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 .

Spice Introduces 12MP Camera Phone with 3x Optical Zoom

Camera phones have improved by leaps and bounds over the past few years. We have come a long way since the days of VGA camera phones. However, one feature that is yet to go mainstream is optical zoom. Now, Spice S1200 has joined the rank of elite few mobile phones that can brag about optical zoom.

The S1200 features a 12 mega-pixel camera with professional CCD sensor and boasts of numerous advanced camera functions including multiple face detection, smile shutter, auto focus, night vision, anti-shake, xenon flash and 24 preset capture modes. It is also quite capable when it comes to video recording and supports recording QVGA resolution video at 30 fps.

Spice-S1200-Mobile-Handset

Besides the standard assortment of connectivity options (no Wi-Fi), the S1200 also includes TV out support (cables included), which allows it to be connected to standard television sets.

Speaking on the launch of Spice S-1200 Mr. Kunal Ahooja, Director and CEO, Spice Mobiles Ltd stated, “Photography is emerging as a fine art and expression of creativity. Our latest Picture Perfect series phone the 12MP S-1200 caters to this lifestyle need of good photography on the move”.

Although, optical zoom is possibly the biggest draw of this handset, it is also responsible for the unsightly appearance of S1200. High megapixel count does not automatically ensure great picture quality. However, if Spice’s optical sensor is even half-decent, the S1200 should be a commendable camera phone. At Rs 14,500, it is priced just right for the Indian market.

[Click here for Spice S1200 Specifications ]

Google Chrome – The Last Browser Standing

The Hackathon is over and the only browser left standing is Google Chrome. This is the second consecutive year that Google has managed to leave the competition unscathed. In fact, according to TheNextWeb, this time around no one even attempted to hack Chrome.

Google obviously went into the competition well prepared. It fixed as many as 11 flaws just ahead of the competition. However, so did Apple, which recently pushed through 16 patches for Safari. Safari’s fall also proves that there is more to Google’s success than its lowly market share.

In fact, given that Google Chrome had managed to survive last year’s Pwn2Own, most people expected hackers to be gunning for it this time around. Google credits its sandboxingtechnique , which forces processes to run in a restricted environment, for Chrome’s success. While, sandboxing might be the key behind Chrome’s outstanding security track record, it definitely isn’t the sole contributor. Even Internet Explorer 8 utilizes sandboxing (Protected Mode), yet it fell quite easily.

Google-Chrome-Sandboxing

Google built Chrome from the ground up with focus on security and speed and their efforts are certainly paying off. It is the only major browser, which is yet to be surmounted in the Pwn2Own contest. That alone is a laudable feat.

MSI Launches Its April Fools Day Joke Too Early, Pisses Off Customers

MSI-April-Fools-Day-Joke A good April fool’s Day joke is always appreciated. However, timing is essential. MSI just found this out the hard way. Due to unknown reasons, the MSI team launched its April fool’s day joke a good week ahead of the actual occasion and in the process infuriated several customers.

Anyone who had purchased and registered their MSI card received the following e-mail on March 25:

The MSI-forum and MSI-support team are fed-up with explaining you what can be found in the manual.
I mean, come on, how hard is it to read a manual?

They are printed on paper so you see them.

We have been talking to MSI for a couple of years and came up with a solution.
It has been implemented on a few boards for some time and with big success.
It had various names, like CoreCenter (1st gathering tool) upto DrMOS (fully automatic)

Some of you noticed because Windows wanted you to install a driver, but you couldn’t find the manufacturer.
On AMD systems this was called the Away-driver.

What you didn’t know is this, this driver activates the RTFM-chip. (Re-Turn inFormation to Manufacturer chip)
It means it can detect if you read a manual as well stores the parameters you have set in the BIOS.
As soon as you start Windows we are informed about your settings and manual readings.

As we have been monitoring peoples behavior for some time and combined those with the RMA information from returned boards.
At the same time monitoring questions on the forum and matched the IP’s.
We have made a discovery.

A lot of RMA is unneeded and unwanted, many happens due to user mistakes, numbers show that 90% of the RMA is OC people killing boards and
newbies connecting the wrong connectors or insert parts that should not be inserted.
Or simply forget to remove standoffs or CPU-power.
MSI plans on tackles those numbers, and the RTFM-chip will give a readout of what you have done when it did post or attempted to post!

Checking on you isn’t new, Homeland-security done this ever you installed XP-SP3 or above, but their info in encrypted so useless to MSI.
So MSI decided to ban people from support, RMA and the forum who has done the damage themselves or didn’t read the manual the first of next month.
We know who you are, and we have gathered enough information via our RTFM-chip.

