Do you Google a person? In today’s super connected world, often we are introduced to people via Facebook or Twitter and not exactly in person. If we have to know more about this person professionally a quick search on Google is useful. But Googling someone’s name can also be considered weird behaviour. Here is a nice flowchart for us to decide when exactly is it appropriate to Google someone.
Some of the instances described are funny, life if you work for NSA, Google has already given you all the information, while some is sound advice that it is unwise to Google someone who is standing right next to you. 🙂
I came across a nice Chrome extension called Signal that allows users to edit emails that they have received. You might wonder why that is important, but it has it uses. We often use emails and mark them important or label them on Gmail to create a sort of to-do list for ourselves. Signal seems to extend that a little bit more.
Here I have installed the extension on my browser to test it and sure enough get the option to highlight and edit a particular email.
As you can see in the image above, I do not need any other information from this email except the highlighted part. You can see in the image below how the edited email looks like.
As you see the social icons and other unimportant text from the email does not show up.
This is very useful if you are have to summarize a long email into points or for highlighting and saving important parts like dates, addresses, phone numbers and email ids.
While Google is showing this only for Christmas related queries, Facebook too has introduced its own easter egg in the form of animated snowflakes on its Android app. Just open a chat with someone using “chat heads” and we can see snowflakes falling on the profile pic.
Have you seen any more unique and interesting ways tech companies are celebrating Christmas festival with their users? Do let us know in your comments.
If you are travelling by Indian Railways, it is a little difficult to track train updates on a phone. While IRTC website has its own reputation for being mocked for booking tickets, tracking updates is difficult. There is option of using Rail Radar which tracks train updates on a Google Map layout. Personally, I found RailYatri a useful website on my last train travel and hence I was tested out their Android app released recently.
The RailYatri app allowed me to choose from over 5000 trains and 8000 location. I could also set some stations and certain routes as my favourites. The big change is the push notification on various alerts like train delays and more. This means we do not have to track train status on a PC or phone but get updates automatically.
Ideally the app will use stations and trains marked favourites to push notifications on the phones. The alert cards on the app will show details like train cancellations, delayed start, accident sites, fog updates and more. So ideally these favourites should be set as soon as your trip is planned and not just on the day of the journey.
If you do not own an Android phone, try using the RailYatri.in website and set SMS alerts for updates on certain trains and routes.
Google has tied up with several e-commerce websites in India to bring together an online shopping festival. Basically online buyers can expect a lot of lucrative discounts on a variety of products. The 3 day festival is called GOSF (Google Online Shopping Festival). Yes, this is supposed to be India’s version of “Cyber Monday”.
Last year the GOSF kicked off to insipid enthusiasm and more importantly criticism of users finding that the discounts on offer were either not lucrative and in some cases, the prices were over-inflated and then a hefty discount applied.
This year GOSF will probably see a lot less of that, but it has not been an auspicious start as gosf.in the official portal crashed in the first few hours. Google India did tweet out that the site should be up soon. At the time of writing this post, the portal was up and running.
The Logic is missing
The online retail business in India is growing but I cannot help feeling that GOSF is an misplaced effort. Yes, it would be nice to have India’s own “Cyber Monday” but there is logic behind the “Cyber Monday” phenomenon in the US. Thanksgiving holiday in the US is observed on every fourth Thursday in November. Many Americans have a long weekend off, which stretches from Thursday to Sunday. Some who go on vacation or travel do not have the option of availing Black Friday discounts which happen at retail shops on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Having super discounts on Monday (Cyber Monday) means a lot of buyers can enjoy their vacations and still avail great discounts online. This also was useful initially as not all houses had an internet connections and people used their office computers to shop online. And offices opened only on Monday after the long weekend.
This while science or logic behind “Cyber Monday” is totally missing with GOSF. The attempt is novel but maybe it should be held every year the day after the festival of Diwali takes place in India. It is a traditional festival when Indians save up and shop during. Or atleast have this festival in the first weekend of the month, which is closer to the first of the month and is a time when many online shoppers have just got their salaries credited into their account.
What do you think of GOSF? Do drop in your comments.
Jeff Bezos the CEO of Amazon, yesterday revealed on a television program “60 minutes” that the company was working on sending five pound packages to people using drones. This would reduce the delivery time to 30 minutes. Amazon has been disruptive many times in the past and with same day delivery might even put small exclusive stores out of business. But using drones instead of actual people to deliver a package from a warehouse to a house in 30 minutes is disruptive on a totally different scale.
