Thursday, November 29, 2007

Boil Your Water Before You Drink!

I recently visited a doctor in India to receive a regular checkup; blood pressure, cholesterol level... During my checkup, I asked the doctor what is the most common illness she encounters and what is the cause of it. Surprisingly she told me that stomach pain, and diarrhea were the common complaints and most were caused by drinking unhygienic water. She asked me if I boil the water before I drink it. I said that I didn't need to boil the water since I use Aquaguard to filter my water. At that point she started laughing, and advised that filter systems such as Aquaguard do not always filter water properly. In fact, some of these systems wear out quickly, have faulty parts, and ultimately don't remove all the bacteria from the water!

The only way to make sure you are drinking pure water is to boil it the night before and store in the fridge after it cools down - even if that water comes from a water filter system! So next time, you drink water out of a water filter system, ask yourself "Can I be 100% sure that this water is pure and healthy?".

Sunday, September 16, 2007

BSNL Broadband - Heaven and Hell!

I recently got BSNL Dataone Broadband installed in my home after a 2 months wait. Yep 2 months! For those of you that may be interested, this is what I went through to get BSNL Broadband installed in Dehradun, Uttaranchal:

July Day 1: I went to the front counter at BSNL and waited in line for 15 minutes to receive a BSNL Dataone Broadband form.

Day 2: Completed the form and had all the necessary documentation attached including id (driver's license), personal photo, and telephone bill. When I went to the front desk to submit the form, I was told that I was at the wrong counter. Apparently, there is another counter inside the building that handles form submissions. After waiting for another 5 minutes, I was told that that I should see the Sub Divisional Officer (SDO) to make sure that my application was in correct order. It turned out that the SDO had gone on lunch and did not bother to come back.

Day 4: Visited the SDO with all my required documentation. I was shocked at how bad he was treating people. Basically, he was being rude to customers and trying his best to find faults with people's applications so that he wouldn't have to do any work! Well, after a 10 minute wait, he finally looked at my application. He glanced at it for 10 seconds and threw it away! He roared that my BSNL Broadband application form was outdated. I told him that the front desk gave it to me 3 days ago. But, he simply laughed and said that the front desk support staff don't have a clue about anything. I was handed a new application form to fill out and asked to come back tomorrow.

Day 6: The SDO was nowhere to be found. Apparently, he was gone on lunch for the past 2 hours. There was a huge line in front of his door and people were becoming very annoyed indeed. But, nothing could be done.

Day 7: Submitted the application to SDO and was approved. He asked me to go back down to the front desk and submit the application. All went well.

Day 15: No news about the Broadband installation. So, I went to the BSNL SDO office and asked him about the status of my application. He smirked that they had run out of modems! Apparently, they were trying to fix the situation and it would be resolved within the next 1 week.

Day 22: Still no news... Called the SDO numerous times on his phone but no one picked up the phone. So finally, I had to travel again to his office. He basically dismissed me as though he didn't care. Finally, he said that new modems had arrived and my connection would be installed in the next 1 week. Furthermore, he gave me the phone number of local SDO to talk to in future.

Day 29: Called my local SDO. He was polite but said that there was a huge line for internet connections and that the technicians who install the connections weren't doing their job properly. He apologized and said that it would be installed in the next 10 days.

August Day 10: Called the local SDO again. He gave me the number of the local technician and asked me to chase him up personally and get the connection installed!!!!

Day 12: After finally managing to track down the technician, he cliamed that in fact there was another person (Pandey) who installs internet connections. He gave me his phone number and asked me to contact him.

Day 13: Pandey said that he was busy at the moment and he would install the connection at my home in the next 1 week.

Day 20: Still no news about my Broadband connection. Called Pandey again and he finally agreed to come and install the connection. Buy guess what? No modem!!!! Yep, he said that I would have to go the local SDO and bring the modem.

Day 21: Went to the local SDO's office. He made it seem as though he was doing me a favor by giving me a modem. Took me to one side of the room, and demanded that I pay him Rs.500 bribe. He finally settled for Rs.300!!!

Day 22: After configuring the modem on my computer, there was a problem. So, I called the local SDO. He said that my connection had not been activated yet!! It would take another 2-3 days.

Day 26: Heaven!! Finally, my connection was activated and I could access the Internet after 2 long grueling months!

I am on a 256K unlimited download plan. The average speed is about 30kbps which is excellent for a 256K connection. However, every day there is at least 1 outage which means that broadband is unaccessible for about 1 hour! But hey, I can live with that for the moment given what I went through in the last 2 months!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Citibank Credit Card

I have a Bank of Baroda (BoB) Credit Card and I am quite happy with it. But, one thing I don't like about the BoB card is the lack of benefits and bonuses compared to the Citibank Credit Card.

The Citibank Credit card is one of the leading cards out there. What makes it so great is that Citibank has a number of associations with leading companies such as IndianOil, Hutch, and Jet Airways to offer various incentives on their credit cards.

I particularly like the IndianOil Citibank Credit Card. With most other credit cards, if you use them at petrol pumps then you have to pay an extra surcharge fee on each purchase. But if you use the IndianOil Citibank Credit Card, there is no surcharge and in fact, you earn Turbo Points for purchasing Petrol worth more than Rs.200 at Indian Oil Petrol Pumps! These Turbo Points can be redeemed later on for free petrol.

