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Seagate’s GoFlex Satellite: the answer to all our mobile storage problems?

By on July 25, 2011

The future of mobile storage.

I went today for the launch event of the new Seagate GoFlex Satellite portable HDD and was quite impressed with the tech on display. What makes the GoFlex Satellite HDD unique is that it has a built-in WiFi g/n adapter and is built for the sole purpose of wirelessly streaming data onto your mobile devices.

 

Right now it’s possible to have all your movies and songs stored on your mobile devices directly by buying a higher capacity model, or you can have it stored on your computer and then access it remotely through some third party app. But this means using up the bandwidth of your current WiFi router or your data package in case of a 3G connection. The first option is expensive if you want more storage; the second option is too convoluted to setup every time. The Seagate GoFlex Satellite promises to solve these two issues with a (relatively) cheap storage medium with easy setup and streaming.

What would you go for?

Basically you can start up the GoFlex Satellite and connect to it wirelessly as you would any other WiFi router. You can then stream any stored movie (playable on iOS & Android devices), picture, song and documents. Up to 3 people can connect simultaneously to one GoFlex Satellite and stream different content. It has the WiFi adapter inside it as well as a battery with a rated 5 hour life. Consider now, that not only all of your media is available to you on a portable HDD, but you can also stream off it to your iOS and Android devices seamlessly! No need to shell out exorbitant amounts of hard earned money on a laughable storage increase.

This has great potential for sharing data in a business environment as well as with friends and family. Sure it’s limited to just three connections and has a battery life of just 5 hours, but this is the beginning of a new era. One can simply buy the cheapest version of a mobile or tablet and never worry about missing out on storage space on the higher-end models. Of course, keeping a portable HDD on the go with you at all times is something one needs to adjust to. However, I’m sure we can all simply survive with having our most important data on our mobile devices and then have an extra library of those songs, movies, pictures and the occasional Excel file on the GoFlex Satellite that we don’t need all the time, but do feel like wanting it every now and then.

In traffic jams you can have up to 2 strangers join in on the fun!

The idea is that your “extra” library of entertainment content is not limited to your desktop or laptop anymore. You can always have it with you wherever you go and not feel like you missed out by not going for the higher storage model.

It’s easy to see this technology trickling into other usage like say, backing up the main HDD of your computer on the GoFlex Satellite. I know there are other products in the market out there already that do this, but 1) they are prohibitively expensive and 2) they’re still not as simple to setup and use every time as the GoFlex Satellite.  Think of it like cloud storage of sorts, except this cloud is in your pocket.


Google+ makes stalking easier

By on July 20, 2011

And you were worried about Facebook’s lack of privacy?

Findpeopleonplus.com is going to be the new hotspot for would-be stalkers and anybody else who just wants to easily browse the profiles of pretty much everybody on Google+ right now.

Basically findpeopleonplus.com provides an index of almost 950k people on Google+ with some extremely easy categories to browse in. Knowing the target audience of people most likely to use this website, Google has very smartly placed the first categories as the “Relationship” status, followed by “Gender” and then “Looking For”.

I guess the idea is obviously to help create a larger social network where it’s easy for people to discover others, especially in the “Discover” tab which allows you to look at a whole circle, or category in this case, of some of the top professions.

So coming back to stalking, in your profile there are a whole lot of things that you can individually set for people within your circles, extended circles or everybody else to see. You can custom mix & match fields to be shown in your profile, similar to Facebook. Know that by default everything on your profile will be visible to “Anyone on the Web”, and your Google+ profile will also come up in a search result of your name on Google.

And now for the fun part; the categories I mentioned earlier is your doorway to see everybody who’s on Google+ in your country, by the relationship status or gender, even by their occupation. So while it’s quite a popularity contest, of sorts, when you see results in every category listed by the number of followers that person has, it soon becomes irrelevant. You can see everyone. Click on their name and see their recent posts, and obviously check out their profile, photos and albums (which they haven’t made private) and Buzz streams (mostly from Twitter).

