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 .

Twitter Acquires Analytics Start-up Smallthought Systems

Trendly-DabbleDB Recently Twitter announced that it will be changing its default URL shortner from bit.ly to an in-house solution. Obviously, this change will help Twitter get a better idea about trending stories on Twitter. As the next step in its goal of better understanding the pulse of the web, Twitter has acquired Smallthought Systems.

Smallthought Systems is a four person startup that is responsible for creating Dabble DB, an online database and web analytics filter tool that was being utilized by Twitter until a year ago. They are also the developers of Trendly, a service which helps making sense of Google Analytics data. Once again, Twitter’s analytics team found use for Trendly. In fact, Twitter was one of the earliest testers of Trendly.

As a result of the acquisition, Avi Bryant, Andrew Catton, Ben Matasar, and Luke Andrews from Smallthought Systems will now join Twitter’s analytics team. This also probably means the end of the road for DabbleDB and Trendly. Although Smallthought has promised to continue providing both the services to existing customers, new account signups has been disabled.

Google Uses Browser Sniffing To Prevent Safari and Opera Users From Getting Background Image Option

Google-Background-Image You have probably heard by now that Google has rolled out a new background image option. You can personalize your Google Search experience by using your own background image or by choosing one from the hundreds available in public galleries.

Unfortunately, due to some unknown reason, Google is using browser sniffing to prevent Opera and Safari users from accessing these options. It’s hard to believe that Google couldn’t find a way to make the image selection pane work in Opera or Safari. What makes this even more bewildering is the fact that Chrome also uses the Webkit rendering engine that powers Safari.

Guardian’s Charles Arthur suggests that Google may be blocking Safari due to the bad blood between Apple and Google. Arthur also suggests that the fact that Opera and Safari are popular mobile web browsers may have had a hand in Google’s decision. Of course, his explanation doesn’t stand to reason, since it’s easy to distinguish between the desktop version and mobile version of Safari as well as Opera.

My feeling is that it’s just plain old laziness on the part of Google and that is indeed a shame.

Comodo Offers Comodo Internet Security for Free to Those Who Can’t Afford It

Comodo-Internet-Security In the recent past, Comodo has been bashed left, right and center for a multitude of reasons (mainly its business practices). However, that doesn’t change the fact that Comodo Internet Security suite is one of the best premium malware protection suites available in the market.

The premium edition would normally set you back by $49.99 per year. However, Comodo is offering a free one year license of Comodo Internet Security to anyone who can’t afford to pay for it. All you have to do is sign up at the official forums and request a license key.

Here is the message posted by Melih Abdulhayoglu, CEO of Comodo:

There are many out there who might be able to gather enough to buy a computer but not have enough to buy security or even have access to general help with computers.

I believe access and exposure to computers are vital to the future of human race. So anyone who can’t afford to have Security or a geek to help with stuff, pls PM me with your details, and we will be more than happy to provide 1 year worth of full CIS Complete and GeekBuddy at no cost!

but please only genuine requests.

Bill: Stop PMing me…you own bloody Microsoft, you can easily afford $69 a year!!!

PS: if you are a school that can’t afford security, or charity, or an organisation doing good work for the community, pls feel free to PM me or any one of our Moderators for this too.

thanks

Melih

Hotmail Allows Indian Users to Send and Receive Email through SMS

Hotmail Although, internet proliferation in India is rapidly increasing, it’s still far cry from being as ubiquitous as mobile phones. Realising that not everyone in India has regular access to the internet, Microsoft has added SMS support to Hotmail.

Microsoft said, With this fun and simple service, you can forget about going to the cyber cafe or logging on to your computer every time you want to check your mails”. While this might appear to be a silly and pointless feature to folks in western countries, I suspect that it may turn out to be a popular feature among Indians. “You can now receive, read and reply to emails on your SMS. The service also enables efficient viewing of emails by specifying the email address/domain from which you’d like to receive alerts on your SMS”, the company added.

This service can be enabled from mobile.live.com. It is available to Aircel, Bharti Airtel, BSNL, Idea, Loop Mobile, MTNL Delhi, MTNL Mumbai, MTS, Reliance (CDMA), Reliance (GSM), Tata Indicom, Tata Docomo, Uninor and Vodafone Essar customers. While incoming messages are free, outgoing messages (replies) will be charged as per standard rates.

Vodafone will Bring iPhone 4 to India

It’s no secret that Apple has never been bullish about the Indian market. As a result, Indians looking to buy Apple products have often ended up getting a raw deal. While iPhone 3GS was announced last year, Indians had to wait until April ’10 to get their hands on it.

