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Jest for the fun of it

By on April 3, 2011

Did you spot our April Fool’s stories?

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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…”


Is du starting to feel the pressure?

By on March 30, 2011

Can du keep its customers happy?

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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?


Cricket Worldcup on the go

By on March 27, 2011

Would you watch India vs Pak on your mobile?

Cricket fever is at an all-time high, especially with the semi-final game between India and Pakistan approaching. Although it’s a good time for the Jumbos and Jackys to sell a good number of high-definition TV sets, I thought I’d choose to watch some of the matches on the move- much like I do everything else.

We published an article some time back stating that du was allowing mobile packages at various rates to watch either the entire world cup on your 3G enabled mobile for AED 25 or AED 3 per match. Sadly, as far back as last Wednesday (23d March) this service has been unavailable, at least as far as watching single daily matches is concerned.

Checking up emails, tweeting and Facebooking on the go is a very common thing nowadays, and although mobile TV has been in existence for over 5 years, it’s still not as widely consumed a media as listening to songs or checking up on websites.

I agree that watching movies or even TV shows is a far from pleasant experience on small mobile screens, but sporting events are a different thing. Surely watching a match as important as India vs Pakistan on a small screen is better than getting SMS updates or even listening to radio commentary. Yes, it’s not a TV screen, but even the iPhone 4 screen is ample when there’s no TV nearby. And this is certainly the case if your favorite team is playing, in whatever sports it is. Nothing beats watching the event live.

3G connections in UAE are good enough to have live broadcasts of such events, although my feed on du’s 3G connection leaves much to be desired. First of all it’s in 4:3, which happens to be CricOne’s fault who are showing the match in this antiquated format for the entire region. Second, the feed seems like an internet stream, with blocky pixelations all over the place. Far from and ideal scenario, however, at AED 3 per match, I’m not one to complaint much.

Too bad about the whole unavailability part, du dropped the ball with this one. Of course, all of this could also be due to those pesky underwater cable cuts!


Gmail keeps getting better

By on March 24, 2011

5 Gmail features I like.

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.


Jacky’s: Please let us be the ones to rip you off for the iPad 2

By on March 20, 2011

“Why not get it through us” says the COO. Genuine Jacky’s.

I was going through this blog posted by Mr. Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer of Jacky’s Electronics and was baffled at what I read about their iPad 2 prices. Let me post a picture of this paragraph from his blog:

I don’t think Mr. Punjabi got his thoughts properly to his audience (or me in particular) because, If I am reading this correctly, it basically states that whoever wants to get ripped off by buying an iPad 2, please let Jacky’s be one that rips you off.

We called their Dubai Mall store to find the price at which they were selling it for and were informed an insane pricing of AED 5,300 for the 16GB WiFi unit. Let me point out that nahel.com was selling the exact same thing for 2,999 Dirhams two days back while JadoPado had it for 2,800 today. Both of them are out of stock at the moment but the premium Jacky’s is charging is quite clear.

So what is their explanation for this? Again, from their blog:

“Currently we’re buying stocks from traders in the US who are literally lining up outside Apple Store’s in the US and buying stocks at full retail price. Due to the unprecedented demand for the iPad 2, we’re buying these stocks at whatever price they’ll sell them to us at, which at the moment is at prices much higher than Apple’s official retail selling prices. In addition to this, we’re having to factor in costs of shipping, customs duties and warranty which all play a part in determining our selling price.”

I’m not sure I buy that. If comparatively smaller businesses like nahel.com and JadoPado can sell the iPad 2 for almost half as much as what Jackys is charging, then obviously someone with a much greater pull should be able to get them at similar or even lower prices.

Lets hope I don’t get sued for this.


When was the last time you checked your spam folder?

By on March 16, 2011

Angelina Jolie might be trying to get in touch.

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Occasionally, when I have a few minutes to spare, I’ll open up my Junk email folder and browse through the list of emails sitting in there. Though the intention is to quickly browse and see if anything that wasn’t junk ended up there (false positives), I end up spending more time than I should simply because it brings a nice relief to a stressful day.

For example, right now, I can see that I have emails from Angelina Jolie and Natalie Portman asking me where I was last night or where I want to be tonight. Didn’t know either one of them cared. I can also see that I’ve won over a million dollars three times today along with investment opportunities that will double my money instantly. On a sad note, I also have an email from a recent widow of an African General and a top advisor of Hosni Mobarak- both of who want to transfer an insane amount of money to my bank account.

Those were just the English language ones- I have twice of that in other languages such as Chinese and Russian that I can’t read but the occasional English words used in their subject such as Aishwarya Rai or Jessica Alba or even an iPhone 4 for $15 doesn’t sound too bad. So where does it all stop? When I get to the emails from my bank or Blizzard saying that they are investigating my account and sending me a link to change my password.

Spam can be fun- taken in short doses and occasionally.


Will you be buying an iPad 2?

By on March 13, 2011

Expect to pay a premium if you want to be first to own a iPad 2 in the UAE

The iPad 2 from Apple got released in the US this past Friday and many of you are wondering when will it be released in the UAE. Before that, let me quickly state that, from the reviews I’ve read, it seems like almost everyone has given it a thumbs up. It’s more of an evolutionary upgrade than a revolutionary one, which was expected if you follow Apple’s product cycles. In a nutshell, it’s much faster than the previous one, quite a bit thinner and has two cameras.

So coming to the question of when to expect the iPad 2 in the UAE, there is no official word on it, but someone on the EmiratesMac forums suggests the 1st of April. I doubt we’ll see it so soon as people ordering from the US  are getting a 2-3 week shipment delay and considering that Apple has stated that they will be launching the iPad 2 is 26 other countries by the end of March, I doubt they’ll have the production capacities to enter any new markets.

