Optimal Backup Strategy

by Yash 0 Comments

Take backup of your data. Your hard drive will die some day and will take your data along. You might get hit by a virus or malware which will destroy your data. You may lose your computer to theft or other damage.

Keep multiple backups. Online and Offline.

Buy two external hard drives. I recommend Western Digital My Passport. They are good and have built encryption so you can protect entire drive with a password. Install a program called FBackup. It is free. Use it to take backup on these drives. Take this backup manually. On both the drives. You may take the backup daily or weekly, depending upon how frequently you generate new data. FBackup will create exact mirror image of your local file structure on the external drive.

Keep one drive at home and another at your workplace. Keeping multiple drives at different physical locations is necessary in case one of the location is burgled or is destroyed in fire. External drives will also die someday, so multiple backups is must. A photographer lost lifetime of work when all his backup drives were stolen from his home. Avoid a similar fate.

Apart from offline backups, also keep online backups. Get a paid account of any of the online backup services – IDrive, DropBox, OneDrive, Google Drive, iCloud any of them. Take backup of your most important files on them. Online backup is slow. It took me months to upload my 300GB of photos online, but it is worth it.

Do not keep your external backup media attached to your computer all the time. If your external drive supports encryption, use a password to protect it. Do not carry your backup media in your laptop bag along with you everywhere. If you lose your bag, you lose your computer as well as backup.

Protect yourself against ransomware

by Yash 0 Comments

You might have read about the recent worldwide ransomware attack. Ransomware is a very serious threat. This is a type of malware or virus which encrypts all your files and demands money to decrypt them. If you do not pay within a stipulated period all your files are deleted. The only solution is to either pay or format your computer and lose all your data.

How to protect yourself against ransomware or any kind of virus/malware?

A virus is nothing but an application. It does not execute itself. It needs to be execute by the user. The most common ways a malware gets executed when it is embedded in another type of file. Most common ways to execute malware are macros in Office documents and auto extracting rar files.

If you receive an email from an unknown source which says you have received an invoice or a receipt for a payment with a Word document attachment, DO NOT OPEN it. Delete it immediately. The Word doc is probably containing a macro which will download the malware on your computer and execute it. Similarly, if you get a rar or zip file in attachment, do not open it. Rule of the thumb is if you receive an email from an unknown source with an attachment or a link to download something – DELETE IT. No matter how tempting or threatening it is. The mail may claim to be from your bank, income tax department, CBI, FBI, Trump or Modi. Don’t open it. Just delete it.

Same precaution must be taken while downloading files from Torrents or file sharing websites. If possible avoid it. Do not insert pen drives or external hard drives from your friend’s computer or from a cyber café/stationary shop. Your data is not more important than that movie or MP3 file.

Do not keep writable shared folders on your computer. If one computer on network is affected it will scan the entire network and encrypt all the writable shared folders it can find.

Take regular backups. Keep online and offline backups. Do not keep your physical backup media attached to your computer all the time. Take a backup and detach it. The ransomware also encrypts the data on all the attached /mapped drives it can find. If that happens even your backup is gone. If you keep online backup in Google Docs or Dropbox, it will sync your encrypted files as well so even that data is gone, so keep multiple backups.

If your computer gets infected, the first thing you should do is shut it down. Just pull the power cable. Disconnect it from the network. Disconnect all the connected drives. Start the computer in DOS mode and try to salvage whatever data you can.

There is no cure for ransomware. Prevention is the best option.

Check your Airtel broadband data usage

by Yash 9 Comments

I got an email from Airtel informing me I have hit 80% of my monthly high speed data limit and gave me a URL to check my available data.

Here’s the link – http://www.airtel.in/smartbyte-s/page.html

No need to login or anything. Just visit it using your Airtel connection and it will tell you your remaining high speed data limit for the month.If you want to buy additional data at high speed you can also do so from this URL.

