Saturday 27 December 2008

The Unexpected

Sometimes the unexpected comes from quarters one least expects it. In an earlier post on Lifetrons X-mini Capsule Rechargeable Speaker, I mentioned that my Dell Inspiron 8200 internal speakers had stopped working for sometime. Furthermore, it had a problem with its Trackpad. I felt that the Palmrest/Touchpad Assembly (Part No. 3H400) comprising of Palmrest, Trackpad and internal speakers needed to be replaced. I found a used one on eBay for £14.99. Following the replacement of the assembly, the speakers started to work, which was totally unexpected.

I now have a fully functional Dell Inspiron 8200. This notebook is six years old, but still works fine for VB programming, web design using Dreamweaver, MS office related work and web browsing. My seven year old uses it ocassionally to browse the internet and do his homework. Though there is a two year old desktop at home, which both my children use to do their homework, using the notebook right now seems a bit of a novelty to them.

Tuesday 23 December 2008

Apple MacBook

Hurrah! I have now officially entered the Apple Mac user club. After dilly-dallying for years, I finally took the plunge and bought the new 13-inch Apple MacBook.

For the past many years, I followed Steve Jobs presentations at the MacWorld Expo. Despite liking whatever I read about the advances made by Mac, I was somehow reluctant to enter the Mac kingdom. The reason behind the reluctance is partly to do with Mac's closed architecture. I personally don't like the idea of using a system built on proprietory hardware, which restricts the end user's ability to customise it according to his or her needs. Unlike Windows and variants of Linux, which work on any Personal Computer (PC) that has suitable hardware, OS X only works on Mac hardware. One cannot install OS X on any other hardware. Mac operating systems (OS and OS X) have been around for years, however the tying up of OS X to proprietory hardware has stifled Apple's growth in the world of mainstream computing. Though the degree of sophistication a Mac provides in terms of User Interface (UI) is quite outstanding, I don't see it replacing a Personal Computer, which meets the demands of most users around the world. The reasons are a computer unlike a personal music player like say an iPod, has a certain degree of dependance on various peripheral devices it interfaces with, which requires an open architecture for quick and effective development. Furthermore, there are many software (for example: programming), which just cannot make their way onto a Mac because of its closed architecture.

The above rant brings us to the question, why did I buy the Mac in the first place?

In 2006 Apple released an Intel-based Mac, which had the potential to natively run Windows-based operating systems on Apple hardware using Bootcamp. This gave the users the ability to use Windows applications on a Mac. This was the principal reason behind my purchase of the MacBook. I wanted a system, where I could use the OS X for working on digital movies and natively run Windows applications for my day to day work.

After using the MacBook for a few days I am very much impressed by it, though it took me a few hours to get used to the various keys for obvious reasons. I opted for the latest model, which has the Aluminium unibody design, LED display and a giant Trackpad. Having dismantled my Dell Inspiron 8200 a few days back to replace the palm rest assembly (and the difficulty it posed with numerous small feeble parts), I can really appreciate the advanced Aluminium unibody design of the MacBook. Both the LED display and the giant Trackpad whose functionality is quite similar to that on a iPhone/iPod Touch are worthy additions to the MacBook.

I ordered the MacBook on 16th Dec and it was delivered on 22nd Dec, which is quite quick given the fact that it was custom built and shipped from Shanghai. Here are a few photographs .....

Thursday 18 December 2008

Lifetrons X-mini Capsule Rechargeable Speaker

 Dell Inspiron 8200 internal speaker has stopped working for more than a year now. I however get sound when connecting the headphones to the audio out port. The solution I found out was the motherboard needs to be replaced; which I reckon is an expensive option for a six year old notebook.

Whilst on my flight to India (in KLM's inflight magazine) I came across this tiny speaker manufactured by Lifetrons of Switzerland. The product is the world’s first extendable vacuum bass speaker, utilizing the patented Bass Xpansion System™ (BXS) technology which was developed and powered by Singaporean based technology company XMI. It costed me 30 Euros, saving me an expensive motherboard replacement. I am certainly impressed with the quality of the speakers.

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Mini Magnetosphere: An aid to Deep Space travel

A recent article in Telegraph said that the British scientists were successful in creating a Mini Magnetosphere in a 'laboratory' that can deflect solar radiation. The solution lays in the fact that, it mimics earth’s own defence (magnetic field) against harmful solar radiation. The implications of this work are far reaching, as it would some day aid humans in Deep Space travel (beyond moon).

Monday 20 October 2008

Sun's heliosphere is shrinking

I read an article in the Daily Telegraph, which says that the Sun's heliosphere is shrinking. Sun's heliosphere is a sort of a protective bubble created by the solar wind, which shields our solar system from harmful cosmic rays emanating from the interstellar space. The latest data suggests that the heliosphere has weakened by 25 percent in the past decade. The affects of this change is not entirely known, but continuing weakening of the heliosphere could affect the life on earth in a big way. NASA has launched IBEX (Interstellar Boundary Explorer) yesterday to study the interactions between solar wind and the cold vastness of space. Hopefully, we will learn more from the mission in the coming months.

