XBox Finally making some real money

Its a shame that in this cut throat world of bottom lines and margins, Microsoft had to sell it flagship console at a loss and hope to make money in volmes.

Well, the results are out and MS’s entertainment division has actually turned up a tidy profit this quarter too, and that last quarter’s profit wasn’t just a fluke. Granted the percentage profit is just a small blip on the bigger MS radar, but what is amazing is that even with all the price cuts by both xbox and its closest rival PS3, MS has still been able to make money while, as far as I know, PS3 still hasn’t come clean.

Here’s hoping that the PS3 division of Sony making a tidy profit too, keeping the competition alive 🙂

8GB iPhone and iPod Touch reach end-of-life

Atleast in the UK. Engadget is reporting, on the basis of a leaked O2 memo that the company has managed to empty its inventory and is not going to replenish the stock as it has reached it’s end of life. The recent price cuts in the UK have no doubt a part to play in this, but sceptics and rumour mongers would definitely be linking this with the imminent launch of the second gen iPhone 3G with higher storage. Whatever be the reason, it can only be good for those in the market for a new iPhone. Wait and watch this space for more updates.

Day 9: Leh city

We had initially kept this day as a free day to recuperate from the journey till now. None of us wanted to mount the bikes and were all in the mood to actually walk and explore Leh. But, of course, laziness took over and apart from the walk till German bakery for breakfast in the morning , we rode to all the other places we visited, which was good ’cause otherwise we wouldn’t have ventured as far as we did.

After a nice and heavy breakfast, we went for a little shopping in the market. The Leh market is filled with fake chinese clothes and shoes. For some reason, everything seemed more expensive than what we were used to and some of the shopkeepers even downright refused to tell us their prices saying that we won’t be able to afford their wares ! Guess, they were more used to the firangs walking around the streets and willing to pay a premium for the substandard goods on display.

The shopkeepers aside, Leh seemed like a very calm place with a nice and friendly people.

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The iPhone: A 'humbling' experience

The iPhone is beautiful. There are no two ways to describe it. I’ve never ever used a mobile phone as easy on the eyes as this phone and I’m loving it, absolutely.

But, as I use the iPhone more and more I’m starting to miss the various ‘features’ of a phone which I’d been used to all along. This has been discussed umpteen times around the interweb, but I just have to mention this. Features like SMS forwarding, rejecting incoming calls, sending business cards, taking down a number while in a call are not premium features and the iPhone should have provided these features from the go. But well, when you consider that the iPhone didn’t even allow one to send an SMS to multiple recipients till some time back, you realise that there is something seriously wrong with what the designers at Apple were thinking. I call using the iPhone a humbling experience because thats how I felt when I tried forwarding an SMS to a friend for the first time. I was humbled that, I,  an all powerful human, holding the great iPhone couldn’t even forward an SMS to another contact !

Don’t get me wrong here, I love the iPhone for what it is. And I know that an incoming call can be rejected by double tapping the power button. And that a new contact can be created while in call by going to add call->add contact. And there are external unsupported application available to forward SMSs and business cards. The point here is that Apple has released a semi functional device into the market to gain market share and is now trying to play catch up by introducing ‘premium’ features masked as firmware updates.

I’d have been happy if I’d paid $50 for a phone and it didn’t have certain features I was used to, but a $400 phone should have all this built in already. But then, Apple has been doing this for ages, Mac OS X 1.0 for almost unusable and they have been gradually making it more and more user friendly and feature packed, but a phone is not an operating system and missing to provide an SDK is different than not providing proper SMS functionality.

I’m still in love with my iPhone and only because I’ve never had such a good mobile browsing device and a phone in the same package before, and I’m really hoping that Apple puts in some of the missing functionality back with the new iPhone 2.0 firmware that is in the works right now.

Update: I know about the iPhone’s missing bluetooth profiles, MMS, Java, no copy-paste etc etc, I just haven’t started missing those features yet. Its just been about 15 days with the phone for me, though.

The Apple iPhone

Yes, I’ve finally bought the Iphone . Just couldn’t resist !

And the first question I have is, why couldn’t Nokia or any other big mobile company think of this device before Apple brought it to the market. There is nothing terribly difficult about making a mobile phone, I’m sure, atleast nothing that the other companies couldn’t have overcome. The iPhone is a mediocre phone with an awesome user interface and (almost) the best mobile browser around. Infact, I’ve been using the browser more than the phone ever since I got the iPhone. That should teach the nokias of the world something.

Apple chose to not include a lot of common mobile functionality with the first batch of iPhones, like the ability to send a single SMS to multiple recipients, but it still went on to become a smashing success. There must be something they did right.

The developer community has already embraced the device like no other and there is a horde of third party software available for the device and all this before Apple has even released the SDK. Enterprising hackers have released an unofficial SDK by reverse engineering the libraries that ship with it. The fact that the iPhone is locked to specific carriers hasn’t deterred anyone and the developers have developed simple one click applications to unlock the phone to work with any carrier. The unlocking applications are so easy that even a newbie can do this.

I’ll post a full review once I’ve had a chance to play a little more with the device but so far so good. My impressions are mostly positive 🙂

IBM testing Macs internally for employees

RoughlyDrafted got hold of a document which mentions that the BigBlue is running an internal pilot project for letting their employees use macs instead of Windows/Thinkpads. Ofcourse, its a lot easier now since IBM doesn’t officially make thinkpads anymore.