In all honesty, I can’t blame Google for anything because they’re just here to create another social network that takes advantage of their existing infrastructure so people can connect with each other in an admittedly more natural and controlled way. As usual, it’s up to us as individuals as to how much info we put out on the web and then deal with the consequences.

Now it’s time for some interesting stats:

  • - 73% of the population of Google+ are males (with almost 700k users); 24% females.
  • - Engineers are the most users of Google+ having a 25% share of the pie.
  • - US has 50% of the share of Google+ users, India coming in 2nd with almost 6%.
  • - Palestine is the 1st Arab country to appear on Google+ list with 877 indexed users, ranked at 47.
  • UAE is ranked 48th with 805 indexed users.
  • - 88% of Google+ users in UAE are male; 11% female.
  • - Once again Engineers seem to be the majority of Google+ users, coming in at the top of the “Occupation” list with 11%
  • - 84% of all Google+ users worldwide are on Twitter.
  • - 89% of Google+ users apparently do not have a Facebook account.
  • - Larry Page (Google’s CEO) has almost 62k followers, making him the 2nd most popular person on Google+.
  • - Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook’s CEO) has almost 111k followers.
Now go ahead, find out who else is on Google+.

Bad times ahead for Android phones?

By on July 18, 2011

Could the latest ITC ruling spell doom for HTC and Android?

With the recent ruling of the US International Trade Commission (ITC) in favour of Apple for copyright infringements against HTC, things are looking very tricky for Google’s Android OS.

The whole story began a couple of years ago when Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt was still on the Board of Directors for Apple Inc. and had access to pretty much the whole development plans for the, then upcoming, iPhone and iOS. At the same time Google was also working on a mobile OS of their own, Android. As Eric Schmidt left Apple in 2009 due to obvious conflict of interest, no lawsuits were filed against him. However, it soon became apparent that many of Android’s features mirrored those represented in the iPhone. The whole story seems like a repeat of the incident between Apple and Microsoft back in the early days of these two behemoths. This time though, Steve Jobs was more than prepared to tackle the issue.

Instead of going after Google themselves, Apple has gone ahead and filed a lawsuit for patent infringement against some of Google’s Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM). While the lawsuit against Samsung has been much publicized of late, the battle between Apple vs HTC has just now had some results. Apple originally filed for 20 patents that they’ve had which they claimed HTC was violating in March 2010. Of those, 2 have been granted as valid in the  ”initial determination”, with the others still under observation and scrutiny by a six team commission ; the final results being announced on 6th December, 2011.

In case you were wondering, one of the two patents is Apple’s ability to have email addresses, maps and phone numbers you receive in emails and see on sites convert to links that you can directly email to, open up in maps or call directly. They have had this patent since 1996. Android does the same. Another patent the  ”real-time signal processing system” which, as the name implies, allows for multiple processes and apps to be run in real-time from one chip. Both of these are not exclusive to HTC, but are an integral part of the Android OS.

Now after this ruling, Apple can take many routes, should the final decision be in their favour for all 20 patents. However, even with the above two patents, Apple can get HTC to pay an incredible amount of money, or outright have their handsets banned in the US. This obviously will apply to other Android manufacturers as well, and with Samsung already having an ugly face-off against Apple, it won’t be long before other Android OEMs become wary of Apple and stop making Android smartphones. Just based on this hearing itself the share value for HTC fell on the Taipei Stock Exchange to its lowest in the past 6 months.

Many of you may think that Apple is being unfair towards HTC, other Android OEMs and Google. However, lessons from history (Apple and Microsoft) have taught us that such liberal copying of competitor technology and ideas cannot be allowed in normal business. At the end of the day, any aggressive action from Apple against HTC, Samsung and other OEMs could result in a poor public perception of the Android platform as a whole. So while Apple isn’t directly attacking Google, it’s certainly crippling all of Google’s partners, and consequently Google’s Android platform itself.

For all those who’re thinking Apple is acting unfairly, here’s a choice quote from Steve Jobs, “We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.


Blog: How Social Media has developed around us

By on July 13, 2011

Getting bigger and bigger

Web technologies have evolved around us almost faster than we can understand. The percentage of our lives that is now online is growing all the time. This has raised the importance of social media in our lives.

