Sunday 27 November 2011

Chrome Webstore

Google have taken another step closer to making their netbook operating system Chrome OS more main stream with Chrome Webstore. Screenshot of this Webstore looks like this. 

It has twelve categories and each has its share of apps that are good. For example, I occasionally like to visit the Times of India Website. I really don't like the layout of the website as it seems drab and using the Web store app, I get something like this, which is neat and cool.

The potential I see is immense. It all depends on how Google wish to play this out. Though lot of the apps are currently only weblinks, Google could have apps per se stored on their Servers (in the Cloud) and people can access them by logging into their Google account the way it is done now. These apps need to be synced so that one doesn't need to install across multiple devices. These days tablets seem to have taken the place of netbooks for those who are looking for a portable handheld device that is not a laptop and at the same time has a smaller screen (sub 10"). Netbook market though  nascent a few years back, was very buoyant. Every PC manufacture (except Apple) have dipped their hands in the netbook pie. It has however seen a dramatic decline in the last year or two mainly because of their weak processors and poor graphics display. People these days are turning towards tablets like iPad, XOOM, Transformer to take care of their internet browsing needs on the couch. There is still a market for powerful laptops  (for more intensive tasks like programming) that are truly portable and it appears that Ultrabooks may be the answer. Having access to Chrome Webstore to these Ultrabooks is quite crucial because it saves crucial hard disk space (SSD) by not installing apps natively on the users machines. It is like having a laptop experience with added impetus from Cloud. We shall see what the future holds for this wonderful webstore.

Saturday 12 November 2011

Future of air travel as we know it today

Is the future of air travel as we know it today coming to an end? Are we going back to the ages where travelling across continents would take weeks, if not months? If we continue on the same track as we are at the moment (without any thought for the future), then it might as well happen. May not be tomorrow, or next week, or next year or even next decade. But it will eventually happen in 30 to 40 years time. Don't believe it. Read on...

Unpretty picture
Fossils fuels if used at the current rate (which will increase in the next decade or two) will eventually run out. The reserves that are easily accessible are slowly shrinking. It was during the last decade the World's oil production had peaked. Finding new reserves is not getting easier. Other forms like permafrost (Methane hydrates), oil sands, etc are not easy and cheap to lay our hands upon. Furthermore, development of energy renewables is not moving at a pace for people to take notice. It is not cheap either. Government grants and subsidies are still needed for the energy generated from renewables to compete with the energy from fossil fuels. 

We have enough energy that comes from our Sun everyday that will support our entire planet's energy needs many times over. However, the current technologies are not mature enough in terms of cost and efficiency to tap the solar energy and store it in an efficient manner. There are companies in the US in the field of R&D and production for tapping and storing Solar power, declaring bankruptcy (about three in month of August 2011 even with help from the US government) which doesn't breed confidence.  The reason for the failure of these companies may be manifold, but it is more to do with lack of human will to serve the humanity and make a difference to the lives of billions of humans on this planet. Short term greed taking precedence over long term benefit for the human civilisation.

If this was to continue, one day we would end up with no fossil fuels to fly our airplanes. Remember fossil fuels are not only used to fly airplanes, but also for all known transportation (leaving aside bicycles, carts or sledges pulled by animals, horses in the wild west and camels in the desert), both on land and sea (though there are nuclear submarines) and also for building everything that comes from plastic. Come to think about it. If we look around us, right from Mobile phones, TVs, Washing machines, Conventional Ovens, Microwave ovens, Coolers, Air Conditioners, Computers, Cars, Watches, there is plastic in each of them in some shape or form. The day the fossil fuels run out will probably bring an end to everything that we hold and use today.  That includes air travel as we know it today. 

Forms of energy like nuclear hasn't done itself any favours with the Fukushima disaster. Tidal and wind energy aren't doing too well either. These forms of energy are seasonal and not reliable like the solar energy. 

The solution is, if one were to build solar farms in the sunniest parts of the planet, there is great reason to believe that one day our planet's entire energy needs could be met. This can be done if the governments around the world come together and invest in the project on a global scale. The huge tracts of waste land and deserts around the world can be used to build these farms. The most likely places would be parts of US, South America, Africa, Middle east, Indian subcontinent, Afghanistan and China, Far east and Australia. Some of the warmer countries in Europe like, Portugal, Spain, Italy, could also chip in. What would this mean? This would simply mean that all the energy needs for surface transportation, homes, offices, factories, industries could be met by Solar energy. For that cars need to become electric and so does other means of transport. There is no way a Solar powered aircraft could be built to fly passengers or for that matter any other form that is safe and reliable, at least in the foreseeable future. 

Thus, fossil fuels starting from 2020 needs to rationed to be used exclusively for Air travel and for manufacturing of items needing plastics.  This will keep use going atleast to the turn of the century if not more.

Eventually fossil fuels will run out completely, how much ever we wish otherwise. That would mean that alternative forms of fuel needs to be identified to fly our airplanes and alternative materials to build items needing plastic. Certainly we can't go back to wood. We will have to hope that someone, someday will come up with a material that will replace plastic. 

Friday 4 November 2011

Unboxing of iPhone 4S and my first thoughts

I pre-ordered iPhone 4S on 13th October online and it was delivered to me on 29th October. Here are a few unboxing photographs......

From the above pictures it is difficult to tell whether you are seeing an iPhone 4S or an iPhone 4. Even on the back of the device you find nothing. Look at the Settings/General/About and you will find the Model number as MD235B, which is indicative of iPhone 4S. To add to that there is Siri, though the hackers have now ported Siri onto iPhone 4 and 3GS.

My first observations are its screen dimension is same as that of an iPhone 3GS. The external chassis and the display (Retinal display) are the most recognisable changes and in addition there are two cameras, one at the front and the other at the rear. The rear also has a LED flash. The perimeter of the phone is surrounded by a brushed aluminium antenna strip. In my opinion it sticks out like a sore thumb especially on a Black iPhone. The rounded edges may have been a feature typical of Apple products, but on the iPhone 4 and 4S it doesn't create the wow feeling.  Coming to the software, it comes preloaded with iOS 5 and Siri. iOS 5 is a great improvement from iOS 4. The way the notifications are displayed (a la Android) is a great improvement. Siri is quite good and it certainly provides the novelty factor. However, the same cannot be said with the battery life. Even my 2+ year old iPhone 3GS battery seem to last longer than the one on iPhone 4S. Apple need to come out with an algorithm, which conserves battery life when the resources needed to run an application are not very intensive.

For iPhone 5, IMO Jon Ive and his team needs to work out of their skin to create a design that has the wow effect. For a start the display size has to increase. Getting rid of the bezel and providing a display based home button would be a step in the right direction. The length of the phone is fine, but the breadth has to increase by atleast 5 mm. The thickness may need to reduce a smidgen. 

For someone with iPhone 4, it would be a gutsy decision to upgrade to iPhone 4S, especially with Siri being ported onto it unofficially. The only plus features compared to iPhone 4 are its Dual Core Processor and a better Camera. The trade-off would be less battery life.