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Jailbreak your iPhone 4 running iOS 4.1

By on October 10, 2010

Time to set your iPhone free- again.

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The time set for releasing iPhone 4.1′s Jailbreak was set. 10/10/10 at 10:10:10 GMT- the same time that Cartoon Network Arabic launched except in a different time zone. And limera1n delivered. I successfully Jailbroke my iPhone 4 running iOS 4.1 a few minutes back.

The only version of limera1n available for now if for Windows, however Mac users should be getting their fix soon as well. The 328kb file downloads in an instant and I ran it with Admin privileges in Windows 7. A small screen came up that set my iPhone into recover mode after which I had to set it up in DFU mode by following the oh-so-familiar instructions.

Once the iPhone was in DFU mode, the exploit was sent and a minute and a reboot later, I saw the icon for limera1n icon on my iPhone through which I was able to install cydia. One more reboot was needed as instructions mentioned that your iPhone might require a reboot for the cydia icon to show up.

The whole process took about three minutes and none of the information on my iPhone 4 was lost. Now its time to sit back, relax and download LockInfo- the number one reason I Jailbreak my iPhones.


Counterpoint: Why I think the Blackberry PlayBook will succeed

By on October 9, 2010

Apples are great but berries are better. At least for the corporate world.

A couple of weeks ago, my colleague Abbas posted his opinion on why he thinks the Blackberry PlayBook will fail. Now, I don’t normally question his sage-like wisdom, but I think that in this instance, he’s got it wrong.

Before I state my reasons, I will concede that this device has no place being a pure entertainment device and will probably never be as popular with general consumers as the iPad is. This device will by far and large appeal to the enterprise customer — corporate types who already own and use Blackberry phones and are looking for a portable device to extend their Blackberry experience.

As a Blackberry user, I can tell you now that I love the device. The data plans are lot more reasonable, the phone works beautifully, the email system is brilliant, it has a lovely free messenger application that all my friends use and I can listen to the occasional song when I want to. I couldn’t care less about having a FourSquare application or downloading a mini version of Monkey Island for my phone — when I want gaming mobility, I’ll just pick up my PSP and play God of War on it (beat that, iPhone/iPad!).

Here’s what I think will be the biggest selling points for the PlayBook:

1. Business Applications Support
I think it will be much easier to use Word documents and PowerPoint files on the Playbook. It will be easier to edit your spreadsheets on an airplane or hook up the PlayBook to a projector and run your presentation during a boardroom meeting. That’s something I’m sure every executive will find useful.

2. Flash Support
As business development manager for the Tbreak network, a big part of my job is meeting clients and introducing our websites to them. I can’t do that using an iPad because none of our flash-based adverts will show up on it. We publishers work hard to provide free content to users and rely on paid advertising to help keep us in business. Considering most adverts these days are flash based, I cannot support a device that does not enable flash. Yes, we could all switch to HTML5 but it will be a few decades before I am able to convince every advertising agency in the Middle East to switch to HTML5.

3. No 3G
Yes, you read right. I think that not having 3G support is a good thing. Considering I already own a Blackberry and pay for a data plan, why would I want to pay for another. I can simply hook up the PlayBook to my Blackberry and use my existing data connection.

Time will tell if the Blackberry PlayBook is successful or now. However, as a business user, I’m all for the Playbook to be a massive success.


Technologies like LG Smart TV will kill HTPCs

By on October 4, 2010

With TVs becoming Smart, you wont need a PC connected to them

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I’ve been using HTPCs for over five years and have transitioned between lots of hardware and software solutions. As much as I love building HTPCs, I can see their end approaching with TVs getting smarter.

At IFA this year, I saw a demonstration of LG’s upcoming Smart TV which should be releasing some time next year. The TV uses an application called Plex that I have used for a few months when I had the Mac Mini connected to my TV. Plex started off as a branch of XBMC focusing on the Mac platform but over the years, has become its own product.

What Plex does is take media files from your network and downloads information about these files- such as posters, cast and crew etc. It then shows your list of media in a beautiful interface that is easily navigable from your couch. Traditionally, Plex ran on a Mac connected to your TV but with this technology built on the TV, you no longer need a computer next to your TV.

That does not mean that you don’t need a PC at all as your media files will continue to remain on the PC and Plex will be running as a “Server” on that computer streaming files to your TV. I mentioned that Plex required a Mac but from my conversation with the LG rep, a Windows version of the server software should be available soon.

