Microsoft speeds up app development with free tools

The move to speed up application development follows a clear global trend, of growing mobile data consumption and flat revenues per phone user

Microsoft has opened up a suite of software tools for the international developers, free, for them to write applications and games for its Windows Phone 7 series of mobile devices that are scheduled to go on sale later this year. The move to speed up application development follows a clear global trend, of growing mobile data consumption and flat revenues per phone user.

As mobile data use becomes ubiquitous, the market for application software is expanding fast. Applications sales are estimated to be worth $17.5 billion by 2012, up from about $ five billion in 2009. Several phone and software companies are opening up their online marketplace to application developers, who now have the opportunity to write ‘apps’ that help users do anything from playing games to accessing social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, to booking tickets, tracking flights and listening to music. This they can do for various platforms built by Apple, Google, the upcoming Microsoft Windows Phone 7 series, and others, on different commercial terms.

As it prepares for the coming festival season launch of Windows Phone 7 series mobiles, Microsoft recently announced free access to its main developer tools for phones — Visual Studio 2010, Expression Blend 4 and XNA Game Studio 4. The new phone series provides support for the Silverlight framework of Microsoft, which helps to build rich media applications for business and entertainment on computers, the web and on mobile devices.

Free access to tools were among the highlights at the MIX 10 conference for the developer community held in Las Vegas, the U.S., between March 15 and 17. The guided approach to application development complements Microsoft’s decision to define hardware standards for its Windows Phone 7 series devices to be made by leading vendors. By guaranteeing the specifications of a phone belonging to this series, the customer can be sure of performance levels, company executives say.

The minimum features of the devices include a sensitive capacitive touch interface, GPS, accelerometer, compass, five megapixel camera with flash, a camera button, 256 MB memory, eight GB flash storage, directx 9 acceleration, ARMv7 Cortex/Scorpion processor or better.

Joe Belfiore, corporate vice-president, Windows Phone, told MIX 10 that the new phone series, strongly woven around social networking behaviour, is designed for a user who is ‘38 years old, 76 per cent employed and 73 per cent in a partnered relationship.” That user profile stands in contrast to the trend of phones aimed primarily at youth. The design specifications are oriented towards users who are described by Microsoft as “life maximisers.”

Microsoft hopes that its foray into mobile phones will give it a significant share in the mobile data segment, which is estimated to grow at an annual compounded rate of 131 per cent and mobile voice at 112 per cent over the next three years. By comparison, data access from fixed lines is seen as growing only by 39 per cent CAGR, while fixed line voice use is actually expected to decline by 6 per cent CAGR.

Speaking to journalists in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress, Austen Mulinder, Microsoft’s corporate vice-president, worldwide communications sector, pointed out that the number of wireless Internet-connected devices is expected to go up to 10 billion by 2015, up from two billion today. Another metric of interest is the number of users of social networking sites, which currently stands at about 800 million.

The factor that will differentiate the smart-phones of the future is data integration — software and programs that connect the personal computer and the mobile phone — and not all providers possess all the pieces here. Music, gaming, search, maps, instant messaging and so on are part of this value set. Aaron Woodman, Microsoft’s director of mobile communications, argues that Apple does desktop to mobile integration in the area of music, Nokia offers the service suite Ovi, and Google has search and map services, but in terms of deep integration of all these services with a gaming platform, for example, Microsoft is unique in also possessing the X-Box Live. The mobile small screen is set to witness a lot of action in the coming months.

Google TV : Browse the internet through television screens

The system will be called “Google TV”, will be made by Sony and powered by Intel chips. It has built a prototype set-top box, that allows users to browse the internet through their television screens do things such as download movies and television shows. The “Google TV” however will also come in the form of actual TV sets.

Along with regular television there will also be Hulu, YouTube and other web-video sources, along with games and apps for social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.Google TV, will essentially be a big-screen living-room computer.

With this, Google takes a lead among other players in this race like the Apple who have been trying to make people access internet through their TVs. People already with TV sets need not feel disappointed as this device can also be built into the TV. It would facilitate simultaneous viewing of TV and better access to the web, search, and social networking sites. These companies also appear to be in talks with Logitech to build peripherals like a remote control and small keyboard for the system.

The project although is being developed since long but its kept under tight wraps and its details away from the public. The GTV will run on the Android OS, Google’s open-source mobile phone operating system originally designed to run on ARM core, (the processor used in most smartphones, but has been also adapted by some companies to operate on different chip architectures such as MIPS or Intel x86) and will even have the Chrome browser built-in. Partnership with Intel ensures TV will use some form of Atom chips in it. This move was pretty obvious as TV is only one of the few advertising markets Google isn’t yet in.

It has been reported that Google has begun testing the set-top box technology though Dish Network, a satellite TV provider.

However Google’s new venture could weaken the PC industry. This is foreseen as when the people will have the internet in their television, and a tablet appliance like the iPad with them around, they would not need a desktop or even a laptop computer.

It is unclear whether this system would be launched worldwide or be designed for release in the United States only, as with some of Google’s other products.

Both papers, however, cite sources completely anonymous information and denials have come from both the Sony spokesperson and that of Google.


India’s First GSM + GSM or GSM + CDMA Phone

Another low-cost BlackBerry look-alike

Bright Telecom, which markets its range of mobile phones under the ‘G-Fone’ brand, has announced at the launch of the G-588, a full QWERTY keyboard laden, dual SIM, dual mode phone in India. The dual mode feature means that the phone can be used in different modes like GSM + GSM or GSM + CDMA.

The G-588 comes with Nimbuzz preinstalled making it social networking friendly right away. It also has a decent multimedia player that supports various file formats. The G-588 supports upto 8GB of memory via microSD cards. It also comes with a localized, Indian Calendar that has listed major festival and cultural events of India.

The phone has a landscape, 2.2-inch screen capable of displaying 65k colors.

Here is a brief low down on the specs of the device:
•Dual mode CDMA + GSM OR GSM+ GSM)
•QWERTY keypad
•1.3 MP camera
•MP3 / MP4 player
•Video recording and playback
•FM radio
•Big display
•Exp memory upto 8GB
•Phone book

The G-588 will retail at a price of Rs. 4,799, which does not seem too bad for a phone that looks like a BlackBerry!


Simplifying the cellphone

In December last year, a wing of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) published a study on Gujarat’s rural community and how they use mobile phones. In an abridged report in Ice Age, a monthly newsletter of the Development and Educational Communication Unit (DECU) of ISRO, researcher Hansa Joshi wrote about “how mobile technology fulfils the communication requirements of people, its socio-economic and cultural impact on the society and further expectations from the technology”.

The study, based on the responses of 1,384 people from villages, towns and cities across the state, threw up a number of interesting details. The report said: “In terms of exposure to media like newspaper, radio, TV, computer and Internet, we can say that mobile usage was the highest among all media in terms of access (78 per cent) and regular usage (99 per cent)”.