If free petrol doesn't excite you, then how about the Citibank MTV Credit card where you get discounts on popular hangouts such as discotheques, pool parlors, bowling alleys and entertainment arcades. You also earn Reward Points which can be redeemed for clothing and accessories!

There is also the Hutch Citibank Credit Card, and Jet Airways Citibank Credit Card. It seems like Citibank has taken the extra effort to provide incentives and bonuses to cater for the different needs of people. They have bothered to develop associations with leading companies so that the consumer can choose from a variety of credit cards according to his/her interests and also save money in the meantime.

Who knows maybe, I'll also apply for a Citibank Credit Card as well. I am always keen for free petrol!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Credit Card Tips

Since, I have written a lot about credit cards lately, I noticed that I haven't written about the type of factors you should consider when choosing a credit card. So, here are a few tips:

Grace Period:

A grace period is the time you have to pay your bills monthly before your credit card company starts charging you interest on the unpaid amount! This is one of the most important factors when considering a credit card from any bank. Firstly, you need to make sure that there is a grace period included, and secondally, for how long. Of course, the longer the better. Find out the interest rates, and the minimum amount you must pay on your credit card in the grace period.


Find out about any hidden fees with your credit card such as membership fees, annual fees, and specific transaction fees. You should be looking for a credit card with no annual fees but remember that this is not the only factor. Sometimes, credit card companies that don't charge annual fees often increase their interest rates!

Low Interest Rate:

If you feel that you would not able to pay your credit card bills within the grace period, then this could be the most important factor when choosing a credit card! Remember, the interest is charged on the amount that is not payed. So, make sure that you compare the interest rates of all credit cards.


Often, credit card companies will include benefits with your credit card such as free insurance or bonus points. Ask, the credit companies for these benefits.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Quick Approval for your credit card!!

Some people have contacted me complaining that either their credit card application has been rejected or it is taking too long!

Well guys, I have a solution for all new applications. But for this solution, you will need to have a few lakhs in your bank account! Here is what you do:

Go directly to the manager of the bank. Introduce yourself, including what you do. Talk yourself up! Remember, the idea is to impress the manager of the bank. But don't suck up to him. The trick is to show the bank manager that you are important and well respected in the community. Then, tell the bank manager that you really like his bank, and their services. For this reason, you would like to apply for a credit card for your business which you are about to start. Make up some software business. Tell the bank manager that "as the business has not yet started, you do not have any annual income but that will change in the coming months. But, you need a credit card urgently, as you make many purchases every month in India and overseas!" This will help convince the bank manager that you could be a valuable customer for the bank. Now here is the killer punch:

Show the bank manager your passbook and point out that you have lakhs of Rupees in your account. Make sure you show him a bank account with a lot of money in it. In fact, it can be a passbook of another bank! Point out to the bank manager that you would like to receive your credit card quickly. All going well at this point, the bank manager will most likely give you a credit card application, help you to fill it out, and will personally sign it.

Now, if the bank manager is still not satisfied then tell the bank manager that, for extra assurance, you will make a fixed deposit of 1 Lakh Rupees into the bank and that the bank has nothing to lose (don't do this, if you are not prepared to make a fixed deposit). And that should be it! Your application gets sent to their head office and since the bank manager can vouch for you, your credit card application is approved quickly!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Insurance with your credit card!

Something that I just realised after exploring my Bank of Baroda credit card is that I get free accidental insurance with my credit card including Air Accident, Personal Accident, and Spouse Insurance. So, for example if you earn over 1.5 Lakhs per year, you qualify for a Gold credit card with Bank of Baroda. Now, with a Gold Credit card, you get
  • 15 Lakhs (1,500,000) of Air Accident Insurance
  • 7.5 Lakhs (750,000) of Personal Accident Insurance.
  • 2 Lakhs (200,000) of Spouse Insurance.
Also, you would qualify for Rs10,000 for baggage insurance in case you lose your baggage during air travel.

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Credit Card Bonus Point

I forgot to mention in my earlier post of Bank of Baroda credit card that every time you make a purchase, you earn Bonus Points. With my credit card, I earn 1 Bonus Point for very Rs.100 of the purchase amount. So, if I make a purchase of Rs.1,000, then I earn 10 Bonus Points on my credit card. Now, each Bonus Point is work Rs.0.50 paisa.

Then as I understand, it is possible to redeem your accumulated Bonus Points on your credit card with cash. I know that Rs.0.50 paisa per Bonus Point is not much but hey it is better than nothing! It would be interesting to compare this with others such as CitiBank credit card and ICICI Bank credit card.

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Credit Card in India

Just over a month ago, I got my Bank of Baroda(BOB) credit card and I am very happy with it. The approval process was quick and it only took about 2 weeks to receive the credit card from the date of the application! This is quite good since each application must go to the BOB Mumbai office for approval. There, a BOB representative will ring you and ask you some questions and verify some details. All going well, the credit card is sent through registered post at your home.

Generally to obtain a credit card, you need to have an annual income of 75,000 or more. Depending on high your annual salary is, you may qualify for a Gold credit card. You have the choice of Visa or Mastercard but really there is no significant difference between the two. The great thing about this BOB credit card is that there is no fee whatsoever provided you pay your bills in full all the time and you make at least 10 transactions per year.

