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 .

ADWLauncher EX Brings Insanely Cool Transition Effects to Android

If you are an Android user, you are probably familiar with ADWLauncher, which is one of the most popular home screen replacement apps for Android. Why would anyone want to replace their default launcher? The simple answer is – convenience. Third party launchers like ADW and Launcher Pro support more homescreens, more icons per screens, dockbars, more widgets, gestures and other convenient features.

As mentioned earlier, ADWLauncher is already one of the more popular home-screen replacements available on Android. ADWLauncher EX takes things to the next level by adding oodles of cool features, while achieving huge performance improvements.

Launcher EX features five app drawer styles – the default vertical one, a new smoother vertical drawer, the cube style implemented by Launcher Pro, the horizontal drawer seen in Galaxy phones, and a new flingable continuous horizontal drawer. The best thing is that irrespective of the style you are using, scrolling through apps (even when you have hundreds of them) is crazy smooth.

ADWLauncher-EX

ADWLauncher EX also ships with numerous dazzling transition effects to wow your friends with. There are eight of them at the moment, and I love almost all of them. Once again, the transitions are fast and smooth and never get in your way. Check out the video below to see some of them in action.

Techie Buzz Verdict

ADWLauncher EX - TechieBuzz Reccomends Launcher EX is not a freeware. It’s priced at €2.50, which works out to approximately $3.50. In my opinion, the performance benefits alone make ADWLauncher EX worth buying. However, if you need more reasons, you should be pleased with the editable desktop icons for applications, shortcuts and folders, super cool transition effects, and flexible app drawers. As far as I am concerned, ADW Launcher EX is the best launcher/home screen replacement app for Android.

Techie Buzz Rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent)
[ Download ADWLauncher EX ]

Did You Know That Opera India Pretty Much Closed Shop Ten Months Back?

Did you know that Opera India pretty much closed shop ten months back? Neither did I, until a few weeks back. Apparently, back in March 2010, Opera fired almost all of its employees in India, and shut down the entire engineering division. Opera had opened its Chandigarh office in 2006 amidst much fanfare. In 2009, they even shifted to a swanky new office in Chandigarh’s IT Park. So, what went wrong?

We reported in January that Opera co-founder Jon von Tetzchner had stepped down as CEO to make way for Lars Boilesen. It appears that the new man in charge made all the difference. Opera had suffered surprise losses in Q3 2009, and their shares had shed a lot of value. Boilesen was obviously entrusted with the responsibility of getting Opera back in the black.

Opera India had just delivered the eBook Reader and Unite Media Player widgets, which are still among the most downloaded widgets. Opera 10.5 with widgets that could run as independent applications was released a day earlier. Even before employees could get their breath back, on March 3, Boilesen informed them that the entire engineering division will be shut down. From what I have managed to gather, the only explanation offered was that this was a part of the restructuring at Opera Software.

Of course, downsizing and restructuring are harsh realities of life for IT and Software companies. However, what surprises me is how silently Opera managed to pull this off. Neither was there any announcement, nor any media coverage. The restructuring has left Opera India with a handful of employees – Mrunmaiy Abroal, Shwetank Dixit and Hari G. All of them currently work from home. Sagar Chandna was called back to Norway.


Opera India Team

I tried reaching out to some ex-Opera India employees; however, (apparently) they are contracted not to speak about Opera in negative light. Nevertheless, you can glean more about what went on from their public blog posts. Check out the blog posts by Vishal Lahsiv, Amit Patil and Vivek Jisthu.

Speaking on the issue, Opera’s co-founder, Mr. Tetzchner said, “The decision to close an office that and let people go is always a tough one. At the same time, it is difficult to maintain and control a far away office as it requires quite a lot of resources.”