The only question is, should MSI continue to do this? As some information is real bad.
Will this hurt you relation with MSI products?

Please let us know, as we have to talk to MSI management the first of next month and make them decide what to do with the information.

To unsubscribe from these announcements, login to the forum and uncheck Receive forum announcements and important notifications by email.in your profile.

You can view the full announcement by following this link:

http://forum-en.msi.com/index.php?topic=136806.0

Regards,
The MSI HQ User to User Forum Team.

Quite obviously, folks who had shelled out money to purchase MSI products were not pleased. In the end, MSI was forced to retract their original message. And here is how they did it :

Hi there,

We are sorry people took this for prank for serious.

Nobody seem to have wondered what RTFM really means.
If you put the term in Google, you will find it is telling you to read the manual.

Just think, how would a chip check if you read manuals?
We thought of this prank after answering the many posts where people ask the obvious that is already in the manual.

But we learned a valuable lesson, no more April-fools jokes from the forum, a 10 year old thing just died.

Sorry that you took it for real and got mad.

I have to agree that the original message was quite irreverent and without the safety net of April fool’s day it’s bound to anger customers. However, I can’t help but love MSI’s apology mail which is possibly even more tongue in cheek. Way to go MSI!

(via Neowin)

Browser Saturday: Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari Get Pwned, Opera Puts the Ball in Apple’s Court

The big event this week on the browser security forefront is the Pwn2Own content, which challenges hackers to break through the defenses of top browsers and operating systems. As expected by most security experts, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari fell quite quickly. Chrome is the only browser still standing (sadly Opera was not included in the challenge). You can find more information about the exploits used by the winning participants over here.

Pwn2Own wasn’t the only thing happening in the browser-sphere. Here is a quick look at other major events from this week.

Internet Explorer

It’s been almost a month since the browser ballot screen went live. While it has definitely had a positive impact on the download rate of alternate browsers, there is still confusion regarding its effect on Internet Explorer’s dominance. According to Statcounter, Internet Explorer has managed to hold on to its market share. This suggests that a lot of users are in fact returning to Internet Explorer after checking out the alternatives. However, now QuantCast is reporting that Internet Explorer’s shares may have dipped by as much as 5% over the course of 3 weeks

Awhile, Microsoft is yet to patch the previously discussed critical vulnerability in Internet Explorer 6.0x and 7.0x. If you are still on older versions of IE, ensure that you have applied the suggested workarounds.

Firefox

Fennec-Firefox-Windows-Phone-Mobile This was an interesting week for Firefox. Following the German Government’s advisory, which warned surfers against using Firefox, Mozilla fast-tracked the release of Firefox 3.6.2 which fixed multiple security issues.

On the mobile space, Mozilla stopped development of Firefox (Fennec) for Windows Mobile and Windows Phone 7. This decision was prompted by Microsoft’s refusal to release a NDK for Windows Phone 7, which made developing native applications impossible.

Chrome

Chrome-5-Auto-Fill-Form

This was a jolly good week for Google Chrome. It proved itself to be the most secure browser in the Pwn2Own contest, and now Google has pushed through Chrome Beta 5 for Windows. Chrome 5 introduces a host of new features including Windows 7 Taskbar Tabs and an intelligent form filler. V8 (JavaScript engine) has been refined even further and according to our preliminary tests, the new build of Chrome edges out Opera 10.51 for the title of the fastest browser in the world.

Earlier this week, Google also unveiled its new ANGLE (Almost Native Graphics Layer Engine) project, which will enhance Chrome’s graphics rendering capabilities across platforms.

Opera

Opera Software finally submitted Opera Mini for iPhone to the app store for approval. Whether Apple will approve it or not is a million dollar question. However, Opera has certainly played its part well and has succeeded in getting everyone’s attention. If Apple does reject this app, it will undoubtedly have to endure another wave of negative publicity and possibly even more (we already know that the FCC has been watching ever since the Google Voice saga).

On the desktop front, Opera continued its aggressive release cycle. Opera 10.51 for Windows fixed a couple of highly critical security vulnerabilities along with a host of bug fixes and all-around performance improvement. UNIX and MAC users also had plenty of snapshot builds to keep them busy. Click here to get the latest snapshot build for Windows, UNIX and Mac.

That is all I have for this week. Subscribe to our Feed to get instant updates through the week.

Vodafone Will Also Sell iPhone 3GS in India

Vodafone-iPhone After Airtel, Vodafone has also announced that it will be offering the iPhone 3GS in India. However, don’t get too excited as Vodafone’s pricing is as ridiculous as Airtel’s.