Of course, there are times when you might want revolving credit - in which the customer does not pay the entire amount by the due date on their credit card. Still, you have to pay at least 5% of the total amount per month. So, if you made a transaction for Rs.1,000, then you must pay 5% of that (Rs.50) no matter what! The remaining amount of Rs.900 can be carried onto the next month but you have to pay interest on that. The interest is 1.99% per month on the remaining amount. Also, you have to pay service tax on the interest amount! Confusing? Well, remember that there is nothing to worry about if you pay all the bill amount per month as there is no fee on your credit card for lifetime!

Also, you can withdraw cash from your credit card but you have to pay hefty charges on the cash amount - about 2.5% of the amount. Generally, people do not withdraw cash from their credit card but use it for services and products at shops or on the Internet.

You can pay for the credit card every month via check or pay in cash at select Bank of Baroda branches.

So far, things have gone smoothly and I have used my credit card to make a number of purchases. Overall, a pleasant experience!

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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Hughes Satellite Internet!

Well, as you many know from my earlier posts, Reliance is becoming unbearable with its slow speed. Now, unfortunately, there is only BSNL broadband in my area. However, BSNL broadband takes about 2 months to install. So far, I have visited the BSNL office 12 times but still they make excuses. Also, the BSNL service is unreliable.

For this reason, I recently contacted Hughes for VSAT Satellite Internet. I rang there switchboard and they gave me a phone number of a person who could provide more information to me. I rang this person about 7 times but no one picked up the phone. After informing the switchboard numerous times about this problem, they would simply say that they could not do anything and finally they hung up on me!!! Can you believe it? Here I am prepared to give these guys money to install the Internet and yet they are so unprofessional that they do not even have a proper customer care line!!

About 1 month later, I get a surprise call from Hughes asking me about my inquiry. Needless to say, I gave them a good bashing on the phone about their poor service. Now, as it turns out, Hughes are one of the largest providers of VSAT Internet. Of course, I was quite shocked!

VSAT Internet involves the installation of a satellite dish about 1.5 meter in diameter on the your rooftop. The dish directly communicates with the satellite in space and sends a signal back to your rooftop. Obviously, with VSAT, you can be sitting on top of Mount Everest and still access the Internet with high speed!

The cost of the rooftop satellite including delivery and installation is about Rs.60,000 which is a one time cost. The satellite comes with a 1 year warranty. Since, the price is quite high, I asked the salesman if I could rent the satellite. However, he declined saying that the satellite must be purchased.

Hughes have a number of Internet plans ranging from 256Kpbs to 768 Kbps speed. Now, the weird thing about these plans is that they include a download limit per day! Generally, Internet plans offer you a monthly download limit but Hughes only offers a specified download limit per day. This ranges from 50mb to 200mb per day. If you exceed the download, they would limit your speed. Of course, this is quite inconvenient since programs these days are quite large and downloading programs over 200mb would become impossible! The cost of these plans range from Rs.4000/month to about Rs.25,000/month depending on your speed and download per day.

Anyway, I am considering their offer and he said that there is room for negotiation on the price. Still, I feel quite exploited that I would have to pay Rs.4000/month for an Internet connection with moderate speed in this day and age not to mention the Rs. 60,000 for the satellite! But what can I do?

Monday, August 6, 2007

I got robbed outside of a bank in India

5 days ago, I was robbed outside of a bank in India. This is what happened:

I was coming out of my bank with a briefcase. The briefcase had my passbook, checkbook, and about Rs.10,000 which I had withdrawn from the bank. I reached my car which was parked outside the bank, and put my briefcase on the passenger seat. Just then, a man walked in front of my car and gestured to the ground as though I had dropped some money outside of my car. The man quickly disappeared away. Now, as I had just come from a bank, I thought maybe I had accidentally dropped some money outside. So, I went out my car, and searched around the car to see what had happened. There, I noticed that many Rs.10 bills were scattered outside of my car! Needless to say, I was shocked and confused since I did not remember dropping any Rs.10 notes. So, I bent down and started picking up the notes. When I stood up, I was still confused and looked around to see if someone might have accidentally dropped their money. Suddenly, it struck me that the man who was gesturing to the ground had purposely dropped the money outside and that my briefcase had been left unattended inside my car. Of course, when I frantically searched my car, my briefcase was gone!!! Astonishingly, this all happened within 20 seconds!

I quickly went inside the bank and notified the robbery. They told me that similar thing had happened before! I must say that they weren't very helpful but they did block my account and checkbook so that no money could be withdrawn from my account.

I then went to the police station and filed a report. It turns out that there were 5 other robberies that had occurred the same time I was robbed (possibly a large gang as the police told me). The entire police force was out looking for the culprits. About 30 minutes later, the police called my mobile and told me that my briefcase had been found! The money was gone but all the papers were still there! The police had found the briefcase lying on the side of the road near a hotel (some 3 kilometers from the bank).

Of course, there is no hope of recovering the money. I am very disappointed at myself that I let this happen. However, I guess I have learned an important lesson and it could have been much worse. The police were telling me that some people had lost Lakhs of Rupees. Thank god, I only lost Rs.10,000! It certainly won't happen again.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Reliance Sucks...

It seems that Reliance is going downhill day by day. As you may know from my earlier posts on Reliance, I have a Reliance Wireless Data Card and am shocked at the terrible customer service and slow speed of less than 2kbps! Well, for the past 7 days, the Reliance Network has been on and off making it impossible to connect the data card. Reliance have crossed over the ocean of "common sense" and have decided to perform maintenance work during the day at peak times. Before, Reliance would do maintenance work at night time after 1am so that only minimum number of people would be affected. But, Reliance obviously don't care! In fact, even their customer service phone number has been down which is utterly confusing for customers as people don't know if something is wrong with their computer or with the Reliance network.

