All posts by Pallab De

Pallab De is a blogger from India who has a soft spot for anything techie. He loves trying out new software and spends most of his day breaking and fixing his PC. Pallab loves participating in the social web; he has been active in technology forums since he was a teenager and is an active user of both twitter (@indyan) and facebook .

Facebook Offers Free Talktime to New Indian Users

FacebookWith developed nations like the US and the UK in the bag, the social networking giant Facebook is turning its attention to developing nations like India, where millions of new internet users are being added every year. The social networking giant has announced a new promotion, which is going to give all new users signing up with their mobile phones a Rs. 50 talktime. The same amount of talktime can also be won by referring new users.

Facebook is already pretty big in India, where it overtook Orkut to become the most popular social network in 2010. Since then, its reach has increased steadily. However, India is a country with a population of more than one billion, and an internet penetration of only about 10%. As the country continues to develop, millions of people are being newly introduced to the internet. This represents a tremendous growth opportunity for Facebook, which has hit saturation in several developed nations. The promotion is extremely smart as it offers something that is both relatively easy to distribute and also useful. India has a remarkable mobile penetration, and as Opera’s State of the Mobile Web Report has highlighted time and again, a huge chunk of the population access the web solely through their mobile phones.

However, there is a major caveat with promotions like these. Most Indians have multiple SIMs and a promotion like this might lead to a sudden spurt of fake profiles. If this happens, Facebook might succeed in bolstering its user count, but in the long term it probably won’t gain much. Also, one has to keep in mind that if Facebook is struggling to monetize eyeballs from countries like the US, Canada, and the UK, it’s going to be significantly tougher to monetize eyeballs from countries like India.

In order to avail this promotion, go to m.facebook.com/tt and register with your mobile number.

HTC One X Case Review – Case-Mate vs Official HTC Case

The HTC One X sports a polycarbonate unibody construction and Corning Gorilla glass display. In theory, both of them should make HTC’s precious flagship more durable. In reality though, as the amply shattered glass of my friend’s One X suggests, there is still plenty of room for improvement. In fact, HTC’s sleek construction with a protruding display might have made the One X more vulnerable. It’s never a bad idea to get some extra protection for your beloved smartphone. I asked Mobilefun, a leading retailer of phone accessories, to send across a couple of cases for review, and they obliged.

The first case I wanted to check out was ‘Case-Mate Barely There for HTC One X’. As the name suggests, this case is extremely slim (just over a millimeter), and adds very little bulk to the phone. It’s made from flexible plastic and seems to be pretty durable. The case features neatly cut out orifices to provide you access to all the functionality, including camera and charging. Although the Case-Mate case is precisely crafted, portions of it overflow onto the screen, which is a good thing, since it offers protection for the screen on the sides.

HTC-One-X-Case-Mate-Barely-There

The One X is a pretty good looking phone. If not for its frog-eyed lens, it would have been a real stunner. The Barely There case does justice to the One X’s appearance and retains most of its beauty. Unfortunately, after a few days of usage, my unit developed ugly white patches that you can see in the image above. Mobilefun indicates that this is the first complaint it has received about the case, so it might be one of those one-off manufacturing defects.

HTC-One-X-Case-Mate-Barely-There-Sideview

The second case I reviewed is the official HTC Hard Case for the One X. The hard case is one of the most distinctive looking cases you are likely to see. Its perforated back renders it a unique appearance, while also improving grip. The case itself seems to be a lot more rugged than the Barely There case, and didn’t pick up any scratches or other deformities during my usage. HTC also claims that the mesh at the back improves ventilation and helps keep the phone cool during heavy usage. However, the perforations have one significant disadvantage – they also allow dust to accumulate. You will have to clean up your phone once in a while, if you don’t want to end up with ugly dirt spots (second image below).