Apple-iPhone-4

The good news is that Apple has promised to roll out iPhone 4 to 88 countries within September and India is among one of them. Vodafone has also confirmed that it will launch the newest iPhone in India “in the coming months”.

Although, this is good news for fans anxious to get their hands on the drool worthy gadget from Apple’s stable, don’t expect it to be cheap. The initial price of iPhone 4 will probably start from Rs. 35,000, with the more spacious models (16 GB and 32 GB) costing in excess of Rs. 40,000. The iPhone 3GS is expected to replace the ageing iPhone 3G models.

Notion Ink Adam is “On Track” : Two Variants Revealed

While the iPad has been setting tablet computing on fire, a tiny Indian startup, Notion Ink has been working diligently to roll out its own tablet computer – Adam. We covered Adam fairly extensively in the past, including an exclusive interview with its CEO Rohan Shravan.

Notion-Ink-Adam

Some recent reports suggested that Adam might have been delayed until November. Notion Ink has now come out and debunked those rumors without promising any specific release date. “We are on track” is all Rohan Shravan revealed in his blog post. This probably means that Adam will be launched in a couple of months. However, like the iPad, Adam will have a staggered roll out all over the world. The good news for Indians waiting for a competitive tablet device is that India will definitely be among the first to receive the gadget.

Notion Ink has also closed their final round of fund raising. Once again, they didn’t provide any specifics, but Shravan did seem pretty jubilant about it. He wrote, “We have closed the final round of funding and are now in perfect sync with our investors. This is extremely good news for everyone. I say that, because if we have Global ambitions, there must be someone who can help us achieve that. And now we have got the muscle power”.

The Adam is an nVidia Tegra 2 powered Android tablet with Pixel Qi technology, which ensures readability even under direct sunlight. A cheaper version with normal LCD screen will also be available for users who don’t plan on doing too much reading on the Adan. In fact, we may even get a third variation, which is supposed to run on a mysterious battery efficient platform.

Twitter Adds New World Cup Theme

Twitter-FIFA-Theme With the football (soccer) World Cup is knocking at the doors, everyone is busy finalizing their plans to leverage the ultimate sporting spectacle. When the previous FIFA World Cup was held, Twitter was still in its infancy. However, this time around it is expecting a massive surge in activity during the tournament.

Twitter has rolled out a new World Cup 2010 based theme to get you in the football frenzy. In order to enable the theme, head over to the Design tab in your settings page.

Google-World-Cup-Easter-Egg

Recently, Google also did its bit by changing the search results navigation links from Goooooooooogle to Gooooooooooal for the search query “World Cup“.

Have you noticed any other cool World Cup themed easter-eggs in your favorite websites? Don’t forget to let us know.

Apple Misleads Users Once Again with Half Truths and Outright Lies

Recently, I took Apple to task for misleading the general population with its deceptive HTML5 and Web Standards demos. Of course, that was not the first time Apple used questionable tactics and it won’t be the last time either.

On Monday, Apple unveiled iPhone 4 and Safari 5 – both of which are impressive products in their own way. Yet, Apple felt the need to twist the facts to grab eyeballs.

Let me start off with Safari. In its press release, Apple claims, “Safari 5 on the Mac runs JavaScript 30 percent faster than Safari 4, three percent faster than Chrome 5.0, and over twice as fast as Firefox 3.6″. Intrigued by Apple’s claim, several bloggers and journalists performed their own tests. Needless to say, the results achieved by them didn’t quite hold up to Apple’s claims.

Safari-Speed-Benchmark
Safari5 gets beaten by Chrome 5 and Opera 10.53 (via Gavin M. Roy)

Gavin M. Roy found that Safari was comprehensively outperformed by both Chrome 5 and Opera 10.53. Safari’s performance looks even more ordinary when compared with Chrome 6 and Opera 10.60.

Safari-Speed-Benchmark
Safari5 gets beaten by Chrome 6 and Opera 10.6 (via DownloadSquad)

If this wasn’t bad enough, Apple also misrepresented the clarity offered by Retina Display during Steve Job’s keynote. Don’t get me wrong. IPhone 4’s display is indeed stunning. In fact, it’s most probably better than anything its competitors have to offer. However, as pointed out by George Ou, the slides used during the presentation depicted a PPI (pixels per inch) of 815. That is almost three times more than what is actually offered by the iPhone. Even iPhone advertisements exaggerate the clarity improvement achieved by the retina display.

Retina-Display-False-Claims
Retina Display: Apple’s Claims vs Truth

It’s not uncommon for companies to exaggerate their product’s capabilities. However, Apple seems to have almost made it an habit and an art.

