Tech and Culture

UK rolls out 24/7 “Vehicle Movement Database”

Remember my post about using GPS to catch criminals? Well, I talked about the possibility of using advanced technology to monitor vehicles in that post. Turns out that the UK is actually rolling out such a system. It is based on a technology known as Automatic Number Plate Recognition.

The system will maintain a central database containing information about all cars, and would be linked to various other TV channels, radio services, and surveillance systems. “The primary aims claimed for the system are tackling untaxed and uninsured vehicles, stolen cars and the considerably broader one of denying criminals the use of the roads.”

This is a revolutionary system that could redefine the concept of surveillance. Good job, Britain.

Tech and Culture

World’s Ugliest Car !

Ugly CarCheck out to see what the world’s ugliest car looks like!

Tech and Culture

Excessive Blog ads keeping you down?

I have recently started to observe that more and more blogs are increasingly smothered with ads and commercial links these days. So much so that they repel me from reading the content on those particular blogs. I think this is a very sad trend for the blogging community, and I am quite sure that most of the bloggers participating in these gawdy link exchange programs get a very marginal boost in their earnings/readership. If you are one of those bloggers, I hereby request you to please do something about it.

I don’t care if you have the best opinion blog on the Internet if it is so flashy and ugly looking that my eyes start to bleed. The best way to increase readership is to post good original content rather than depend on banner and ad exchanges. And, don’t even get me started on those multiple pane Google Adsense ads that some bloggers so enthusiastically flaunt. If you are going to do something like that to your blog, at the very least please customize the ads so that they don’t stick out from the rest of your website.

You are killing everyone’s Internet experience by making your website annoying to look at. Do not sell your opinion for cheap, and thanks for reading my rant!

Tech and Culture

My experience with Bose products

Bose is one of those strange companies that use their brand position almost as much as tangible metrics like product quality to make money. At the same time, they advertise their products so vehemently that you feel like they need to invest in a telemarketing channel.

I decided to buy two Bose products last month as I wanted to see what the hype was all about. After using them for about a month, here’s what I feel:

1. Bose Companion 3 Desktop Speaker System

This is a 2.1 desktop speaker system that I bought from CompUSA. The build is nice and the controls are probably the best I have seen. Now, the sound is a rather unique experience. There is lots and lots of equalization in the sound. It is just so audible. The soundtracks don’t sound like they sound at a theater. Nevertheless, the equalization makes the speakers sound exactly how you would *like* the music to sound at home. The Bose speakers are known to use the “smiley face” equalization technique in almost all their consumer products. What that does is “accentuates the low and high ends to extremely un-natural levels , causes booms, screeches, high end clipping, pronounced “S” when speaking, low end resonant vibrations”. As such, the speakers sound a lot better when placed at a considerable distance from the ears.

The speakers sound great when there’s not a lot of vocal elements in the audio being reproduced. The low freq. bass output is pretty powerful, and the subwoofer houses the main sound processing circuitry of the system. I was astounded when I tried to look in the specifications in the users manual for the total system power output and frequency response, and was unable to find anything. Then, I realized that it was a Bose user’s manual 😉

All in all, I am decently pleased with the system even though there are times when I seriously consider reverting back to my $15 speakers.

2. Bose QuietComfort 2 Noise Cancelling Headphones

As someone else has pointed out, these headphones are $100 worth of headphones, and $200 worth of good noise reduction. I have to say, the noise reduction is spectacular. I used them at a construction site, and all that heavy noise was just reduced to hardly noticeable mumbling. The noise reproduction, on the other hand, is the worst thing these headphones have to offer. Music sounds bland, and vocals are just terrible. Again, these headphones use the same “smiley face” equalization technique that tends to hurt your ears, and could in fact cause temporary loss of high end hearing! These headphones are most definitely going back to the store.

Now, you could say that my opinion was skewed against Bose from the get go, but let me assure you that I am, in fact, loving the desktop speakers. The headphones are great to nullify background noise, but are no better than those $100 headphones you’d buy from any other manufacturer. The triport technology does produce a good low freq response in the form of beats, but all the good is negated by the poor reproduction of vocals; Something which is not easily noticeable in Bose’s desktop and surround speaker systems.

This was surprisingly my first ever product review at this blog!

Life and Personal Tech and Culture

What’s your blogging agenda ?

