Jest for the fun of it

April 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Articles, Blogs

We tend to take our work very seriously. After all, what could be more serious than playing with gadgets, video games and watching movies. However, ’twas 1st April and we couldn’t let the day go past without a joke or two.

To show that we geeks have a sense of humor too, we posted a number of fake articles across the Tbreak network. The first person who can spot two fake articles across the Tbreak network and post links to them in the comments below will win a really cool 2GB USB Drive Wrist Band from Microsoft.

While you try to spot the articles, we’ll leave you with a few geek jokes courtesy of Slashdot.

Q: How many programmers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. It’s a hardware problem.

A doctor, a lawyer,and an engineer are sentenced to death. Why is not important to the story…what’s important is that the death sentence will be carried out in France – via guillotine.

The doctor is first. The executioner straps him down, hoists the glittering blade aloft, and lets it drop…whereupon it sticks about halfway down.

Now, it’s a well-known tradition in capital punishment that if the execution apparatus fails for any reason, this is interpreted as a sign from God, and the death sentence is commuted. Accordingly, the doctor walks away, still very much alive.

The lawyer is next. The executioner straps him down, hoists the glittering blade aloft, and lets it drop…whereupon it sticks in the exact same spot.
Same rules apply…lawyer walks.

The engineer is last. The executioner straps him down, as he hoists the blade aloft, the engineer twists his neck around, peers up at the blade, and says:

“You know, I think I see your trouble there…”

Powerbeats by Dr. Dre Review

Powerbeats is the latest edition to Dr. Dre’s line-up of fashion forward audio accessories. These trendy new earphones are built to stay put on your ears and hence make it the perfect companion during any of your fitness routines.

In terms of design, the earphones are quite sporty looking. Our review unit was black and red in color. However, white and black versions Powerbeats are also available. The most unique part about the design is that has an arc-shaped part which fastens on to your ear. The earphones are also bent inwards a fair degree to fit nicely into your ear. The result of this is that the earphones remain intact in your ears even if you are walking or running, making them the perfect fit for fitness fanatics. The build construction is also very good with the plastic, metal and rubber elements blending in well to give the Powerbeats a great feel to it.

The earphones connect to a red rubbery wire and in between you have a diamond shaped volume control button. It all seems very trendy but if I could compare the earphones to an athlete it would be more to a speedo-wearing cyclist with a pointy helmet than a gym buff or marathon runner. The design is in no way subtle or minimalistic – it cries out for attention and much like speedos, if you’re wearing them, you better want to be seen in them.

Along with the headphones, you get extra length cable extensions (if you don’t find the length sufficient) and a nice carry case.

When it comes down to performance, the earphones were well above average. The Powerbeats performed well with most types of music but the bass was nowhere in comparison to the rest of the Beats by Dre line. The headphones do not cancel noise and that may be on purpose. If these headphones were meant to be used while jogging, cycling or performing any kind of fitness activities, you still want to be aware of the surroundings around you. The compromise though is the bass and that means that the music isn’t as intense as you would like it to be. So, if you’re expecting to work out to some crazy bass lines to help give you that extra push your workout needs, Powerbeats is not going to do it for you.

Overall, Powerbeats by Dr. Dre are a great set of earphones that provide above average sound quality. However, they’re the kind of earphones that you’ll probably only want to wear for outdoor activities and for just that purpose, it comes for a rather hefty price.

Is du starting to feel the pressure?

March 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs

I’ve been a strong supporter of du for a while now. My support for du stems mostly from the fact that I’ve had to live with monopolizing telecoms operator for over 25 years of my life and for the most part du has made a big difference to the telecoms landscape of the UAE.

For one thing, their mobile service is excellent. My mobile phone bill has dropped significantly since they’ve been in business and quite frankly I think their 3G service is better than Etisalat’s.

One of the biggest problems that any company faces, regardless of which industry they are in, is trying to scale up. It’s all very easy when you’re a small company with a small number of customers but when hundreds turn to thousands and thousands to millions, that’s when you’ll truly be able to measure how strong the company is. du have had some excellent marketing campaigns of late and as a result they’ve managed to rake in the customers. The question now is, can they keep these customers happy?