The 8GB, 16GB and 32GB models of iPhone 3GS will retail for Rs.33,500, Rs.40,500 and Rs.47,500 respectively in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. In the rest of India, they will be available for Rs.29,500, Rs.35,500 and Rs.41,500 respectively.

Vodafone will be offering iPhone 3GS users three plans. Users opting for Plan 1 would be charged Rs. 799 per month and receive 249 minutes of voice credits and 250MB data credit. Plan 2 costs Rs. 999 per month and includes 299 minutes of voice credits with 600MB of data credit. Users can also opt for a basic plan, which costs Rs 100 per month and does not include any voice or data credits.

The iPhone is a fantastic phone; however, does it merit the outrageous sum that Airtel and Vodafone are demanding? We believe it does not. Unfortunately, the truth is that there is a certain section of Apple fans that will always go ahead and get their latest product, irrespective of the price tag. And, this is the section that Airtel and Vodafone are trying to take exploit with their absurd launch prices.

(Image courtesy: UnWiredView)

Web Developer Extension for Google Chrome

Google Chrome provides a pretty decent set of developer tools out of the box. However, there is definite room for improvement. Web Developer is a new Chrome extension which tries to fill in the gaps.

Google-Chrome-Web-Developer-Extension

Web Developer is the official port of the Web Developer extension for Firefox. It is implemented through a simple toolbar button which provides quick access to a wide array of developer tools. There are simply too many options to list them all over here. However, it includes most of the stuff you would expect from a standard web developer toolbar including various validation options, page resize and hidden elements viewer.

The extension is still a work in progress and is not yet as feature-rich as its Firefox counter part. Some essential features like CSS Editing will be implemented in the future, while others like “Disable JavaScript” simply can’t be implemented due to limitations in the Google Chrome API.

Techie Buzz Verdict

Firebug is still the king of the hill when it comes to web developer tools. However, the Web Developer extension works quite well in tandem with Google Chrome Developer tools and forms a powerful duo. It is a neat tool which a web developer should have in his repertoire.

Techie Buzz Rating: 2.5/5 (Good)

[ Download Web Developer Extension for Google Chrome ]

Videocon Gets Into Mobile Services – Promises Transparent Tarrifs

Videocon-Telecom-Mobile-Services-Provider The Indian mobile segment is growing at a phenomenal pace and Videocon – an international conglomerate based in India, wants a piece of it. It has announced that it will be joining an already crowded mobile services market under the banner of Videocon Telecom.

In spite of explosive growth of the mobile services segment, achieving profitability has become a daunting task for new comers due to the cutthroat competition. Videocon is obviously aware of the challenges it will be facing. Nevertheless, Videocon Group Chairman Venugopal N. Dhoot is confident that the company will break-even within two years.

Videocon will be investing Rs 14,000 crore over the next three years to build up its 2.75G EDGE GSM network. After its initial launch in Tamil Nadu, Videocon Telecom will rapidly expand over the next hundred days to cover hundred key cities across Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Prasad, Maharashtra and Mumbai.

According to Mr Dhoot, Videocon Telecom will offer an unprecedented sub-one-paisa effective tariff. Videocon Telecom wants to suit all pockets with tariff plans that are transparent and simple.

Increased competition is usually better for the consumer. The Indian mobile services market is not an easy one to getting into. However, if anyone can do it, Videocon can.

Install Google Chrome Extensions in Firefox with Google Chrome Extensions Manager

Google Chrome’s add-on API is designed to be lightweight and secure. However, the trade-off is that it is not as powerful as Firefox’s add-on platform. As if just to demonstrate this, a Firefox developer has taken it upon himself to implement the Google Chrome API through a Firefox extension.

Google-Chrome-Extensions-Manager-for-Firefox

The Google chrome extensions manager for Firefox does just what its name suggests – it allows you to install and manage Google Chrome extensions in Firefox. The extension is currently a work in progress and only supports a limited subset of the Chrome API.

Techie Buzz Verdict

The concept is definitely interesting, but its practical utility is limited at this point of time. As of now, for almost every Chrome add-on there is a Firefox extension. On top of that, installing new Chrome add-ons isn’t absolutely straightforward. Also, none of the extensions I tried worked perfectly. Nevertheless, I will not be too harsh on it, since it is still in experimental stage.