Emailing services were the first to hit the masses. I remember when MSN was mostly operated as a paid-only service, and we would look up with respect and longing at the people around who had more than the 100 Mb free space. I remember when Gmail came to scene with its 1GB offering, its closed beta was even more in demand than the Google+ invites. It was hailed as groundbreaking; and we all wondered what sort of man would require so much space!

It was the same story in social networks, first with Friendster, people were cautious about them, exploratory. It was judged to be something of an experiment and indeed it was portrayed that way by a lot of the media. No one took them seriously. The bombshell for me came in the form of Orkut. I remember back then with all the settings most of us had no clue about, we would all stalk people endlessly (the predecessor to Facebook stalking, which is now a full fledged career path). It had increasingly open profiles in the early days, and people would generate a frenzy by just changing the tiniest details (read relationship status).

Hi5, Tagged and the recently sold MySpace captured a similarly enthusiastic public. But their market was more a niche and therefore success was a bit fleeting from a general standpoint.

And then Facebook happened. Combining the most loved features of the other networks from all sorts of interests to make it all inclusive, it was the real deal. Most of us have grown along with the network, through its baby steps to the strides it is now making. Today Facebook has around 600 million users who spend about 700 billion minutes on it every month. If it were a country, it would be the third most populous in  the world.

The social media scene has now imploded. For instance, we now have Google’s Orkut, which is popular in Brazil, Tencents’ QQ, popular in China, Twitter which limits us to 140 word ‘tweets’, which is well, popular everywhere. There’s YouTube for video-sharing and Flickr for picture sharing, There’s LinkedIn for job networking and Classmates for finding old school buddies, and Foursquare for location based on-the-spot meet ups. Not to mention a host of niche networks on every concievable interest from ones for dog lovers to wine-tasting. Theres now such a thing as “social etiquette”.

Facebook has been massively successful, mostly because it has learnt from its predecessors mistakes. Luring users with a slick and easy to use interface combined with engineering marvels like integration APIs and social gaming have made it supremely popular. The possibilities in social gaming opened up new avenues and we were stuck, checking every hour back to see if our energy had refilled, or if the crops were ready to be harvested.

Personally, I have been a slow adopter. I tend to wait the early months to avoid the newest teething problems before jumping in. On some level, technology and its potential scares us. Maybe that’s because the possibility of become famous because of a historic blunder made on social mediahas multiplied!

Some experts are touting location based services like Foursquare, because their integration will make it easier to get recommendations on places to go and stuff to do in real life. Lets see what the next big thing  will be.

As the IEEE Spectrum says, one thing is for certain, the Web if the future will connect our physical world with our virtual one, enabling our online interactions to give us valuable insights into our offline lives.


Smartphones in space

By on July 11, 2011

In space they’re “smart” phones, on Earth they’re smart “phones”.

Whenever I think of NASA, apart from glorious space exploration, my next thought is glorious technologies. Stuff they used decades years back, that were at the ultimate bleeding edge for space-age, only come down to consumer electronics as some of the most mundane usage one could derive from them. I would like to give a whole lot of examples, but Wikipedia is one tab too far away for me to bother with it.

Space has always fascinated me, but like the majority of human beings, I’m content with watching stars and planets on the occasional night (especially through my telescope). Watching the moon rise and fall, I often wonder whether somewhere out there is the ISS with a handful of crew, performing whatever experiments they do up there. Perhaps it’s time for them to sleep and someone is looking down on Earth through a small window next to their (cramped?) bed on the ISS, right that very moment.

While movies like Apollo 13, Solaris, Moon and Armageddon gave me some idea of how it is to live in space (not outer space sci-fi), I always picture the insides of space stations to be old looking mainframe PCs with multiple lights blinking all over the place, a plethora of knobs, buttons and instrument panels displaying important information I cannot even begin to imagine. So when I hear that the latest smartphones, specifically the Apple iPhone 4 and Samsung manufactured Google Nexus S were on board the Atlantis shuttle and are being used on the ISS right now, it really makes me smile.