It’s disappointing that Opera chose to shut down their Indian engineering team. They had an immensely talented bunch, including four IITians. I wish that they had made better utilization of the talent pool available to them. However, it isn’t surprising, simply because Opera is a public company that has to answer to shareholders. At the same time, while it is always nice to have a formal announcement, companies aren’t required to announce workforce cutbacks, and they often don’t. From the anecdotes I have heard, the lack of knowledge also hurt the employees who were fired. Although, most of the employees have succeeded in finding new jobs for themselves, it was a big hurdle for them to convince potential employers about the closure of Opera India’s engineering department. With everyone from managers (Wolfgang Maehr) to testers axed, there wasn’t anyone to back them up. After all, major software firms shutting down in India is still a relatively rare phenomenon.


We moved ahead ! there was lots of hicupps after this, it was undoubtedly one of most hard faced part of life. It has been almost 8-9 months to the incidence but still feels like it was yesterday only. Opera being the first company of my career will always be cherished . This company taught me technology , “how to code”, and more over few essential lessons of life .

– Vishal Lahsiv

All said the india office was also not so very expensive to Opera India ´s pocket. Which is one of the more surprizing realities of closing down the India Operations. Everyone will find their way…move on…but the values that companies talk about…particularly values of one family openness etc. Well they all collapse when it comes to business decisions. In the brief sojourn working in Opera, i was satisfied with the work culture and the type of work. Perhaps thats the reason for some good team morale and productive output by end of the day.

– Amit Patil

Opera Launches Widgets Runtime for Android

Opera As we enter a new decade, web-apps are shaping up to challenge traditional system dependent applications. Google is possibly at the forefront of this change with its highly anticipated Chrome OS. However, several other players are keen to leverage the benefits offered by web apps. Back in October, Opera joined the Wholesale Applications Community, while Mozilla announced its new Open Web App platform. Now, Opera has released a preview build of its Widget runtime for Android, which is based on the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) 1.0 specification.

WAC is an alliance of the world’s leading mobile operators and OEMs, such as Vodafone, Verizon, AT&T, Samsung, Huawei and others. Its fundamental aim is to promote the use of web technologies to enable developers to write an application which can execute on a web runtime upon multiple mobile device platforms. The benefit of using WAC specification is that the same widget will be able to run on multiple phones, irrespective of the underlying operating system. This makes things easier for both developers and publishers.

The Widgets runtime released by Opera allows you to download and run existing widgets from widgets.opera.com. Opera’s widgets are platform independent, and already work on all popular desktop platforms including Windows, UNIX and Mac. With WAC Runtime, they will now run even on your mobile phones.

WAC 1.0 devices and storefronts are scheduled to launch at the Mobile World Congress 2011.

[ Download Opera Widgets Runtime for Android ]

Opera 11 Downloaded 6.7 Million Times on the First Day

Opera Opera has always been known for its innovation. Unfortunately, in spite of consistently delivering a fast, secure, and stable browser, Opera has always been the little guy in the browser wars. As far as desktop browsers are concerned, Opera is currently handsomely behind Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari in terms of market share. However, things are looking up for Opera.

Recently, it crossed 50 million active users, and now Opera 11 has been downloaded more than 6.7 million times within first twenty four hours of its release. This is a significant improvement over the 1.7 million downloads per day in the first week for Opera 10.10, and a huge improvement over the 1 million downloads in four days after the release of Opera 8.

According to a survey conducted on new users, 53% were coming from Firefox, while 43% were coming from Internet Explorer.

Opera 11 Released: Introduces Extensions, Tab Stacking, Address Bar Tweaks and More

After a remarkably short release candidate period, Opera Software has released Opera 11, just in time for Christmas. With Opera 11, the venerable Norwegian browser maker is hoping to leapfrog its competition. Even as Mozilla has been struggling to get Firefox 4 out of the door, Opera 11 has gone from alpha to final release within just 2 months. Opera’s Haavard Moen claims that an improved development process over the past year or so has allowed developers to work on more things simultaneously without compromising stability of the main branch.