Review of Samsung Google Nexus S

by Yash 1 Comment

I have been using Samsung Google Nexus S for a couple of weeks now and here’s my review of the phone. This is also a review of Android because this is my first Android phone. After comparing various phones I finally chose Nexus S mainly for its 16GB in built storage, screen size and price.


The Good

Phone is awesome!
The display, the touch, the responsiveness – everything is superlative! Display is bright and does not strain the eyes even after prolonged use. The screen is feather touch. Although it takes a while to get used to! In the beginning you end up doing random stuff because you touch some or the other part of the screen. The phone doesn’t look too big even though it has a 4″ display. The size is perfect for web browsing and playing games.

Android Market
I spent first couple of days browsing and installing tons of apps on my phone. Since this is a developer phone it doesn’t come with many pre-installed apps. Only the default Google apps. I took some advice from my friends already using Android and downloaded many apps and games. Finding apps on Android Market and installing them is a snap. The first app I downloaded was Talking Tom. Finding and installing new software for phone had never been so easy on my Windows Mobile or Symbian phones.

Android
As soon as I connected my phone to the Internet I got notification about Android 2.3.4 upgrade being available and I upgraded without a hitch. It was as smooth as installing any other software. I guess that’s one benefit of having a developer phone. You get the first shot at OS upgrades. Android is amazing. It is fast, responsive and lightweight. The thing I liked the most is that I can replace virtually every bit of phone’s software if I wish. I tried my hand at a bit of Android development as well and I was up and running with my first Hello World app in no time. It wasn’t long before I started playing with notifications and vibrations. If something has given me goose bumps at 3 in the night in a long time then it’s Android!

Web browsing
Nexus S has become my preferred device for casual browsing. I no longer trouble my laptop to check emails, read blogs, check Facebook and Twitter. I used to do many of these things on my E72 as well but thanks to Nexus S’ 4 inch screen the experience is as good as that on desktop. The stock Android browser is really good although I quickly installed Firefox and Opera Mobile too. I didn’t like Firefox much but Opera mobile is a gem. It’s better in many ways than the default browser. Although default browser is better at displaying Google’s own sites. I use them both. The best part I like about browsing is that when the pages load I get to see the preview of the whole page and then I can simply double tap on the part of the web page I wish to read and the browser will zoom at that location. The experience is unparalleled.

I was thinking of getting a tablet on my birthday for a better browsing experience but maybe I won’t need one now me thinks.

It’s fast
The phone scored an impressive 1392 on Quadrant benchmark test. The first test I ran showed more than 1400 but that was before I had installed tons of apps. This shows that the 1GHz processor has some meat and is capable of doing some heavy duty stuff. Neocore score of 55 however was not that good.

Camera
Camera is ok. I have seen better and worse cameras on phones. The 5 MegaPixel one on Nexus S is better than the one on E72 I think but still not as good as the one found on Nokia N series or Sony Ericsson phones. The box shot on top is taken with the phone’s cam. Click on the photo to view the original full sized photo. 720p video recording is cool.

The Bad

Poor connectivity
Wi-Fi is not that good, phone keeps dropping signal at my home. My Nokia E72 was better than this one. Also 3G speeds and phone signal reception is not up to the mark. My phone is virtually useless for talking in my office where signals are very weak. Not being able to use a phone for making calls is terrible. I don’t know when Wi-Fi on mobile devices will become as good as on laptops.

Too much integration with Google
Google forces you to associate the phone with a Google account. Unless you do that you won’t be able to add contacts to your phone! That sucks! You cannot add contacts directly to the phone. You have to select an account for that! That’s bad!! I like the good old way of adding contacts just to phone. And then it syncs with your Google Contacts. That means every single person whom you had ever sent an email from your GMail will show up on the phone! WTF! Yes I can hide the contacts and show only those with phone numbers but still…. it’s junk data on phone and I don’t like it.

Lack of dedicated hardware buttons
There should have been a dedicated camera key and dedicated keys for accepting and rejecting a call. Dragging a green ball across the screen to receive a call is not the optimal way on a large screen phone especially with one hand. The feel of hard keys to make and disconnect calls cannot be matched by soft ones. May be I will get used to it as the time goes.