Besides media files stored on your computer, Plex has a pretty open plug-in architecture allowing you to access services like Netflix, YouTube etc. so technically, your LG TV should be able to stream any of these services along with other channels that stream on the Web such as CNN and BBC.

This is exactly where TVs should be headed- wired or wirelessly connected to your network streaming local files and online content. HTPCs never really became mainstream and with such technologies built on the TV, they never will.


Blog: Etisalat iPhone 4 woes

By on October 3, 2010

Incoming was blocked, and here is how I fixed it.

Teeming with jealously over my colleague Taimoor Hafeez’s iPhone 4 and finally wanting to break away from the Samsung not-so-Jet, I gave in and bought myself an iPhone 4. I didn’t want to change my number, so I went for Etisalat’s 16GB iPhone 4 data package plan 1.

Before purchase, I expected glitch free transition to my new phone and expected great service as Etisalat has always been good for me, at least in terms of signal strength.

How dare I?!

The problems began from the purchase itself. Unable to find stock at the nearest Etisalat center, I decided to purchase one from the Etisalat stall in Sahara Mall (they are sold out now, by the way). There, I was initially turned away saying that a pre-paid number cannot be transferred to a post-paid number for the iPhone 4. What? I caught the next CSR at the stall and thankfully, he had a bit of knowledge. After going through the cumbersome process of getting a copy of my passport when they denied using my yet-to-be-used Emirates ID, the CSR registered my number and told me to come a whole day later to get things rolling. Guess, what though? The process took 15mins flat and I was too stuck in Sharjah’s traffic to bother going back.

Next day, I was informed that I will be getting a new number, despite telling the CSR specifically that I wanted the data plan on the same number. Hell, why would I register my old number to get a new number? The CSR went “aha” and then pulled out a SIM card replacement form with a swipe of his hand. The form would fetch me the micro SIM card needed for the iPhone in, guess what?, a whole day later. I came back the next day and was turned away as the supervisor who activates the iPhone would not come before 7pm.

That’s two days worth of trouble for a process that takes no less than 15mins collectively. Finally, I was handed over my shiny new black device and the dual SIM card package. I asked the procedure to meter my bandwidth and expectantly, the service code provided by the CSR did not work. I couldn’t be bothered with them anymore.

Firing up the device, I went through the usual procedure to check if everything was working fine – music player, movie, touch screen and finally call quality. Everything good and dandy, I thought.

Not quite.

Today I called up our head-honcho Hitesh Uchil to ask what time he would be coming to the office after his meeting. He told me he had SMS’ed me the details. SMS, what SMS? I called up my brother and asked for him to send me a text message. Nope. Then it clicked: I can’t receive either calls or SMS, but I can make them. And then in a flash of terror it dawned on me: I will have to call 101. Oh boy.

Frustrating doesn’t quite capture what I went through with the 101 CSRs. Everyone suggested I to reboot despite telling them I have already done it. I am in tech, I know the reboot joke. After six calls to different CSRs, I finally got someone telling me a service code to activate my SIM card for incoming. The code was *149*1#. It didn’t work even though it told me the activation was successful. I was told to reset Networking Settings and Phone Settings, but those didn’t help either. Finally a CSR said “You will have to go to the head office for a replacement”. This pretty much sums up my feelings.

In desperation to seek out a workaround, and avoid dealing with Etisalat at all costs, I decided to hard reset the device, deleting all the contents and settings. After the reboot, the phone became inaccessible except for emergency calls. The phone needed an iTunes connection, which I promptly presented, and it somehow fixed my no-incoming issue.

If you face the same problem, here is what you can do:

-          Hard reset your iPhone 4 by going to Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings

-          The phone will boot up and give you the emergency call screen

-          Plug it in and fire iTunes. The phone will instantly boot the iPhone homescreen.

-          Now dial *149*1# and wait for the ‘successful’ confirmation

-          Trying giving your number a call

-          Success!

Of course, this may not necessarily work for everyone but it did for me and saved me a trip to the dark corners of Etisalat. I have sudden profound love for iTunes.


Why I think the BlackBerry PlayBook will fail.

By on September 28, 2010

While its a good product, I think its too late.

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RIM unveiled their upcoming tablet called PlayBook at the BlackBerry Developer’s Conference yesterday. Sadly, I don’t think this device will be a successful product for them.

