MS world for now.

To mention that I own a product from every major platform including RIM (yes, I still love my Blackberrys) is a feeling where I get to evaluate each of the platforms' strengths and weaknesses.

Since this post is about the MBP (MacBook Pro) I will concentrate on it for now. The version of MBP I have is from the refresh cycle of Spring 2011 where they came out with Core iX series of processors from Intel and featured the new Thunderbolt technology. Honeslty, I do not care much for it for now unless it matures and you start seeing a plethora of devices which use this technology.

Build :
The build of the unibody aluminium is impeccable. I have not seen HP Envy but would assume it to be of similar quality if not better. Dell Adamo was another one, but it never caught my attention. Plus, the aesthetic value of an Apple product cannot be underestimated.

The otherwise minimalist appearance is something worth showing off. The build is definitely a 4 out 5 rating.

Hardware :

Intel inside with the GMA video option is something which will be bypassed in today's Windows 7 world with sigh. 1 GB and 2 GB dedicated video cards are the norm.

But the Apple world places a premium on everything. The Core i5 build in the 13.3 inch MBP does not allow any video card customization and still costs equivalent to a Wintel laptop which would include 8 GB of RAM, Core i7 and any of the above mentioned video graphics with a Bluray burner.

But as they, fastest is always not the best. The utilization of the resources in a optimum manner is what is desired today.

I would from a Hardware perspective, give a 2 out of 5 to Apple even though considering they are among the premium laptops irrespective of the OS world.

OS X Lion :
Coming to the OS, I have upgraded to the recently released OS X codenamed "Lion" which has brought in excellent features of the iOS platform and combined some neat multitouch features which nearly eliminate any kind of lengthy scrolling or navigation key strokes.

A swipe to the right with 2 fingers takes you forward in a browser, 2 finger swipe to the left takes you back. Changing screens between Dashboard and active window is a matter of 3 finger swipe to the left or right.

The scrolling is something you have to get used to. There are no scrollbars and flicking to scroll is the  opposite to what you do in iPhone or iPad.

The OS is a major change with introduction of built in App store and also introduction of iOS like architecture where now applications can be full screen without need of a menu bar or status bar.

It is a very promising move and Apple leads the way here, I would assume some novely from Windows 8 when it is released.

Software :

This has been my biggest disappointment. I also assume this would be resolved to a great extent since now the App store is integrated. I hope there are many developers attracted to make good and cheaper Apps for the Mac store so that more tools and utilities can be created for people to use.

A good example is blogging software. On a Windows, I would use Wordpad or Windows Live Writer to get some blogging done, however on the Mac, unless you use iWeb which comes installed with the OS. All other options run from $20 to $50 for a decent blogging utility. In today's world when every mobile platform has blogging tools available for free, it is really appalling looking at the Apple repository for such costly alternatives.

Software has been always premium on Apple platform due to small market share and targeted audience. I guess it will improve with the App Store arrival.

For a long time Wintel loyalist, I take comfort in the fact that whenever I would need to go to Windows 7. It would be a bootcamp click away on the MBP. This is one of the strong reasons for me to combine the hardware superiority of a Mac with software usablity of OSX and Windows on the same machine.

It would be really incredible, if Apple would release its OS like Windows to be installed on any machine without providing support for the hardware issues. That would help people like me to build and enjoy low cost Hackintosh and Win7 platforms on awesome hardware specs.

The Software unless bought and used for which Apple is famous for, gets a 3 out 5 rating in terms of cost and variety of choices.

I will possibly post an update to the software later this week.

Friday, May 13, 2011

What if today, you have to leave the IT field and earn your bread ?

This is something I would wish to ask everyone in the IT field. What if, today, you have to leave the IT field and earn your bread ?

It is something very relevant to the current economic situation, and also an eye opener to the labourers who toil away with their eyes, hands and brains sitting in a vegetative state for hours together, working for their IT overlords, who now have have been busy sorting them out for keeping their profit margins intact.