It was also found that more than a third of all respondents “bought the mobile with an assumption that it will increase their income”, and in the tribal belt, a handset is sometimes “family owned”. The report added that for a “majority of mobile users, individual ownership gives them motivation for self-learning and the satisfaction of fulfillment of all their communication needs”.

But popularity doesn’t mean problem-free. It was found that about 19 per cent of mobile users faced acute problems in using certain features of the handsets. This may, however, change soon.

On March 9, IBM announced a collaborative research initiative with the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, and Tokyo University’s Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology to “explore an open, common user interface platform for mobile devices, to make them easier to use for the elderly, and illiterate or semi-illiterate populations in developing countries”.

IBM will contribute the technology bit, and NID will contribute its experiences in designing interfaces and ethnography. The eventual software would then be made available as open source.

Jignesh Khakhar of the NID’s IT Design faculty, who will be in charge of the initiative from the NID front, said it was too early to talk about the project.

Nitendra Rajput, advisory researcher of IBM Research India and India lead for the Open Collaborative Research Programme, said the team will first identify the target groups and find out their needs and modes of interaction. For example, a farmer would need weather information, while migrant workers would want information on how to send money to their village. In fact, the ISRO report suggests that message box services be developed so that migrant workers can pass on important messages back home.

The needs will differ dramatically from group to group, Rajput said, and the challenge will be to find a platform that capable of hosting a number of applications.

So is it going to a simpler, customisable smart-phone? Maybe, but Rajput says it will be different from any other customisable phone because the research will focus on people with special needs, like semi-literate, illiterate and elderly people. There might be room for the video-based, sound-based and text-based modalities to converge. But then, he concedes, it is difficult to talk about what will eventually come out of the exercise, which hasn’t even begun yet.

Rajput has had experience in this field: he was one of the researchers behind IBM’s Voikiosk, a kiosk meant to be placed in villages that disseminates information that is relevant locally. “When you listen to a voice from the kiosk, that too in your own language, it becomes much more relevant,” he says, comparing it to sitting in front of a computer looking up generic information on the Web.

Rajput estimates that it will take four to five months of research before the actual development of the product can start. Once finalised, the software will be made available open-source, and businesses or governments that are interested can use it, with NID and IBM lending support. It will take about two years to achieve this, he says.
–The Indian Express

The computer helper: Windows 7 annoyances

Packages of Microsoft Windows 7 inside a company retain store

Sure, Windows 7 has garnered plenty of accolades since its release. But that doesn’t mean that people haven’t been annoyed at some of its new or unexpected behaviour. The good news is that most of what ails Windows 7 can be remedied with a little know-how or an add-on program here or there. Read on to find out more.

Where is Windows Movie Maker in Windows 7? I relied on this program in Windows Vista.

Movie Maker, Mail, and other applications that were easy to find in previous versions of Windows must now be downloaded and installed as part of Windows Live Essentials ( ). Live Essentials also includes Writer, Photo Gallery, Family Safety, and a Toolbar.

Be careful: if you don’t want to install all of those applications, uncheck the ones you’re not interested in when you run the Windows Live Setup application.

Also, once you do install the Movie Maker application for Windows 7, you’ll note that the interface is significantly different from the older version of Movie Maker. If you prefer the older version (2.6), you can download it from Microsoft ( ).

I moved to Windows 7 from Windows XP, and I miss XP’s Start menu. Can I get back the classic look and feel of the XP Start menu?

While many come to appreciate the changes in the Windows Vista/7 Start menu — including instant search — it’s true that the new Start menu does away entirely with some of the capabilities of the old XP Start menu, such as the ability to nest folders.

There’s no way within Windows 7 itself to reconfigure the Start menu to look and act exactly like XP’s Start menu. But you can download the freeware application CSMenu ( ), which transforms your Start menu into almost exactly what you’re used to seeing from the Start menu in XP.

Or you could try the open source Classic Shell ( ), which gives you both the classic Start menu and classic Explorer toolbar buttons (such as cut, copy, and paste) that Microsoft did away with in the Windows 7 Explorer.

Of course, with either of these options, gone will be the instant search feature in Windows 7’s Start menu. But you’ll have back the slimmer, folder-based functionality of the XP Start menu. It’s worth looking at if you have lots of time invested in productivity-enhancing habits with the old style Start menu.

The Windows Experience Index cannot be updated on my computer. Why is this? I’m running Windows 7 N.

Windows 7 N is the version of the operating system that has been stripped of Windows Media Centre. It is sold in Europe to comply with the European Commission’s 2004 requirement that Microsoft offer a version of Windows without Media Centre. Because the Windows Experience Index — which measures the performance of your computer, relies upon certain components of Windows Media Centre, the rating cannot be generated or updated without it.

The solution is to download and install the Media Feature Pack for Windows 7 from Microsoft ( ). This Feature Pack essentially gives the N version of Windows 7 the components that the non-N version has. You’ll need to validate your copy of Windows 7 before downloading.

I like Windows 7 but do not need or want most of the enhancements in the new Windows Explorer. Can I get the old Explorer back?

Not really. As with a move back to the classic Start menu in Windows 7, you’ll also have to turn to third party tools to get the look and feel of the old Windows Explorer as well. There are, as you might imagine, both freeware and commercial alternatives.

Among the most popular commercial Explorer replacements is Directory Opus ( ), a tab-enabled, highly configurable file manager that can be configured to look and act just about any way you wish. Keep in mind that with almost unlimited configuration options comes complexity of initial setup. But once you have it set up the way you like it, you should be happy.

A less complicated alternative is xplorer2 ( ), which is free for private or academic use. This tool actually has more features than the classic Windows Explorer — including tabs and the ability to view multiple folder listings side by side.

It’s not clear to me how I’m supposed to create a restore point in Windows 7.

As you know, restore points are essential if you install some software that causes your system to become unstable. Restore points are created automatically — if Windows 7 is set up to create them.

Unlike in previous versions, it’s not easy to figure out how to create a restore point manually, however.

To do so, first ensure that System Restore is turned on. Open the Start menu, and type “system.” Click the System entry under Control Panel. From within the System dialog box, click the System Protection link in the left-hand panel. Make sure that System Restore is turned on for your C drive. Highlight the C drive, and click the Configure button to turn it on.

While there, you can also determine how much of your disk space is devoted to storing System Restore data.

Once System Restore is turned on, you can create a manual restore point from within the System Properties dialog box. Simply click the Create button to do so.


Securing your netbook from theft

Netbooks are terrific for computing on the go. Yet their very compactness makes them easy to lose or to forget — not to mention being a target for thieves.

The material loss is bad enough — the threat of someone getting access to your data can be catastrophic. The two obvious countermeasures include a mechanical lock or one of the various electronic solutions on the market.