One of the big problems with Reliance is network congestion. This basically means that people are getting dead slow speed at under 1kbps!!! Can you believe it? In this day and age, an Internet connection is giving a speed of less than 1kps (slower than dial-up) which makes it impossible to browse the Internet and perform routine activities such as checking email and reading news!

Reliance is becoming a national embarrassment.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Digital Camera Tips - Zoom in and away!

I have been doing a lot of photography these days shooting the lush, foggy mountains of Indian hilly towns like Mussoorie. In the few months of shooting away with my Sony DSC-H2 Digital Camera, I have learned a few things about cameras that I didn't realize before. There are so many things to write about so I will focus on 1 tip per post.

Buy a Camera with a really good Zoom!!
You know when you are in a showroom filled with all those cool gadgets, it is easy to focus on minor issues like high resolution, fancy settings, editing software, and other things which you might only use once in a blue moon. But I guarantee you that Zoom is one thing that you will utilize over and over again. Shooting objects far away or really close can only be properly done if your camera has a good zoom. Make sure your digital camera has a zoom of 8x or better - up to 12x if possible. I have been using 12x zoom to capture villages and wildlife far away in the distant mountains that you might only get to see once in a lifetime. And everytime, I capture a great far away shot, I thank the Zoom feature on my camera!

In further posts on Digital Camera Tips, I will focus on resolution, battery life, and the image stabilization technology so that you can get the best out of your digital camera.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Reliance - Poor Customer Service

It is actually quite an embarrassment that Reliance - one the leading telecommunication companies in India - has such poor customer service and equally poor products. As you may know from my previous posts titled Wireless Internet - Reliance Data Card, I have been using the Reliance Data Card on my laptop for the last 6 months and frankly the customer service provided on phone has been appalling.

Did you know that you can check your data usage online at the Reliance Communications website? Well, the Reliance Customer Support people do not know of this service!! A few weeks back I was having problems logging into the Reliance website to check my data usage. So, I rang Customer Service at *333 from my data card. The Customer Service person did not even know that this it is possible to check data usage online. When I told him that it could be done on the Reliance website, he was quite embarrassed!

Did you know that Reliance do not have a specialized technical support team that can offer you technical assistance? The Reliance Customer Service people are given a set of answers that they try to match with your questions. Their most common answer to any technical problem is "Restart your Computer"!! Well, if the solution to every problem was "Restart your Computer", then all those technical support people around the world would soon become jobless!

Did you know that Reliance Customer Service does not have call waiting? For example, if you call Reliance Customer Service at *333, you will either hear the menu options and be connected to a real person or the *333 number will be engaged! Yep, there is no call waiting! There are times when I have redialed *333 up to 15 times in a row to get through because Reliance does not have the common sense to implement call waiting on their Customer Service line. I was telling this to a friend in Australia and we were having a good laugh that one of the leading telecommunication companies in India are so backward that they do not have call waiting on their main Customer Service phone line. Needless to say, this kind of poor service would be unacceptable in western countries.

Did you know that Reliance Customer Service people are not properly trained? In this case, you really have to blame the hierarchy and management for not spending enough money to properly train their Customer Service people. Of course, when it comes to taking your money, they are the best in the world but giving something back to the customer is always too difficult!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Samsung E250 mobile phone review

The Samsumg E250 is a mid-range mobile phone that will provide plenty of bang for your buck. It is priced at Rs.6,500. I am sure I could find a thousand faults with this phone if I compare it with the high-range phones! But I think that would be missing the whole point!

Design: The Samsung E250 is a slider phone that weighs only 80 grams. It is small, light weight and a nice phone to carry around in the hustle and bustle of the city. Furthermore, it has a large 2 inch TFT display screen at 128x160 pixels capable of showing up to 65K colors. The big screen looks fantastic and provides decent picture and colors.

Connectivity: The Samsung E250 mobile phone will connect to WAP, Bluetooth, and Edge. It has a nice little browser that will allow you to surf the Internet.

Messaging: Sms, MMS, and Email have all been taken care of by the Samsung E250. It is quite easy to create messages including adding pictures and video. It even has a emergency feature for sending automatic messages in case you are in an emergency. Just press the volume key 4 times and it will automatically send a sms to pre-defined numbers set by you. Very cool indeed!

Camera: The camera is a 640x480 VGA camera which is very poor indeed! But hey, it is good enough to take the occasional snap! You can also adjust various settings like white balance and snap resolution but don't expect this camera to compete with the high-range mobile phones!

Sound: I was impressed by the sound quality of the phone particularly with the built-in MP3 player and the FM radio. You can even create playlists and use a Bluetooth headset (free of any cables) to listen to your favorite songs! But remember that no USB cable is provided with this phone to transfer songs from the computer to the Samsung E250. You will have to buy a USB cable to do this.

Games: Ahh, how we love games! The Samsung E250 mobile phone will keep you occupied for hours! There are a number of Java games already installed on the phone. If you want more, you can always download more!

Software: The software that comes with the Samsung E250 is nothing to rave home about! It includes the standard stuff including world clock, alarm, organiser, memos, calculator...

