10 Must-Have Free iPad Apps

I have been bewitched by Apple products ever since I got my hands on my first iPod in college (a generous gift). My old friend, the iPod, has since been retired from my service, but still continues to bring music and entertainment to my dear ones. The time was ripe and on cue, I was bewitched by another Apple product. Enter the iPad. I moved from my initial skepticism (Oh, why do I even need something like that?) to pure delight when I got my iPad 2.

Having an iTouch may be enough for some folks,   but when you get used to it, suddenly, screen size does matter. On my iPad, I love reading e-books, watching videos, and even making notes on the larger, scrumptious 9.7-inch LED screen. The larger onscreen keyboard is a life saver for the days when my fingers feel especially pudgy. Having a front- and rear-facing camera is an added bonus for my many video chats. Still no flash though, sigh.

Here are my Top 10 Must-Have Free iPad Apps

1. Kindle Cloud Reader

Being a big reader, I experimented with lots of free e-book readers from iBooks to Kobo to Stanza (to name a few). What really sold me the Kindle Cloud Reader was its beautiful interface and the constant fresh fodder (e-books) from the Kindle store. You have to use a very basic shopping concept here, good deals are only found if you regularly check what is on the clearance rack. Every day, the store provides fodder of a different genre. The magic is that I can pick some really good stuff for free! I also do not miss having a book spine on the screen (as is seen in iBooks).

2. Terra

The default mobile Safari browser is not bad. I like my browser tabstoo much to settle though. Terra is simple to use and I can open as many tabs as I want. It is strong on privacy; I can browse without saving anything in History, and I can set a pass code for my History and Bookmarks. (The following image is from technologytosoftware.com).

3. Instagram

I have cheated a bit here. As of now, its interface still looks like that of a stretched iPod app (the fit-to-screen type). But, I (and another 10 million users) love the simplicity and pure ingenuity of  Instagram’s many fun filters. It’s easy to link to Facebook and Twitter too. This app is good news considering there aren’t any good photo-editing social networking apps.

4. Flipboard

This app creates a magazine from my numerous networking-site feeds. My updates from Google Reader, Twitter, Facebook, and many other sites, are much easier to manage as a result. I mainly use Flipboard to save all my favorite stories to be savored at my leisure. Flipboard also won Apple’s iPad App of the Year award.

5. Evernote

This popular app is a lifesaver. I make about a dozen notes a day on the Evernote cloud. It is easy to get used to it.


6. Dropbox

This is another amazing cloud app that offers 2 GB of free space to its users. I can’t imagine how I lived without it. I can save and manipulate my data, as if on my local desktop, using Dropbox.

7. Skype

The beauty of having a camera on the iPad is that I can make a video call on a full screen with Skype while catching up with other friends. Who in the world is not on Skype?

8. NPR

This news app beats NY Times, WSJ, and many others because it does not have the painful limited (or paid) viewing of its content. Its articles are open to everyone. I enjoy the latest NPR news broadcast, or simply listen to its playlist of songs.

9. Twitterrific

There are numerous Twitter apps. An ideal app, in my opinion, is one that I get the hang of in less than 10 seconds. Twitterrific fits the bill. It is simple and intuitive. It has not failed me yet, so I see no reason to jump to TweetDeck.

10. AccuWeather

I believe that it’s good to have more than one source to check my weather forecast. AccuWeather is an American company that provides (reasonably) accurate weather forecasting services worldwide. The interface is clean and presentable. No overload of information here. The hourly update on multiple locations is a nice touch.

Bonus Free iPad App

11. Talking Larry the Bird

In a nut shell, Larry repeats what you say to him in his own ducelent tones. Its too much fun for a human.

Some Thoughts On Bitcoin And Why I’m Staying Away

Over the past few weeks I’ve been hearing a lot about a new virtual currency called Bitcoin. It is considered to be the future of money, if not now, sometime in the foreseeable future. Stephen Chapman has done an excellent introductory article explaining what Bitcoin is. I’ll try to do a summary:

  • Bitcoin is virtual, no hard cash
  • There is no central authority
  • Total amount of Bitcoin currency is $21Million
  • Bitcoin has a stock exchange like conversion where the worth of a Bitcoin in terms of $ keeps fluctuating
  • Users can buy goods (from the offline world) with Bitcoins and also use it as a barter system commodity
  • Bitcoin is open source and has a sophisticated algorithm
  • Users install the Bitcoin software on powerful computers to mine Bitcoins (compute the algo)
  • A laptop can take upto 5 years or more to complete one cycle of mining – that’s 20 Bitcoins