Opera 11 is a big release for Opera Software. It’s a significant step-up from the Opera 10.6 trunk and adds some meaty features to the already feature packed browser. Some of the highlights of this release are:

  • Extensions: Opera 11 introduces a new API based on the W3C widget specification. This means that you can easily develop Opera extensions using HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Opera’s implementation of extensions is similar to Chrome’s. Some of them work quietly in the background, while others have a user interface that is exposed through a button. There are already close to two hundred extensions in the official extensions gallery. The most popular extensions include an ad blocker, LastPass and a YouTube video downloader.
  • Tab Stacking: Tab clutter is a problem many web-addicts have to deal with. Once you have a couple of dozen or more tabs, the utility of tabbed browsing diminishes greatly as individual tabs become practically indistinguishable. Opera is trying to solve this issue through Tab Stacking. Tab Stacking makes it possible to group tabs by simply dragging and dropping tabs on top of each other. Opera also toyed around with the idea of enabling tab stacking in one of the snapshots. However, it was dropped in subsequent builds due to numerous inconsistencies and annoyances present in the initial implementation. Opera clearly believes that tabbed stacking is the future of browsing, and has promised to refine it further in future releases.
  • Visual Mouse Gestures: Opera is one of the few browsers to ship with inbuilt support for mouse gestures. Mouse gestures is the killer feature you never knew you needed. It allows you to perform actions like open links in new tab, reload, stop and close tabs with a flick of your mouse. Once you get the hang of it, you will find it hard to live without it. However, most users never discover this feature, as the only way to learn about gestures is to study the documentation or go through the Mouse gestures configuration. Opera 11 tries to fix this by introducing a slick user interface that appears on right-clicking on any portion of the page. This mouse gestures interface guides you through the basic gestures.
  • Opera-Visual-Mouse-Gestures

  • Safer and Cleaner Address Bar: Opera has tweaked the address bar to make it easier to spot phishing websites. The primary domain name is highlighted while protocols and parameters are hidden by default. It also prominently displays security information about the website you are browsing.
  • Opera-11-Address-Bar

  • On-demand Plugin Loading: Now, it is possible to have Opera load plugins like Flash and Silverlight only when required. This actually acts as a very nifty flashblock, as flash videos are blocked by default, and can be loaded individually.

Other Changes include

  • New app-tab mode that shrinks and shifts pinned tabs to the left.
  • Inbuilt support for Google Suggest.
  • Improved rendering engine (presto).
  • New Mail panel.
  • New Bookmarks bar.
  • Support for WebSockets (disabled due to security concerns).

Opera-11

You can download Opera 11 for Windows, UNIX and Mac from www.opera.com.

Surf the Web with Chrome and Google Will Donate To Charities on Your Behalf, No Kidding

We have all received those silly email and SMS forwards promising that some rich guy (often Bill Gates) or big corporation (Google, Facebook, Yahoo etc.) will donate towards a noble cause if you just pass the message along to everyone in your contact list. Most of us knew better. However, Google is now actually doing something as unbelievable.

Google-Chrome-Causes

All you have to do is install Google Chrome, install the “Chrome for a Cause” extension, and surf the web. For every tab that you open, Google will donate to one of the five chosen charities. Here’s what your tabs are worth:

  • 10 tabs = 1 tree planted
  • 10 tabs = 1 book published and donated
  • 25 tabs = 1 vaccination treatment provided
  • 100 tabs = 1 square foot of shelter built
  • 200 tabs = 1 person’s clean water for a year

Google-Chrome-for-a-Cause

This is a win-win situation for Chrome users, and might even get a few people to jump ship. This scheme will be valid only from December 15 to 19. So go ahead and make the world a better place with Chrome.

Looking Back at 2010: Most Popular YouTube Videos of the Year

Most-Popular-YouTube-Videos-2010

It’s that time of the year again, when we pause and take a moment to look back at the days and months gone by. A few days back, Google unveiled its annual Zeitgeist video, which gave us a whirlwind tour of the defining moments of the year through Google products. Now, Google is looking back at the most popular videos of the year through YouTube.