Such a drone does exist and is works in a program called Prime Air. The drone will sit on the conveyor belt and pick up the relevant package. Fly over to the recipient’s house and gently place the package down. According to a Verge article, the drone will travel over 10 miles and most importantly 86% of Amazon’s packages are smaller than 5 pounds. So the scope of using this drone is huge.
The video below shows how the octo-copter or drone will work.
But will drones for delivery work?
Amazon still has some technical problems like how to ensure they do not drop packages from the sky or manage to avoid people and things while landing in the real complex world. They also need see how the drones could sense where to place the package. The video demo the package is dropped in the front yard but what happens to packages that need to be delivered to high rises. But Jeff Bezos has declared 2015 as the year when the program kicks off and 5 years to get it running at large.
But those are just technical issues, there are major political and employment issues to deal with too. Lack of an actual person delivering packages means loss of jobs. Delivery inside 30 minutes could put provision drones or specialized stores out of business. Drones with sensors and cameras scouring over neighborhoods means an almost total lack of privacy which is something that will not be very popular.
Finally would local government bodies allow hundreds of such drones to fly through their airspace and not find it unsafe? Amazon will have to work very hard in convincing people and governments to firstly make this technology really viable.
Was this just a massive PR exercise?
The whole delivery by drone thing does sound like a major PR exercise for Amazon. They can always go back and claim a multitude of reasons to say the project did not materialize but what happened yesterday almost every media outlet was giving Amazon coverage and mostly in a positive light. Yesterday was “Cyber Monday” a day traditionally people shopped online in the US. And which name is the biggest in online shopping world? Amazon.
So basically Amazon got massive publicity on the biggest day of online shopping in the US. And they got this more or less free as this was news coverage not an ad campaign which costs millions of dollars.
So what do you think about Amazon’s drone program? Think it will succeed or will it be such a proto-type that got them a lot of publicity on a very convenient day?
CyanogenMod is a very popular ROM in the Android ecosystem. All users needed was a rooted Android device. About three weeks ago, CyanogenMod introduced its CyanogenMod installer app on the play store. This was a sign that CyanogenMod or CM as its known, was now friendly enough to be installed by Android users who were not really technical adept at installing ROMs.
The party came crashing today with CyanogenMod having to voluntarily remove it’s installer app from the Google Play store.
The reason from removing the app in CyanogenMod’s blog post was that the app encouraged users to void their warranty. This was against Google Play guidelines that would have basically meant the app would have been kicked out at some point of time, if it had not been removed voluntarily.
Google will get bad press, but it is right!
Google for this action will soon be called evil and I am sure many thousands of words will be written about how this indicates that the Android ecosystem is closed and not open. Google might get bad press but in my opinion it is doing the right thing.
Getting CyanogenMod installed on a phone is not something a newbie does or even explores. Most people who do this through Cyanogenmod.org are actually technically adept at installing 3rd ROMs on their phones. With a Play Store app a newbie could easily install CyanogenMod on his phone without knowing the risks of voiding warranty. Also reverting back from CM is also not easy and that is a very important guideline for any app on Google Play.
CyanogenMod in all probability will fix this with changes in the future.
My experience with tablets is not really old. It started about six months ago when I got myself an iPad Mini. The Apple device was something I was very happy with but I was looking forward to the new Nexus 7 tablet being released in India.
The first thing that hit me was how small the device actually is. The iPad Mini is about 5.3 inches wide while the Nexus 7 is about 4.4 inches wide. The height of both devices were the same. I was a little apprehensive if the Nexus 7 would work out for me with such a small screen. Compared to an iPad Mini it looks pretty small.
The small size concerns were quickly dismissed as I found the Nexus 7 screen brilliant. It supports 1920 X 1200 HD resolution with 323 ppi (pixels per inch). The iPad Mini supports about 163 ppi with 1024 X 720 resolution display. Forget all the spec numbers, the display performance of Nexus 7 is simply great.
The Nexus 7 (2013) obviously has a lot more power with Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro (1.5 GHz). The Nexus 7 has 32 GB storage and 2 GB RAM (other variants are with 16 GB and 32 GB with 4G) which is a great deal of storage space.
The rear facing camera is 5MP and the front facing camera is 1.2 MP. The 3950 mAh battery promises 9 hours of active use. It is still early days to see if it as good as the iPad Mini.
Android 4.4 on Nexus 7
It is a bit difficult to see how greatly the Android 4.4 has improved the performance of the Nexus 7 as the first thing I did with Nexus 7 was to get it updated to Android 4.4. With guaranteed update to Android KitKat, ideally the update shows up in notifications within moments of setting up the tablet.