I am not very active when it comes to posting interesting, timely, well planned, and somewhat controversial tidbits on my blog. In fact, I don’t think I am addicted to this *culture* enough. There are bloggers who make it a point to make very regular additions to their log. They aim for a certain level of readership, and strive to spread word out by religiously posting comments on other blogs. I have not done all that until now.

This made me wonder. What’s my blog about? Do I have an agenda?

I have written about my predicament about the purpose of my domain before, and this time I am trying to actually rationalise the purpose of this blog. I believe that every blog should have an agenda (well defined) anyway. In fact, most blogs are highly polarized about what they talk about.

I am going to be out of school very soon, which would translate to increased involvement in some real world projects. I guess that at that juncture I would be able to form some experience based *lessons* for my readers. I would also start thinking more about what to use my second domain,, for. One of the grand ideas is to use it bring some independent hobbyists together and find resources for them to actually commercialize their inventions/ideas/discoveries. I see a very strong model for this kind of a service in the coming knowledge based global economy.

So, in a nutshell, I think my agenda would basically evolve from a more “ad-hoc” mental rambling to a more formal technology and politics “aquarium”.

India Tech and Culture

Indian Cyberlaws are about to be amended !

Yes! I am not kidding.

Just click on the links below to see what I am talking about :






Indians never sit still !

Life and Personal Tech and Culture

Tips for applying for a job

Hey! I am back after a very long hiatus! I was basically tied up with so much stuff that I had little time and motivation to get myself to update my blog.

I was going through the best of Craigslist when I noticed a very interesting post by the CEO of giving out advice to people applying for jobs online.

The gist of the post is that it is always better to be honest, elucidative, simple, concise, and professional when initiating that first key hiring related correspondence. Of course, different recruiters have different preferences, and some might prefer the traditional cookie-cutter emails/correspondence with “tasty” phrases and lots of magic keywords. I remember sending in an application for recruitment to SuSE Linux straight out of college and receiving an email from a recruiter saying that it was one of the most “interesting” applications he had seen. Too bad, at that time, SuSE was not doing good and was actually looking for someone to buy them (which was later done by Novell). That notwithstanding, “interesting” could hold connotations that could be either positive or negative.

Personally, I believe that the best way to sell yourself is to highlight your successful projects/achievements and lessons from mistakes. That minor in communications could be a good idea in the increasingly competitive technology jobs arena.

Tech and Culture

The evolution of personal music players

I was walking down the campus yesterday when I realized that almost 2 out of 3 people on campus had a personal music player of one or the other type. These devices were almost invariably MP3 players the size of one’s palm. Some people had headphones attached to their cellphones or pocket computers, but everyone was listening to some sort of digital media.

This made me wonder. The concet of carrying your music with oneself has really evolved during the last 2-3 decades. In the very beginning, after the birth of portable stereo systems, some youngsters actually carried their stereo systems to listen to their music. Of course, this meant that the devices were bulky and inconvenient to carry, but the fundamental urge to “force” your favorite music down everyone else’s ears superceded the practical issues.

Then came the Sony Walkman in the year 1979. This extremely small pocket sized cassette player is credited with creating a “culture” based around portable music that lives even today. The Walkman was an amazing device. It cost $200 at that time, roughly half the average rent in the city of NY, and could only play back the music, not record it. “Walkmen” ruled the market until mid 90s, when CD sales actually took over cassette sales at a global level. I still remember walking into any electronics store and literally drooling over the multitude of Sony Walkman models, especially the water resistant ones with little digital clocks and FM tuners in them.

The main issue with personal CD players was the size. They were no longer pocket sized, and had to be lugged around in your hand or through some sort of belt clip. Nevertheless, a lot of them were sold just because it is human nature to try to be abreast with the latest and the best. Sony started making huge mistakes around the same time. In their endeavor to be the best electronics company in the world, they started focussing more on proprietary and rather “odd” design schemes instead of adopting the most widely used ones. Actually, Sony has been adept at this ever since they were incorporated (cue debates about the Betamax format), but their strategy isn’t or wasn’t suited for a truly global market where functionality rather than brand value rules the roost.