Saturday 18 October 2008

Spawning error in Virtual Box

Kernel upgrade in Ubuntu usually is a straight forward process. However, last night following a kernel upgrade from 2.6.24-19 to 2.6.24-21, Virtual Box on which my Windows XP is loaded came up with a spawning error. This prevented Virtual Box from loading Windows XP.

Googling for a solution, I found the following that resolved the problem.

Execute the code below in 'Terminal' after every kernel upgrade to ensure that Virtual Box works.

sudo /etc/init.d/vboxdrv setup

Thursday 16 October 2008

Catching Up

Last night, I had an opportunity to catch up with my cousin Krishna Karedla, via e-mail. Krishna has co-authored books on computer programming with his wife Bharati. His business involves lot of activities other than just authoring books.The books are available through his website. In his words,

The website gives information about key aspects of building an application using, and sql server. Various topics which are useful to programmers, students and faculty alike are covered and some are listed here: connection string - how to use a connection string, connecting to server, working of a trading firm, creating and deploying a web service, web service tools, middle tier, data, object, data binding, constructors, asp net validation controls and many others.

Krishna also maintains a blog
, which has some very interesting posts. By the way Krishna goes by the name Madhava on his blog. The blog has photos of some of my cousins, nieces and nephews, whom I've met ages ago and some whom I haven't met at all.

Sunday 12 October 2008

BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer is more than a year old now. Launched on 27th July 2007, it offers viewers living in the UK to catch-up with programmes they missed viewing on TV, via the internet (with Broadband). BBC could be considered as the pioneers of this service in the UK.

Before the arrival of BBC iPlayer, Sky TV had a media player named Skyplayer. It offered limited programmes, like sport highlights, which on most occasions weren't very current. I watched BBC iPlayer extensively during the Beijing 2008 olympics, to catch up with the missed action at the end of the day. I found it very convenient.

I watch very little mainstream TV. On most occasions, I watch channels between 520 and 530 on the Sky network, like Discovery, National Geographic and History channels. Last night, I went onto the BBC iPlayer homepage to see what I have been missing on mainstream TV lately. The programme that interested me was The World's Strictest Parents: India, which was about two British teenagers, Josh Breslin and Charlotte Abrahams visit India to get a first hand experience on how parenting is done in a conservative Rajasthani family. Josh mentions in a news article that the experience for the most part was positive.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

World stock markets meltdown - Part 2

It seems like the Mondays are becoming synonymous with the word 'Black' in the stock market world. The markets around the world took a renewed beating yesterday. I lost count of the number of times this has happened in the past few weeks. There seems to be no end at sight. The ordinary investors must be feeling really jittery with this latest Catch 22 situation. If one were to sell their stock now, the losses become real. However, if one were to hold on there is no guarantee that the value wouldn't go further down in the near future, thereby increasing the losses.

Sunday 28 September 2008

Obesity in Britain

During my visit to Blackpool, there were so many obese people I saw at the Zoo, restaurants, Pleasure Beach, roads, hotels and the Blackpool Tower. It seemed like middle Britain is inflicted with the obesity epidemic. I cannot say the same about Aberdeen, a place where I work and live.

Googling for the articles on 'Obesity in Britain', I came across the following news articles (courtesy Daily Mail), which seem to confirm what I saw in Blackpool. However, the articles do not suggest that obesity is only restricted to middle Britain. The epidemic appears to be much more widespread.

Fat Britain: Tackling the obesity epidemic. Click here.
Overweight Britons are among the fattest in Europe. Click here.
13m obese by 2010. Click here.

Monday 15 September 2008

World stock markets meltdown

The world stock markets took a beating this morning following the news that Lehman Brothers, the fourth-largest investment bank in the US have filed for bankruptcy. 5000 people in the London office have lost their jobs. Now HP is set to cut 25,000 jobs over the next three years. If this can happen to the biggest names in the business world, then nobody is immune from this once in a century economic crisis the world is undergoing at the moment.

Sunday 14 September 2008

VirtualBox in Ubuntu

I use Ubuntu as an alternate operating system at home in place of Windows XP. I started using it extensively since the release of Fiesty Fawn, which is a year and a half back. It is installed on my external hard disk (WD Passport). Ubuntu is an operating system based on Linux, which is free and the community help pages are more than adequate to help a novice or an intermediate user. I managed to get help whenever I got myself into sticky situations. The most recent one was to do with the Network Manager, about which I'll write in a future post.

