Amazon Video on Demand Launched

Amazon’s Video on Demand service has finally moved out of beta and is available for public consumption. Amazon is offering a few free episodes of 30 Rock and Heroes for your viewing pleasure.

With Video on Demand Amazon is now an even closer to becoming the center of home entertainment. They already have music, movies and now Video on Demand. Awesome ! Now if only they would do something about those downtimes :-)

On a more serious note, Amazon has been diversifying their business into new and uncharted territory in the last couple of months and it’s probably good for the company. Products like the Kindle really have the potential to change the game, as they say and I’d love to see more such products from the company, starting with Kindle 2.0, please.

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Mast Kalandar, Koramangala – Bangalore

Like the rest of the chain’s restaurants, this branch’s food is — finger-licking good ! I enjoy the typical Panjabi fare they offer – Rajma-Chawal (70), Kadhi Chawal (70), Sinful Punjabi Panner(90), Paranthas and of course the Lassi.

All things on the menu have been given very imaginative names. Although, they do not serve alcohol or Non-Vegetarian, the place is still highly recommended.

Ambience is nothing great; it looks like a cafe, with basic furniture. But the place really looks neat and tidy and well organized. One has to order and pay at the counter, and the food is delivered at your table.

On our last visit, we ordered Texx Mexx Parantha (90) & Sinful Punjabi Paneer(90). The parathas are served with dal, raita, chutney and pickle. The Sinful Punjabi Paneer was just like mom makes it- delicious!

In all if you want to have food which is homely, low in calorie and at the same time tasty Mast Kalandar is the place. Be warned; go there in time because there is almost always a waiting of about 15-30 min (esp if there is a cricket match on).

What happened with Windows Vista

Ofcourse, everyone’s heard about the debacle that Windows Vista has been. Enough has been written about the disaster that Windows Vista has been.

So much so that it has almost become fashionable for bloggers all over the Internet to trash Vista left right and center. And some of these people don’t even use Windows Vista.

I agree Vista hasn’t been the best of software that Microsoft has released. But, I also feel that Vista has received flak for being what it is. An operating system ahead of it’s time.

Now, don’t start flaming me for this statement. Try and understand what I mean when I say, “Ahead of it’s time”. I definitely DO NOT think there is anything ground breaking in Vista, though it has it’s moments. What I mean is that Vista was never designed to work on the hardware that it was run on.

The hardware that was being used by the regular PC user 1-1/2 years back was definitely not powerful enough to run windows Vista and it was quite obvious that people hated the experience. That doesn’t mean that the people should have upgraded. Vista definitely should have been faster.

I use Vista on my relatively powerful recent notebook and I think that it runs quite well. Another thing which Vista impresses me with is the stability. Ofcourse, it doesn’t beat Linux in that department yet, and probably never will, but that’s not what people use Windows for ;) But, people who are still stuck on to XP, will definitely do themselves a favor by actually trying out a modern operating system.

I think the Vista debacle was just a case of marketing gone wrong. Nothing more, Nothing less. Ever since, Microsoft started working on Vista, they had these big advertisements running in the media proclaiming the *new* features that were going to be in the new operating system. Features like WinFS would have been awesome and would have made all the difference, but Microsoft couldn’t deliver on their promises and the Vista project kept getting late and features such as WinFS were removed from the final product.

Before Vista was released I don’t remember a single article about Vista which didn’t end up mentioning the supposed advances that WinFS would have brought to the table. And when such a loved feature is removed from an already delayed project, it is obvious that the product would receive some bad press.

But Vista didn’t receive just bad press. Vista got a hammering and for (almost) no fault of its own.

Had Microsoft released an increment (with added eye candy) to XP at that time and released Vista now, I have no doubt that people would have been happy with it. Let’s hope Microsoft learn something from this and get on with their act for Windows 7 or whatever they end up calling it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Microsoft Patents Page Up/Page Down functionality.

This has to be the joke of the week, if not the century ! Microsoft had applied for and has received a patent (U.S. Patent #7,415,666) that essentially patents “Page Up/Page Down” functionality in any application.

I seriously believe the patent system is absolutely screwed up. I think this is another reason why software patents are a bad idea. From the filing:

Method and system for navigating paginated content in page-based increments

A method and system in a document viewer for scrolling a substantially exact increment in a document, such as one page, regardless of whether the zoom is such that some, all or one page is currently being viewed. In one implementation, pressing a Page Down or Page Up keyboard key/button allows a user to begin at any starting vertical location within a page, and navigate to that same location on the next or previous page.