There are three primary methods to protect the data on a netbook in the event of theft: encryption, BIOS and Windows passwords, or special anti-theft software.

Passwords alone aren’t necessarily secure, explains Christian Woelbert from German computer magazine c’t: “Thieves can circumvent Windows passwords by reinstalling the operating system, for example, or using a live CD.” BIOS passwords are also relatively easy to reset. If the thief removes the hard drive from the unit, it’s also possible to access the data.

Anti-theft software is also only a limited solution, Woelbert says. It works only if the thief goes online with the device. Then the rightful owner has the chance to lock or delete the hard drive remotely. If the thief avoids the web with the device altogether, then there’s nothing the owner can do.

“Encryption is the only true waterproof method,” Woelbert says.

Encryption doesn’t have to be an expensive option, either, he notes.

One major player in this area, TrueCrypt, is free.

For private users there is an entire series of encryption solutions, says Sascha Pfeiffer from the IT and data security company Sophos. The palette ranges from file packers with simple password protection for individual files or directories to commercial encryption products and on to free open source solutions.

“While the latter do offer reliable protection, they are primarily suited for technically savvy users,” Woelbert says.

In principle the entire hard drive should always be encrypted, not just individual folders or files, Woelbert adds. Otherwise thieves might be able to find copies of key files in unexpected locations, such as the temporary files folder. Another key factor is the password. The security is only as good as the password protecting it.

It should be as long and complicated as possible.

Mechanical locks are a good way to prevent amateur thieves from preying on a netbook. One best selling model is the Kensington Lock from Kensington Technology, for example.

The security mechanism features two components: the security slot located on almost all netbooks and notebooks and the cable/lock combination, explains Stephen Hoare from Kensington. The device is only secured once the owner stretches the cable around a fixed object, inserts the piece into the slot and turns the key.

“The casing on the netbooks should also be reinforced with a metal insert on the inside of the wall,” Hoare recommends. Otherwise the cable can be ripped out relatively easily. For this reason mechanical protections can only serve as an initial protection against theft.

Ultimately the safest method is to encrypt the entire hard drive of the netbook and secure it with a sufficiently complicated and long password.

Aircel Peek – A device to read your emails

With the evolution of technology, gadgets too gradually undergo a change. The development continues till the time a gadget stabilizes and proves its utility. In a huge gamble Aircel has launched a new device, Peek, that can only read emails. There is no precedence of this kind of a device thus far.

The Peek targets the segment of people who need to keep in touch with their emails constantly while on the move. It is similar to Blackberry devices and has a QWERTY key board. Aircel has claimed that it is the thinnest device ever created. The device is priced at Rs 2,999. The charges are Rs 300 per month for checking your email. The device is available in two colors, black and red. You can configure three email accounts on the device.

However the biggest question is will such a device be a hit with the users. The only thing that it can be used is emails. When compared to this smartphones have more than a dozen additional functions. Even operating cost wise smartphones may prove better since the cost of GPRS access itself is Rs 300 per month or lesser. So it is very much possible that this device does not take of at all.

Aircel may have taken a big gamble by launching the Aircel Peek.

Opera Mini 5 beta for Android released

The latest release promises to improve browser experience by offering a faster and cost-efficient web experience to all handsets that are built on the Android platform

Here’s some good news for Android phone users. Opera Software launched the newest beta version of Opera Mini 5 on the free and open source Android platform.

Opera Mini is among the leading browsers in the mobile internet segment. In January alone, Opera Mini served 23 billion pages to about 50 million users. India is the third-largest user of Opera, with Russia and Indonesia occupying the top two slots.

Shortly on the heels of a beta release for handsets using Windows Mobile, this latest release promises to improve browser experience by offering a faster and cost-efficient web experience to all handsets that are built on the Android platform. Opera Mini, with more than 50 million users worldwide, enables web browsing on almost any handset by compressing data by up to 90 percent before sending content to the phone, resulting in significantly improved page loading and speed, a press release from the company states.

With a simple, easy-to-use interface, Opera Mini offers a desktop-like Web browsing experience on a mobile phone, with favourite features such as speed dial, tabbed browsing, password manager and bookmarks. With Opera Mini optimized for Android, more people will be able to get a desktop-like browsing experience on their cellphone. “Android users should not have to compromise when it comes to surfing the Web on their phones. Opera Mini will give Android users a fast and cost-efficient access to their favourite Web sites and services,” Dag Olav Norem, Vice President of Products, Opera Software, said in a press statement. Earlier this month, a native version of Opera Mini 5 beta for Windows Mobile 5 and 6-based handsets, that provides integration of Opera Mini with the Windows Mobile platform, was rolled out.

(Download Opera Mini directly to your Android phone. To download, simply visit with the Android browser or search for Opera Mini 5 in the Android Market. For more information, visit out )

A computer to read your mind

British scientists have developed a computer that can read human minds, a key breakthrough which they claim takes telepathy a step closer to reality.

According to them, the computer is able to decipher thought patterns and tell what people are thinking simply by scanning the brain — in fact, it can delve into memories and differentiate between different recollections.

In fact, this breakthrough follows research last year by the same scientists who used the same technique to track a person’s movements around a computer-simulated room.

For the current research, which focussed on the hippocampus, an area at the centre of the brain that plays a crucial role in short term memory, the scientists carried out an experiment involving 10 volunteers.

The subjects were shown three seven-second films featuring different women carrying out an everyday task in a typical urban street such as posting a letter or drinking a cup of coffee from a paper cup.

The volunteers were asked to memorise what they saw and then recall each one in turn whilst inside a magnetic resonance imaging scanner which records the brain activity by measuring changes in blood flow within the brain.

The computer algorithm then studied the electrical patterns and could tell which film the volunteer was recalling with an accuracy of about 50 per cent — which was well above chance, ‘The Daily Telegraph’ reported.

Self-Charging Handset Developed by Nokia

It is now possible to charge a cell phone without needing a plug-in point to connect your charger.

This had been made possible by Nokia as the experts have created a cell phone which is capable of recharging its battery as it can draw energy from the movements and the motion of the one using it.

It was known that this self-charging cell phone can function with heavier machinery supported with a powerful frame like the radio transmitter circuit and battery.

This frame is equipped with “rail mechanism” and it permits moving of the set side wise as well as horizontally up and down.

The rails, towards the end have strips of piezoelectric crystals which when compressed by the frame helps to produce electricity by phone’s or the user’s movement.

The energy thus produced is stored for further use in a capacitor.

Turn your body into a touchscreen -Skinput

According to an article in the New Scientist, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (Chris Harisson) along with Microsoft’s lab (Dan Morris and Desney Tan) claim to be able to turn your skin into a touch-screen. Innovatively called ‘Skinput’ (a combination of the words ‘skin’ and ‘input’), it uses a bio-acoustic sensing array in combination with a wrist-mounted pico-projector to turn your arm into a display and input device, without any implantation

How does it work? The pico-projector (which can be mounted in other places than just your wrist) will project images onto the skin of your arm (or on any part of your body in line of sight of the projector), and as you press these image buttons, particular vibrations/sounds will ripple through your skin, muscles and bones, which will be picked up and interpreted as signals by special software in the bio-acoustic sensing array. Specific locations/images/buttons can be mapped for specific functions.

