Friday, April 02, 2010

iPad - Review of Reviews!

So the iPad has been out for a week... "No!" I hear you say - "it's out tomorrow (Saturday) - have you been smoking pot?".

Well - it's out today (Saturday) for the common masses (actually, let me correct that) - for the the "Early Apple Adopters", but it has been out for a week for some very select tech reviewers (before you start - No, I did not receive one - contrary to expectations). Hey - I can dream, can't I.

Since I can't post a review here - I thought I'll do a "review of reviews".

I got the basic list from here - (The Apple Blog).

Here are my thoughts (in the order that I reviewed)

Read David Pogue's review for the NY Times first. Good take on doing two reviews effectively: one from a tech perspective and the other from a layman perspective. Not much depth - but good reading.

I then moved on to Stephen Fry's review for Time Magazine - loved the review, if only for the complete background and the humor. Also loved Jonathan Ive's take on why No Camera, No Flash, etc. Obviously we are talking total Apple fanboi here - so not much negative. The whole review is more on philosophical lines, and  I totally get where he is coming from. Makes me want to get the iPad today!

Next, on to Walt Mossberg's review, by far the most boring review. Actually put me to sleep while reading.

The PC Mag review is a true technical review - listing all features in detail. Even talks about stuff like the ambient senser light detector, etc. By far the most comprehensive review out there. Must read.

Also liked the Houston Chronicle review - especially the quote “Speaking of my wife, prior to our iPad’s arrival she said she didn’t understand why anyone would want or need an iPad. Now she just keeps saying, ‘No, you can’t have it back.’” I can pretty much visualized the same scene here at home.

Speaking of which, my request for an iPad got turned down by the bitter better half. Tried the - "let's get it for Mom" approach, that too didn't work as mom overheard and shot that down as well :-(

Any suggestions? Need a good convincing excuse reason to get an iPad. Now!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Quest for the right DNS Service

So I've (had) been using OpenDNS for the past year or so. It worked great for me in the US - and I wanted to continue using that here in India as well. This is a tale of domain names, pr0n sites (or my attempt to provide a safe internet at home), latency, youtube and privacy.

To those not in the know, DNS or Domain Name System, essentially maps a name like to the actual IP address of the machine(s) that resides on. So instead of remembering you remember I'm simplifying this - but it gives you a fair picture.

The DNS lookup happens through a series of servers on the internet. When you configure your computer (or your router) to connect to the internet - you specify something called as a Primary DNS and a Secondary DNS (some routers even offer a Tertiary DNS). Usually these DNS servers are hosted by your ISP.

Sometime down the line there came third party DNS servers like OpenDNS ( - based on a freemium model. Recently Google also launched their free DNS service (

The big question is - Should you be using one of these? Or do you stick to your existing DNS service.

When in the US - I had started using OpenDNS - primarily because it offered better response times, some level of adult content blocking (by virtue of not resolving said domain names), and well, I like to try out new stuff!. The adult blocking worked well in the US - but India was another story and I'll come to that in a bit.

Thus began my quest to answer the question "Which DNS Service should I use in India". The network at home looks something like this. I setup OpenDNS - and things seem to be working fine - till I noticed youtube performance not really being upto mark. I even got my broadband speed upgraded to try and deal with that - but the problem continued.

BUT,  I asked myself the same question that you're wondering - how does a DNS service make a difference to overall throughput? You're right - it shouldn't (apart from the time delay introduced due to the initial lookup), but what happens is this: If you observe the bottom of the browser window - when you click on a youtube video - you will see a series of look-ups happening - this actually will slow things down if your DNS takes time to respond to each of the look-ups. This article explains this in a more detailed manner. Essentially, as per the article, there was a problem early on with OpenDNS and youtube. I was not sure if that was also affecting me. The other problem I noticed was that OpenDNS did not block adult sites as effectively as it did in the US (I was just testing - honest!).

Around the time I was struggling with this - Google announced the launch of their DNS service - so I quickly switched to using Google DNS (hey - google pretty much knows everything about me - so why not even everything I browse as well :-). I did notice youtube performance improve - a couple of days after I switched to Google DNS. 

Still not being truly convinced - I continued the quest for the perfect DNS for my network and ....I 'll conclude the results of that in my next post: Benchmarking different DNS servers (expect some nice graphs in that one :-).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Nexus One in India - First Impressions

No - the Google Nexus One is not yet available in India. BUT I did manage to get one shipped to India (thanks to a friend).