For example, if a user is viewing a page starting in a viewing area from the middle of that page and ending at the bottom, a Page Down command will cause the next page to be shown in the viewing area starting at the middle of the next page and ending at the bottom of the next page. Similar behavior occurs when there is more than one column of pages being displayed in a row.

ADrive.com tempts with 50GB of free Online Storage

ADrive is yet another startup offering it’s users 50GB of free online “Cloud” Based storage. I don’t know if the “Cloud” based part has any relevance here or not, but it sure makes their homepage buzzword compliant.

Unlike wua.la, though, which I covered a while back, Adrive is not any different from the other storage startups out there. What is different is the amount of storage they’re offering.

Most companies these days offer anywhere from 1GB to 5GB to start with for free and then charge more for extra storage. This is called the freemium model. And the model has been working well for a lot of companies, since it is quite easy to run out of 1GB and then ask the user for money once he/she is locked down.

But Adrive is offering it’s users 50GB. That’s a lot of storage by any standards. I have about 4GB of photographs which I need to store, another 20GB of songs and videos and 1 or 2GB of other data. Even, after all this I’m still well under my 50GB limit. I really wonder how are they going to convert free users to the paid model. And they backup all data for even the free account. So, I don’t need to pay to even get my data backed up.

Are services like ssl/webdav really that big a deal that an average user will pay for them ? I don’t think so. My only requirement is that a service should backup my data and Adrive does that. And I don’t mind seeing advertisements to get that much free storage. Infact, show me more ads and give me more space :-) Gmail already shows me ads for all the convenience it gives and, trust me, gmail has much more of my sensitive data than Adrive can ever hope to get.

I would really like Adrive to succeed and keep the 50GB limit intact, but I doubt it will.

Has Ubuntu lost it’s relevance – Why does it suck so much !

Ubuntu has long been the darling of the media, or at least the small number of people who actually cover Linux and related technologies. And I haven’t read anything but good things about it … until recently. Has Ubuntu lost it’s charm as the “Linux for human beings” ? Are there other contenders for the human linux title now ?

A small but growing number of users are being vocal about the fact that even after more than 5 years in the market, Ubuntu has still not been able to fulfill their promise of a Linux system which normal human beings can use.

I’ve been an Ubuntu user since the last 3 years and have actually been quite happy with it. Except for small annoyances, Ubuntu had been serving me well … until recently. Because of all the problems I’d been having with it, I removed Ubuntu 8.04 from my notebook last week and have now moved back to Debian, which I used to use before I got into Ubuntu. I have to say this. The latest version of Ubuntu just plain sucks ! I’ll repeat it again. Ubuntu 8.04 sucks. And no I’m not going to upgrade to Ubuntu 8.10, 9.04, 9.10 LTS or whatever it is that they decide to name it next.

I’m not off Linux and I’m certainly not getting on to Windows. I’m off any distribution which makes me relearn everything that I’ve learnt in the last 9 years. I’m against Ubuntu because it doesn’t help me configure my graphics cards any better, and instead makes me search for well known configuration files by wandering around obscure directories because the file locations have been changed in the name of evolution.

I’m off Ubuntu because I don’t want to configure the wifi card (which was anyway a pain to configure in the first place … but that crib’s for another day) again just because I decided to update my operating system. Which is what happens to me each and everytime a major upgrade comes through … which, for Ubuntu, is almost every week.

The updates, btw, include kernel upgrades, which force me to reboot. In the two months that I had Ubuntu 8.04 for, I already had about 5 kernel upgrades in my grub.conf. I mean, seriously, if 8.04 wasn’t ready, why did they have to release it !

I don’t even understand who are they trying to compete with. Microsoft, updates their flagship operating system once in like 5 years. Apple does it once in a maximum of two years. And Ubuntu … every 6 months.

Now, to be fair, I’ve been a Linux user for the last 9 years and have been hand editing configuration files all along and have no problems with it. But, my mom can’t edit configuration files. And when a distribution claims what Ubuntu claims, I expect it to be good. And that makes me crib.

Infact, the next time a friend comes along asking me about Ubuntu, I’ll tell him to install Debian instead. Sure, it’ll take a while to configure but atleast it won’t be a hassle to maintain after that. A Debian server that I installed 6 years ago is still running along with the latest updates. Sure, it has been rebooted a couple of times but atleast I haven’t had a hardware fail on me because the latest update decided to not include the particular driver.