Apparently the results of their survey are quite interesting and even though a lot of the software the employees run doesn’t work on Mac OS X, most of the employees surveyed still chose to keep their macs instead of the getting back to the thinkpads.

Reasons why the IT dept. at IBM decided to run this pilot:

  • Alternative to Microsoft Windows
  • Less prone to security issues
  • Widely used in the academic world with which Research has close ties
  • Many new hires are more comfortable with the Mac and lately asking for it
  • Growing Mac community in Research and within IBM that finds the development environment on Mac more convenient
  • Growing acceptance of the Mac as a consumer and business oriented client platform
  • WPLC strategy includes significant investments in achieving the Mac platform parity

iBook G4 review

This is a “repost’ of a post I wrote on one of my other blogs a long time back. Republished here since it goes with the theme of this blog and hopefully someone somewhere will find it relevant even today.

Its been about two weeks since I got my iBook G4 and I must say, I’m loving it. The ibook looks more like a toy than a ‘real’ computing machine and that would deter most ‘corporate types’ from using it. You, obviously, wouldn’t want your boss catch you playing with a white thing in office. Geeks like me, on the other hand, should have a field day with this one. Apple has, in recent times, been working hard to change its image, as a company admired by the creative people, to one admired by the creative people as well as the geeks. And we all know, the world uses tomorrow what the geeks use today. The ibook and powerbook lines as well as the biggest draw of ’em all, Mac OS X, are excellent geek pullers and OS X in particular is what pulled me towards apple.

Let me tell you, though, that apple makes excellent hardware too and you would appreciate this only once you’ve actually used an apple machine. The ipods as well as all their computers are engineered almost perfectly. OS X does take the cake because, simply speaking, is the best looking Unix of them all. Yes, I said Unix. Apple is probably the first company to have released a commercially supported desktop operating system based on Unix, or FreeBSD, to be precise. I’ve used FreeBSD on the desktop earlier and have been dabbling with Linux since the better part of the last decade, so I’m not new to PC unixes. What’s different about OS X is the way “It just works”. Probably because apple has tighter control over the hardware that goes into those machines, but that does’nt make OS X any less ‘cooler’ than it already is. Finally I can get some work done, instead of trying to get some stupid hardware or software working with my system. And yes I did load up linux on it. I loaded up the latest darling of the masses, Ubuntu Linux, on the ibook and when I powered it up, it looked so pale and featureless in front of OS X that I couldn’t bother touching it even with a 10 feet pole and so I’m back to OS X only on my lovely ibook.

Coming back to the machine that this review is all about – The 12″ iBook G4. Not trying to sound like a paid reviewer, I must say I’m pretty impressed with the ibook, so far. Despite being as portable as it is, apple doesn’t seem to have made any compromises in making this machine. Almost everything about this system is perfect – The size, price, features. The screen at 12″ still manages to pack in enough pixels (1024×768) to be comfortable enough to use. And the slot loading combo drive makes me think, why aren’t the PC notebook makers using it. Let me warn you that if you’ve never seen an ibook before this, you are going to get a culture shock, like I got. If you, like me, believe that a laptop is/should always (be) black, the ibook is going to give your ego a beating. The ibook is white. Pure, simple white and it shines too 🙂 Atleast the Apple logo on the back does light up when the ibook is powered on, and it doesn’t hurt the appeal of the ibook one bit 😉

The first thing I tried with the ibook was playing music and I was kinda surprised. The tiny speakers do have a lot of power in them and, though, not loud enough to make you do the macarena, the quality of the sound produced is pretty decent considering the small package they come in. I tried watching a Jimi Hendrix DVD on the system and it played flawlessly in the iDVD player which comes up as soon as the system recognizes that a playable DVD has been inserted. OS X also displays different icons when you insert a CD-R and a CD-RW. Though, a small thing, it does make the system much more pleasant to use.

Have you ever tried connecting a PC portable to a network socket and struggled with the location of the ports. Most, if not all, PC portables have all the ports at the back of the system which makes them pretty hard and difficult to reach to. The iBook has all the ports on the left side of the system and the optical drive and the power socket at the right side. Simple and neat and you don’t have to lift the turn the notebook 180 degrees ever just to attach a network cable, Exactly like it should be.

One gripe I have with apple is that they still ship one button mouse/trackpads with all their systems. Maybe, its just their way of doing things, but I do miss the right mouse button at times. As of now, I’m still getting used to their ctrl-click combination in place of the right mouse button.

Day 8: Tang Tse to Leh

The accomodation that we stayed in at Tang Tse was easily the most luxurious we’d stayed in ever since the trip started. That showed since none of us wanted to leave our cosy beds in the morning. The guest rooms were next to a small stream and overlooking a garden with ducks and rabbits for company !

Woke up everyone, loaded up our bikes, had a nice breakfast and in between all this called the officer in-charge of the mess to thank him for the accomodation and to ask for a favour 🙂 None of us were able to figure out the problem with Akhilesh’s bike and so we asked the officer if he could get someone to look at it. We were in luck since he found someone at the EME workshop and sent him to our rescue. He diagnosed that the vehicle’s ignition switch has a problem and the proposal that he had was, well, a little extreme but it worked for us. He changed the wiring to bypass the ignition switch and managed to start the bike. That worked for us and we asked Akhilesh to stay ahead of all of us and to not stop anywhere.

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