Of late, I’ve been hearing a lot of criticism of du. Residents of Al Khail Gate have been complaining that their du connection isn’t very stable and their calls to the customer service line have been met with a “sorry, we’re over capacity” reply. Plus, they’re all sold out on their ICC Cricket World Cup mobile package as they can’t handle any more load. Add to that, the reports of du having 30% disruption of Internet services — yes, this is more of an underwater cable fault than a capacity issue but is still reason to complain for a du customer.

In contrast, Etisalat’s service has been surprisingly stellar of late. All my customer service requests have been met to satisfaction. They’ve even expanded coverage areas for their eLife service and seem to be doing a good job of delivering quality of service over price. There have been no reports of Internet service disruptions for Etisalat of late and they’re even going around touting full five bar service (which may be a little far fetched).

For du though, the challenge now is the one that Etisalat has been facing for many years — now that you have an abundance of customers, how do you keep them all happy?

SanDisk Sansa Fuze+ MP3 Player Review

March 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Articles, Audio Equipment, Gadgets, Reviews, Spotlight


The Fuze gets an upgrade for the better with the new plus edition. While there’s just a little plus sign to indicate that this device is next of kin to the previous Fuze, the improvements offered are leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor. The most important thing for me is the fact that Sansa have finally given up using a proprietary charger and sticking with a standard Micro USB charger. This is the same type of charger that you get with most phones these days, so it makes it easier while traveling as you don’t have to carry a separate charger just for the Sansa Fuze+.

In addition to the charger, the device also gets some major design and feature improvements.

Design

The biggest change in terms of design over the previous Fuze is that the circular control pad is now replaced with a touch pad. You can simply tap up, down, left or right and switch between various songs or options. Just above the directional keys you also have a back button and a pause/play button. The buttons are pretty intuitive and it’s very easy to navigate the device. Only trouble is that the pad is so sensitive that you often tend to press a button unintentionally every now and then.

Another big improvement in design is that the size of the display screen has increased significantly. The 2.4” screen is a lot better for watching videos and just makes everything else great to look at as well.
While everything is very flashy and fluid, it doesn’t quite compare to an iPod in terms of interface. For instance, the screen does not automatically rotate depending on how you hold the device and since the screen isn’t touch enabled, you’re still stuck with using the control pad for all of your movements.

Features

The Sansa Fuze+ comes chock full of features. While most manufacturers tend to create cheaper MP3 players with minimal features, Sansa certainly does not skimp on what the device can offer. The device comes with the ability to play songs, videos and podcasts as well as record voice, play radio channels and view photos.

You also have the option to hook up a microSD card to the device giving you upto 8GB worth of data that you can use at any given time.

The device also comes bundled with a bunch of Tiesto songs and videos. Personally, I’m not a fan of Tiesto but if you like his music, you’ve got an added incentive to buy this MP3 player.

Gmail keeps getting better

March 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs

I haven’t always been a supporter of Gmail. For me, Outlook has always been the email client of choice and any other email client, especially web-based ones have been a poor compromise. The only reason I started using Gmail was because of the 1GB plus account — a big advantage for Gmail back in the day when Hotmail only offered about 1mb worth of space. However, over the course of the years Gmail has gotten better and better. Here are a few features I love about Gmail.

1. Forgotten Attachment Detector

Let’s face it. Every one of us at some point in their lives has sent out an email where you’ve forgotten to insert the attachment. Gmail now detects if you meant to attach a file and will remind you if you forget. The way it does this is check your text to see if it mentions that a file is attached. If there’s a mention of an attachment but no actual attachment with the email, it will warn you before sending the email it.

2. Wrong Recipient Detector

Aptly named as “Got the wrong Bob?“, this new Gmail feature stops you from emailing the wrong person by mistake. Imagine you’re sending an angry email to Bob Smith while it was actually meant to be sent to Bob Stevens. Now, Google can detect if you’re sending it to the wrong person based on groups of people you email most often.

3. Move to Label

If you’re a fan of David Allen and his Inbox Zero theory, you would have hated the fact that your Gmail inbox has always been cluttered with thousands of emails. With the new Move to Label option, you can now create as many labels as you want and no longer have old emails in your main inbox. This is probably Gmail’s biggest improvement till date in terms of enhancing productivity.