2001 was a preview of just how vulnerable IT was. 2008-09 has showed how resilient it has become. No more there are IT bubble bursts, even though the current situation has sent a electric jolt to those who had come into this line just for the greenbacks and a great lifetime opportunity to people who could really do something great apart from their IT skills.

Seeing the way people have come together in Bay Area after being laid off, to collaborate, to identify new ventures, new ideas and press on to initiatives which were on back burner due to various reasons. It reminds me that all we need sometimes is a gentle nudge to remind of what we are capable of.

Coming back to the title of the post. Well, my honest answer to this would be, anything to start off with to keep my home running, and then I would gradually draw up a plan to utilize my knowledge and channelize it to do something which would help to utilize IT to enable the common masses.

It could be anything from, teaching in a primary school to going back to school to empower you with the skills to really push for that goal, which you dreamt of, but never dared make an attempt at, for the fear of upsetting your routine 9 to 5 office life.

I come from a home of goldsmiths, a profession which was last practiced by my grandfather. The generation after that moved to businesses in metals, and I have a medico father. Although, it's a art which is being overwhelmed by precision machines, gold jewellery making is something, which is seeing tough times due to high prices and lack of expendable money.

Since, even I am not clear, what I would like to do apart from IT, I think it is imperative, that I give a deep thought on this and also continue to focus on my career. I hope, the reader of this post is also in the same mind frame and has a plan 'B' ready for the worst of times.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Tere bin ‘Bin Laden’ – A match fixed in Pakistan ??

Like an unexpected fall of a wicket in a boring test match, the news of assassination of the world’s most sought after men was quick to arrive amidst the end of the weekend primetime.

The elusive one had been found and put down, and not only put down, but drowned to abyss rather quickly and much to everyone’s surprise. The entire episode’s proceedings is nothing short of a script for a chain of sequels due to the number of open questions it brings into people’s mind all across the world.

For Pakistan, the feeling must be like a stumped batsmen, who did not know when the killer team came from, landed on its arguably safest zone of military academy and took out the stumps as quick as a flash and vanished. I probably would have cried “Match Fixing” on this one for sure, since I for one, cannot conceive that a nation’s defense would have been so bad that they could not detect, react, or chase the US package which came in, did its business and left, no questions asked, no rounds fired.

Further to this, whether they were secretly involved but non-committal in the open to avoid any backlash will weigh upon every citizen and lead to question their true intentions. Do they still continue to want play safe with US and the hostile elements within their country. It’s a fine line of walk keeping both sides in dark, eventually the consequences would have to borne by Pakistan only.

For the world on other hand, the post-operation activities around the quick sea burial, DNA tests being completed in matter of hours begs some serious introspection. Why is that, all the other assassinations resulted in showcasing the trophy bounty, whereas in this case, without even sharing with the allies, the physical evidence was quickly confined to the abyss of the Arabian Sea citing religious obligations. Since when have warring factions been so cognizant of the other’s religious rituals ? Did they fear retaliation from the allies, or it was a way to hush down any contradictions arising which would have questioned the legitimacy of the operation and its result ?

I hope Donald Trump definitely demands the “long form death certificate” on this from the coroner’s office, it might become his ticket to Oval office, who knows.

Conspiracy theories are like like sugar crystals, one piece of loose information or unanswered question draws a whole herd of them.

In the midst of all these events, reaction from India was pretty lame and old rhetoric. The “I told you so” line is making us look like whiners, who take every opportunity to walk up to US and whine and take no action. Would India have any guts to do such a covert operation and never ever bring it in the open ? They might, if our ministers take their hands and minds of the money they seem to be passing among themselves before their tenure runs out.

Overall, it is a symbolic ending of one of the most troubled searches in recent human history, a search which has spanned a decade, with the highest casualties for US, and dented their reputation unlike anything. Still, this can be equated to killing one snake off Medusa’s head where new ones have spawned quickly and widely.