Security: One of the big selling points of this phone is the tracker system in case this phone is stolen! This is particularly importantly to Indian users as mobile theft is quite common here. However, with the Samsung E250, there is no need to worry! The Samsung E250 mobile phone comes with a Mobile Tracker System which is able to detect unauthorized use of the phone. Now, if someone steals this phone, at some point the thief is going to insert a new sim card! That is when things start to get interesting because the Mobile Tracker System will detect the new sim card and automatically send a sms to 2 different pre-defined phone numbers that were set by the original user! Thieves BEWARE!!!

Battery: The battery will provide you with 250 hours of standby time and 5 hours of talk time - which ain't that great but is ok for a mid-level mobile phone!

Conclusion: The Samsung E250 is a good little phone that will do the basics right with the added level security for piece of mind! It has a bit of everything but nothing is superb. This phone is ideal for your average user who doesn't care much for the extra techie gadgets but also wants a phone with a camera, mp3 player, and some Java games! A good buy!!

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sony Ericsson W950i - Music Delight!

Generally, I wouldn't touch a mobile phone without a camera! But, in the case of the Sony Ericsson W950i, I am prepared to make an exception. Forget the iPod! You see the Sony Ericsson W950i is a smart phone with a music flavor!

Image Source: Sony Ericsson
Design: The Sony Ericsson W950i is a wonderful looking phone and is quite slim. I love the large 2.6 inch screen along with the flat keypad! First time I looked at this phone, I though that perhaps it was too wide. But, once you pick up the Sony Ericsson W950i and let it rest in your hands, you actually appreciate how the extra width of the phone allows it to fit exactly into your hands. This is particularly importantly while using the JogDial button to navigate through your songs on the left hand side of the phone with one hand.

The large 2.6 LCD inch screen displays 262K colors and gave beautiful, sharp colors. This is actually one of the big selling points of the phone!

Music: Now as I said I before, this is primary a Walkman style phone. There are so many music related features in this phone that it will make your head spin! So let's get started: The Sony Ericsson W950i has a 4GB memory capacity - enough to store over 4000 songs! It also has MegaBass, Music Tones, PlayNow, TrackId, stereo, option for including a Bluetooth stereo handset, FM radio, media player, 3G to download all those cool songs, Disc2Phone, and the list goes on and on....! Ah, now that keep you busy for a long long time!
  • MegaBass which is a Sony trademark feature provides for superior listening by enhancing the bass frequencies. This provides for loud and clear sound though your headphones.
  • PlayNow allows you to download MP3 ringtones to your mobile phone. Press the PlayNow button, select a song to listen, and if you like it you can buy it and set it as your ringtone!
  • TrackId is a great feature that identifies unknown songs. Simply record a few seconds of a song. TrackId will check the song with its music database, and send back the name, artist, and album to your mobile phone!
  • Disc2Phone is the most important feature of all! It allows you to drag and drop all your music files from your music cds to your mobile phone.
The sound quality is the best I have heard for a long time. I don't think any mobile phone that I have used out there can compete with the Sony Ericsson W950i when it comes to sound quality. The sound is loud, clear, crisp, and has that rocking effect to it.

Smart Phone: Not only is the Sony Ericsson W950i a music delight, but it is also a smart phone. It comes with a Opera web browser, RSS feader, 3D games, Bluetooth connectivity, USB support, sms, mms (multimedia messaging service), flight mode, handwriting recognition, and much more...! You probably know what those features do except may be the flight mode feature. Flight Mode also called airplane mode, turns off the transmitting signals from your mobile phone that may interfere with the airplane. With flight mode, you can use basic features of the phone such as music and games.

Battery: The Sony Ericsson W950i will give you 340 hours of standby time and 7.5 hours of talk time - good enough.

Conclusion: The Sony Ericsson W950i is priced around Rs.30,000. Yes I know it is expensive but then for a music junkie, this mobile phone would be money well spent! It has a fantastic array of music related features, complemented with smart phone features, and rocking sound quality. Well worth the money! I might buy one myself!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Philips Water Purifier - A Giant in the Making!

In recent news, Philips Electronics have decided to launch water purifiers in India. The water purifiers will range from Rs. 8,500 – 12,500. Apparently, they will use UV technology to purify water.

The Philips water purifiers will have a life of 10 years including a filter life for 3000 litres. The filters can be changed for only Rs.450.

The one thing that could allow Philips to dominate the water purifier market in India is their extensive distribution channels, aggressive marketing strategy, and great customer service. Philips have already started advertising their water purifiers on television. But this is only the beginning! They plan to setup Experience Centers throughout India which will allow consumers to see the product and taste the quality of the purified water! Also, Philips will provide sales support from their dedicated customer helpline.

It will be very interesting to see how Philips water purifiers perform in 1 years time after all their distribution channels have been sorted out along with heavy advertising! My bet is that the current big guys of the water purifying market in India (Aquaguard, and Kent) might be starting to get a little worried!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Mobile Mania - Motorola E6 Rokr Mobile Phone

Yes, we all love Motorola! Motorola is known for making classy, stylish phones that stand out from the rest of the competition. So far, I have only given my humble opinion on Nokia phones - the affordable Nokia 6300, and the fantastic (but expensive) Nokia N95. But now my friends, the time has come for Motorola to take the center stage! Allow me to showcase to you the Motorola E6 Rokr Mobile Phone - priced at Rs.15,000:

Image Source: Motorola

This phone is actually a PDA with a touchscreen- there is no keypad! The all black phone is slim and sleek and looks fantastic as you would expect from Motorola!