4. Infinite Email Addresses

Gmail now allows you to create infinite aliases for your email address by simply adding a plus sign after your username. If like us, you like signing up to new online services but don’t want to get spammed, then simply use this feature. Here’s how it works. Instead of using username@gmail.com when you sign up to a website or mailing list, use username+something@gmail.com. For example if you were signing up for one of our e-newsletters, simply sign up with username+tbreak@gmail.com. That way you can use that address to filter all incoming emails to that address to a particular folder or label.

5. Canned Responses

Another great new feature available through Google Labs is the Canned Responses feature. This is particularly useful if you’re working in customer service and have a set of standard responses. With Canned Responses, you can set up templates for replies and use them instead of having to type the same message over and over.

The tablet wars just got more interesting

March 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs

Something happened very recently that has made the tablet wars a lot more interesting to me. It isn’t the new Samsung Galaxy Tab or the HTC Flyer or the Motorola Xoom. It’s not even the Ipad 2. It’s the fact that the price of the original iPad has dropped.

Even in the UAE, iStyle has now dropped the price of the iPad to Dhs1,799 for the 16GB Wifi Edition. As a gesture of goodwill, they’ve also offered a Dhs350 voucher to everyone who has purchased the iPad recently – a very good move by iSytle which will undoubtedly help them keep their loyal customers happy.

The Dhs1,799 price tag for the iPad is interesting for two reasons. For me, the iPad has always been an entertainment device. If I wanted to create presentations or do any kind of productive work, I still prefer a laptop or desktop PC. The iPad is better for watching videos, surfing the web, playing games, reading books and writing the odd email. For an average user like me, Dhs2,000+ is way too much to spend on an entertainment device. Particularly one that’s a supplementary entertainment device that would not replace my TV, PlayStation, MP3 player or Smartphone. However, now that the prices have dropped, the sub Dhs2,000 price range makes it a more convenient buy.

What makes things even more interesting now is that other tablets will have to drop their prices below Dhs1,799 to compete with the iPad. There are some great devices out there like Viewsonic’s ViewPad which may not be as good as the iPad but are very good in their own right. If these devices drop in price in order to be competitively positioned against the iPad, we could see a much higher uptake in tablet consumption.

Monster Beats Pro by Dr. Dre Review

March 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Audio Equipment, Reviews, Spotlight

What do Dr. Dre and Colonel Sanders have in common? They might not be true to their titles but they’ve proven to be beyond excellent at their craft. Dr. Dre has accomplished much in the music industry. He’s created some great tracks, singed up award winning artists such as Eminem and 50 cent but most importantly, he’s created the Beats by Dre series in association with Monster.

One of the reasons that the Beats by Dre line has been so successful is that they’re so great to look at that they’ve become more of a fashion accessory than a means of listening to music. This holds true for the very trendy Beats by Dre Pro, which is aimed at DJs.

The big difference between the Pro and the Studio edition we reviewed earlier is that the ear cups swivel upwards. It’s quite a handy feature for DJs who need to keep an ear open while mixing tracks. It also comes with an input/output on each ear cup. You can use this to connect the headphone cable to whichever ear cup you prefer and you can use the other to “daisy chain” the Pro to another set of headphones thereby sharing the music on two headphones. The daisy chaining feature is probably what we love most about the Pro.

The Pro also comes with a long red cable. These are perfect for DJs as they’re long enough for you to move around a fair bit as well as have the ability to fit into any ear cup.

The Pro has a metallic build to it and are a heavier than most standard headphones. They also clasp quite firmly onto your ears. Personally, I like that they do that but some people might find it a bit tight and uncomfortable – particularly if used for long periods of time. So make sure you try them on for yourself before you buy them.

In terms of performance, the Pro does not disappoint. It manages to deliver great thumping bass and decent mids. It’s great for listening to hip hop or heavy metal but the performance isn’t as good if you’re an easy listener who wants to mellow down to a slow number or some classical music. But let’s face it though, if you’re going to buy a Beats by Dre headphones, you’re not going to be listening to Nessun Dorma or Kenny Rogers.