HTC-One-X-Official-Hard-Case

HTC-One-X-Hard-Case-2

Both the HTC One X phone covers received from Mobilefun were excellent. The Case-Mate Barely There for HTC One X costs £15.95 in the UK and Rs. 1121.99 in India, while the HTC One X Official Hard Case costs £17.99 in the UK and Rs. 1266.00 in India. Given the nominal price difference between the two, I will prefer the official Hard Case. It appears to be more rugged, and also provides a better grip, while lending your phone a distinctive look.

HTC One X Official Hard Case: 4/5 (Excellent)
Case-Mate Barely There For HTC One X: 3/5 (Good)

[ Disclaimer: Cases reviewed were supplied by MobileFun ]

Pokki Takes on Microsoft, Tries to Fix Windows 8

Microsoft expects Windows 8 to herald a new era in computing with a touch-first user interface that is suitable for both post-PC devices like tablets, and traditional computing devices like desktops and laptops. One of the most iconic changes in Windows 8 is the lack of a start button as well as a start menu. While the new Start Page is a lot more informative and interactive, it will undoubtedly confuse a lot of users. This has prompted some manufacturers like Samsung to bring back the Start Menu through software patches. Pokki is amongst those that are trying to fix Windows 8.

Pokki isn’t, however, a simple Windows 8 Start Menu app. It’s an entire ecosystem. Pokki believes that Microsoft is onto something when it comes to using the web technology stack for native desktop apps. However, it doesn’t believe that a touch-first interface with reduced emphasis on multi-tasking is the way forward.

Pokki-Windows-8-Start-Menu-Replacement

Pokki has a fairly decent selection of apps. It’s not even remotely as comprehensive as the Play Store or the iTunes App Store; however, it’s better stocked than I was expecting it to be. You can find games like Angry Birds and Cut the Ropes, and apps like Facebook Lite and Tweeki.

Pokki-Windows-8-Store-Replacement

The Pokki Start Menu stocks your Pokki apps in a handy favourites section, but also provides access to traditional Windows apps, and frequently accessed system folders like Control Panel and Documents. Pokki will also begin supporting Modern-style Windows apps in its Start menu in the coming weeks.

The Start Menu also has a nifty search bar that searches for installed apps, documents on your system, as well as resources on the web. However, the search function doesn’t work perfectly, and is the biggest annoyance with Pokki. For example, I searched for ‘IrfanView’, and the search functionality only returned ‘IrfanView – Thumbnails’, which is a different app. The other big draw of Pokki is a smart notifications system that displays real time notifications from your installed apps in the Start Menu.

Techie Buzz Verdict

After taking Pokki for a brief whirl, I can confidently say that it’s worth a try. However, it is facing an uphill challenge. Not only is Pokki betting on the desktop app ecosystem, but it is also going head-to-head against the Windows Store that will be built into Windows 8. As browser developers like Mozilla and Opera can attest, that is never an easy proposition. In order for Pokki to survive and develop a viable business model, it will need to be adapted by a sizeable chunk of Windows 8 users. No matter how impressive the functionality offered by Pokki is, without an advertising budget, the little startup has slim chance of taking on Microsoft and surviving. I am rooting for Pokki, but I will be surprised if it actually succeeds.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5 (Good)

[ Download Pokki ]

Samsung Galaxy Premier Leaked

Samsung officially unveiled the Galaxy SIII Mini moments ago. Although the handset is titled as Galaxy SIII Mini, based on the specifications, it is more appropriate to call it the SII Mini. However, Samsung has another handset in the pipeline, which should fit in between the Galaxy SIII and the Galaxy SIII Mini – the Galaxy Premier.

Samsung is yet to open up about the Premier, but Mobile Geeks has already outed the device. The Galaxy Premier will sport a 4.65-inch 720p HD Super AMOLED display, and run on a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor. Other specifications include an 8-megapixel rear camera, 8GB or 16GB internal storage, microSD expansion, 14.4 Mbps HSDPA, 5.76 Mbps HSUPA, dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, GPS, and DLNA.