Android 4.4 allows hotword detection which allows users to start a search by just saying “OK Google”. With this addition, Google Now is miles ahead of Apple’s SIRI. To switch on hotword detection, open the Google Search app and look up Settings >> Voice >> Select Hotword detection. If the Hotword detection option is not visible change the language to English (US) and the option will show up.
I also saw a new app called QuickOffice which helps creates documents, spreadsheets and presentations. QuickOffice seemed to be very closely integrated with Google Drive.
Finally I saw a new feature in the device settings called Printing. I have not tested this out but it links up to Cloud Print or HP Print Service.
Widgets are a good idea on a tablet!
I am not a big fan of widgets on my Nexus 4 phone, though it is one of the most cited advantage over iOS by Android fans. But with a tablet, the screen is a lot bigger and widgets suddenly seemed more useful on a tablet. I have currently chosen Google Now widget.
The notifications on Android are much better in the sense I can carry out actions like delete, share images and more with notifications that show up.
What Nexus 7 does not get right
Google does offer tablet only apps on Play store and most of them are pretty decent. But Android simply is nowhere close to the variety that iOS offers for tablets. As I stated in the beginning of this article that my iPad Mini is used by members of my family and not just me. This is because of the variety of apps and how simple it is to use as a device. I have personally seen even a seven year old confidently operate the iPad Mini.
The Nexus 7 runs on Android which can be customized but with customization comes personality and that means I doubt a Nexus 7 tablet would become a family device. Also my Nexus 7 froze in its first hour when I was checking the front facing camera. It got fixed after I put my device in “Safe Mode”. I removed an app that I had recently downloaded and the issue was fixed. This never happened to my iPad Mini. There is no “Safe Mode” and I have never come across any app on iOS that crashes the device.
That said, if you are looking for a tablet with an awesome display screen, then the Nexus 7 tablet is a good buy at Rs. 24,000 (23,999) for a 32 GB Wifi version. A comparable iPad Mini with 32 GB storage is almost Rs. 28,000 but as I mentioned has a much inferior display. A iPad Mini with retina display with 32 GB storage is currently sold at $500 in the US.
If you regularly listened to music on your computer over the past few years then chances are you have used Winamp. Winamp has announced it is shutting down. Winamp.com will itself shutdown and the software will not be available for download from 20th December 2013.
The media player was more famous for playing music files than video files. Despite being a very popular media player, it really did not take off into selling online music or digital music. Over the years, it lost out to the likes of iTunes by Apple and also probably the rise of online video streaming site like YouTube did not help.
Winamp was created by a company called Nullsoft which was acquired by AOL. This was back in the late 90s when MP3 music was a big rage and iconic upstarts like Napster were changing the music industry. AOL was working with TIme-Warner a media company on a merger. Media companies were traditionally against digital sales of music or the whole MP3 revolution.
That finished off the chances of Winamp doing something like say Apple iTunes did. In the following years, Napster was brought down, but Winamp survived as the amount of downloaded music was growing exponentially.
Lately with music moving from PCs to phones, Winamp was probably a lost cause. It is sad because of its rich legacy but it is probably for the best.
The current year seems to be the final goodbye to many internet old timers like Google Reader, AltaVista and now Winamp.
If you are one of those who wants to buy the new Nexus 5 phone or the Nexus 7 tablet, you should head over to the Google Play Store. Though I expected the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 to debut on 14th November but that date seemed off by a week. It might have ended up missing the shopping frenzy in India but Android enthusiasts were probably aware the Nexus phone will show up
Nexus 5 in India
The Nexus 5 phone running the latest Android 4.4 KitKat is available in two variants with 16 GB and 32 GB memory storage. While I checked Google Play store, the phone was not available in black colour but was available with white. The price of the 16 GB phone was as expectedRs. 28,999 and the 32 GB is priced Rs. 32,999.
The Nexus 7 tablet’s latest 2013 version was released a few months ago in the US. The device runs Android 4.3 Jellybean but it will have an assured update to Android 4.4 KitKat. The tablet is available in three different varieties. The 16 GB variant is available in WiFi only and the 32GB variant is available in WiFi and also another one with LTE unlocked (GSM).
Nexus 7 16 GB WiFi – Rs. 20,999
Nexus 7 32 GB WiFi – Rs. 23,999
Nexus 7 32 GB LTE + WiFi – Rs. 27,999
The Nexus 7 32 GB LTE + WiFi version is a pretty good deal. I personally ordered myself a Nexus 7 32 GB WiFi tablet and when its delivered, you can expect a complete review.
While the new Nexus 7 is far superior to its last years predecessor, it still is a handy tablet to have. The best part of the old Nexus 7 are being sold at prices as low as Rs. 8,999. I saw that price on Flipkart but on Amazon.in it was available for Rs. 11,299.