Overall, these are great earphones for DJs. The swiveling ear cups and daisy chaining features surely give them an advantage over other headphones to the disk jockey demographic. If you are a music aficionado and a bit of a pop fashionista, the Pro would be a good choice too, provided you can afford its hefty price tag.

Jabra Stone 2 Review

February 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Audio Equipment, Gadgets, Reviews, Spotlight

The Stone 2 is an update to Jabra’s Stone that was released last year. The Stone has been one of my favourite Bluetooth headsets as it’s one of the few available that don’t make you look like a walking telemarketer. It also came with a range of sleek features. The Stone 2 improves on the original and we take a look at what it has to offer.

Design

Easily one of the classiest headsets available. Much like the original Stone, the Stone 2 consists of headset which is set in a circular stone-shaped dock. In terms of a design update, the Stone 2 comes in both glossy and leather finish. We received the leather version for review and prefer it to the glossy one. The problem with glossy surfaces is that it tends to get smudged with fingerprints very quickly. Plus, the leather surface makes the Stone 2 looks nicer.

Why are mobile phones limited to one operating system?

February 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs

Imagine if you bought a PC and could only use Windows XP on it. You couldn’t change the operating system without voiding the warranty on your PC. You couldn’t simply upgrade to Windows 7 or even Linux. For that, you would have to buy a whole new PC and throw away the old one that you paid thousands of Dirhams for. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? So, why do mobile phone manufacturers get away with it?

Considering phones these days are as powerful as PCs were a few years ago, would it not make sense for manufacturers to go the DIY way simply selling hardware and allowing users to pick their choice of operating systems? Imagine a world where phones are no longer restricted by operating systems – you could pick whichever one you like and if you picked one that you didn’t like, you could simply switch to another.

A few weeks ago my colleague Abbas posted a blog piece about the HTC HD2 (Leo) and the fact that you could easily hack it to run any operating system including Windows Mobile Phone, Android, Meego and even Linux. This led me to get a hold of another HD2 and the experience has been quite liberating.

I used the dual boot to switch between operating systems when I liked to and had access to all the facilities the different operating systems could afford. It was mobile nirvana.

I’ll concede that I have no hopes of ever running Blackberry’s OS or the iOS on the phone but it was certainly refreshing to have a choice.

Hopefully, with mobile phones going the way of the PC, one day we will all get access to a choice of operating systems and not be limited to just one per phone.

How not to deal with a critical review

February 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs

The problem with being a critic is that people don’t always like what you have to say, even if you are being honest – or in a lot of cases, especially if you are being honest. Often when we write a critical review, it results in people taking offence. In mild situations, it usually involves a phone call from the company to ask us if they have done something to offend us or in more interesting cases, if we have taken a bribe to write bad things about them. In more extreme cases, companies refuse to advertise with us on account of something we have written and stop dealing with us altogether. The worst thing that can happen though is that you get sued or issued threats for what you’ve written.

What companies don’t realize though is that one surefire way to commit media suicide is to publically issue threats against writers or bloggers. It’s a bit like heckling a comedian during a stand up act – you know you’re not going to win. He has the crowd behind him and the mic and you’re just a tiny voice in comparison. The situation gets worse a hundred fold if you’re in the wrong.

A couple of weeks ago, Benihana Kuwait issued a lawsuit against Mark Makhoul who runs the 248am.com blog, one of the most popular blogs in Kuwait. It started with Mark visiting Benihana in Kuwait and having an unpleasant experience. He writes about it in his blog here. As any good reviewer, he voices his opinion on what he thinks is good and bad about the restaurant. As a critic, I have to say it’s a rather mild review and not overly harsh. However, the GM of Benihana Kuwait takes offence to it and replies with a threat to sue the blogger.

Mark’s blog has a decent readership. If Benihana Kuwait had not issued a lawsuit, it would have probably been read by a few hundred people and be dismissed as just another food review. However, thanks to the lawsuit, the review and Mark’s website has reached millions of people across Twitter, newspapers, websites, radio and TV. In fact, the first thing you now see on a Google search for “Benihana Kuwait” is information about the lawsuit. What was once a molehill of a slightly critical review is now a mountain of a social media disaster.

The Benihana Kuwait disaster will certainly go down as an important case study in social media books. Hopefully, it will serve as a reminder of how not to handle a critical review.

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