What is interesting is that the projector itself is not critical to the process, only the sensing array and software is, enabling you to ‘tap’ the chosen area without any images on it, and still cause an effect. From an observer’s perspective though, this might look quite ridiculous, with a person touching himself for no apparent reason. It also gives new meaning to the term logging off, when a touch could trigger anything from a song to a search.

This application joins the ranks of real-world digital-interfaces, along with the Microsoft Surface, Project Natal, and Pranav Mistry’sSixthSense. Recent work on Microsoft’s Surface will also soon make the device a portable one, similar to SixthSense. Pranav Mistry, whose device certainly seems to have the most potential applications as well as portability, warns that the Skinput device will have to be very precisely placed each time, so that the images and sounds are nearly identical each time, thereby limiting the functionality of the device.

U an just checkout the video for more details


Other NEWS article regarding this:

*Sixth Sense technology is coming, Microsoft demos Surface-based NUI


Aiming to bring the world to a level of ubiquitous integrated mobile computing, the Microsoft Research team have demonstrated a shrunken Mobile Surface application where a projection of a motion-touch interface can be placed on almost any flat object turning it into a responsive active display screen.

The system uses a small webcam and digital projector to project a seamlessly integrated interface where the user can respond with gestures creating interactions with the system.   Similar to the concept used in the film Minority Report, shown by PrimeSense at CES this past January, this technology will be the next wave in computer manipulation.

Gesture-based interfaces have been imagined by many great minds, like the ‘Sixth Sense’ technology shown by Pranav Mistry.  The video demonstration on TED India shows his technology creating a mobile interface that will integrate into many parts of your life, giving you access to information for making optimal decisions throughout your day.

Microsoft’s demo uses similar technologies, just less exciting in respects to its actual presentation.  A video by TechFlash shows researchers playing a simulated drum set which is projected on a table, allowing the user to tap his fingers or drumsticks to initiate the drum sounds.

Plans to integrate this technology in future games for the Project Natal game control system for Xbox 360 have led to advancements in natural user interfaces (NUI) and is essentially the Wii of the future.

Checkout the video for more details…


Fotobabble ..Add Voice to ur photos

What is Fotobabble?

Fotobabble lets you create talking photos in two clicks. Simply upload a photo and then record your voice directly through your computer to create a talking photo. You can easily share it by e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or embed it into a blog or website.

 It’s free and all completely web-based. No software to download, just register and get started in seconds.

 About Fotobabble

Fotobabble takes photo sharing to a new level. Fotobabble lets you create talking photos in a matter of two clicks, to enhance photos you want to share with friends and family. Adding a voice…..your voice or perhaps your child’s voice, gives photos life and creates a memorable experience for someone in the process.

  • Imagine sending a photo while on safari to your friend that is captioned by your voice telling her how you felt the moment you first saw the lion?
  • Imagine sharing a photo of a 70th birthday party with family on the other side of the world with their voice as an overlay to a shot of their great grandchild sitting on their lap?
  • Imagine sending a photo to your boyfriend or girlfriend of yourself while adding a romantic or fun message to an image of you standing in front of a sunset?
  • Imagine adding voice to an event invitation telling your guests about the band you just hired or a book group invite sharing a teaser about the book in two lines?

Simply upload a photo and then record your voice directly through your computer to create a Fotobabble. Then share it by e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or embed it into a blog or website.

It’s free and all completely web-based. No software to download, just register and get started in seconds

NEWS Articles about Fotobabble :


*Fotobabble’s Enables Talking Photos

 Fotobabble has launched as a new service that allows users to add voice to photos in seconds with just a few clicks on a Web browser or an iPhone. Voices can be added to photos stored on a computer, or those that are in an iPhone.

“There are tens of billions of static photos on the web without a voice or sound,” said Kamal Shah, CEO of Fotobabble.

 “Three billion photos are uploaded to Facebook each month alone. Using Fotobabble, people and businesses can greatly enhance these images with the energy and emotion of voice.”

 Free to use, it only takes seconds to create and share a “Fotobabble.” Users simply upload a photo and record their voice directly through their computer’s microphone to create a talking photo. Or on an iPhone, after downloading the free Fotobabble app, users simply select an existing photo or a snap a new one, hit record and it is done.

 Fotobabble takes photo sharing to a new level. There is no software to download, Fotobabble supports PCs and Macs, as well as the iPhone, and makes it easy for people to create talking photos and to share them with a few close friends or with the whole world.

 *Fotobabble: Add Audio to Your Pics

 We’ve recently come across an app that literally brings its users “talking pictures.”

 Essentially, Fotobabble attaches an audio caption to any image you can upload. It’s a cute, fun way to share and narrate photos with friends, and could even be useful for certain kinds of online businesses – for example, photographers who wanted to explain more information about a particular shot or online retailers who wanted to give potential customers details about a product. Can Fotobabble accomplish these tasks better with audio than conventional text-based captions do now? Read on and tell us what you think

 Currently, users can choose to share their creations across a wide variety of social networks or email; however, autosharing is not built in. The app is available as a web app for PC/Mac/etc. and as an iPhone app.

 We do wish that Fotobabble would let users audio-caption pics from Facebook, Flickr photo streams or elsewhere on the Web. Ensuring ownership would be easy enough, as well, through Flickr’s API or Facebook Connect.While we’re on that subject, account creation should be possible through Facebook Connect or Twitter OAuth. Ideally, we’d also want to be able to create slide shows and sets or groups of pics.

 What do you think: Can you see yourself using Fotobabble? If so, how would you use it? Let us know what you think in the comments.

*Fotobabble’s Talking Photos Brings Images to Life in Seconds


Quickly Create Talking Photos in a Few Button Clicks; Share Talking Photos with Friends & Family via Email, Twitter, Facebook or an iPhone

 EMERYVILLE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Announced today, Fotobabble allows people to add voice to photos in seconds with just a few clicks on a web browser or an iPhone. Whether you want to add your voice to a photo stored on your computer, or on one just snapped with your iPhone, Fotobabble brings images to life that can be shared immediately with friends and family

“There are tens of billions of static photos on the web without a voice or sound,” said Kamal Shah, CEO of Fotobabble. “Three billion photos are uploaded to Facebook each month alone. Using Fotobabble, people and businesses can greatly enhance these images with the energy and emotion of voice.”