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Update: Iam Murdock wrote two blog posts on similar lines and those pretty much summarise my reasons for leaving Ubuntu. I welcome your comments on my thoughts but please understand that this is a personal decision. If you guys are happy with what Canonical and Ubuntu are doing, all power to you. If not, switch. You have the freedom to make your choice.

Shelfari has been acquired by Amazon

Today’s (or rather yesterday’s) big news of the day is that Shelfari, the social network for book addicts, has been acquired by Amazon. Now, I’m not a big fan of Shelfari, but I know a big news when I see one. I have an account at the service and did add a book to my shelf to see how the thing works, but haven’t been on the site for long enough to really use it. But, thats mostly because I’m lazy and I have no friends on the site.

I can, though, definitely understand the significance of Shelfari. I love books myself and love getting recommendations and much more likely to read a book I’ve seen on a friend’s book shelf than at a random store. But, I’m sure a lot of book lovers joining Shelfari had the same problems that I had. We’re just too lazy to list down the books we own, have read or are reading.

Hopefully, being a part of Amazon will help Shelfari solve that problem. Amazon has the users and their data and Shelfari has the social platform. Together, they sure can create magic, and get lazy bums like me on to their side.

I’m really hoping that the site does well.

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Digg vs. Stumbleupon and which one do I prefer

Digg and Stumbleupon are two social bookmarking sites that every blogger should care about. Both the sites allow a visitor to bookmark your site and share the link with other potential visitors. Both, follow a ranking system and getting a good rank on any of the two would ensure a huge surge in traffic. But, the question is how relevant is the traffic ?

I’ll admit that I’m not a social bookmarking fanatic. My favourite bookmarking site is del.icio.us, and I’ve only recently started using digg and stumbleupon. I use del.icio.us as an extension on the bookmarks in my browser. Infact, these days I use del.icio.us as a replacement for the local browser bookmarks and I love their tagging feature.

A lot of web publishers I know have been focusing all their energy on getting to the top page of digg. My opinion is that while digg will definitely get you a lot of visitors for a while, the digg effect doesn’t last long enough to make any significant contribution to your readerbase. Stumbleupon, on the other hand, in my opinion, has a much longer term effect. It is like advertising your property in a local daily vs. taking out an online advertisement on craigslist etc. Well, not really, but you get the drift.

The difference between digg and stumbleupon is  that while most digg users rarely venture beyond the homepage, stumbleupon suggests users links based on their interest. Since, the links are based on the readers’ interest, there is a much greater chance of the visitor becoming a regular reader of your blog/website than a user who came via digg.

Of course, the content also is useful, but in my opinion, its much easier to fool *game* digg than stumbleupon.

In the end, if you’re a new web publisher, exploit digg, but also make your way through stumbleupon and continue serving both the communities for a while. The occassional digg traffic is good but the continuous and rewarding stumbleupon traffic is what you should really aim for.

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5 Firefox Extensions I can’t live without

Firefox is the darling of the tech world. Ask any geek, which browser he or she uses and chances are the answer will be Firefox.

What makes Firefox so Interesting ?

The success of firefox among geeks is probably due to the fact that it is an open source project and consequently more secure than Internet Explorer. But there is another reason why regular people like you and I love Firefox. Extensions, AddOns, Plugins. Firefox supports extensions to the base browser which extend the functionality of the browser many times.

Most of these extensions perform small but important tasks which are better performed outside the browser. In this post I am going to look at 5 extensions that I use absolutely cannot live without. Infact, these extensions are the first things I install on a computer whenever I install firefox.

Read More »

iterasi helps you archive the web

iterasi is an interesting service. It is something of a cross between del.icio.us and the Internet wayback machine. iterasi lets the user bookmark a web page but instead of saving just the web page’s address, it saves the whole page.

The advantage that iterasi brings for its users is that even if the original website is down, the user can still view the information since iterasi saves the complete web page intact with all formatting.

Another very interesting feature is that you can schedule iterasi to save a copy of a web page at a defined interval. So, you can actually have your very own Internet wayback archive and see how a particular page changes during the course of a couple of days or months.

The company provides plugins for Internet explorer and Firefox on Windows and Firefox on Mac OS X to let you take snapshots of pages easily.

iterasi also lets you share the saved webpages with friends and family using Email, RSS or embed the pages on your blog/website by inserting a small piece of code that iterasi provides.

All in all, iterasi could prove to be a very useful service for some people. I can definitely see myself using it.