They laughed at my stupidity...

The Nexus S will be used to upgrade the SPHERES (Synchronised Position Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites). These SPHERES are used to do basic tasks on the ISS on a daily basis, including several safety checks and running various experiments. The Nexus S will provide a much needed boost in computing power, including the ability to use the built-in camera for the SPHERES to see. Back in 1999 MIT’s engineering Professor David Miller showed his students the original Star Wars and actually asked his students to build him a battle droid like the one Luke Skywalker is training with. From then on, three of those small remote controlled droids were sent on board the ISS from 2004 onwards. It was only fitting then, that an Android powered smartphone be the upgrade to these droids, the SPHERES.

“With a smartphone, the SPHERES will have a built-in camera to take pictures and video, sensors to help conduct inspections, a powerful computing unit to make calculations, and a Wi-Fi connection that we will use to transfer data in real-time to the space station and mission control,” said lead engineer of NASA’s Intelligent Robotics Group, DW Wheeler. Google couldn’t have gotten a better product endorsement than this.

...now they're running for their lives!

The iPhone 4, meanwhile, will be used to run various zero-G experiments on the app SpaceLab. This $0.99 app, which is simulated for people on Earth to reflect weightlessness in space,  will allow astronauts on board the ISS to run experiments using the iPhone 4′s gyroscope and accelerometer.

So while people around me play Angry Birds on their smartphones, I’m happy knowing that right now, up in space, orbiting our beautiful blue planet is the ISS; and somewhere on board astronauts are running various experiments on the iPhone 4 and actual droids (powered by Android) are actually put to work for the betterment of humanity.


Blog: Designs are not future proof

By on July 6, 2011

We apologize in advance to future generations for our terrible designs.

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It has always been a nagging question for sci-fi writers, academics, futurists…etc about how technology will look like in the future. Since this is a blog and not a research thesis, we won’t be tackling that topic. Instead, we could talk about how we imagine, for lack of better word, the future.

I still remember to this day when I first got my Sega Mega Drive, it was the third console I ever bough, after the Atari and the Famicom. I remember how awesome the box looked, really inspiring futuristic design that strongly implied high end technology. After all, the Mega Drive was quite the advanced game console, and such a cover is not only fitting, but mandatory. Take a look for yourself.

That’s right, grids! That’s how we imagined technological advancements, by adding flippin grids. And don’t forget the blue shiny lining around the console, as the future will be made entirely from blue and shiny (by the way, the wireless controllers were a filthy lie! Damn you Sega for toying with my childish hopes!)

That is hardly an isolated incident; take a look at the boxes of game consoles. Here are the NES, the Virtual Boy and game boxes.




The NES equated the future with being suspended in space, the Virtual Boy makes us never see the colors Red and Blue in the same way again, and Atari games were released in a time where Pixels were the new black.

No, this isn’t only an old phenomenon, there are some recent examples. For example the Nokia N.Gage design looks like silver threw up all over it, same goes for the first iPod designs and most mobile phones of that generation.


Now, we are not here to make fun of these designs. On the contrary, we are here to make fun of ourselves for liking these designs. These designs simply reflected what we perceived technological advancements to be. For example, in the time when the NES was released, it did very adequately convey its high end technological status. The Virtual Boy’s box design made want to buy it all the more as a kid (I will never thank my dad enough for refusing to buy it for me), and having played the Atari 2600 for most of my childhood, I can attest to the fact that, yes, in its time, pixels were indeed the new black.

Furthermore, N.Gage’s shiny design was one of its appeal, as at that point, silver was the new pixel (which used to be the new black). Anyone remember the PS2 silver?

So why do I bring this up? It is just something to think about. Next time we start discussing how slick and cutting edge modern technological designs look, we have to keep in mind that chances are, they will look like eye sores to us twenty years in the future. Maybe sometime in the future, someone will look at an iPhone and say how boring and unimaginative its design looked, or looks at an Xbox 360 and wonders what kind of relationship with the color green, or look at a PS3 and asserts that in our time, black was indeed the new silver (which used to be the new pixel). As it happens, I really like the designs of the three aforementioned devices.