Samsung-Galaxy-Premier-Picture

Samsung is really going for a consistent look and feel for their 2012 line of products, and the Premier will also retain the nature inspired Galaxy SIII design. I find this pretty disappointing as the original Galaxy SIII design itself was nothing to brag about. Sony or Motorola’s approach of allowing each of its handsets to stand out is much more refreshing and exciting.

The Galaxy Premier will be available for €480, which equates to about $620. However, it will most probably be just for the international markets.

Google is the ‘Most InDemand Employer’ in the World

Google might no longer be the cool new kid in the block, but it still hasn’t lost all of its street cred. It tops LinkedIn’s ‘Most InDemand Employers 2012’ list not just in the US, but also around the world. The results for Europe are yet to be announced, and that might have an impact on Google’s final global ranking, but, being the most in demand employer in the US alone is a big victory for Google.

The biggest challenge that companies trying to change the world face is lack of enough skilled and talented people that share their vision. A company’s ability to attract talent is crucial in today’s fiercely competitive market, and when it comes to attracting talent, perception matters. Yahoo has been bleeding talent over the past few years, while new kings of the Silicon Valley like Facebook have been drawing in rockstar employees.

Most In Demand Employers in US and Around the World

LinkedIn analyzed billions of data points between members and companies and compared the data with surveys of thousands of members to determine a company’s familiarity and engagement score. Apple, which asks its employees to take pride in the fact that they can change the world through their work, ranks at #4 in the US list, behind Walt Disney and Facebook. Google is #2 in Canada, where Suncor Energy is the most in demand employer. It is #2 in Australia and #10 in India. Accenture, HP, and Oracle form the top 3 employers in India. Microsoft, Dell, Pepsico, and IBM are other top rated employers that make an appearance in several regional lists.

Firefox 16.01 for Desktop and Android Plugs Security Vulnerability

Just a day after releasing Firefox 16, Mozilla pulled the update citing security concerns. Needless to say this was a pretty unusual move. Typically any security vulnerability present in a major release is fixed through point updates. Removing a new release was a drastic move, which indicated that Mozilla reckoned that the vulnerability had a significant chance of being exploited in the wild.

Firefox

The vulnerability concerned could allow a malicious site to potentially determine which websites users have visited and have access to the URL or URL parameters. The security vulnerability was actually more of a privacy issue that could become a security issue on stupidly coded websites that use GET to transmit confidential information.

Mozilla released a fix for the Android version yesterday, and an updated desktop version was released moments ago. You can download Firefox 16.01 from here, or you can wait for your Firefox installation to automatically download the latest version.

Teenager Wins $60,000 at Pwnium 2 by Hacking Google Chrome

The second installment of Google’s hacking fest Pwnium has just wrapped up, and once again Google Chrome’s security features were successfully bypassed. Earlier this year, Chrome fell for the first time when VUPEN managed to exploit Chrome within five minutes at the first installment of Pwnium. During the same event, two more hackers – Pinkie Pie and Sergey Glazunov, managed to humble Chrome and bag the top award of $60,000.

Google-Chrome-PwniumThe second edition of Pwnium was organized as a part of the ‘Hack in the Box 2012′ security conference held in Kuala Lumpur. This time around, Chrome’s sandboxing mechanism was defeated by exploiting two flaws – an “SVG use-after-free” and an “IPC arbitrary write”. The exploiter was once again Pinkie Pie. Since his exploit depended entirely on bugs within Chrome to achieve arbitrary code execution, it qualified for Google’s highest award level as a “full Chrome exploit”, and won him $60,000 and a free Chromebook.

Detailed explanation of the bugs leveraged by Pinkie Pie is still not available. However, the good news is that Google has already patched the vulnerability, so even if you use Chrome, you are safe. Google deserves a round of applause for not only encouraging the security community to discover bugs in Chrome, but also for patching the vulnerability in less than twelve hours after its disclosure.