Speaker sound is very low.
Ah boy! Nothing can match Sony Ericsson phones in terms of sound quality. Both the near ear speaker and the loud speaker. The alarm sound is not enough to wake you up in the morning.

No easy way of synchronizing with Microsoft Outlook
This was shocking! I was not able to sync my Outlook contacts with the phone for nearly a day! I liked it with my Nokia E72, iMate JAMin and SE K750i, whenever I would connect my phone to comp through USB it would sync my Outlook contacts, calendar and tasks and also update phone date time. Samsung did not provide any software or drivers for connecting the phone to computer. I tried Samsung Kies but it didn’t work. Tried some other lousy ways like exporting all contacts as vCards and importing them in phone it didn’t work either. I never had so much trouble in past when I changed phones. Eventually I had to sync my contacts with my Google account using Go Outlook Sync Mod and then I was able to get them on my phone.

There are some paid products for synchronizing Outlook with Android over USB but they are outrageously priced at $35 and above. This gave me an idea for a product for Android. Outlook sync for Android. There are millions of Outlook users who must be having similar problems. May be I can build a product for them and price it reasonably say somewhere around $5.

Overall I am quite impressed and satisfied with the Samsung Google Nexus S despite some of the drawbacks. I mainly use it for browsing and the device does a phenomenal job there. Talking Tom and Angry Birds are a bonus! :)

Why Google Plus is no threat to Facebook

I have written an article about why Google+ is no threat to Facebook on Trak.in.

Facebook is personal. That makes it successful. There are many people who are on Facebook but they are not on Twitter. You know why? Because Twitter is NOT personal! When I login to Facebook I see updates FROM my friends, and ABOUT my friends. Who changed the relationship status, who got a kid, who changed the display picture, who friended whom etc. The news that matters to me the most! It is not the same on Twitter. And it is not the same on Google+ either.

Facebook is a community. It’s about people. Google is a robot. It’s about content. Social networking is about people. So Facebook will prevail over Google+.

Read the full article on Trak.in

What would I do with Skype if I was Microsoft CEO?

by Yash 0 Comments

I wrote an article on Trak.in – one of my favourie blogs on technology and business in India.

I slip into the shoes of Steve Ballmer – Microsoft’s CEO and discuss some opportunities with Skype.

Skype is in a different league as far as communication is concerned. Although every IM service lets you do voice and video calls between computers, nothing comes close to Skype in terms of quality and reliability of the service. The unique P2P approach behind Skype makes it super successful. If I was Microsoft CEO, this is what I would do with Skype

Continue reading it on Trak.in – What would I do with Skype if I was Microsoft CEO?

Nokia E72 is NOT for business

by Yash 3 Comments

I am hugely disappointed with my Nokia E72. This device is anything but a business phone as Nokia claims. The worst piece of software on the phone? – Email!! The WiFi connectivity sucks! The stupid phone keeps asking me to choose an access point every five minutes! Can’t you remember my preferred Access point damn it!!!??

Camera – sucks! Nokia N72’s 3 MP camera is far better than 5 MP camera on this dud! Off late Nokia has been providing a teeny-weeny USB cable to connect your phones with computer. Which has no practical purpose at all! The cable is hardly 3 inches in length? How the hell in the world can I use it to connect my phone to a CPU kept under the desk or even above the desk?

The phone hangs once in a week for no apparent reason, at one instance I had to remove the battery to reboot the phone cause it wont respond to reset button either! Another strange problem is the space key on the keyboard stops working after a few days, then I have no option but to reboot the phone.

Biggest gripe I am having is inability to place as many shortcuts as I want on the home screen. I sorely miss that from my Windows Mobile, where I could do so by using a third party software. The home screen only allows for 6 application shortcuts, and I can’t even customize some of the hardware key functions. If I have to start a calculator it involves exactly 7 key presses! Too much for a guy like me who is used to touch screen phones and launching apps with a single touch or press of a button.