Of course the Nexus One was not for me. Now why would you think that? It is, and always was, intended for the formidable better half :-). As a gift. (As are all the gadgets that I end up fancying).

So I got the phone last Friday - gift wrapped it in a fancy box, and sprung it on her (she did not know that I had bought the phone, so it was a good surprise - the additional diamond earrings in the box had nothing to do with that ;-).

Installation was a breeze - though I do not have data enabled on the service plan - I was able to insert the Airtel SIM card easily and switched it on. Got a signal almost immediately - which was very surprising considering the signal quality at our house is pretty flaky. Will most likely switch to Idea Cellular as Idea's data network seems to be pretty reliable.

Here is a list of first "impressions". A quick interview with the missus gave the following points

  • Feels good to carry around (won't be surprised there, as the last phone was an ancient Nokia 6610i)
  • Gorgeous Display!
  • Fast (snappy), responsive
  • Gmail experience is good
  • Search (esp. phone numbers) is very handy
  • Applications are very intuitive (call log, contacts, etc)

Not Like:
  • Unlocking takes a bit getting used to (can't really do it fast)
  • Need to press the top ringer button to switch the phone on (from standby) - unlike the iPhone/iPod touch where you press the home button.
  • No pinch zooming (lack of multi-touch sucks)
  • Google Voice app disappeared once I put the SIM card in (as Google Voice is not supported in India). I will try the Truphone app though - and see how that works.

All in all she seems very pleased with it. So these were the first impressions. Will follow this with a detailed review once I get her to switch to Idea (waiting for MNP) and enable data.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

iPad - Quickview at specs

- 9.7 inch IPS display
- .5 inch thick/thin
- 1GHz Apple A4 chip (yes - that is Apple's own newly designed chip)
- 16GB to 64 GB Flash storage
- 10 Hours battery life
- 802.11n, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
- Accelerometer, Compass
- Speaker, Microphone, 30-pin connector
- iPhone Apps work straight off (including in a pixel-double mode - basically doubling the pixels and hence the screen size)
Update: Wifi + 3G (GSM unlocked with new micro SIMs)
STARTS at $499!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
16GB - $499
16GB with 3G - $629
Accessories - Keyboard and Doc - Image Courtesy Engadget.

Tablets and Slates

Wow ! The hype and the news on the soon-to-be-announced iTablet / iSlate is really amazing.

The latest I read is here -

If this is what it is - then "meh".

Trending topic on twitter

Monday, January 18, 2010

Podcasts - Or How I keep my sanity while driving...

Driving in India is, to put it mildly, stressful and chaotic (understatement) - more so in the city of Pune which is seeing unstructured unprecedented un-whatever growth (basically more of everything on the roads).

Although my commute to office is 20 minutes at most - I realized that I missed listening to the radio while driving in the US (the local Pune FM radio stations are not per my listening tastes, basically making me feel OLD). I primarily listened to NPR in the US.  So that got me on a quest to see if I could start listening to some of the shows that I enjoyed there. I pulled out my old iPod mini (1st generation) plugged it into iTunes and set about subscribing to podcasts (iTunes + iPod is the easiest way to go about this).

Here's what's on my podcast subscription list:

- Wait wait don't tell me! - A really amazing radio show that is an "informative news quiz" show with some great news & media personalities at their humourous best! There hasn't been a single podcast that hasn't got me chuckling... A tip though - Keeping current with what's happening in the US helps in "getting the jokes".

- WNYC's Radio Lab - Another great show - on very insightful topics  - ranging from Animal minds to great things about Numbers. I've recently started listening to this based on Seth Godin's recommendation. In his own words "The content of each show is a unique mix of science, pop culture and relevance. I guarantee that they will make you smarter. That's a lot to promise for a radio show, but I think it's true."

- NPR Technology podcast - Allows me to listen to interesting things happening on the tech side (that's what this blog is supposed to be anyway about). If you've listened to NPR before - this is basically "All Tech Considered" from the "All Things Considered". Good weekly snapshot on happenings in the tech world.

- CarTalk - If you are a car buff - you will enjoy the lively "Click and Clack" brothers dishing out advice on cars, car repairs and troubleshooting! Guaranteed to put you in a lighter mood!

Other subscriptions including WSJ's daily tech briefing and the occasional NPR's fresh air!

My driving has definitely gotten better! Try it - you wouldn't be disappointed, it will, at the least, make you smarter!