Following the release of Google Chrome (newest entrant to web browser market) earlier this month I wanted to install it on Ubuntu, but was disappointed that a Linux version is not available. I got to know that it could only be done using Wine, a Windows Emulator on Linux. My experience with Wine isn't that great till date because of its inability to provide the full functionality of a windows software (like iTunes, Winamp, Realplayer etc.) on Linux.

Scouring through the Google results I came across a website which showed how to install Google Chrome on Ubuntu using VirtualBox. Wow! I thought, a virtualisation software, where I could run software built for windows (which do not have a Linux equivalent) without having to leave Ubuntu. I loaded my virtual version of Windows using Virtual Box following the instructions on the above website. I then installed Google Chrome and voila. Here I am using Google Chrome browser to access my blog and write this post without having to leave Ubuntu.

I could have done the same dozen other ways, but I chose to do it this way.

Using VirtualBox I can run the fully featured Real Player, Windows Media Player and also Winamp. I will download iTunes some other time and am sure it will work just fine.

Friday 12 September 2008

Britain's Credit Crunch

Britain's economy is hit by the credit crunch. The stock market which had a great run in the past three years or so, is officially into its bear phase. FTSE 100 has fallen from its lofty heights of 6400 on May 19th this year to the current 5300. The same can be said of the housing market. There are more sellers than buyers and the situation just seems to get worse. The news is Barratt Homes (one of the biggest builders in Britain) is trying to attract buyers by paying stamp duty on houses worth up to £500,000 and protecting people selling their Barratt-bought homes from house price falls of up to 15% for the next three years. Such innovative ideas may attract the buyers, but the mortgage lenders are few and far between. Furthermore, London brokerage Savills expects house prices in the UK to fall by 25% over the course of 2008 and 2009. This would surely put off the first time buyers from stepping onto the property ladder.

I had an interesting incident that happened recently, which prompted me to come up with this post. In my earlier post I mentioned that I ordered a Seagate 1 TB Hard Disk from the BT shop. The original order was made on 20th August, scheduled to be delivered by the courier Amtrak on the 22nd. I called them up on 22nd afternoon saying that nobody would be at home and I would collect the parcel from their depot on 23rd, which happened to be a Saturday. On 23rd I was informed that due to some technical reasons they were asked not to give parcels to any customers. Only later did I come to know that Amtrak had gone into Administration on 22nd.

The latest news today is the holiday firm XL has gone into Administration. With the high fuel prices I expect a few of the low budget airlines could go into Administration.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Seagate 1TB hard disk

After a long wait for two weeks, I got my 1 TB Seagate hard disk yesterday, which I ordered from the BT Shop. I have a Dell Dimension 9200, which originally came with a 250 GB Seagate hard disk. I needed the extra storage space for my videos and pictures and to backup my hard disk. Initially, I was a bit apprehensive about installing it myself, as I have never installed an internal hard disk before. I looked at the Dell manual available online, which gave the necessary instructions on how to replace one.

Tools needed: (1) A mini screw driver with a star head and (2) Anti static wrist strap.

The Dell manual missed out the vital point about screwing the hard disk onto the bracket. An other aspect to note is the SATA cable and the power cable in the box supplied by Seagate are too small to be of any use. It is advisable to atleast buy a SATA cable, the one with a single right angle connector for installing a hard disk in a similar Dell make PC.

Post installation, I enabled the hard disk in BIOS and then formatted it using the Seagate Discwizard software. The software had the following handy features: add new disc (which let me do my partitioning), clone disc, image backup and image restore. The software is available for download from the Seagate website. I cannot vouch for its use on non Seagate hard disks as I never had a chance to use on one.

Google Chrome

Last week I installed a Beta version of Google Chrome ; the latest entrant to the browser market from Google. BBC website featured the pre-release news about the web browser in the UK. On 1st September I looked at Chrome’s comic book feature, which made me sit up and take note, as it seemed a pretty innovative way of presenting a new product launch. After a pretty long wait on 2nd September, the eventual moment arrived at 9 pm GMT when it was available for downloading. The downloading and installation processes were pretty uneventful.

My first thoughts are the browser is definitely quick. I am a great fan of Google Maps and I always had trouble loading them in other browsers; Firefox, IE, Opera and Flock. In Chrome they loaded almost instantaneously. The picture in YouTube appeared a bit better than in the other browsers. However, it doesn’t work on music sites with embedded media players. is one of them, which uses an embedded Realplayer.

The feature I liked the most in Chrome is ‘One box for everything’, i.e. merging of the address and search boxes into one. ‘Incognito mode’ feature may seem new and innovative to the IE and Firefox users, but in Safari the Private browsing mode has been available since 2005.

The experts verdict is it has bugs. The foremost one is the carpetbomb bug, which for the moment has kept me away from using Chrome as my default browser. My wish is all the known bugs are removed before its final stable release.