 Free to use, it only takes seconds to create and share a “Fotobabble.” Simply upload a photo and record your voice directly through your computer’s microphone to create a talking photo. On your iPhone, after downloading the free Fotobabble app, select an existing photo or a snap a new one, hit record and you’re done. Whether using a computer or your iPhone, you can share talking photos via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, or embed them into a blog or website.

 Fotobabble for Fun & Communication:

 The possibilities of what you can do with talking photos are endless, whether it’s to add life to photos you upload on Facebook, send talking greetings to Grandma from your kids’ birthday party, capture a funny or touching moment experienced with friends, send a picture to your spouse with your voice describing the perfect couch for the living room, include your voice in a home-made greeting card, or send talking postcards from a vacation.

 Imagine being on safari and sending a photo to a friend – captioned with your voice – that truly captures the excitement you felt the moment you first saw a lion? How unique and fun it would be to have talking photo status updates within Twitter and Facebook?

 You could also become a citizen journalist, Fotobabbling a car accident you just witnessed. Imagine a broadcast network asking people to Fotobabble the situation in an emergency zone such as Haiti, or providing instant scoop on local news or sporting events.

 Fotobabble for Business:

 Businesses can create Fotobabbles to promote a product, to more effectively engage with customers online, or to increase the number of visitors to their website, blog or Facebook page. Fotobabbles are easily embedded anywhere on the web and vastly improve how images are presented and experienced online.

 Whether you sell a product or service, or you’re a sports personality, musician, politician or activist, your talking photos will be a memorable experience for customers and fans.

 Brands and ad agencies can use Fotobabble as a social media marketing platform. Fotobabble’s flexibility makes it easy to build customized viral marketing campaigns that are more engaging than text or static photos, and are much simpler to create and share than video. Brands can build truly unique campaigns using Fotobabble in contests, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and more.

 A New Level:

 Fotobabble takes photo sharing to a new level. Since there is no software to download, Fotobabble supports PCs and Macs, as well as the iPhone, and makes it easy for people to create talking photos and to share them with a few close friends or with the whole world, in just a few button clicks.

 Free iPhone App:

 Free iPhone App:   

 About Fotobabble

 Fotobabble allows people to create talking photos in seconds with just a few quick clicks. Individuals can use Fotobabble to share talking photos with friends and family and businesses can use it to market and advertise a product or service. Companies and celebrities can leverage the power of Fotobabble by creating talking photos to raise awareness for their brand and better engage with customers and fans. Visit: . Twitter: @fotobabble .

 *Fotobabble Adds Your Voice to Your Photos

 You’ve probably noticed that while there’s no shortage of Web services that will showcase your photos or videos, not many of them allow you to narrate your photos without forcing you to turn them into a video.

 If you’ve ever wanted to add a voice note instead of a text caption to your photos, or narrate a slideshow of your own photos, take a look at new service Fotobabble. It allows you to add your voice or sound to your photos on the Web so your friends and family can see your photos and hear your voice at the same time.

 To make use of Fotobabble’s voice narration, you have to host your gallery at Fotobabble. Once you have your photos uploaded there, you can record a voice caption or voice note and attach it to the image.

 You can then share it with friends, either by sending them a link to visit your image or pasting the embed code into your own site so visitors can play it without leaving the page. The service also supports one-click posting to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and over a dozen other social networks and services.

 The service touts itself as a way for users to add a little personal flair to their photos and galleries in way unlike any other photo hosting site, a way to send personalized multimedia greetings, or even as a way for burgeoning citizen journalists to record and recount what they saw as they snapped the photo they uploaded.

 Upon browsing the site however, the bulk of the Fotobabbles posted are personal photos or images uploaded from other sites with silly or otherwise non-descriptive voices behind them. I did find one user who uploaded and narrated his trip to downtown Vancouver for the Olympics, which was interesting to see.

 Fotobabble is a neat idea; though it just combines a Flash audio recorder and player with a pretty simple gallery, the way it integrates those two features let it stand out. The interface is clean, and the tools are easy to use, which makes it easier for people looking for a little something more than a standard image gallery

Looking for a space-saving desktop PC?

More often than not, the first accessory people purchase with their new desktop PC is a computer trolley. Though space consuming, this is a necessary evil to hold the different PC components together. Also, the matrix of wires running at the back of a desktop PC is an eyesore. In a world where space and electricity are getting expensive by the day, a smaller, power-efficient PC will make sense to many. Let’s look at the way the desktop PC has evolved into different space saving formats and understand what you’ll gain or lose if you plan on buying these.
Net-tops are tiny desktop PCs that came into existence after manufacturers found roaring success with netbooks. Their goal was to bring the best of what a netbook has to offer — price, power efficiency and size — onto a desk. They have petite dimensions and some can even be mounted at the back of an LCD monitor. These ones mostly have an Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive, Wi-fi and bluetooth connectivity; basically the guts of a netbook.

Net-tops are just about powerful to surf the internet, use office productivity apps and other work that’s light on the resources. It can even playback standard-def movies, but forget about running that 3D modeling app or a 1080p HD movie on it. Gaming is also out of the question since it’s generally powered by Intel’s paltry on-board graphics. Also, be warned if you use CDs and DVDs on a regular basis; many of these net-tops do not sport an optical drive. But transferring of data between PCs is possible via a handful of USB ports on it. Thanks to the low-power components, they consume way less electricity than your typical desktop PC. For example, an Asus Eee Box B202 consumes just 20 watts of power under full load.

Upgradeability is only limited to RAM and the hard drive; much like laptops or netbooks. Also, many will have 2.5-inch laptop hard drives, which are more expensive than 3.5-inch desktop hard drives while upgrading. Therefore the bottom-line is – net-tops will make sense to people who have limited computing use. It’d also be a good download rig thanks to its low power consumption. Now that similarly powered netbooks sell for a little above Rs. 15,000, the ideal pricing for a Net-top (without a monitor) should be in the range of Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 12,000 at the most. 
If we were to choose, we’d check out the Asus Eee Box B202 (without monitor) for Rs. 13,500. The only thing missing from it is a DVD drive. If you desperately need one, a Dell Zino has a DVD writer and a 17-inch LCD monitor for Rs. 16,000. One thing we didn’t like about the Zino is that you have to compulsorily buy a Dell LCD monitor with it.
HD-capable mini PCs
These are similar to net-tops, but with one extra functionality. Instead of Intel’s under-powered on-board graphics, they come with a more powerful GPU from either NVIDIA or ATI. They also have an HDMI port to connect to an LCD TV. These graphics chips aren’t as powerful to handle heavy-duty games with ease, but powerful enough to play back hi-def movies smoothly. This combination of a low-power processor like the Atom, with moderately powerful graphics is dubbed as ION by NVIDIA, while ATI calls it VISION Premium. These machines have slightly powerful processors and double the RAM (2GB). If you want to suck the life out of your internet connection, downloading HD movies and watching them on your LCD TV all the time, then such a PC will do wonders for you.  