And then came the age of the MP3 files. Suddenly, the youth was spending more time listening to music downloaded from the Internet than from actually bought CDs. While the industry and record labels (Sony included) were trying their best to curb the free flow of music, Apple came out with the iPod. An iPod was to the personal music market what a Walkman was nearly 2 decades ago. It was exorbitantly priced, played MP3s, and had a massive storage capacity. To take it further, Apple even tied up with various record labels to enable youngsters to purchase music to play on their iPods. Sony was left totally dumbfounded.

Apple had the same advantage that Sony had in 1979. It had a revolutionary product that no one else had, or in fact, seemed to have. Apple took cues from Sony, and not only did it make the iPods functional, but also a fashion statement. Youngsters wanted an iPod for the very same reason they wanted a cassette tape Walkman years ago. Only this time, people had far more disposable income, which translated to a greater market penetration and sales numbers.

I am glad to have joined the revolution last week, although not with an iPod. Truly wonderful times to live in!

Tech and Culture

Yahoo! Music Engine

Screenshot of YME

I have been using Yahoo! Music Unlimited for a week now. My free 7 day trial ends today, but I think I am going to keep the subscription for some time now. The price is just too hard to give up. I can listen to more than a million soundtracks for $6 a month!

Before subscribing to Yahoo! Music, I had been using Real Rhapsody for more than a year. Rhapsody is a similar music subscription service. Both of them are based on the Windows Media DRM scheme and format, and allow you to stream music on your PC or music device. I am not sure why, but Rhapsody charges extra for the capability to transfer these music files to a portable media device, making their service cost $15 a month.

Price apart, I think both the services are pretty good, but after using Yahoo! for a week, I like how it is actually tied together with the Yahoo! suite of services. It plays well with the messenger service, and shows up as a subscribed service in your Yahoo! account information. The interface is crisp and clear, although a bit slower compared to Rhapsody.

I cannot say much about the music selection, as both the services seemed to offer the newest and the latest albums. As far as Indian music goes, I think Yahoo! offers a better collection, although Rhapsody’s collection was more organized and searcheable. A lot of the music comes from the Saregama label.

I like the personalized radio station too. Basically, it is a radio station based on your taste, and generated by software depending on the ratings given by you to various artists, songs, and albums. Most of the times, I get what I want to hear, and very rarely a song that I do not like.

The Dell DJ interoperation is flawless, and I have to just drag and drop to transfer music to my DJ.

I think Yahoo! has got a good thing going with the Yahoo! Music Engine (basis for the subscription service). If only they could figure out a way to make the Windows DRM available for other platforms, I am sure they could conquer the market with their pricing and personalization.

Interesting blog by a YME developer: Click here!

Life and Personal Tech and Culture

I now own a portable music player !

I finally relented and bought myself a new Dell DJ music player tonight! My last portable music player purchase was a Sony Discman I bought in 2002 for my sister. I thought it was finally time for me to get with the times and gift myself something I could use to listen to music while mobile.

My new gizmo has a 30GB hard drive, and comes with a neat docking station. It cost me $200 after $95 in coupons and customer appreciation discounts. I just couldn’t give up on this special opportunity. Another driver for the decision was the fact that I am absolutely amazed at the quality of Dell products. I have been a very happy Dell customer since early 2004 having bought a PDA, a top-of-the-line desktop computer, and a powerhouse Inspiron 9300 laptop.

I did consider getting the 20GB photo iPod before I ordered this, though. One of the main reasons I dislike the iPods is the way they try to lock you in into proprietary formats and services. They don’t work with major music subscription services, and are way overpriced for the value they carry. I don’t support music piracy, and paying 99 cents for every musical track isn’t my cup of tea.

The next gadget on my shopping list is a new cellphone. My current Sony Ericsson T637 has about given up on life. I was looking around for newer Sony Ericsson models (I have taken a casual vow to stick to Sony Ericsson phones for the rest of my life), when I came across the W800i. It is a mix of a Sony Walkman, a Sony Cybershot 2.0MP camera, and a cellphone. Unfortunately, it works on the 900/1800/1900 frequency bands, while Cingular mostly uses the 850/1900 frequency bands in North America. I guess the phone is more geared towards T-Mobile suscribers. The yet-to-be-released W600i works on the 850/1900 frequencies, and has a smaller form factor, not to mention EDGE compatibility. I can’t wait for the price of that phone to fall down.

I should have my Dell DJ 30 by Wednesday!