First of all, RIM is trying to play it cool with this product showcasing gaming and multimedia as some of the key areas for this device, yet they don’t have the eco-system of iTunes or the experience of being a consumer-centric manufacturer. Yes, BlackBerry phones had risen in popularity with the general consumer a couple of years back but the iPhone and Android based phones have hurt RIM badly in this area. Currently, the business user is the primary user-base for RIM and I believe that if they want to get a tablet it will be more for fun that work where the iPad currently reigns supreme.

Next, Android based tablets will be attacking in full force early next year bringing the price of tablets down. Also keep in mind that both the iOS and Android platforms, although available for a significantly lesser number of years than the BlackBerry, have a much larger number of apps available for them. Like it or not, the number of Apps and the prices of devices are key factors to selling a touch based device.

I’m not saying the Playbook is a bad device. In fact, it has a pretty good configuration with some serious horse-power and, from the videos I’ve seen, a pretty and elegant OS to compliment it. Though I must say that the lack of 3G/4G is puzzling. Yes, I read that it will be added in future models but considering that both the iPad and Android based tablets support it right now, I’m shocked that a company that puts affordable connectivity as a primary aspect of their Smartphones doesn’t.

What I am saying is that I just don’t think it will catch on and be a successful product- a bit like the Palm Pre which I still think comes powered with an awesome O/S and I love the form factor. The BlackBerry Playbook just doesn’t have the eco-system of the iPad or the momentum of Android.


So I bought an iPhone 4…

By on September 26, 2010

My initial experiences with the iPhone 4.

Launch events for Apple products aren’t exactly a big deal in Dubai, especially considering this region gets most of the latest stock a couple months after launch in the US. What this means is that  a lot of the hardcore fans will usually import their Apple gadgets from the US well before the official launch here, so it was a pleasant surprise to see a small queue in front of the du shop in Ibn Battuta Mall as I made my way to pick up an iPhone 4 yesterday afternoon.

Of course, the pleasant surprise turned to mild annoyance pretty quick as my wait turned out to be 50 minutes in line, for what should have been a quick grab in and get out job. Once at the counter, the kind lady there says that there are no white iPhone 4s available in the region at all, that they will be shipped some time later. Disappointed, I finally settled for the standard black one. Admiring the piano black finish on my shiny new mobile (I had to!) along with du’s Elite Super 100 plan pack, I excitedly head out to do some grocery shopping.

Five hours later I finally get home, insert the micro-sim and startup the iPhone 4 to be greeted with the “Connect to iTunes” screen. This used be a major pain in the neck back when I had a jailbroken iPhone (2G), but yesterday I readily plugged it in and immediately my iPhone 4 is registered and unlocked for use! A quick access to my Gmail Contacts list upon startup in iTunes and I don’t have to worry about adding any number in the new sim. I quickly check the iPhone 4 to see a full 3G signal in my house (JLT) and started downloading the Facebook and Twitter apps.

A minute later I tweet to the world from my iPhone 4 via 3G, felt really good if I do say so myself. As I made a quick call to my sister in UK, I noticed the FaceTime icon in the options menu on the call screen, something I was really excited to try out. Sadly my sister doesn’t have an iPhone 4, so this feature will have to wait for a bit. Afterwards I see a small notification in iTunes saying that I should upgrade to firmware v4.1 (the iPhone 4 originally came with 4.0.2) so I decided to go ahead and do it.

I’m excitedly going over to the camera to check out the HDR options and registering myself on Game Center as soon as the update was done. After adding a couple of friends on Game Center I get a call from one of them, and I notice that little icon for FaceTime is gone from the options menu. He basically called me to tell me that v4.1 disables FaceTime from iPhone 4s in this region.

So after some prolonged swearing I calmed down a little, especially after reading this news. Perhaps there’s still hope of seeing my family and friends on FaceTime one day. In the meanwhile I’m looking into some of the other new features that make the iPhone 4 still worth the money despite the lack of FaceTime.   Multitasking was fun, but ultimately felt unnecessary; the iPhone 4 is pretty damn quick with all of the apps. More interesting was playing around with the HD video recording and trying out Espgaluda II and Chaos Rings which ran butter smooth on the powerful new hardware.

All in all, I’m really happy with both the iPhone 4 (despite FaceTime) and du’s Elite Super 100 plan which allows me to use the phone without any headaches. I was especially grateful when I downloaded iBooks and tried out a couple of samples while stuck in traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road as the police cleared out the road accident. Probably someone who got distracted on the phone while driving. Drive safe people!