The Motorola E6 comes with 2 megapixel camera. Don't expect anything spectacular with only 2MP. Also, there is no flash or auto-focus. To make matters more difficult, the placement of the shutter key is unusual compared to other digital cameras. This makes it hard to capture spur-of-the-moment photographs! On a positive note, you can edit various settings like color, brightness, and digital zoom up to 8x to spruce up your videos and pictures. The phone comes with only 8mb of internal memory but does have a removable memory card slot that can hold up to 2GB. Overall the camera is nothing to rave home about and it is only good for occasional shooting.

The Motorola E6 is based on the open-source Linux operating system. The menus are accessible and easy to navigate. The Motorola E6 also has some useful software. For example, the Motorola E6 is capable of reading Adobe PDF, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. But, the one thing that impressed us the most was the Business Card Reader especially in India given that every "Bablu" and "Pinky" these days has a business card! Basically, the camera takes a picture of the Business Card and places all the relevant information in the contact details of the phone!

It is possible to browse the Internet with WAP. Furthermore, you can connect the Motorola E6 to your computer via USB. Your Java needs have also been taken care of with J2ME MIDP 2.0. This allows you to install a host of Java applications on your phone.

The Motorola E6 Rokr has been marketed as more of a sound entertainment phone in India with good reason. You see, we Indians love music - Bollywood movies are filled with music, my milkman loves listening to music(and singing!), my postman loves music, my servant loves music....and you get the point!! So, how good is the Motorola E6 Rokr in the sound department? Well, the phone comes with a 3.5mm audio jack allowing you to connect your headphones. Realplayer will play almost all music formats including AAC, AAC+, DRM, MIDI, MP3, RA, WAV and WMA. But, what disappointed us was the poor sound quality! The sound quality wasn't that crisp, and didn't have than Rocker feel to it. It was quite average and fuzzy at times! Maybe, that is why Motorola used Bollywood stars to market the Motorola E6 Rokr on television! You know people will buy anything if they see a movie star associated with it!!

Battery: The Motorola E6 battery will give you 235 hours of standby and 7 hours of talk time.

Conclusion: Even though the Motorola E6 Rokr is a cool looking mobile phone, it lacks decent camera capabilities and the sound quality is average. Even the software that comes with the Motorola E6 Rokr is mediocre when compared to other smart phones. Sadly, I would recommend that you give this phone a miss!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Nikon D80 - For the Serious Photographer!

Photography is one of my hobbies particularly while on my traveling adventures in India! For this reason, I bought a Sony DSC-H2 Digital Camera (you can read the review here). The Sony DSC-H2 is a wonderful digital camera that produces quality pictures and I am really happy with it. But, I want more! You see when you are a technology geek like me, you get to see all sorts of state-of-the-art gadgets! When it comes to gadgets, you can never have it all or have enough! Introducing the Nikon D80:

Image Source: Nikon-D80

The Nikon D80 is a semi-professional digital camera priced at Rs.70,000 (including the lens kit). It comes with a 10.2 effective megapixel CCD, a large 2.5inch LCD screen, and a 18 - 135 mm Nikon DX zoom lens kit which will provide you with nice sharp images. The camera has a sturdy feel to it. The size and weight of the camera are slightly smaller than its predecessor the D70.

The menu of the Nikon D80 has all the standard stuff like the playback menu (delete, playback, slideshow), shooting menu (sharpening, tone compensation, saturation...), setup menu, and custom settings! However, the most interesting is the retouch menu. The retouch menu allows you to manipulate your saved images including increasing brightness, red-eye correction, cropping, and color balance. But the coolest part of the retouch menu is the image overlay setting. This allows you to put one image on top of another so that they blend with each other. A really fun setting to play with!

The camera also has the PictureProject software allowing you to adjust color, brightness, and sharpness including minimal raw editing of the picture. If you want even greater control over your images, then you will have to fork out some money for the advanced software!

But, before you use these settings, you have to take a picture. The Nikon D80 will produce very high quality pictures along with excellent detail and colors. You can always tweak certain settings like the manual shutter speed or the ISO settings to improve your pictures. The camera also does well in extreme conditions including action shots. Furthermore, the camera produced very little noise for high ISO sensitivity settings.

The performance of the camera is outstanding! The auto focus worked well with the Nikon D80 and I couldn't notice any shutter lag whatsoever while taking pictures. Continuous shooting was a breeze. According to stats, it can produce 6 RAW or 100 JPEG images at just under 3 frames/second!!

The battery life of the Nikon D80 is good but remember that it will only accept Nikon batteries. I could only play with the Nikon D80 for a few hours so I couldn't tell you exactly how good the battery life is. But, I would expect the battery life to be excellent given that the Nikon D80 would be utilizing the powerful EN-EL3e battery.

Conclusion: The Nikon D80 provides high quality pictures and backs it up with spectacular performance. I would highly recommend this camera to anyone who is serious about photograph

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Pristine Water Purifier - Is it worth the price?