That’s a brief overview of Bitcoin, to get a better grasp you should read the article I’ve linked above. As an enthusiast and early adopter I find Bitcoin intriguing and as someone who liked PayPal before the governments decided to limit the service, Bitcoin sounds interesting. Unfortunately, as I read more about Bitcoin I’ve become more  sceptical  about the service. Here’s why:

  • You lose control of your PC, you lose your Bitcoins
  • People with powerful PCs will have more Bitcoins and the service has a huge first-mover advantage
  • Bitcoin index is volatile

My biggest concern is the first point. One of the engineers associated with Bitcoin says you can lose money from a bank too, but here’s the thing… if I keep my money in a bank, the bank is liable for security. Not me. Even if you don’t lose physical access to the PC, for a trojan to access your Bitcoin wallet and take your Bitcoins, it’s possible. Strong passwords is a practice but in a service like Bitcoin who do you go to since there is no central authority? I can call my banks if I realize someone hacked into my account or stole my credit card.

If I have multiple PCs with multiple GPUs to mine for Bitcoins, I’ll have to be rich with real cash to buy such computing power. This probably the only light at the end of the tunnel, even if Bitcoin tanks and you lose your Bitcoins, you still have your hardware. I believe this nerd excitement is getting Bitcoin the attention it has right now.

Like any currency conversion, Bitcoin’s value keeps fluctuating but my hesitation is due to Bitcoin being a secondary index. In case the dollar sees major fluctuation due to any reason, Bitcoin is affected. In a way, there’s a new scale added that can impact my wealth. This volatility was evident when Bitcoin’s value tanked on reports of Mt.Gox – a Bitcoin exchange, being hacked.

From what I understand, the number of Bitcoins will remain the same after a point which in turn increases their exclusivity. This exclusivity bothers me. It reminds me of the Tulip Mania of 1600 where the prices of Tulip bulbs  sky-rocketed  due to people’s craze for Tulips and then suddenly crashed for a variety of reason. This is regarded as among the first economic bubbles.

A thread on the Bitcoin forums highlights some more flaws in Bitcoin’s model.

I am probably a little more sceptical when it comes to money, I don’t have a lot. Bitcoin’s model as of now does not make me comfortable and I believe it is not ready to be used widely. PayPal offered money transaction with banks not being involved, it was easier and simpler for me as a user. I had more control over my money and there were transaction flexibilities. I’d rather have governments giving PayPal a break over Bitcoin.

Is 3D Overrated?

Couple of days ago I attended an event hosted by Intel showcasing their second generation core processors and electronics equipped by it. Besides that, major stress was on the fact that upcoming consumer electronics will be quipped by technologies like 3D. This took me to back to the Nvidia event I attended a couple of months ago. There again the entire event was focused on 3D enabled consumer electronics. With so many manufacturers concentrating on 3D technology leads to only one question. Is 3D really the next tech revolution? Stay with me, I’ll put down few points.

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If you followed the CES 2011, you would’ve noticed the dominance of 3D technology there as well. So what makes 3D such an interesting technology for manufacturers and consumers? Is knowing the dept of an object to the other that important? It sure gives a real life experience but I would argue that you’ll see this technology reaching budgeted consumers anytime soon. The reason being content. Manufacturers blindly adopt technologies from research labs and implement them on their upcoming products to lure consumers. The strategy being, assume the consumer is an rich tech savvy idiot.

All I see hardware manufacturers do is introduce the hardware and leave the content to others. Of course, it isn’t their job to do so but if you want something to catch on you need applications that can make use of it. Rich Tech Savvy people would buy 3D enabled electronics (Displays/mobiles) but unless and until you have some content on it you aren’t making any use of the hardware. Rest of the world would buy it only when there is any content available to watch. This was the only reason HDTV took so long to catch on. Although the technology was available even back in late 90’s it wasn’t until couple of years ago that Full HD content started taking advantage of the hardware.

Although I am sure 3D won’t take that long to catch up since we already have high priced 3D video/still cameras available in the market and now that YouTube will also be supporting 3D it won’t take long before people start uploading user generated content. That again questions the availability of non-user generated content. In my opinion manufactures should partner with content generators generate professional 3D content along with the hardware.

So if you ask me if 3D is overrated? I would say  for now or even for next 2-3 years, it is overrated. If you disagree with me lets discuss via comments.

Why Nokia Needs To Do WP7 and Android Phones

There have been several on and off rumours about Nokia doing a Windows Phone 7 handset or not, especially now that Stephen Elop (previously of Microsoft) is in charge of the Finnish handset maker.

Nokia has been steadily losing marketshare. Even in its stronghold, India, the recent numbers show that Nokia has lost share to Android and several local players. One of Nokia’s biggest problem is their platform strategy. Symbian had been Nokia’s trump card till iPhone came along and sent Nokia into a tizzy of coming out with a competitive alternative. So far, Nokia hasn’t been able to challenge either Android or iOS.

