Monthly Archive: July 2006

Dell – Hell – Boing Boing feed on Bloglines…

Here we go….. One more Dell Laptop blows up, and the entire blog-sphere is buzzed about it. But what caught my attention was this post from the Boing Boing’s feed on bloglines!…

The post ends with some dell bashing. But whats interesting is, immediately after the basing, you find a Dell ad!! :D

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Click to Zoom

Well, all I can say is……. its a very realistic demonstration of context sensitive RSS ad!! ;)

T-Mobile – The Razr V3 and my Nokia 6600

Finally after 6 months, managed to get a cell phone without any deposits. I guess my credit history is starting to build up now. The last time when I asked for a cell phone service, I was told to deposit $750!!

I still say cell phone market in US sucks. The service providers dictate the market. No good handsets to choose too. You are kind of forced to buy from the limited range of handsets that the services providers have to offer.

After doing some major research, I opted for T-Mobile service. The service plan is pretty decent (Get More 1500), but is quite expensive compared to the mobile service back in India. With the plan, you are kind of forced to buy a cell phone, and T-mobile had very limited variety. Nothing compared to the barrage of cell phones available in India!.

I picked the Motorola Razr V3 (silver), since it was decently priced (keep in mind that I have an 1 year contract!). I had also read lots about its looks, and its coolness factor. Its supposed to be the Best and the “Most Happening” phone in the US of A currently in the market!.

Motorola Razr V3

The Razr V3 definitely has the looks! Its cool & sexy. Very sleek and slim. Its got a very beautiful finish, and a 260K color TFT display. It has a decent battery life too. And that’s where it ends. I being a Nokia 6600 user, feel like a total handicapped using this phone.

Here are some things which suck big time about the Razr V3…

  1. Its a flip phone. So, you need to open the flap to make/receive calls. And, the Razr V3 is designed in such a way that its next to impossible to open the phone with one hand. So, if you receive a call while you are eating or using your other hand, its a struggle.
  2. The phone is not at all extensible. Its got very little internal memory (5 MB), and there is no way to increase it. No slots for memory cards either.
  3. The phone boasts that it can play MP3 tones. Yes. It does have a great stereo sound, but with 5 MB of space, you can only store ring tones, and if you are lucky enough, you can store a MP3 song or two.
  4. It has a 4x digital Zoom camera – but the 640 x 480 resolution sucks big time. This phone deserves a better resolution camera.
  5. No Video recording. …….. and even if you could, you wouldn’t have enough space to store the recorded clips.
  6. Using Bluetooth, the phone could not detect most of the other Bluetooth devices that were around. But the other devices could detect and connect to the Razr V3. Once connected, I could transfer files as usual.
  7. There is an small stamp sized display on the outside (on the flap). But, you cannot do any customization specific to this display.
  8. The phone supports Java, but its very very slow. Again due to space constraints, you cannot load lots of applications
  9. The phone does not recognize WAV files!!! However, it plays Midi files, and MP3 files as ring tones.
  10. No support for .rm (real media) files when it comes to video. Neither can it play DivX encoded files (.avi).

Compared to the above, if you consider the features, my Nokia 6600 beats the Motorola Razr V3 hands down! While I came here to the US, I had brought my Nokia 6600 from India. So, after using the Razr V3 for couple of days, Now I am back to my Nokia 6600! I plan to use the Razr as a back up phone! Just in case. Or may be… just to ‘show off’. hahaha…

The Skype Experience

Come July 25th, I would have finished 6 months using Skype-In. I had used Skype prior to that, but it was mainly for Skype to Skype calls or Skype-out calls. I would also be finishing my 6 months here in the United States this month end.

During these 6 months, i have used Skype as my *only* phone to receive calls. This service is called the Skype-In service. The main reason for me to go for Skype-in initially was, I wanted a phone number which I could give to my parents before I left India!. So, I had a US number of Kingpsort Area code, when I was in India. I also had a feeling that it would take some time for me to settle down in US and get a phone number.