So far, we have looked at two leading water purifying brands in India; Eureka Forbes Aquaguard, and Kent water purifier. After these two, things start to get a little messy. Now, as I have mentioned in my earlier post, there are many water purifying brands in India and it is quite hard to keep track of them all. It seems that in some cities, certain brands dominate the market! The most effective marketing strategy for smaller water purifying companies is door-to-door salesmen which is often quite complicated to manage, monitor, and execute. But there is another problem; annual servicing and maintenance of the water purifying units. Now, the smaller brands can't afford to service the entire India! So, they pick and choose a certain city and put all their eggs in one basket! This means that their salesmen target a specific city and do aggressive marketing (at times unethical) to sell their products.

The Pristine Water Purifier is a perfect example of the above. It doesn't have the same brand power as Aquaguard, or Kent. In fact, the city that I live in, people haven't even heard of Pristine. But, if you travel to other cities particularly in the south of India, Pristine is a well known brand! And because, Pristine doesn't have the same nation wide popularity, their prices are quite high. You see it is a question of supply and demand! Aquaguard and Kent have decreased their prices because the demand for their products is high. But Pristine doesn't have the same brand power! Now at the time of writing, the Zero B Pristine Unit that utilizes the Reverse Osmosis Technology (to remove bacteria and other solvents from the water) is priced around the Rs.20,000 mark! Compare that with the other leading brands, and the initial investment on a Pristine water purifier is very costly.

But let's keep moving on and discuss the actual unit. The ZeroB Pristine water purifier does use the latest technology to remove bacteria. In particular, water is purified in 4 stages including Reverse Osmosis. The design of the Pristine unit is probably the biggest advantage that it has over Aquaguard, and Kent. It looks quite modern and high-tech and would fit in nicely in most kitchens.

The servicing network of ZeroB Pristine is very limited to only certain metropolitan cities. This could provide you with a lot of headaches as your unit is going to require annual servicing and maybe urgent servicing if a part fails. Personally, I wouldn't touch any water purifier unless it had an excellent service network in my area.

Overall, ZeroB Pristine is a little bit too expensive for my taste!

Reliance Data Card - Guide to Fast Internet Browsing!

As some of you may know, Roaming Wireless Internet access on a laptop is a big problem in India. Recently, I wrote a review of the Reliance Wireless Data Card. I have been using this card for the last 6 months, and I am only getting a speed of 2kbps!! An absolute nightmare. But what can you do? The serious competitors to Reliance are even worse. A lot of people have sent me messages and complained also of the slow speed. So, I figured I would write a post outlining some of the techniques that help me browse the Internet faster using the Reliance Data Card. These techniques would apply to most slow dial-up like connections. On the other hand, if you are lucky enough to have a fast and reliable Internet connection in India then ignore this post!

So, let's get started.

First thing you need to do is download the Firefox web browser if you don't already use it. Now, the great thing about using Firefox is the add-ons that you can easily install with a couple of clicks. Basically, add-ons provide extra functionality to your Firefox web browser. So go ahead, download and install the AdBlock and the FlashBlock add-ons after you have installed Firefox.

Now, our basic strategy is that we want to reduce the size of the webpages by somehow optimizing the images, Javascript, and extra plugins like flash. This would cause the overall download size to be reduced allowing you to browse the Internet faster.

*Flashblock is a Firefox add on that will block flash from webpages. Now, flash is notorious for being quite large in size. Flashblock will block all flash from a webpage and give you an option to view a particular flash by clicking on the play button. This is a must have tool!

*Turn javascript off! You can do this in Firefox by going to "Tools", then "Options". Click the "Content" tab and untick "Enable Javascript". Most quality websites will provide you with a html version if they detect that you do not have Javascript. Gmail is an example where you can view a html version if you don't have Javascript enabled. However, there are some websites such as Google Adwords, and others that cannot function properly without Javascript. In this case, you can always tick the "Enable Javascript" checkbox and refresh the page!

*Netbooster is a software released by Reliance that will allow you to view webpages quickly. The basic theory behind Netbooster is that it optimizes the images by reducing their quality. This causes the image size to be reduced. Now everytime, you view a webpage, you automatically download images. By reducing the image size, the total download size is reduced. Netbooster is a must have if you want to seriously browse the Internet with the Reliance Wireless Data Card! I personally couldn't live without it!

*And if all the above fails, then you can do the absolute extreme!! Block all jpg, and jpeg images from being displayed! You can do this with the AdBlock addon for Firefox. In the Firefox browser, click "Tools", and then click "AdBlock". There you will need to add an advertisement filter as follows:

The above two statements will block images with the jpg, and jpeg formats. Notice that we didn't block gif images as they are generally low in size.

Well, I hope that the above helps you to browse the Internet quicker - it has certainly made my life a little bit easier!!

Nokia N95 - My Envy!

Yesterday, we covered the Nokia 6300 Mobile Phone and if you read the review, you will notice that I wasn't too excited with the features of the phone. Why not? Well, allow me to showcase to you a high-end mobile phone that would make the Nokia 6300 seem like child's play!

My friends, the Nokia N95 is what dreams are made of! Yes, it is outrageously expensive - maybe too expensive. I promise I will tell you the price later in the post! The Nokia N95 is leader in the mobile phone market specially in India and is creating quite a bit of buzz. My crazy techie friend can't seem to stop talking about this phone so here it goes:

Image Source: Nokia

The Nokia N95 is adorned with a 5 megapixel camera (the Nokia 6300 has a 2 MP camera) that would provide you with amazing pictures and video. The video capabilities of this phone are absolutely outstanding! The Carl Zeiss optics, DVD quality video recording, auto focus, flash, and digital zoom up to 20x will provide you with all the tools to create fantastic video! Moreover, to get that perfect video, you can adjust constrast, brightness, color tone, and the ISO settings. You have over 150mb of user memory to store your favorite videos and pictures. If you want more, then the Nokia N95 also supports expandable media up to 2 GB!

