Daily Tech Notes

E-Ink display based watches are now available for sale at ThinkGeek. This makes use of the advanced e-paper technology. E-paper is a display technology designed to appear like ordinary ink on paper. Unlike a conventional flat panel display, which uses a backlight to illuminate its pixels, electronic paper reflects light like ordinary paper and is capable of holding text and images indefinitely without drawing electricity, while allowing the image to be changed later.  Hence these watch displays are customizable as can be seen below.

The E Ink technology used in this watch depicts digital time with the look of electronic paper and can be read accurately and instantly from any angle – vastly improving on dull liquid crystal displays (LCDs) that typify previous digital watches. The customizable dial allows you to select different styles, from the precise detail of full numerals and indices to the simplicity of no markings all.

But I don’t think 16 different display options are worth the price tag of $250! I might buy it if it is available for $100.

March 21, 2008 | Posted in Gadgets | No Comments »

Geeky green is a 2 column fixed width theme for WordPress with complete widget support. The post area width is 550 pixels and the side bar is 220 pixels.  This theme is released under GPL license.

Geeky green is optimized for fast page load and uses minimum graphics. You can easily customize it by modifying the compact style sheet in this theme. Following is the sample screen of Geeky Green theme in action.

 

Download & Installation

The latest version of Geeky Green theme can be downloaded from here. Extract the compressed file under WordPress themes folder and then from administration screen select Geeky Green. If you want you can customize sidebar using widgets tab under the theme presentation tab.

All the links in the theme (except footer and header) can be customized by changing the global anchor tag style.

Live Demo

Geeky Green 2 column live demo.

I have tested this theme only on WordPress 2.3.3. But it should work on WordPress 2.0+. Do you have any suggestions for improvement? Let me know.

Version History

21 March, 2008 – released version 1.0

| Posted in My Work, WordPress | No Comments »

There was a lot of rumour in the blogsphere (TechCrunch, Gizmodo) that solid state drives has a higher failure rate compared to harddisks. I found it hard to believe since it was quite obvious that harddisks with moving parts will have a higher failure rate than SSD drives.

Now Dell has confirmed my doubt and denies that SSD failure rates are high,

Our global reliability data shows that SSD drives are equal to or better than traditional hard disk drives we’ve shipped. Beyond that, return rates for SSDs are in line with our expectations for new technology and an order of magnitude better than rates reported in the press.

The vast majority of our customers who purchased these drives appreciate the benefits that SSD drives offer: increased durability, fast start up, better reliability and improved access times.

Dell also points out that the research firm avian securities didn’t even contact them! This reminds me of the research papers released by some guys in India against pepsi and coca cola saying that their beverages are full of pesticides!

March 20, 2008 | Posted in Hardware, Tech News | No Comments »

It was exactly 10 years ago in march 1998, world’s first MP3 player MPMan F10 was born. MPMan F10 had a flash storage of 32MB and required PC parallel port to transfer music files. F10 was manufactured by Korea’s Saehan Information Systems. Initially it was priced at $250!

Here are the MPMan F10 Specifications if you are curious like me!

  • Dimensions: 91 (H) x 70 (L) x 16.5 (W) mm
  • Weight: 65 grams
  • Storage: 32 or 64MB integrated flash memory, non-expandable
  • Power Source: two 1.5V AA rechargeable batteries with a docking station for recharging
  • Output capacity: headphones, 5mWx2
  • Mega Bass Function: 24dB (125Hz)
  • As you can see it was a compact MP3 player even in 1998! I bought one of these when I was in UK. Amazingly it still works.

    A detailed review of MPMan F20 which is very similar to F10 is available here.

| Posted in Gadgets | No Comments »

As part of the privacy changes, Facebook has enabled conditional access to profile information using friend lists and also using a category called “friends of friends”!  For example, you can categorize all friends from work under a “work friends” list and then hide your online status from them. You can even hide a lot of other details from your “boss” friend list.  The advantage here is that the “friend categorization” will be visible only to you!

Another feature is the “friend of friends”. Facebook assumes that these are your probable friends  and you may want to share some details with them!

Now it is pretty clear that other services such as Orkut is going to embrace this soon. Orkut is already trying hard to bring out Orkut apps (Facebook strength is in its application platform with thousands of cool applications online).

This “friends list” feature is useful if you keep the lists to a minimum. To me the most useful list that I can create seems to be “family members” group to whom you can expose your contact details including phone numbers.

| Posted in Tech Tips | No Comments »

Finally the much awaited Windows Vista service pack 1 is available for download! The complete service pack download is over 420MB(!) so don’t even think of downloading it over dialup. This service pack mainly consists of quality improvements, support for emerging hardware and standards and infrastructure optimization.

When Windows vista was released there were many who thought it would be a failure. Who would want to upgrade from the stable Windows XP? But Windows vista went on to sell over 100 million copies and has in turn become the fastest selling operating system in history! One of the areas where Windows Vista is much better than XP is the system security. Microsoft had invested a lot of effort in improving security architecture of Windows and it is beginning to payoff.

What is inside Windows Vista SP1?

1. Quality improvements
Windows Vista initially supported around 13,000 hardware components. With SP1 this number is increased to 54,000 components. Application and device compatibility improvements are many in Windows SP1.

Reliability improvements in SP1 include networking reliability improvements (for WiFi and IP6) and improvements to NTFS and EFS.

Performance enhancements include major speed/bandwidth improvements while accessing network shares, faster file copy (upto 45% faster!), improved battery life for laptops and faster access to compressed folders.

There are also a number of security improvements including support for new security standards.