Unofficially, expect the iPad 2 units to be available in the usual channels for exorbitant prices by the end of this week. In fact, I can already someone willing to buy it at AED 8000 on souq.com and I’m sure that someone will sell it for that, or more. In fact, as sad as it sounds, I actually know a couple of people who won’t mind spending that much just to have the iPad 2 before anyone else. But if you are willing to wait, expect the prices to drop by half in a month or so and more when it officially lands in the UAE.

To give you an indication, the iPad 2 is priced exactly like the original iPad and I’m guessing that will be the case here in the UAE. The following table shows the price of the official price of the iPad prior to the announcement of the iPad 2 and these are the prices you should expect.

Wi-Fi Only Wi-Fi + 3G
iPad 16GB AED 2,199 (US$ 600) AED 2,799 (US$ 760)
iPad 32GB AED 2,649 (US$ 720) AED 3,249 (US$ 885)
iPad 64GB AED 3,099 (US$ 840) AED 3,699 (US$ 1000)

So what about you? Will you get one? We have a discussion going on in our forums on that. I know I’m tempted to get one but I have had the original iPad for a while and although I love it, I can’t think of it replacing my laptop which is what I eventually want my tablet to do. Maybe the BlackBerry Playbook or the Honeycomb equipped Motorola Xoom will do that- but I’ll still have to wait for them to be released here in the UAE and maybe while I am waiting, I’ll entertain myself with an iPad 2. In white.


The tablet wars just got more interesting

By on March 9, 2011

Battle of the price tags.

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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.


Cloud Computing shouldn’t be your only source of data

By on March 6, 2011

Google’s failure to serve 150,000 customers their email is surely a sign.

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Some time back, I stated my excitement about Google’s upcoming Chrome OS as previewed on their engineering sample CR48 laptop. The idea of having all your data reside on the cloud with any device being able to access it is the nirvana of computing. However, with the unavailability of contacts, email and chat to 150,000 GMail users last week makes me wonder if I am relying on the cloud more than I should?

The convenience of having your data stored on the cloud is unbeatable. If you’re like me, you access your data from multiple desktops, a laptop, a tablet and a few Smartphones that are always completely in sync. Ten years back, this was a dream but with an Exchange Server or Google Apps along with Google Docs and many other apps such as Saasu or Zoho, I never have to think twice about my data being accessible on a PC I’m using as long as I have an Internet connection.

At least that’s how I felt until last week before Google gave a few users quite the scare when they logged in to their Gmail account and found all their emails missing. What happened is that Google implemented a software update on their servers which didn’t go exactly as planned. That doesn’t sound like anything new, however when Google has multiple copies of data in multiple data centers and even then some if it goes missing is surely a cause for concern. So how did that happen? Here is the explanation from Google:

“In some rare instances software bugs can affect several copies of the data. That’s what happened here. Some copies of mail were deleted, and we’ve been hard at work over the last 30 hours getting it back for the people affected by this issue. To protect your information from these unusual bugs, we also back it up to tape. Since the tapes are offline, they’re protected from such software bugs. But restoring data from them also takes longer than transferring your requests to another data center, which is why it’s taken us hours to get the email back instead of milliseconds. “

The good news is that your data isn’t lost- just inaccessible until Google recovers it. That’s not too dire of a situation for an individual’s personal account, but if that happened to me on my company account- lets just say that it would leave my business crippled.

Does that put me off cloud computing? Not really. It just teaches me that along with keeping my data on the cloud, its always a good idea to have a local backup. So start using technologies like Google Gear to store your mail offline and Dropbox to keep a backup of your documents on every computer. It might not be as convenient- especially when syncing data, but it sure beats the hell out of not having your data available to you at all.


iPad 2 launching in a few hours

By on March 2, 2011

What will Apple reveal tonight?

A little over a year ago, I wrote a blog the day after the original iPad was revealed. Like many others, I was disappointed by what Steve Jobs showed us but what a difference a year makes. The iPad grew from a below-the-expectations device to the most successful computer of last year. And tonight, the successor to the iPad will be revealed.

Sadly, the excitement levels prior to the unveiling of iPad 2 are nowhere close to what they were a few hours before the launch of the original iPad. Maybe that because we have learnt from Apple’s “take it slow” tradition when doing follow-ups to original devices. I am not expecting anything revolutionary tonight- at least not in terms of hardware. All signs and leaks on the web point to a slightly slimmer design and an addition of a camera or two. Apple will, no doubt, double the memory from 256MB to 512MB bringing it on par with the iPhone 4.

Other than that, I don’t really think that we will see anything substantial as far as hardware is concerned. Sure, the screen might be of better quality but will probably sport the same 1024×768 resolution. It’s too soon for Apple to switch resolutions even though all of the competing Honeycomb tablets offer a 1280×800 screen.

Where I am expecting to see noticeable improvements are on the software side. We already have reports that iOS 4.3 has gone gold which will showcase some of the interesting additions to iOS such as the Mobile Hotspot. However, it would be a treat is Apple unveils information on iOS5. Those multi-finger gestures that were present in the developer builds were certainly pretty awesome. And with OS X Lion featuring somewhat similar gestures, I have no reason to believe that they will not become a part of iOS.

So stay tuned to find out what happens tonight. Unlike last year when I bashed the iPad and yet concluded by saying that I’ll probably buy one (which I did), things are very different this year. With Honeycomb, PlayBook and WebOS based tablets, there are plenty of seemingly good alternatives to chose from. Whether they will be good enough to replace the iPad depends a lot on tonight’s announcement. Stay tuned to see if I’ll be repeating the title of my blog of last year- iDisappointed in the iPad.


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