Nokia N8 – first thoughts

By on September 23, 2010

Destined for greatness or another iPhone competitor left in the dust?

So yesterday was the pre-launch event for the Nokia N8 in Dubai, and Tbreak was obviously on hand to find out whether Nokia’s flagship smartphone has a chance against the iPhone and other HTC phones. The very short answer is: probably not.

What the N8 represents is the pinnacle of Nokia’s highest-end hardware complimented by the brand spanking new Symbian^3 OS. Apart from some UI improvements and slight touchups here and there, the biggest addition to Symbian^3 is that it’s finally catching up to iOS 4 and Android.

The home screens are fully customizable with any apps you download from the Ovi Store along with Twitter, Facebook and RenRen feeds. Accelerometer allows you to play games and view things from both horizontal and vertical orientations and the capacitive touchscreen allows for pinch zoom and other fun touch interface gestures that we’ve experienced before. That said, Nokia does bring its own unique flavor to the smartphone table.

First off is the On Demand Web TV which includes channels like E!, BBC, etc. What Nokia has done for the region is also provide local channels. Immediately after launch for instance, Al Jazeera will be available along with BBC Arabic. Other localized apps include one for Dubizzle that’s currently getting ready for launch as well. And then there’s the free satellite navigation system from Ovi Maps for instant access in the car or on foot.

Besides the OS functionality, the N8 also packs a lot of hardware inside its anodized aluminum shell. Underneath the 3.5” 360×640 screen lies 16GB onboard memory, a Carl Zeiss 12mp camera with Xenon flash that’s capable of recording HD video (720p) at 25fps. These videos can be played back on an HDTV through a mini-HDMI connector on the top, also providing Dolby Digital audio out.

Once again, the specs and OS functionality sound great on paper, but with the little hands-on time I had with the N8 during the event, the overall experience left much to be desired. The phone felt sluggish at times with touch responses often lagging or not registering at all. The Ovi Store also loaded up slow at times, although that could’ve been the overloaded Wi-Fi at the event. It’s just that I never felt the N8 provided something truly revolutionary, I’ve seen all of this before, and in many cases done better. Still, this is just a new product and the units at the event were supposedly prototypes. We’ll have a proper review for the N8 when it’s officially released next month, hopefully Nokia will have cleared up the few kinks before then.


Why the iPhone 4 will be more successful than previous generation iPhones in the UAE

By on September 19, 2010

Blackberry ban could help boost iPhone 4 sales.

The iPhone has been officially available in the UAE for about two years now and although it is popular, it is nowhere near as popular as it in the US. However, that is about to change as the iPhone 4 launches this week (as revealed in our exclusive news last week.)

The reason why I expect the iPhone 4 has got nothing to do with its looks, performance or even pricing. What the iPhone 4 has going for itself is the perfect timing- its launching a couple of weeks before the BlackBerry ban comes into effect on the 11th of October in the UAE. Many BlackBerry users will be jumping ship as their Smartphone becomes a not-so-smart.

Most of the people that I know who own a Blackberry are planning on getting the iPhone. The only other choice real choice they have is an Android handset and your options of a decent device are limited to the Samsung Galaxy S, HTC Desire or Motorola Droid. While they have capable devices, Samsung, HTC and Motorola will need a much stronger marketing push to compete with the likes of the iPhone 4. Sony Ericsson’s Xperia and other android contenders are based on the aging Android 1.6.

Thus, for the Blackberry user who has already outgrown a Nokia, an iPhone is the only way to go. With the launch of iPhone 4 in the next few days, I see it becoming a lot more popular in the UAE than it has been. Let’s hope our local telcos introduce it with reasonable data plan- especially for the traveling BlackBerry users who otherwise would pay an exorbitant fee for data roaming.


One day all phones will become Smartphones

By on September 13, 2010

Smartphones will no longer be called Smartphones because every one will become smart enough.

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For the last few years, Smartphones have generally been targeted towards the consumer who not only wants to spend more but also is a bit on the tech savvy side. Apple certainly managed to change the tech-savvy requirement with its iPhone being used by everyone from the geek to the grandma. However, the price of the iPhone is still pretty high for it to become as popular as, say the Motorola RAZR.