2. Support for emerging hardware and standards
This include enhanced support for 64bit computers, support for new filesystem called exFAT and has support for Direct3D 10.1. The new standards supported include the wireless standard 802.11n, SHA 256 and SSTP (secure sockets tunnel protocol).

3. Infrastructure optimization
Windows vista SP1 introduces a concept called hotpatching. This allows updates to core components even when they are in use! This will definitely reduce the number of restarts required during an upgrade. Windows auto update is made smarter to deal with transient errors such as sharing violations and power failures. There are also a couple of improvements to Windows management such as enhanced network diagnostic tool and ability to configure disk defragmenter on a volume basis.

There are a number of programs that may not work once Windows Vista SP1 is installed. These include BitDefender AV,Fujitsu Shock Sensor,Jiangmin KV Antivirus 10, Jiangmin KV Antivirus 2008, Trend Micro Internet Security, Zone Alarm Security Suite, Iron Speed Designer, Xheo Licensing. Free Allegiance, NYT Reader, Rising Personal Firewall and Novell ZCM Agent. Windows Vista SP1 also won’t work with certain hardware which include audio/display drivers from Realtek and Intel.

It is better to use Windows update instead of downloading the SP1 directly. Windows Update can detect driver problems before installation. My advise is to wait for a couple of days before applying SP1 patch. There could be serious compatibility issues with certain hardware and software.

| Posted in Software Reviews, Tech News, Tech Tips | No Comments »

Orkut has recently enhanced the find friends functionality on the profile page. Now you can add friends using email contacts in your external email accounts. Currently Hotmail and AOL email accounts can be used (Official Orkut blog mentions Yahoo as well, but I am unable to see Yahoo in the list). According to the official blog, more external email providers will be added to this list soon!

For adding contacts from external email accounts, you need to give your account id and password. If your contacts are using gmail and they are on orkut, you can directly add them after importing them. For contacts who are not on Orkut, you can send an invitation asking them to join Orkut.

| Posted in Tech Tips | No Comments »

The next generation WordPress (2.5) is going to be released soon and a release candidate is now available for download. I did a test drive of this version and the first thing I noticed is that it looks a lot more “whiter” than the previous version. Some may call it the modern design, but In my option, the earlier look and feel was easier to navigate! For example check out the homepage,

As you can see, WordPress 2.5 uses google blog search instead of technorati for incoming links! The good thing is that you can now edit this. Another advantage of this feature is that now you can disable all the latest WordPress news and WordPress blog feeds. You don’t a need a plugin to do that!

Following are the major cool new features in WordPress 2.5,

Improved Write Post screen

Now it is easier to add various types of media to your post. Images, videos and audio files can be easily inserted. There is also a media library and a gallery feature available. But for majority of WordPress users who use tools like Windows Live Writer, this may not be important!  The write toolbar can be used in “simple” or “advanced” mode.

Tag Management

WordPress 2.5 now offers full tag management similar to category management. But surprisingly you cannot select a tag the way you select a category. You need to explicitly type in the tags in create post screen. The tag screen allows you to quickly see the posts under a specific tag. Also Blogroll is now moved under Manage section as links and link categories.

Faster Dashboard

One major improvement I noticed is that the dashboard now loads faster compared to the earlier dashboard. It can be made faster by removing all the unnecessary feeds on the dashboard such as incoming links and WordPress news. This alone probably is worth the upgrade to WordPress 2.5!

Don’t port your live blog to WordPress 2.5 yet! There could be serious security issues or bugs which needs to be ironed out. Wait till the production quality WordPress 2.5 is out. I would wait till WordPress 2.5.1 is out!

March 19, 2008 | Posted in Tech News, WordPress | No Comments »

Youtube is currently the most favorite video sharing site out there. But the default video quality in Youtube is not very good. This is to ensure smooth video playback for majority of internet users who has bandwidth of 512kbps or less.

Whenever a video is uploaded to Youtube (.wmv, .avi, .mov, .mpg), it is automatically converted to a flash file format with a resolution of 320×240 pixels. The default data rate is about 240kbps.

But in many countries (korea, US, UK) broadband users have high bandwidth up to 8mbps! YouTube is currently encoding the videos to higher resolution and higher quality for users from these countries. But you need to explicitly enable it! Here is how,

Consider the following YouTube URL – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAE2-FQHkok . When you watch this video, there is a link on the bottom which says watch this video in higher quality.  Another way to turn on high quality is by appending &fmt=6 to the URL. Hence http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAE2-FQHkok&fmt=6 will enable high quality video at 448×336 resolution and the audio quality is also improved. If you attach &fmt=18, the video resolution increases to 480×360 and the video is downloaded as an MP4 file!

If you are always logged into your YouTube account, you can enable high quality videos forever by selecting Account->Video Playback Quality->I have a fast connection. Always play higher-quality video when it’s available.

High resolution support is still in experimental stage and only a very small set of YouTube videos support this. Obviously for this to work, the uploaded file should be of higher quality!

| Posted in Tech Tips | No Comments »

Tim Berners Lee (creator Word Wide Web) has created a map indicating the growth of Internet as part of his interview at BBC. Click on the image below for a larger version. From the BBC blog by Rory,

But there is also a parched area on one side of the map described as “wasted arid lands”. Among its features are the “Patent Peaks” and the “Proprietary Pass”. And right at the centre of this gloomy landscape is something called the “Tor of Cism”. For the life of me, I can’t work out what that means, but I have a feeling Sir Tim might have been passing on a coded message.

Actually “Tor of Cism” is a reference to Microsoft and the color coded Giants is a reference to Google. As you can see Tor of Cism leads to proprietary pass!

The original PDF can be downloaded from here.

March 18, 2008 | Posted in Internet, Tech News | No Comments »

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