While 2009 was the year of Susan Boyle, JK Wedding Videoand David After Dentist, 2010 gave us Auto-tune the news, Double Rainbow and the Old Spice man. As always, music videos were in high demand throughout the year. Unsurprisingly, Justin Bieber dominated the charts. The teen-sensation’s “Baby” is the most watched music video of the year (with more than 400 million views), followed by Shakira’s “Waka Waka” and Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie”. Bieber also makes three other appearances in the top-ten list.

If we exclude videos from music labels, the Bed Intruder Song is the most watched video on YouTube. Greyson Chance, who has been dubbed as the next Bieber ended up in the third spot for his “Singing Paparazzi” video.

You can check out the most popular videos from 2010 at youtube.com/rewind.

AMD India Develops Ontario – New Fusion Chip for Netbooks and Tablets

AMD-Fusion The Indian wing of AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) has developed a sophisticated fusion chip called Ontario that is claimed to be three times more powerful and economical than its competition. A fusion chip is one which includes both CPU (Central Processing Unit) and GPU (Graphics Processing Unit).

These super-small Ontario chips are targeted at tablets and netbooks, and are the first in a series of fusion chips planned by AMD. The chipmaker claims that Ontario will be able to deliver 90% of the performance of today’s chips in less than half of the silicon area, which should theoretically lead to less heat generation. The Bobcat based Ontario chips are extremely power efficient with a rating of 9W. Each core is capable of running on less than one watt of power.

AMD-Fusion-Ontario
AMD Ontario (Img Source: The Hindu)

Ontario was designed by an 86 member team from India who worked on it for two years. Ontario powered devices, including a Windows 7 tablet from Acer, will begin appearing in 2011.

Mass Effect 3 Debut Trailer Showcases Reapers Wrecking Havoc on Earth

Pardon me if I appear a bit over-excited, but any RPG fan will probably agree that such excitement is justified, for Bioware has officially announced Mass Effect 3. Have a look at the debut trailer that was unveiled at the Spike TV Video Game Awards.

Yes, Mass Effect 3 will finally allow us to explore Earth. In fact, in the final installment in the trilogy, the fate of Earth and human civilization will rest on Shepherd’s shoulders. The Reapers are coming from beyond the known realms of space, and it’s up to you to unite all civilizations for one final confrontation.

EA didn’t divulge too many details about the game; however, Mass Effect 3 is slated to be released in the fall of 2011.

Why the New Android Market is Bad News for Both Users and Developers

The Android Market might have a lot of shortcomings, especially when compared to Apple’s App Store. However, it has one big advantage – it allows users to return purchased apps for a full refund within 24 hours of the first purchase. Unfortunately, the recently rolled out overhaul of the Market will neuter this advantage by slashing the refund window to just 15 minutes.

Android-Market

Google claims that this will benefit developers, and that might indeed be true for some devs. However, it might also end up hurting several others.

For short games, comics, and (in general) apps with less content, the twenty four hours refund window led to lost sales as many users downloaded paid apps, utilized it to the fullest and then returned it. These are the apps that will benefit the most from the reduced refund window.

On the other hand, apps that regularly add new content through updates, and apps that can’t be exhausted within 24 hours (e.g. system tools, keyboard apps, media players etc.) stand to lose the most from the Market update. One of the benefits of Google’s previous refund policy was that it encouraged users to purchase and try new premium apps. I have purchased multiple apps from the Market. Some of them I liked and I kept them. While others didn’t live up to my expectations, and I simply refunded them. The twenty four hour refund window enabled me to judge an app before spending money on it. This allowed me to be more adventurous, which in turn led me to purchase a greater number of apps.

The new fifteen minutes refund period is simply too less to judge the quality of an app. Heck, on my EDGE connection, the download alone can take more than fifteen minutes to complete. The lack of availability of demo version for many apps, coupled with the truncated refund window is bad news for both users and developers. I can understand the reasons for reducing the refund period; however, anything less than 90 minutes is simply too little time for users to even get an abstract idea about an app.