With the US economy in doldrums due to the wild runs of unregulated markets and banks and blind eye by the Feds, a victory as this would be at the very best “Oonth ke munh mein jeera”, a fennel seed in camel’s mouth for the general American masses.

Friday, April 29, 2011

At Odds with the U.S., Pakistan Deepens Ties with China - Search for a symbiotic partner

While the relationship itself is not new, but with the toughening up of the requirements and complaints from its oldest ally, the country finds itself in search of a new godfather, or largesse supplier.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Religious manipulations in modern times

Tough times ahead with religious authorities now joining the bashing of other religions to sound "patriotic".

Monday, April 25, 2011

Locking your Wireless router – Bad Manners ?

There is a lot of talk around the need to protect your wireless network with mushrooming of wireless equipment in every household. There is a legal angle, where it says – you can be “prosecuted” if an incident involving your wireless network happens resulting in criminal / civilian liabilities. Then there is a cost angle, the consequence of going over your allocated bandwidth comes to the mind of of budget consumers, who somehow manage to have a connection for their use.
But, the question here is something to do with your community and your humanitarian approach. Would you be willing to help out someone in dire need of accessing information over the internet without knocking on your door ? Will this help seem trivial to the bad consequences of someone deliberately using your open networks for nefarious activities which could possibly lead to visit from the local law enforcement agencies ?
There are some of the questions which seem to understand what extent you are willing to help your fellow beings while still maintaining sure that you do not end up being indicted for crimes which you were not part of but happened over your internet highway. Also, it throws light on which one is more dangerous :
  1. Running an open access network and claiming to be non-party to activities occurring over it.
  2. Running a closed network which if hacked and results in unlawful activities, leaving no ground to come clean out of it.
For some, though, leaving their wireless router open to outside use is a philosophical decision, a way of returning the favor for the times they've hopped onto someone else's network to check email or download directions while away from home .

So the next time you setup a wireless router or hop on an open one. Be cognizant of the moral behavior and respect the generosity of the person offering the free internet. Ultimately in this world, what you give eventually comes back to you. Even if it is in "bytes".

Monday, February 28, 2011

Your route to the wireless world - Wireless Routers

As Internet transcends to our everyday activities, the desire to access the information and store data without being constrained to connected cables is more pronounced than ever. Although, city wide WANs are still in the nascent stages of implementation, the mushrooming of small wireless networks in the homes and in enclosed public areas such as malls and restaurants/stores has been anything but slow. You can find Wifi probably more easily than public telephones nowadays in the cities of US.

This post addresses picking up the better equipment for making your life wire-less inside your home. I shall address the nuances of public place Wifi hotspots in a later post.

I have been battling a war against the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz in my home. The reason, is the "mushroom" of Wifi equipment in residential apartments as everyone goes Wireless in their homes and couple it with the multitude of gadgets which use the same 2.4 Ghz as do the wireless routers. This congestion of the frequency spectrum causes couple of issues which are highlighted below :

1. Interference due to concurrent use of devices such as cordless telephones or Microwave equipment.
2. Interference due to large number of wireless equipment in a given area.
3. Cross-Interference between equipment when the frequency are right next to each other.

The above issues coupled with other technical difficulties led to induction of the 5Ghz frequency in wireless equipment. This not only ensured that the wireless equipment operated in a range where none of the household equipment currently operate, but also to give a steady signal strength as well.

This introduction of a separate frequency led to design of new wireless equipment which utilize either 2.4 or 5 Ghz transmissions, or come with dual band frequency transmitters to support legacy equipments. Now, you might be thinking, what does all the above mean to an average consumer who just wants to buy a wireless router. Here's why.

If you know your equipment which utilize Wi-Fi functionality such as phones, laptops, tablets, PMPs. You can zero-in on the frequency you would require while also taking into consideration how much congested your wireless space is.