Since these PCs have power-efficient internals, using them as a 24/7 download rig will be eco and wallet friendly. Games from a couple of years ago should work smoothly on low or medium detail settings, but don’t expect to do hardcore gaming on this. Again, some of these HD-ready mini PCs won’t come with an optical drive. If you don’t care about this, then a Zotac MAG (without monitor) is available for Rs. 17,500, which is a sweet deal. A good alternative to the Zotac MAG is the Acer Aspire Revo. It is bundled with a comfortable wireless keyboard and mouse, webcam and stereo speakers; thus driving the price up to around Rs. 20,000.

Dell’s Zino HD starts from Rs. 20,900 and comes with an optical drive. You can even get the Zino HD configured with a Blu-ray reader/DVD writer drive. With ATI’s Radeon 4330 graphics and a blu-ray drive, it will cost you around Rs. 32,000. Again, like the Dell Zino, you have to compulsorily buy a Dell monitor with the Zino HD.

Another mention in this category is the Mac Mini. It comes with more powerful hardware than the ones mentioned above and runs Mac OS X. But no HDMI port, blu-ray support and a comparatively high price keep it from being recommended as a decent HTPC solution. But if you want the cheapest way to go Mac, then this is it.

NetOn’s are basically All-in-one PCs that bear the internals of a net-top. All the peripherals are built right into the LCD panel frame, which make it quite a space saver. They are supposed to be cheaper AIOs. This segment hasn’t become popular and there aren’t many models to choose from. Plus, you don’t get value for the price being demanded. NetOns like the MSI AP1900 or Asus EeeTop are sold at Rs. 30,000 and upwards. But the net-top-like internals will always limit the usage of the PC to comparatively lightweight tasks. Instead, one can pair a good net-top with a larger Full HD (1920 x 1080) LCD monitor for that price, whereas most NetOn’s will have just an HD-ready (1366 x 768 pixel) resolution. Also, there isn’t really a good NetOn worth recommending in the market currently. You’re better off with a NetTop + LCD monitor combination mentioned above.


All-in-ones or AIOs became popular with Apple’s iMac range of computers many years ago. Other makers followed suit and now you see a healthy range of such machines. All-in-one PCs have the internals of a laptop fitted into the LCD chassis. These have much better processing power than net-top/net-ons. They generally come in screen sizes of 20 inches and above, and have either a 1600 x 900 or a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, which calls for crisper image quality. Most have built-in optical drives at the side. Also, contained in them are fairly potent graphics chips for running full HD movies smoothly. However, they may not be too powerful to run modern games in their full glory.

Pricing starts at Rs. 50,000, in which you could build a powerful desktop PC these days. But All-in-ones have a certain style and flamboyance that no cabinet-monitor combination can supersede. Of the AIOs in the market, we liked the new iMac. Starting at Rs. 65,000, it is still expensive for the masses. But considering Macs, you now get more value for money than before. It has a sleek-n-sexy design, a stunning display and potent hardware. Plus, the Mac OS X makes using this machine a lot more fun and easy.

If you are not a Mac fanatic, then have a look at the Lenovo IdeaCentre A600. It’s not too far behind in terms of power when compared to the iMac. The best accessory with this PC is its multi-function remote. It acts as a media center remote, an air mouse (which lets you control the pointer by simply point-and-tilting the remote — no surface required) and a VOIP phone. You also get a wireless keyboard with a built-in touchpad at the side, which is great to entirely control the A600 from say, a couch. A newer model on the website also claims that its GPU has been upgraded from an ATI Radeon 3650 to a 4650. The latter is fairly powerful to run games at a fair pace. It sells for roughly Rs. 58,000.

Lastly, we’ve been seeing a lot of All-in-one PCs with touchscreen. In our experience, the touchscreen seems very gimmicky and we doubt whether it serves any practical purpose. Think about it, how many times are you going to stretch your hands and use the screen, when the same thing can be done faster with a keyboard and mouse? We feel spending money on such models is not worth it. 

So, this is how our beloved desktop PC has morphed into various iterations. It is obvious that building a desktop PC is going to be cheaper, but then if small dimensions, energy efficiency or flaunt value intrigues you, then the PCs mentioned above could be worth your attention.
— Naravane, Feb 09, 2010 )

Laptop’s Most Wanted and Unwanted

Six features that should be incorporated in every laptop and five others that should be left out

There is no such thing as a perfect electronic device, but there’s no denying that we’ve come a long way in making them easier to use. Speaking of laptops, over the years we’ve seen certain features in different models that come in very handy. And then there are those features that will not be missed if they are removed. So, call this as an open letter to all the laptop makers if you will, as this is a list of six features that I feel every laptop should have, and another five that are quite an irritant and need to be rectified.

1)    LED meter on the battery

They are quite convenient to check the charged capacity of the battery without having to boot into your OS. On the Macbook Pros, they are flushed into the side of the body, which is ideal. But some models from Dell and Samsung have the meter on the battery pack itself. Maybe a little inconvenient to flip the laptop over, but its way better than waiting for 30 seconds just to know how charged (or rather discharged) your battery is.

2)    Multi-touch scrolling

Scrolling is an action that’s performed by a lot by computer users – whether it’s for reading through a web page or going through a file list etc. The Apple Macbooks really pushed the limit by having a large track-pad that could recognize an array of gestures for zooming in/out, switching between windows etc. But I’m talking about the simplest of them all; scrolling by simply swiping two fingers across it. In my opinion it is a better and more natural maneuver than the side-scrolling strip found on most laptops. We’ve already seen its implementation in Windows-based computers like the Eee PC. I feel it should be incorporated into every laptop out there.

3)    Slot-loading optical drives

This is yet another thoughtful addition. Laptops have been coming with tray-based optical drives for eons now, and it’s time we progressed. Their mechanism makes the laptop thicker than what it could actually be. Also, an accidental hit can damage the tray. Rough usage has also shown the loosening of the tray in some laptops.

Here’s where slot-loading drives can save the day. The drive’s thinner frame allows manufacturers to build thinner laptops. One can simply slide in a CD or DVD through the thin gap provided. There’s no chance of accidental damage since there’s no tray popping out. Also, most slot-loading drives have a fabric covering the door to protect the internals from dust.

4)    Ambient light sensors to automatically adjust display brightness

It is now being seen in upper-segment laptops, but is something that could be implemented in every machine. Generally, there is an ideal brightness level for different lighting environments. And it can get irritating at times to keep switching brightness levels as you shift from one type of lighting to the other. Here’s where this feature will come handy. The light sensor gauges the external lighting levels and automatically adjusts the screen brightness accordingly. Not only will it protect your eyes from glaring at a bright screen at night, it will also help in conserving battery life.