Techie Buzz Verdict: 1.5/5 (Average)

[ Download Google chrome extensions manager ]

(via @fearphage)

WikiLeaks Promises to Reveal Pentagon Murder Cover-up: US Government Feels Threatened

WikiLeaks Controversy is not something new to WikiLeaks – a website notorious for leaking sensitive governmental, corporate, organizational, or religious documents. In the past, they have leaked Guantánamo Bay procedures, documents belonging to the Church of Scientology, contents of Sarah Palin’s e-mail account and internet censorship lists.

Obviously, over the years WikiLeaks has managed to anger quite a few people, organizations and governments around the world. In fact, the US Army even considered attacking WikiLeaks in the past. According to The Register, a 2008 report by the Army Counterintelligence Center, classified Secret, called for a mole hunt and prosecutions to undermine potential sources’ trust in WikiLeaks.

Due to fundraising problems, WikiLeaks had to close shop for several months. However, it bounced back in February ’10 and is once again courting trouble. WikiLeaks has promised to reveal a Pentagon murder cover-up at the US National Press Club on April 5. Although, very little information is available about the nature of the information available to WikiLeaks, it is definitely sensitive enough to prompt the US government into action.

A flurry of recent updates on the official WikiLeaks Twitter account suggests that they are currently under an aggressive US and Icelandic surveillance operation. Here are the recent tweets by WikiLeaks in chronological order:

  • WikiLeaks is currently under an aggressive US and Icelandic surveillance operation. Following/photographing/filming/detaining.
  • If anything happens to us, you know why: it is our Apr 5 film. And you know who is responsible.
  • Two under State Dep diplomatic cover followed our editor from Iceland to http://skup.no on Thursday.
  • One related person was detained for 22 hours. Computer’s seized.That’s http://www.skup.no
  • We know our possession of the decrypted airstrike video is now being discussed at the highest levels of US command.
  • If you know more about the operations against us, contact https://secure.wikileaks.org/
  • We have been shown secret photos of our production meetings and been asked specific questions during detention related to the airstrike.
  • We have airline records of the State Dep/CIA tails. Don’t think you can get away with it. You cannot. This is WikiLeaks.

In the past, WikiLeaks has played a pivotal role in exposing wrongdoing. It has managed to remain true to its principle of only publishing documents of political, diplomatic, historical or ethical interest. Over the years, it has managed to gain both respect and reputation for making a positive impact.

At the moment, the big question is, did WikiLeaks byte off more than it can chew? It will be interesting to observe how events unfold over the next few days. Stay tuned for more updates.

Update: A possibly related slightly older tweet reveals a bit more about the current situation:

Finally cracked the encryption to US military video in which journalists, among others, are shot. Thanks to all who donated $/CPUs.

Airtel Will Be Launching iPhone 3GS on Friday – Will Cost A Bomb

We knew that Airtel was preparing to launch iPhone 3GS in India, but we didn’t know the exact launch date. Now, Bharti Airtel’s official Twitter account has let it slip that it will be launching the latest iPhone handset on March 26. The handset will be available at Airtel authorized retail stores across India, including select Airtel Relationship Centres.

Apple-iPhone-3Gs-India-Airtel

Airtel has also disclosed the Indian pricing for the iPhone 3GS. The 16GB model will cost Rs 35,000 ($780), while the 32GB model will cost Rs 41,500 ($910).

Needless to say, the pricing is outrageous for a locked handset, which will become outdated within a few months. But then again, no one really cares. Apple certainly doesn’t care about Indian consumers and merely treats it as a dumping ground. Airtel knows that the success or failure of iPhone won’ have a big impact on its bottom-line and is simply trying to leech as much as possible from Apple aficionados and mobile-enthusiasts. Thankfully, there are plenty of viable alternatives for Indian consumers. Sony Xperia X10 and Motorola Milestone (Droid), which are rumoured to be priced at around Rs 30,000, are just a couple of alternatives offering better value for money.

Twitter Starts Enabling Contributors Feature on Multi-User Accounts

Twitter has come a long way since its inception. It began as a way to share your status updates with your friends. Now, it is being used for everything from organizing relief efforts to online marketing. Twitter has grown into a serious revenue mechanism for many organizations. Dell has led the way by raking in millions of dollars’ worth of sales through Twitter. Although Twitter was designed for single-user accounts, today a substantial portion of the popular Twitter accounts are actually multi-user accounts maintained by a dedicated team. Twitter acknowledged this a few months back and promised to introduce a new Contributors feature for businesses.

Twitter-Contributors

The Contributors feature is really simple. It adds the username of the person actually posting the updates to the tweet byline. This gives a face to big organizations and makes conversation more personal. After testing this feature for several months on the @twitter account, Twitter has finally begun rolling it out to multi user accounts. The SalesForce and Starbucks team are already enjoying this feature and others should get it soon.