Blog: Technology is cool

By on July 4, 2011

No seriously, it is.

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To use my first ever blog post on this website to talk about how great technology is may certainly seem like taking the easy way out, but I never cheated in school exams (mostly because of fear) so now is my time to make up for that

Technology is great, and we at Tbreak love technology. We never cease to drool over the next overhyped, overpriced gadget we receive at the office. Yet, strangely enough, not everybody thinks so. Many a time have I heard remarks from people about how modern innovations of consumer technology are useless and mostly cosmetic features with real value meant to play to consumers’ materialistic tendency (i.e so people will not laugh at them for having last year’s phone). So, let’s point our fingers at such people and call them Luddites*. As you may have guessed, I am not very fond of such point of views

However, I myself didn’t appreciate technology much when I was younger. I still remember when my father brought home his first mobile phone. It was big, black, bulky brick of a phone from Ericsson. I didn’t really see what the big deal about it was; it was no different than the wireless phone we already had at home. And so you could take it outside the house, big deal, it’s not like we will actually need to use it outside home. Now, I, nor anyone I know, can imagine life without mobile phones, which are day by day pushing landlines into disuse. Next came high speed internet. Another improvement which I didn’t see much point to, as my 56k was serving me well, yet high speed internet is the reason we have things like file sharing, social networking and YouTube (i.e. the second greatest thing on the internet).

However, my cynicism struck an all time high when Smartphones first appeared. I didn’t see much use to them. And why would I? All they did was provide inferior versions of functionalities that were present in other devices. They had internet, but I don’t have use for the internet on a small screen. It played music, but my lighter than air mp3 player could so, and not weight as much. It player video, but again, the screen got in the way. It had a camera, yet the pictures it took looked like they were drawings of a five year old attempting expressionist art, and the App Store consisted of apps that did nothing but added sprinkles to said pictures.

Yet when I think of Smartphones now, I still have trouble processing the idea that absolutely ANY PIECE OF INFORMATION is available right there in your pocket. Once, you let that idea sink in for while, you start realizing what a marvel technology has become. While it may seem that most advances in technology are not much more than “now .0025% thinner”, it is these small, seemingly unimportant steps that led to Avatar from this video:

* Luddites is the name given to those who dislike or are mistrustful of technology. The name is derived from the group of workers in nineteenth century England who were opposed to advances of the industrial revolution, and they took their name ‘Luddites’ from their leader, the mythical Ned Ludd.


GoNabit acquisition great news for UAE’s E-commerce industry

By on June 29, 2011

Living Social nabs GoNabit.

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The UAE E-commerce industry has certainly come of age. What was nearly a barren space two years ago is now flooded with exciting new start-ups all keen on cashing in on E-commerce. And there are a number of things that make E-commerce exciting for startups in this part of the world. Firstly, there’s the low set-up costs compared to brick and mortar ventures. It would cost you about ten times as much to open a shop in a major mall in Dubai. Let’s not forget the fact that there are plenty of great Open Source software out on the web that can help you set up an online service for free or at very little cost. Second, there are lesser regulations on the online world compared to traditional commerce. There’s a lot less paperwork involved into setting up an online store and you’re less prone to regular inspection from the authorities if you’re business is entirely online. Third, online penetration in the UAE and the Middle East as a whole is on the rise. Broadband connections are fairly common and a fair amount of people now have a data plan on their mobiles. Finally, the fact that there’s a limited amount of companies offering E-commerce services to the Middle East means that there’s plenty of users online hungry for better online services.

Two years ago when I met GoNabit’s founder Dan Stuart, he was working with UAE’s top recruitment site Bayt.com as Chief Possibility Officer. We were in the process of taking Tbreak commercial at the time and Dan was helping us find a way to better monetize our business. Dan mentioned at the time that he was working on an E-commerce venture. He didn’t say what it was but I could tell it was something exciting. As it turns out it was GoNabit and barely two years since its launch, the site has achieved major success and has been acquired by Living Social, one of GroupOn’s largest competitors.