Over all, I am kind of satisfied with Skype. But I must say, I am not very happy. Here are some of the Pros and Cons of using Skype in no particular order:

Pros:

  • The Call quality is great. No questions here.
  • Outgoing calls – Very Cheap. I can say dirt cheap. Initially, it used to cost me around 2.1 cents per minute to call any number in US, but later on in May, Skype make all calls made from US to US and Canada free.
  • Incoming calls – The Skype-in service costs $12 for 3 months (or some $38 for a year). So, its cheap again. The local phone service here (Sprint) costs around 30$ per month. So, comparatively its much cheaper.
  • Voice mail is free with Skype-In. Its a very basic voicemail service. But it works. Well, most of the time.
  • You can forward your calls to any other number
  • You can make and receive calls from anywhere as long as you have Internet access.
  • Skype worked pretty well from my office network too which is behind a firewall. Skype is pretty popular for this reason too. So, I can make long distance calls or even receive calls at office
  • In its current version, Skype allows upto 4 parties in a conference. Works well while making international calls.
  • International calls rates are pretty cheap and are comparable to other VOIP players. Its a bit expensive when compared to Reliance India call – when making calls to India, But again, Skype – to – Skype calls are free.
  • Has got excellent SDK/API support – so, there are lot of third party tools/software which interact with Skype.
  • I have bought a skype-to-usb-to-Phoneline adaptor. So, I use a regular cordless phone to make and answer calls. So, I am not tied to the computer.
  • Video conference works great – Quality of video is much better than other applications.

Cons:

  • Well, Skype is not a true telephone company. Its a Internet company based out of Europe. So, there is absolutely no customer service. There is an helpdesk and a ticket system on the Skype website, but it sucks big time.
  • Even though you buy stuff from Skype, you don’t get a proper invoice (phone bill), which shows your name/address and phone number (Skype-in number) on it. Now, you might be wondering why the hell that would be required?.. .. Its required when you are new in US, and you want open and bank account or something similar, and they ask you address proof etc. I had a very difficult time trying to open a citibank account, which they refused to open without a phone bill.
  • Couple of months back, Skype had some technical problems, and I think i missed some incoming calls.
  • Same with the case with voice mails.
  • No caller id for your outgoing call. So, the receiver receives your calls as a call from 012345.
  • You get caller Id for your incoming calls, but only the number. It does not display the name. (the local phone lines, and some other VOIP players show caller ID with the name of the caller).
  • If you don’t have a the adapter that I have mentioned about, then you must be close to the computer (with a mic) to make/receive calls.
  • The Processor utilization is relatively high when call is in progress.
  • Video chat take lots of bandwidth – It does not matter here in US, but if you are in India, and have a Usage Limit on your Internet access, then you need to be very careful while using video chat.
  • No 911.

Overcall I would rate my Skype experience around 6 on a scale of 10. But I must say, you can really save a lot of money if you can live up with basic telephone connectivity.

Currently, at Houston, in Chitra’s appartment, we have subscribed to the Sunrocket service which is again a VOIP service, but works much differently from Skype. Its not as cheap has Skype, but has lot less cons then mentioned in the above list. Will post more about Sunrocket in the future after using it for a couple of months.

Natural Tunnel State Park

Time flies by! And already, the long awaited 4 day weekend is all over, and I have worked for 2 days after the weekend!.

Well, as mentioned in the previous post, here are some snaps of the Natural Tunnel State park. We visited this place on one of the days during the 4 day weekend. This place is actually in the state of Virginia and is around 20 miles from Kingsport.

The main attraction of this place is a 865 feet Natural Tunnel under a huge mountain. There are lot of trails too in the state park.

Here are the snaps:

Natural Tunnel State Park
Natural Tunnel State Park Visitor Center – Click to Zoom

We had to kind of trek to reach the Tunnel site….

Natural Tunnel State Park
On the way to the Tunnel – Click to Zoom

Natural Tunnel State Park - Trail Pathway
Pathway – Click to Zoom

The train track that goes through the Tunnel…

Natural Tunnel State Park - Rail Track
The rail track – Click to Zoom

Wooden Bridge
A Wooden Bridge – Click to Zoom

Natural Tunnel
The Natural Tunnel – Click to Zoom

Natural Tunnel State Park
Forest! – Click to Zoom

This shot is from one of the Overview points – actually right about the tunnel…

Natural Tunnel State Park
One of the overview points – Click to Zoom

On Monday (July 3rd) we went on a drive to the Smoky Mountains area. The entire area is quite scenic .. very beautiful.!!…… But it was a short trip and we spent quit a lot of time in traffice in the pegion forge area, which is in the foothills of smokies. I would definitely like to go to the smokies in the future .. stay at some cabin, go on treks etc!…

ya…ya.. me alive!

Yes.. I am alive :) long time since i posted. Will post some updates soon. Actually kind of busy (and lazy too!). … Weekdays were kind of pretty hectic. And then now we have a long weekend. Thanks to July 4th, US independence day. So 4 day holiday!. … and that’s were I kind of got into the lazy mode. Kind of relaxing after some hectic work days!

We had been to a nearby state park called the Natural Tunnel State park on Saturday, and today (i.e, Monday) we had been to the Smoky Mountains .. So, updates/photos coming soon! Stay tuned………!