Samsung Awesome Two-Some : Attractive Offers With Purchase of Samsung Laptops

Samsung has launched an awesome two-some offer under which you can get Samsung Metro S3310 mobile phone and Tata Indicom Photon+ at a special discounted rate with the purchase of every Samsung laptop.

Samsung-Awesome-Two-Some-Offer

The exact price at which the Metro S3310 mobile will be bundled depends on the laptop model; quite obviously, the discount is deeper on high-end models. The handset will be made available to the customer on spot along with the laptop.

Samsung-Bundle-Laptop-Prices

The Tata Indicom Photon+ mobile broadband connection will be offered to customers at a special price of Rs 1,500. It includes device cost and plan benefits for 6 months. For the first two months customers will be able to enjoy, 15GB Unlimited plan and for the next four months they will get 2GB additional bandwidth.

This offer is valid only until April 30. Check out the official website for more details.

Samsung Launches Metro 3G S 5350 Handset in India

Samsung has launched Metro 3G S 5350 in India. The handset will be available for Rs.8250 and is targeted at budget conscious consumers looking for a 3G handset.

Samsung-Metro-3G-S-5350

The phone should appeal to the young generation as it comes preloaded with Instant Messenger, Google applications and widgets providing quick access to Web 2.0 services such as Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Friendster, Photobucket and Picasa.

The S 5350 also includes a 3.2 Mega Pixel camera with Panorama and Smile shot. It comes with 256 MB internal memory, which can be expanded up to 16 GB (micro SD).

After numerous setbacks and delays, 3G in India is finally set to take off. Samsung Metro 3G S 5350 does not really offer anything special, but it is timed quite adequately. It will be interesting if Samsung can replicate the success of the Corby series with its new handsets.

Opera Mini For iPhone Submitted To Apple App Store For Approval

Opera Software has just submitted Opera Mini for iPhone to the App store for approval. The browser was first demoed at MWC ’10, where it received rave reviews from almost everyone who got an opportunity to play with it.

According to internal testing, Opera Mini loads pages up to 6 times faster than iPhone’s default browser i.e. Safari. The huge difference is because all pages are first routed through Opera’s proxy servers where there are compressed by up to 90%. The server-side compression also reduces your bandwidth bills and is ideal if you are on roaming.

Opera Mini is the world’s most popular mobile browser, which offers an exciting mix of features packaged in a neat and intuitive UI (user interface). Opera Mini for iPhone is similar to Opera Mini for Java (and other platforms). All the standard features including tabbed browsing, search engine integration, Opera Link (data synchronization), visual speed dial, password manager and find-in-page are present in Opera Mini for iPhone. In fact, there are even a few extra goodies such as session restore. Like its desktop counterpart, Opera Mini for iPhone can resume browsing from where you left off last time. This is a crucial feature for a platform, which does not allow multitasking. However, Opera Mini has its own disadvantages – the major ones being its inability to render rich web content (for example AJAX heavy websites) and the lack of pinch-and-zoom.

Opera-Mini-iPhone

Overall, Opera Mini is an impressive browser, which would appeal to a large section of iPhone users. However, the big question is whether Apple will approve it. Apple is not known for being kind to competition and that is exactly what Opera Mini is. Apple is yet to allow any browser, which does not use Safari’s (Webkit) rendering engine. However, if Apple decides to follow its SDK License to the word, then Opera Software might just get away. Opera Mini does not interpret or execute any code. Instead, all the rendering is done on Opera’s servers. Opera Mini simply displays pre-rendered pages received from its servers.

Only time will tell if Apple will do the right thing for once. Opera is clearly trying to pressurize the App Store approval team through a carefully orchestrated campaign. Let’s hope that their tactics will pay off.

LG Launches Android Powered GW620 in India for Rs 18,990

While most Android fans in India are anxiously waiting for Motorola Milestone (Droid) and Sony Xperia X10, LG has quietly launched GW620. LG GW620 is a full QWERTY handset powered by Android 1.5 (Cupcake).

LG-GW620

LG’s first Android offering in India boasts of a 5-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, Push E-mail, Social Networking Service Manager and GPS.

LG-GW620-Spec

The phone is obviously aimed at budget conscious users wishing to get a taste of Android. The GW620 will be competing directly with the likes of HTC Tattoo and Samsung Galaxy Spica. Although the ancient version of Android used in GW620 is a cause for disappointment, one can’t really complain since very few Android phones are available at its price point. Let us hope that LG will issue an update at some point of time in the future.