5)    Chargeable USB ports

Many of us own MP3 players that require being connected to a PC for charging. Laptops like the Samsung R470 can charge USB powered devices like MP3 players or even cell-phones directly without the need to turn the laptop on. Thus, the device will simply draw power out of your laptop battery to charge itself. There’s no extra power consumed by the laptop’s peripherals. Quite nifty, we’d say.

6)    Shortcut key to switch off track-pads and Display off button

Many people prefer using a mouse with their laptop than the built-in touch-pad. Some manufacturers provide a key to turn off the track-pad. This avoids accidentally moving the pointer while typing on the keyboard. It will also help save the battery a little. The Display off button also has a similar function. There are times when you’re doing something on the laptop where you want the display to be turned off without closing the lid; like listening to music. Some laptop makers have their speakers built in the interior of the body. Thus, you’d want to conserve power by turning the display off, but leave the lid open to avoid muffling the audio.

Now for the features that, if left out, won’t be missed
1)    Touch-screening regular laptops

After the iPhone, it seems like every manufacturer is cashing in on the touch frenzy. While laptops that convert into Tablet PCs have proved useful to certain people, now we’ve got its ridiculous spin-off. Laptop makers have started incorporating touch-screens into regular laptops, which do not tilt. What is the use of these screens, you might ask? To use multiple fingers to zoom, pan and scroll through your photographs.

Now how many times do you think you’d actually stretch your hands to touch the screen when you can do the same using the mouse?  Apart from being a tiresome activity after a while, you’ll only end up smudging your screen with nasty fingerprints.

2)    Better quality webcams

Nowadays every laptop out there has a webcam. Many of them boast of high resolution, but what these numbers don’t own up to is the actual video quality – which is quite grainy and laggy. Although one could argue that only a small percentage of people use webcams these days, but if you are incorporating a feature into a device, it shouldn’t consistently be of crappy quality. Don’t play the number game by simply giving higher mega-pixel sensors. Rather give us ones that will deliver decent quality and frame-rate in low lighting conditions, so that we don’t have to go out and buy a REAL webcam separately.

3)    Stop with the overly glossy displays

While glossy displays might be useful in enhancing the output quality, they are a pain when you want to use your laptop outdoors. Some overly glossy displays will let you barely read what’s on the screen under direct sunlight, or even indoors without closing the curtains. Not everybody works in a dark basement, you know! Please keep the gloss down to a minimum, or at least offer a matte option if feasible.

4)    Place LED status lights at the side where they are visible even if lid is closed

There are some laptops that have the LED status lights placed on the interior of the body. Thus, you will probably not realize that your laptop is running if the lid is closed. In the end, you’d open it up only to know that the battery’s drained out. Placing the status lights on the side ensures that the user is aware if the laptop is on or off, even if the lid’s closed.

5)    High resolution on a small screen

More is not necessarily better all the time. This is in context to the ridiculously high number of pixels in a pint-sized screen. While images and video will look really crisp and awesome, remember that it’s a portable computer and not a video player. Reading text on such a screen is going to need a magnifying glass. Reducing the resolution anything below its native figure makes it look worse. Increasing font-size helps to an extent, but is not the ideal solution.

Special mention: HPs mirror touch-pads

This is a jab at Hewlett Packard. Their recent laptops under the Compaq and HP brand have overly glossy, mirror-like touch-pads. They are touch-pads, not vanity mirrors! They are highly susceptible to fingerprints and collect smudges after prolonged usage, thus hampering usability.

—-Source Naravane, Dec 14, 2009 )

LG launches `Ice Cream’ phone in India

NEW DELHI: Korean major LG’s `Ice Cream’ phone has come to India. The company has announced the launch of its latest clamshell handset, KF350, also known as the `Ice Cream’ phone, in India.

LG KF350 is targeted at the fairer sex and has been launched to mark the International Women’s Day (falling on March 8).

KF350 has a 2.2-inch QVGA, TFT display capable of displaying 262K colors. It also comes with an external LED Matrix display that can display the time and other notifications.

The mobile phone’s other features include a 3 megapixel camera, QVGA video recording, FM Radio and a full-fledged music player. There’s 25MB of internal memory that can be increased to 2GB using a microSD card. Connectivity options include WAP 2.0/xHTML, HTML browser, Bluetooth and microUSB. EDGE over GPRS is also supported.

The 800 mAH battery phone supports a 5-hour talk time and a standby time of up to 350 hours.

Priced at Rs 7,949, LG KF350 is available in White-rosy, Blue and Pistachio colors.

World’s costliest car key costs £200,000

Those who want to live the James Bond livestyle can now own a high-tech car key, costing little over 21,000 pounds.

 Dubbed the world’s most expensive car key, the recently launched lavish device is implanted inside a watch with a touch sensitive face which will open the door to an Aston Martin car, which ranges between $115,000 and $200,000.

 “If indulgent owners press the space between 8 and 9 o’clock the doors of the car will open, and if they press the opposite side they will lock.”

 “If you touch both sides together, the car’s lights will flash – to help you find it, or just impress your friends,” Sky News reported.

 The gadget developed by Jaeger-LeCoultre — one of the world’s most prestigious luxury watches manufacture in Switzerland — is not quite on a par with James Bond’s watches and their lasers, hooks and saws, but a lot of work has gone into its clever design, it said.

 According to the report, the engineers at Swiss firm had to reduce the size of the transponder, which sends the locking signal to the car, and then spent 18 months working out to install the internal mechanics of the watch around it.

 The device fits to be one of new instruments to be introduced in the next Bond movie, but interestingly the secret agent can’t have it because of his contract with Omega.

 But if you can afford an Aston Martin, then for a mere 21,850 pound you can own the luxury watch key.

Soon, software for mobiles that translates foreign languages instantly


It may soon be possible to transform communication among speakers of the world’s 6,000-plus languages – all thanks to Google which is developing software for the first phone capable of translating foreign languages instantly.

A basic system will be ready in couple of years, as Google is building on existing technologies in voice recognition and automatic translation, reports The Times.

An automatic system for translating text on computers has already been created by the giant.

Google also has a voice recognition system that enables phone users to conduct web searches by speaking commands into their phones rather than typing them in.

It is now working on combining the two technologies to produce software capable of understanding a caller’s voice and translating it into a synthetic equivalent in a foreign language.

“We think speech-to-speech translation should be possible and work reasonably well in a few years’ time,” said Franz Och, Google’s head of translation services.

“Clearly, for it to work smoothly, you need a combination of high-accuracy machine translation and high-accuracy voice recognition, and that’s what we’re working on.

“If you look at the progress in machine translation and corresponding advances in voice recognition, there has been huge progress recently.” (ANI)


Soon, shoes that may harvest pounding of walking to power mobiles

Princeton University engineers have developed power-generating rubber films that could be used to harness natural body movements such as breathing and walking to power pacemakers, mobile phones and other electronic devices.

The material, composed of ceramic nanoribbons embedded onto silicone rubber sheets, generates electricity when flexed and is highly efficient at converting mechanical energy to electrical energy.