This is certainly exciting news, not just for Dan but the entire E-commerce industry in the region. It’s a sign that not only is there a viable E-commerce industry in the region but its big enough that global players are starting to take notice. This will probably mean that the tens of emerging GroupOn clones that have emerged lately will probably turn into hundreds as more people try to follow GoNabit’s success. But that’s just good news for consumers who will get better deals.


The price you pay when tech doesn’t work the way it should.

By on June 27, 2011

Hint: It’s not cheap.

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Like almost everyone else in the UAE, I have two mobile numbers. One is from Etisalat that is generally in my iPhone or whatever Smartphone I am reviewing and the other is from du that sits in my BlackBerry. The reason I have du in my BlackBerry is because I tend to travel frequently and with du, you can switch from local to global BlackBerry services from their website and only get charged the higher international rate for the days you are away. Etisalat, on the other hand, charges you a full month at the minimum and requires you to visit one of their branches when you want to downgrade back from International to local.

I had one of my travels pop-in last week and before heading out, I logged on to du’s self-care website to change my plan from local to global. When I tried to do that, I got a message saying that I was already on the global plan. I should have seen that as a sign, but dismissed it thinking I might have forgotten to switch back to local when I came back from a previous travel which was just last month.

Anyways, with global roaming supposedly all set, I headed out thinking everything was all set. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Two days into my travel, I receive an SMS from du stating that I had run-up my approved line of credit and my phone was being switched from post-paid to pre-paid until I clear my balance. I logged on to du’s self-care website and out of nowhere, it showed my bill to be over 2,000 Dirhams. And my BlackBerry plan was stated as local and not global.

What I am assuming happened, is that there was an issue with the self-care website when I accessed it prior to my travels and my BlackBerry plan did not change from local to global as I wanted it to. Instead, it continued being on local and I was being charged for data at the exorbitant roaming rates. Not only did my BlackBerry service stopped working but I could not receive any phone calls or messages either as I was on a pre-paid plan with all credits used up and then some.

Luckily it was the weekend and I was traveling back to Dubai the following day so I wasn’t as furious as I would normally be. I sent an email to du to complain about this- lets see how long it takes for them to settle this issue, if it gets settled at all.


Gaming 3.0

By on June 22, 2011

Is gaming on a triple monitor setup worth it?

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If you have been reading my blogs on the tech section of late, you will probably know that I made myself a new PC to enjoy gaming in all it’s glory. The way it happened is that I saw our senior editor Taimoor testing Need for Speed on a triple- monitor setup for GamesFest and I instantly knew that I gotta get me one.

Two weeks and few thousand Dirhams later, I had my rig ready and started installing a few games I’ve been wanting to get back to such as World of Warcraft and StarCraft II as well as some games that I’ve been wanting to try out such as Rift and Civilization 5.

So with my three screens in action and Bose speakers pumping out the sound, I was all prepared to be blown away by the experience. Sadly, the experience was closer to a whimper than a bang. Starcraft II didn’t want to work on three screens and WoW made everything on the two side screens appear stretched and un-natural whic gave me an instant headache. Rift and Civilization 5 looked better but after a nice hour session, my neck felt incredibly sore with the constant turning between the three screens. That was the pretty much the last time I fired up a game on my shiny new setup. I think triple screen gaming is best for arcades where you have short bursts of gameplay in a very controlled environment.

So, are the monitors headed back? Actually no. I really enjoyed Windows desktop spanned across the three screens with my emails and tweets on the left, the browser in the center and widgets and small apps on the right. And productivity apps don’t necessarily require fast and timed actions, allowing me to turn my head at my own pace preventing any cricks. My gaming sessions have gone back to a single screen- the center screen. But now, while gaming, I can continue to check my incoming emails and tweets on the remaining two screens. Simultaneous business and pleasure- that’s what I tell myself to convince me that I’ve made a good investment.

System Specifications:
Core i5 2500K
ECS H67M-2 motherboard
8GB Corsair DDR3-1333
NVIDIA GTX 590
ASUS Xonar Sound Card
Corsair 750W PSU


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