Nokia certainly needs time to figure out a long term strategy while ensuring short term marketshare stability. This a reason I believe Nokia should opt for Windows Phone 7 and Android as an interim alternative till they are confident with their indigenous mobile OS. Windows Phone 7 has a fixed spec sheet and given Nokia’s handset designing experience they can do a decent job of designing at most two phones with and without physical keyboards. Alongside WP7, some resources can be spent on developing a custom Android experience with again not more than two handsets.

Android and WP7 handsets will get Nokia some much needed (good) attention and the required time to invest in their own platform. Nokia doesn’t necessarily need to compete with HTC, Samsung, Google, Microsoft at the same time. They can forge alliances with Google and Microsoft for the short term   while competing with other handset manufacturers and place themselves as a long term competitor with all the four.

Tech Gift Ideas for your Valentine

Well, the famous (or infamous if you live in Mumbai) Valentine’s Day is around and it’s time you decided to give a gift to that special someone. However, what if your boyfriend/girlfriend is a tech maniac? What if he/she likes to stay in the latest buzz or have a new gadget to show off (and hopefully do the same for you next year)? Those murmurs of acquiescence tell me that you do have such a companion and that choosing a gift for him/her without formidably denting your wallet is quite a nuisance. Fear not! For Techie Buzz is here to save your day once again!

For the Photography Lover

No, we are not going to tell you to buy him/her a dSLR (but if you have the money to spend, go ahead!), but the Nikon Coolpix L20 is a formidable point-and-shoot camera that comes for under $100. With a lacquered plastic finish this one is a good-looking winner!


However, if your Valentine already has a decent camera and uploads and shares them online, the best way to gift him/her is by buying a premium subscription package for the service they use. Both deviantART and Flickr offer subscription gifts with messages that add an extra bit of love to the gift!


With deviantART, all you have to do is browse to the person’s profile and click on the Givebutton followed by the Give subscriptionbutton and following the on-screen instructions. With Flickr, just navigate to the gift page and buy a subscription. The person who receives it has to redeem the gift code. Simple!


For the Music Lover

While the iPod Touch would be the preferred gift idea of the rich, it will not be a gift idea from Techie Buzz. We like it when awesome things are bundled at a low price! The favored music player that is pretty cheap is the Sansa Clip from Sandisk. This David of a player laughs at the Goliaths like Apple and Samsung with its beautifully rich sound reproduction. Supporting MP3, WMA, secured WMA and Audible eBooks, this is one player that does everything in a tiny package. Best part? It’s dirt cheap at around $50 for the 4GB version. The Clip+ which supports microSD extendable memory is also around the same price. Verdict: Get the Clip+ you will not regret it!


However, if your Valentine is an Apple fan, the new 3rd Gen iPod Shuffle is quite the formidable player. With its sleek looks and beautiful array of colors and the amazing Apple sound quality to boot, this one is a sure-fire winner at $79 or less. Since I personally use this player, I would recommend it to anyone who travels via public transport. The earphone controls are a godsend even though the sound is not all that great via the headphones. However, you can get an adapter for the controls and use your own earphones if you want.


If your loved one uses last.fm quite a lot, you can even gift the last.fm radio subscription for him/her! Just click on the subscribe button and click on the For friendtab and do the rest! Or, just click here for giving the gift of a subscription.


For the Gamer

Ah, the Gamer. So many games and hardware to choose from what do you exactly buy him (mostly)/her? There is the constant fear of your Valentine saying Oh I have this gameor Aw, this game sucks!. However, knowing gamers as I do, most of the hardcore gamers truly enjoy retro games. So one of the favorite gaming devices is the GP2X Wiz. Though it is pricey, it is a godsend for retro gamers and has a touch-screen and emulators for quite a few gaming devices of yore.


As for real games, there is always a sale on Steam or Direct2Drive regarding games and you can give the gift of a game on both these websites. Good Old Games also has the option of gifting games, but the fact of the matter is that  GoG.com is DRM-free completely and has amazing old games that still fail to bore you! So if your boyfriend/girlfriend likes gaming, these are the places to be!

Do tell us what you bought for your Valentine and how it was received in the comments!

Get Updates and Help On Mumbai Terrorist Attacks

Pardon this completely irrelevant post, but I am from Mumbai and it has been under terrorist attacks from the last four hours, with shootings, grenade attacks and bomb blasts occurring in major five star hotels, hospitals and railway stations.

There are plenty of users who are giving out information on how you can get help and get the latest updates on the attacks which have not stopped as of yet, please use this information and pass it on to whoever needs help.


If you have any other resources on where information can be found, please leave a comment and pass this along.