Shoes made of the material may one day harvest the pounding of walking and running to power mobile electrical devices.

Placed against the lungs, sheets of the material could use breathing motions to power pacemakers, obviating the current need for surgical replacement of the batteries which power the devices.

The Princeton team is the first to successfully combine silicone and nanoribbons of lead zirconate titanate (PZT), a ceramic material that is piezoelectric, meaning it generates an electrical voltage when pressure is applied to it.

Of all piezoelectric materials, PZT is the most efficient, able to convert 80 percent of the mechanical energy applied to it into electrical energy.

“PZT is 100 times more efficient than quartz, another piezoelectric material. You don’t generate that much power from walking or breathing, so you want to harness it as efficiently as possible,” said Michael McAlpine, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, at Princeton, who led the project.

The researchers first fabricated PZT nanoribbons – strips so narrow that 100 fit side-by-side in a space of a millimeter. In a separate process, they embedded these ribbons into clear sheets of silicone rubber, creating what they call “piezo-rubber chips.” Because the silicone is biocompatible, it is already used for cosmetic implants and medical devices.

“The new electricity-harvesting devices could be implanted in the body to perpetually power medical devices, and the body wouldn’t reject them,” McAlpine said.

In addition to generating electricity when it is flexed, the opposite is true: the material flexes when electrical current is applied to it. This opens the door to other kinds of applications, such as use for microsurgical devices, McAlpine said.

The study was published online Jan. 26, in Nano Letters, a journal of the American Chemical Society. (ANI)


N-powered phone

Nokia N-900 shows what the Gen-Next convergence devices could look likeTo start with, the new Nokia N900 is not much of a phone. This time Nokia has gone into hybrid mode and put the best of their Internet tablets into a phone sized chassis to give the unit the power and looks that kill.Fire up this 181g, 110.9 x 59.8 x 18mm phone and you notice the most important of its features, the Maemo 5 OS. Not many might remember the Nokia 810i tablet — primarily because it never came to India — which also featured an OS similar to the Maemo 5. It also allowed developers to try out various new application stunts on it. Maemo 5 is smart enough to remind us of the Android, particularly because it is built on a simple system of single menus and wide, icon-filled homescreens.

The 3.5″ screen allows N900 to look bigger than other phones in the same range. The brick-top look also ensures that Nokia is not going to make any effort to shed the extra kilos. Not that we mind the weight, in fact it adds a touch of class to the phone.The externals of the phone house the up/down volume key and the centrally placed square power button. The touchscreen lets us navigate through the simplified menus with dramatic ease. Also the sheer size of the bright 800×480 pixels VGA resolution screen is overwhelming. The keys on the QWERTY are nicely sprung with a decent amount of travel, allowing fast typing. The space bar is still on the right, rather than the middle, meaning the layout is similar to that of the N97.

A lovable feature that Nokia has re-introduced is the infrared port. While not many would accept this as a feature for enhancing connectivity, third-party developers can actually use this feature to turn the N900 into a universal remote.The stuff under the hood is equally impressive too. The ARM Cortex A8 600MHz processor might not sound like the Qualcomm Snapdragon, but the phone does run through heavy duty application as a hot knife through butter. The Power VR graphics just add that touch of finesse required to better the screen and its viewing capabilities.

Calling, text and MMS on this phone is, well, not really a primary option, but nevertheless it is there. A really cool function is that you can set the phone to automatically pop open the dialer box whenever it is put into the portrait mode. However, making calls is not as easy as pressing the green button, as the N 900 doesn’t have buttons anywhere on or below the screen. Hence calling is a few clicks away on the phone, literally.While the unlocked T-Mobile phone we used worked well with local networks, the phone defaulted to a 2G network as there wasn’t any 3G around. For a nation which is still struggling to find its third generation legs, this is a great advantage.

Mailing on the phone is wonderful if you are an avid ‘mobile phone Internet user’. Push email from exchange is available, but Webmail is a little more basic. Still we feel the combination of the same along with a well-placed QWERTY is a captivating combination. The range of IM clients on the N900 is excellent and whether it is Skype, AOL or Google Talk it’s very easy to see who is online and click to start a conversation.

The browser on the N900, built with tools from Mozilla, is a great experience owing to its ease of use and functionality. Plus, unlike the HTC Hero, this one can work Flash video also.The camera on the phone is what one expects from normal Nokia high-end phones. Not exactly the kind used by those who love mobile photography, but the 5 MP camera is decent, along with its various editing options to cut, crop or enhance videos and images.

The dual LED flash could have had a Xenon replacement though.The music playback is in also very good, but the Internet radio is a let down. Video playback is amazing for the simple reason that it supports WMV, Real Video, MP4, AVI, Xvid and DivX codec files, which is like ‘wow’. However, it doesn’t recognise M4V file format.The unit has good memory storage with an onboard 32 GB memory and a separate 32 GB Micro SD card. However, there’s one really annoying issue — pop in a memory card and the Nokia N900 will simply refuse to read the files on there until a restart. This is really frustrating if you’re trying to quickly pop a new album on to the phone.

There is a deterrent in the battery too as it can completely drain off in less than a day even if you are not using Internet. Nokia really needs to come up with a new battery to improve on the 1350mAh. The File Manager on the phone was also a let down as it sometimes couldn’t find the on-board memory card.The applications on the phone are nice but not as many as we thought there would be. Give it a year though and lovers of this phone might truly feel the reason why we have ranted so many positives.

The phone has actually been designed for those who would prefer drooling over their gadgets rather party on a Saturday night, or for those who like to be in the news for spending money. Branded more as an ultra computer, the guys from Finland sure have come up with a good product and an even better OS. The big chassis, the slick no-nonsense black outlook, the simple design of the applications and the browser were some of the better features of the phone.

Nokia India has still not officially declared the launch dates for this phone or the price, but the American version costs $500 which means the Indian version might cost somewhere Rs 35,000. This we feel could be a very competitive price because the phone is sure to pull geeks as well as enthusiasts with its good computing and third-party application developing capabilities.On the whole, a buy if you don’t mind the extra bulge in the pocket and if you have the bulge in the pocket to ensure that it doesn’t burn a hole.

-The Indian Express

HCL Infosystems launches PVC free notebook


HCL Infosystems Limited has unveiled India’s first PVC free HCL ME Series 40 Notebook. The eco-friendly ME notebook has been designed and manufactured with materials completely free of harmful chemicals like Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), a hazardous toxin, absence of which makes recycling of electronic products safer and environment friendly.

“With decades of pioneering technology innovations, HCL ME Series 40 is just another step towards a green revolution in the IT hardware industry,” George Paul, Executive Vice President, HCL Infosystems Ltd said.

The new notebook is based on the Intel Core 2 Duo processor. HCL ME 40 notebook is available for Rs. 41,500 /- + applicable taxes.