Meet Sony Ericsson Shakira – Xperia X10’s Newest Sibling

Sony Ericsson weren’t kidding when they said that the Xperia X10 would only be the first in a series of similar Android handsets. If you thought that the Xperia X10 was too big and the Xperia X10 Mini and Mini Pro were too small, then you are going to be pleased with Sony Ericsson Shakira. It has the same curvilinear design as other Android powered Xperia handsets, but is smaller than the Xperia X10.

Sony-Ericsson-Shakira

From the screenshot, it’s apparent that Shakira will be sporting the UX platform used in Xperia. It also reveals that Shakira is using the pre-historic Android 1.6. It’s possible that Sony Ericsson might update the operating system to Android 2.1 prior to (or just after) its release. However, don’t expect Froyo, since at present Sony Ericsson has no plans for it. The name hints at the possibility that Shakira might be a music oriented high end smartphone. Very little else is known about this mystery device, but we are hoping that it will house a meaty 1 GHz Snapdragon processor like its older brother.

Don’t forget to let us know how you feel about Sony Ericsson Shakira. Are you willing to buy a handset with an outdated operating system? Do you think that Sony Ericsson is making a mistake by not moving to Froyo?

Bing Celebrates Its One-Year Anniversary With A New Official Windows 7 Theme

Bing has just turned one. Its first year of existence has been a mixed bag. While it has been fairly well received, it hasn’t really succeeded in eating away Google’s market share. Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president, Online Audience Business Group, said, “It’s been a whirlwind 12 months, with the team shipping tons of new cool features aimed at making it easy and fast to make key decisions and just get stuff done. We wanted to take a short break to say thanks”.

As a special treat to Windows 7 users, Microsoft has released the third Bing theme pack featuring some of the best background images (wallpapers) used by Bing.

Bing's-Best-3-Theme

Our latest Bing’s Best Windows 7 theme pack gives you even more great Bing homepage images for your desktop. Bing’s Best 3 lets you gaze at a dying star, soar over an underwater sinkhole, and get up close and personal with an adorable baby sea turtle. There are 19 wallpapers in all”, stated Stephanie Horstmanshof, Bing Managing Editor.

You can download Bing’s Best 3 Windows 7 theme from the official personalization gallery (direct link).

Apple Tries To Be Open: Launches HTML5 Showcase That Doesn’t Use a Lot of HTML5

In the recent past, Apple has been vilified for acting like a big brother. Regular Techie Buzz readers are probably familiar with Apple’s battle against Flash and their stance against open technologies like Theora and WebM. Perhaps stung by the criticism, Apple has launched a new HTML5 showcase demonstrating what’s possible with Safari.

The message is loud and clear – Flash isn’t the only way to deliver rich web applications. If developers don’t want to write Apple product-specific code, they can always opt for open web standards.

HTML5-Safari-Showcase

The HTML5 Technology demo gallery has some spectacular samples, which showcase video, audio, typography, transitions and more. Each and every one of these demos have Apple’s hallmark. They are simple, yet stunning enough to wow you.

Unfortunately, they also bear Apple’s other signature – a lot of half-truths. According to Opera developer, Haavard K. Moen, “The only things that are HTML5 on that page are HTML5 <audio> and <video>”.

Worse still, Apple is using browser sniffing to artificially block other browsers. So, although Chrome – another WebKit based browser, does significantly better than Safari in HTML5Test.com, it stumbles while rendering Apple’s HTML5 showcase. Opera is another browser with an impressive HTML5 support that is not allowed to render Safari’s technology demos.

It is obviously well within Apple’s rights to create stunning demos showcasing its browser’s capabilities. However, dubbing its technology demos as HTML5 and Web Standards showcase, when they are clearly not, is despicable.

Apple deserves credit for encouraging and promoting HTML5. In fact, their focus on HTML5 will probably lead to an overall faster rate of adoption among both browser makers and developers. However, as Haavard points out, Apple is also trying to use HTML5 and open, as a buzzword, to its advantage.

And yeah, if you thought Microsoft fares better, here is a hilarious take on Internet Explorer’s HTML5 Testing Center.

Update: As pointed out by Sathya, Mozilla’s Robert Sayre has responded to Apple’s HTML5 Demos in his own eloquent manner.

Gmail Glitch Makes It Slow For “a small subset” of Users

Gmail When Gmail burst onto the scene, it garnered universal acclaim for its speed. Over the years, Gmail has continued growing and innovating. However, this growth seems to have come at a cost.

If Gmail is agonizingly slow for you, you aren’t the only one. In the words of Gabriel Weinberg, founder of Duck Duck Go, “It can take 20sec to switch labels, and even longer to search for something. But here’s the worst part–it takes just as long to send a simple message!?!”.