Wifi-n is the current standard which supports both 2.4 and 5Ghz bands depending on the manufacturer of the equipment. Older equipment running on Wifi-g / b operates mostly on 2.4Ghz while Wifi-a operates at 900 Mhz.
2.4 GHz is probably the most congested of all. Anything which emits radio signal probably uses it. So, if you are looking at getting a new telephone or router, here is what you can do to save yourself interference headaches and performance issues :

Computing / Networking Equipment

Wireless Router Telephone
Older Computing Equipment with Wi-fi G capability Wireless - G DECT 6.0
New computing Equipment with Wi-fi N capability Wireless – N DECT 6.0
Mix of the above Dual & Simultaneous band Wireless – G/N DECT 6.0

Most of the home networking setup would land in the last category where you would encounter mix of old and new equipment. The best way to address this go for the dual band and importantly “simultaneous” transmitting wireless router. Here is the marketing gimmick you need to be aware of :

a. Almost all of today’s Wireless routers come with flexibility to allow Wi-Fi N access over 2.4 and 5 GHz bands, but within the configuration, only one can be active at a given time.

b. The ones which come with capabilities to operate on both the bands are not very clearly identified unless you can find the word “simultaneous”.

The latter is always on a higher range price , but it will serve you well in many ways. First, the older equipment can keep chugging at the 2.4 spectrum, whereas all the new equipment supporting Wi-Fi N would benefit from accessing the 5GHz spectrum. It will allow the newer equipment to work at its best setting thus provide your with a faster bandwidth experience in operation. The networking mantra is always “the least speed of a connected device will determine the overall speed for the network”, this is also true for wired and wireless connections.

If you go with the last category in the table, your network should be operating in the following way :

  1. Wi-Fi N clients >>> 5 GHz  >>>65 – 300 Mbps connectivity
  2. Wi-Fi G clients >>> 2.4Ghz >>>36-54 Mbps connectivity.

Couple of noteworthy Wireless routers are shown below, which I have tried out :

Wireless G/N Device ( Operates on one band at a time).

Dlink DIR-655

Wireless G/N Device (Operates simultaneous bands)

Apple Airport Extreme

Netgear N600 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router WNDR3700

I hope the above points help you in deciding the right equipment and provide the value of investment with peace of mind. Happy Networking.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Now : Price for your honour

The rich have often put price for things which normally are not considered up for sale. Lives for example, Take any tragedy and depending on the severity or the scale of it, the government somehow manages to find a price tag for each of the life lost and announces to hand it over to the bereaved family. While this might help them to cope temporarily for the loss they have incurred, it is by no means an approximation of the gap it leaves in their family, physically and monetarily.

The recent spate of crimes committed usually return in landmark judgements passed to ensure that such crimes are not repeated or the potential offenders are deterred by the scope of punishment for those crimes. But the link above is a landmark in itself, and surprisingly it comes from the highest office of justice in the Indian Judiciary - Supereme court.

The details are sort of summarized in the headlines itself, and if you find it impossible to believe. I believe it is extremely abhorrent to even conjure such statements, leave alone imagine a possiblity of making them public. Money is such a powerful tool which for ages has silenced rebellions, enemies, dissolved differences between powers, people and sometimes substituting for a life lost without a reason.

For a dead person who cannot argue his life's worth, paying money to their family does not have any trauma for the person itself. But justifying payment to a rape victim by the offender is something which the victim will have to endure for the rest of the life !!

How can you justify receiving money from a offender who has violated your honour and manage to live with it. Will the panel who makes such public statements accept such reimbursements for their family and kin. I would find it grossly against human dignity whether you are educated or not.

I hope sanity prevails and the Supreme court stays away from making such incompetent statements which will only allow the money laden criminals to happily commit crimes knowing that they can pay for it and get away from their deeds.

Shameful indeed.

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