TweetDeck Updated, Finally Gets a Light Theme

If you are a Twitter power user, then the web interface is hardly going to cut it for you. Unfortunately, with Twitter actively discouraging new apps that replicate core functionality, the choices for the power user are not many, and they seem to get slimmer by the day as existing apps get acquired (e.g. Hootsuite acquiring Seesmic) or cease active development. TweetDeck is not just among the oldest, but also among the most flexible Twitter apps out there. When Twitter acquired TweetDeck last year, there were fears that it might languish under Twitter’s control. Thankfully, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Towards the end of last year, TweetDeck was rewritten to get rid of Adobe AIR dependency and improve performance in the process. Since then, the TweetDeck team has been rolling out minor improvements on a regular basis. A short while back, TweetDeck pushed out its second major update since being acquired by Twitter.

TweetDeck-Light-Theme

If you are not a big fan of the dark look of TweetDeck, there is good news for you. The new version features a light theme, which is frankly is a lot more pleasing to look at. There are minor interface improvements everywhere, and the tweets themselves have been reformatted to adhere to Twitter’s mantra of consistency. You also get the option to change font sizes – Small (13pt), Medium (14pt) or Large (15pt). However, columns are still not resizable and tweets are still not expandable.

TweetDeck has been updated for all supported platforms other than iOS, which means web, Chrome, Mac and Windows.

Opera Mobile 12.1 for Android Features Improved Security and Web Standards Support

Last month Opera spruced up Opera Mini for Android. Now, they have updated its full-featured sibling – Opera Mobile for Android. The changes are not massive, as indicated by the point increment in version number. However, they are still significant enough to make updating to the latest version worthwhile.

Opera Software now deploys four separate version of Opera Mobile, tailor made for ARM v5 and v7, MIPS and X86. Only the version that is suitable for your phone or tablet is automatically downloaded and installed, which means that you should notice a reduction in the amount of disk space consumed by the new Opera Mobile.

Most of the other new improvements are inspired by the work that Opera Software has been doing on its desktop browser. Opera Mobile now supports SPDY protocol, which enables faster browsing on compatible websites. Gmail and Twitter are two major services currently supporting SPDY. Support for websockets is also in, which means that web applications leveraging sockets for two-way communications will now work on your mobile phone as well. Other new web technologies supported includes CSS Animations and Flexbox, HTML5 Drag and Drop, and the HTML5 Clipboard API.

Finally, Opera Mobile 12.1 for Android improves security by adding support for fraud detection. Opera will now warn you before opening webpages that have been marked as being suspicious or used for illicit activity.

Opera-Mobile-Android-12

Opera Mobile lacks the inspired user interface of Chrome for Android; however, it is a great browser in its own right. If you can get past its ageing interface, you will appreciate its speed as well as the bouquet of unique features like Turbo.

[ Download Opera Mobile ]

RailRadar Tracks All Trains Running in India on Google Map

Indian Railways is hardly the most sophisticated public railway service, but it is one of the largest in the world. Given how every government treats the railways as simply a means to please the junta and gain votes, it’s a wonder that the Indian railways is still functioning as well as it is doing. However, the state-owned enterprise is capable of throwing us the odd surprise.

Today, I discovered on Hacker News, a neat Google Maps mashup developed by the Centre for Railway Information Systems or CRIS (an organization under the Ministry of Railways), called RailRadar. RailRadar is an interactive map that plots the position of trains running in India in realtime, and indicates whether they are on time or delayed. It uses the existing database of TrainEnquiry and presents it in a more visually interesting manner. Clicking on any train brings up more information including its next stop and route.

RailRadar-Track-Trains-in-India-in-Realtime

The conventional web and mobile interface of TrainEnquiry will still be more useful when you want to track a particular train. However, RailRadar deserves props as it’s not often that you see something as cool as this from Government of India owned entities. Now, if only CRIS would fix the nightmare that is IRCTC.

[ Visit RailRadar ]