Fortunately for Weinberg, his blog post got noticed by a Googler. Not only did Google fix his problem, but also acknowledged that several other users may be affected by the same issue. Here is a snippet from Google’s response:

The team is still looking into your account slowness, but it initially appears that the problem is isolated to a small subset of Gmail users…They are still investigating the root cause of the slowness but in the meantime have moved your account to a different set of servers, which should help.

This isn’t the first time that Google has acknowledged this problem. Google had admitted that Gmail was sluggish and had promised to fix it back in March. While it’s nice that they reached out to Weinberg, one has to wonder what is taking Google so long. Meanwhile, if you are experiencing sluggishness, you can try some measures like deleting data from Gmail (email, labels, contacts etc.) and disabling Gmail Labs.

Samsung I9000 Galaxy S: Coming to India Soon

The Samsung 1900 Galaxy S is shaping up to be a killer Android phone. It is a beast of a device, powered by a 1GHz Cortex A8 Hummingbird CPU and 512 MBs of RAM. The 4-inch Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen of 480 x 800 pixel resolution offers superb clarity even under daylight, while the 5 camera is capable of capturing high resolution (2592 x 1944) images and HD videos (720p at 30fps). Early reviews of the handset have been overwhelmingly positive. GSMArena even suggested that it is the best Android device yet.

We tested the Samsung I9000 Galaxy S and it tested us in return. It bared its teeth at us and so did we. Ours was a grin. Easy boy, good beast. There goes the new leader of the Android pack. The Samsung I9000 Galaxy S has oomph to spare and even hardened geeks like us cannot help but acknowledge its compelling power.

Samsung-Galaxy-S-I9000

It’s not just the hardware that makes Galaxy a compelling package. It will initially ship with Android 2.1, but will be updated to Froyo at some point in the future. To make things even sweeter, Samsung is using its proprietary TouchWiz 3.0 user interface, which adds numerous usability enhancements. On top of it, the Galaxy S has an excellent selection of pre-installed applications including Swype predictive text input, file manager, image and video editor and document editor (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF).

The Galaxy is also a formidable multimedia device. It provides excellent codec support and is capable of playing MP3, WAV, eAAC+, AC3 and FLAC audio files and MP4, DivX, WMV, H.264 and H.263 video files. The camera app has all the fancy features including autofocus, geo-tagging, touch focus and face and smile detection.

The good news is that the Galaxy S is expected to hit the Indian shores in early June. The price remains unknown; however, a behemoth like this won’t come cheap.

Opera 10.60 Alpha 1 – Faster and Sexier Than Ever Before

The battle for speed between Chrome and Opera rages on. While, others like Firefox and Internet Explorer are struggling to stay in the race, Google and Opera Software are continuously setting the bar higher.

Opera-10.6-Speed-Benchmark

Opera Software has just released Opera 10.60 alpha, which introduces performance improvements for JavaScript, DOM and CSS. The newest alpha build fares 76% better Opera 10.5 in the Peacekeeper benchmark, with further speed improvements being promised for the beta build.

Opera-10.6-Interface

The newest alpha also sports numerous user interface improvements. The repulsive “O” button has been replaced by a prettier (and more obvious) Menubutton, while the annoying taskbar tabs for Windows 7 is have been disabled (they can be re-enabled from here). Other visual tweaks include prettier hover thumbnail tab previews and the use of icons instead of thumbnails for certain internal tabs like RSS Feed and Mail.

The new build also features dozens of stability improvements and bug fixes across all platforms. If you are feeling adventurous, you can download Opera 10.60 alpha for Windows, UNIX and Mac from here. However, keep in mind that this is an alpha release and is likely to be buggy.

Nokia N8’s USB On-The-Go Allows You to Connect Other USB Devices with It [Video]

Nokia N8 has had a rough time so far. It was panned in an early review and even the first official demonstration video didn’t do much to salvage its reputation. However, don’t count it out yet. It has a great camera, is faster than N97 and has quite a few neat tricks up its sleeve. One of them is USB On-The-Go (OTG).

USB OTG is a neat supplement to the USB 2.0 specification, which enables OTG devices to support any USB mass storage device (other mobile phones with USB connection, flash drives etc.). In other words, you can plug-in other USB devices into OTG handsets, just like you can do with your PC.

Unfortunately, very few devices have featured USB OTG so far. Nokia N810 was amongst the earlier handsets to support OTG. Now, Nokia N8 will also support USB OTG. Here’s a cool video showing Nokia N8’s USB OTG feature in action.