The right hand soft key is assigned to Back as well as camera. I have got a text message, I have to hit the button thrice to get back to the home screen and many a times, I am faster than the UI, I press the right button one too many and it starts the camera! – Getting out of camera is another two clicks!!

This is a very premature phone from Nokia. They have not given any thought to the usability aspect. Usability, connectivity and operability – Nokia sucks on all counts. Even in the age of Smart Phones Nokia is still sticking with the UI and menu structure of dumb phones.

Nokia needs to think out of the box and come up with new features that best utilize the capabilities of the hardware. One instance – It has the speed dial option like any other phone. But it only allows configuring only 9 numbers for speed dial! That could have made sense on a phone which only has numeric keypad, but this phone has a QWERTY keypad, you can allow up to 26 speed dials! That would be so awesome.

I regret buying this phone! :(

Why should Microsoft be forced to advertise its rival’s products?

by Yash 2 Comments

Read this entry on Digital Inspiration – Microsoft will show a screento its users in EU to chose a different browser than IE!

WTF! Why in the world should a company be forced to advertise its competitors’s products on its own product? And that too in a hard core capitalist economy! Rival browser makers are crying over Microsoft’s “bundling” of a browser with OS! Right, now

Adobe should sue Microsoft for bundling MS paint
Makers of Edit Plus should sue them for bundling Notepad
Swiss watch makers should sue Microsoft for bundling a clock in the task bar
Keyboard maker Logitech should sue for including an onscreen keyboard with Windows

Going by the logic put forth by Mozilla, Opera and gang, Digital camera makers must sue Microsoft for including print screen option. After all if people take a snap of their screen using a simple command, they wont need a digital camera to actually take a photo of the screen and its hurting their business!

Crap!

Hunting for my next mobile phone

I want:

  • Brand: Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, HTC, BlackBerry
  • OS: Any except Windows Mobile (So HTC is almost out of question)!
  • WiFi
  • BlueTooth
  • Qwerty keypad
  • Screen: at least 3.5 inch
  • FM radio
  • 3G
  • Good quality camera with at least 3 Mega pixels and a Flash
  • Fast processor

At present I am using i-mate JAMin a rebranded HTC phone with Windows Mobile 5.0.

Windows Mobile sucks! The processor sucks! The combination is slow, the phone hangs often. There’s no querty keypad which I have found is must for a smartphone. It’s tedious typing emails or even SMS on the tiny on screen keypad. FM radio is something that I miss sorely from my Sony Eriscsson K750i. And 3G is round the corner, I would better get a 3G capable phone.

Nokia E90 is already out there but is expensive at 35K. Nokia E75 is another contender and is just out but it has an odler OS in Symbian S60. I am interested in Nokia N97 which is due in June. It has everything I want plus 32 GB in built memory and a 3.5 inch screen. The feature set is impressive. Lets wait and watch!

2pl.us – a URL shortening service with password protection

Just launched 2pl.us – a URL shortening service.

Why one more URL shortener?

Agree URL shorteners are dime a dozen. But we felt there was a need for one more. And 2plus has some unique benefits to offer.

Since its the latest one, there are one and two letter aliases available for grabs while most of the well established sites now generate aliases with 4 or more letters. At the moment 2plus generates the shortest URLs.

2plus also allows custom aliases, so if your favorite alias is not available on other sites, you can pick one here.

Then it has the unique ability to protect the shortened URLs with a password. You can share your private URLs only with a select few without worrying that someone may view it by simply typing a random string after http://2pl.us/.

Apart from this we some more exciting features coming up in the next few days. Below is a non-exhaustive list

Statistics – we are already tracking the hits on the URLs and are in the process of building a nice report of it.
Developer API – to integrate 2pl.us’s URL shortening abilities in applications.
Widgets for websites and blogs so that your users can quickly shortens URLs before posting them on the site.
Bookmarklets for browsers to shorten URLs instantly.

Do check out http://2pl.us