This is where Android seems to be stepping in. Take LG Optimus that we recently reviewed- it runs Android and costs less than 950 Dirhams. Also the Xperia Mini that we have received targets the non-techie user with its small size and easy to use interface. In fact,the Xperia mini doesn’t include a soft qwerty keyboard- even in landscape mode which is one of the traditional features of a Smartphone. Instead, it relies on the 9 key input using the ABC multi-tap of the T9 method of input which is found on almost all non-Smartphones. Other than Android, I can even see the Symbian scaling down to ultra-cheap phones as Nokia moves to MeeGo for its higher-end handsets.

I’m not saying that high-end Smartphones will go away- on the contrary, we will see many people jumping ships to what is known as a Smartphone today. However, with the functionality of these Smartphones trickling down to common phones and prices dropping to sub 500 or even sub 300 Dirhams, its only a matter of time before all mobile phones become Smart.


LG’s LEX8 and other master-pieces at IFA

By on September 8, 2010

LG showcased a lot of their upcoming 3D products at Berlin last week.

I would like to thank LG for inviting me to IFA and showcasing their new technologies. The entire theme of IFA, outside the home appliances division, was 3D and LG had quite a few interesting 3D products to showcase at the massive show. I was briefed about their 3D LCD and Plasma TVs, Projector and Sound system.

The highlight of LG’s booth was their LEX8 3D TV which is arguably the best looking display I have ever seen. Measuring just 8.8mm deep and with a barely there bezel of 12.5mm, the LEX8 is super sexy and part of LG’s Infinia brand. Besides looking good, the LEX8 has a lot of really good technology inside. Starting off, its a full LED 3D TV with NANO lighting technology- a first for any TV. NANO lighting is like an invisible film that sits behind LED chips and evenly distributes lights across the display.

To compare, most LCDs have edge lighting meaning that the LEDs are located on the top and bottom edges of the screen which is where you see the brightest picture. Using full LED Nano technology, the LEX8 has over 250 LEDs evenly spread behind the screen giving a very uniform picture. For those interested in numbers, edge LEDs give you about 77% uniformity whereas NANO results in 99.9% uniformity. There is a bit more power consumption though- about 10% more than Edge LEDs. The following picture will give you an idea on what I mean.

Other than NANO technology, the LEX8 utilizes all of the other latest-greatest LG technologies such as Micro Pixel Control, TruBlack Filter, TruMotion 400Hz and 0.001ms response time. All of these translate into a pretty good picture quality where blacks look blacker and fast moving pictures don’t produce blurry images.

The LEX8 comes with LG’s latest motion sensing remote control- offering a Wii like experience for changing channels and selecting different menu options. To me, watching TV means sitting comfortably on my couch without much movement so I prefer a d-pad based controller over a motion sensing one.

Other than LEX8, LG was also showcasing their LX9500 3D TV which is not as as slim and trim or good looking as the LEX8 and doesn’t feature NANO lighting technology, but other than that, has everything else such as 3D, Full LED and TruBlack filter meaning its still a pretty kick-ass solution although at a much more affordable price.

On the Plasma side, LG showed me the PX950. Now, I know that LCD and LEDs have been all the rage in the past couple of years, but I have been evangelising Plasmas to anyone who wants to purchase a 50”+ screen. I find the picture quality of Plasma better and along with higher refresh rates, wider viewing angles and a lower pricing, I don’t understand why anyone would go for an LCD/LED except for the looks. The PX950 is available in 50” and 60” and supports 600Hz refresh rates along with THX3D certification which is a first for any display.

Besides the display, LG also showcased their CF3D projector that offers a dual-engine uni-body design meaning you have two projectors inside one housing. The dual-engine design does auto-picture calibration which corrects the difference in brightness between the two projectors. It supports full 1080p so you should be able to watch Avatar is full glory when released end of the year. The 2500 ANSI Lumens and 7000:1 contrast ratio along with 120Hz refresh rates help produce a good picture quality.

To accompany all these 3D visual solutions, LG showcased their 3D speakers set as well. The most interesting thing about this speaker set is that on top of the speaker, you actually have a vertical throw along with three horizontal ones per speaker. Not only does this give you a surround sound kind of environment that you’re used to but also a vertical level to sound giving a somewhat cinema kind of effect where you have speakers placed above your head and not at your ear level.

All of these products were showcased at the LG booth in IFA which, without sounding biased since LG invited us, was probably one of the best looking booths at IFA with its huge video wall that crossed through and the multiple LEX8 units that make you want to buy one right away. Also showcased at their booth was a 3×3 screen 180” plasma solution and the Smart TV technology that is partly powered by Plex. I will talk about the Smart TV in more detail along with video coverage in an upcoming blog.


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