Internet browsing is a breeze with the awesome Nokia web browser and is backed by the 3.5G technology. You can connect this mobile phone to almost anything imaginable! This includes Blutetooth, Wi-fi, uPnP, synchorization with the computer, television if compatible, UMTS, EDGE, SIP and a whole lot more!

The sound of the Nokia N95 is according to my friend "out of this world"! It provides support for eAAC+, AAC+, M4A, MPEG-4 ACC LC, LTP, MP3, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, 64 polyphonic MIDI, and WMA. And of course, there is a FM radio as well. At the back of the phone, there is 3.5mm handset jack for connecting your earphones. The sound quality is csrip and free of any distortion or noise.

Apart from sending sms, you can also send mms, and email. It supports the SMTP, POP3, IMAP4 email protocols. You can even view Excel and Word documents using QuickOffice. Software support is fantastic and includes calculator, stopwatch, organizer, to-do list, Dictaphone, Java games, adobe reader, and a zip utility.

Now, the design of the phone is a little bulky but then you would expect that given the enormous amount of features that it supports. The phone doesn't look that expensive or stunning but it does have a nice feel. Have you even seen a phone that slides both ways? Well, the Nokia N95 does!! It has a 2 way slider which slides both up and down! Very cool indeed!

If I wanted, I could go on and on and on about how great this phone is. But I am not! Let's talk about a few things that we didn't like. Even though, the Nokia N95 battery will give you up to 5 hours of talk-time or more, the battery will run out quickly if you use too many applications at once. We recommend that you keep a car charger handy so that you can recharge this phone at least twice in a day such as to and from work. Another issue that I had was that the resolution of the screen isn't that great but then this is more of a personal thing.

Conclusion: The best phone in the market - everything about this phone is exceptional!! But you might ask "what about the dreaded price?". Hold on to your seats!! The Nokia N95 is valued at Rs.40,000!!! I am sure you could get it cheaper if you shop around but I doubt that is much consolation. If you are lucky enough to own this phone, all I can say is that I envy you!!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Nokia 6300 Mobile Phone

Apart from Cricket, talking on or about a mobile phone is the second most popular pastime in India!! These days, anyone can afford to own and use a mobile phone thanks to the ever decreasing prices of mobile phones and the fierce competition between rivals! Everyone wants a greater piece of the lucrative mobile phone market and competitors are constantly introducing new offers and slashing prices to preempt or undermine each other.

So let's get the ball rolling on the mobile phone carnival! These days mobile phones are becoming more of an entertainment unit rather than simply a device for chatting away. Now, given most of us carry our mobile phones everywhere we go (literally!), you really want something which will do the basics right but have those extra features that will provide you with lots of fun as well. Also, mobile phones are constantly changing and incorporating new technology and style. So I say, buy something affordable which you can change after a couple of years or so. That is my thinking anyway!!

Enter the Nokia 6300 priced around the Rs.10,000 mark. One of the reasons why this mobile phone is so popular in India is it's slim and sleek design. The surface is made from stainless steel which gives it an expensive look and feel! The phone will fit nicely into your hands courtesy of its slim design and perfect width.

Image Source: Amazon

The Nokia 6300 has a large 2 inch screen capable of showing 16.7 million true colors. Needless to say, this will provide with fantastic colors and display.

The keypad is easily accessible. The Nokia 6300 has only a 2 megapixel camera along with 8x zoom. This ain't great by today's standards but it will do the job. Also, only 7.8 mb of memory is provided but you can upgrade it to 2 GB if you like.

Now for the good stuff! Wireless connectivity has been taken care of with Bluetooth support. The phone comes with GSM/EDGE coverage for fast downloads and has a web browser for browsing the internet! The battery will last you for 14.5 days with 3.5 hours of talk time which is satisfactory but not great!

Of course, your messaging and gaming needs are taken of - a must in India! You can send sms, mms (multimedia messaging service - capable of sending text, pictures, audio, and video in 1 message), and email. The phone has Java games installed but you can download more if you like.

Your music needs have also been catered for! The Nokia 6300 will play MP3, MP4, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, H.263, and H.264 formats. It also has a FM radio which was working fine when tested.

The Nokia 6300 is a quality phone which does the basics right but also has many handy features. It mightn't have the best and the greatest features but it does enough to keep you occupied and provide you with lots of fun. And if nothing else, this phone looks stunning and feels great!

Denon DVD-2910 HDMI DVD Player - The Big Daddy!

We have already covered the Philips 3046 DVD Player priced at just under Rs.4,000 - a good buy for your average television. But what if you own a high performance television like the Samsung LCD Television? In this case, you really want a DVD Player to back up your expensive television and exploit all the features! So in light of this, let's go a little bit crazy and consider the Denon DVD-2910 HDMI DVD Player. The price: Rs.60,000!!! No, I didn't put too many zeros at the end!

Now, a DVD Player in this price range better have exceptional picture quality and sound to say the least. Well, the Denon DVD-2910 HDMI DVD Player lives up to every single paisa! I was absolutely floored with the stunning picture quality and sound!

The Denon DVD Player has both HDMi and DVI connections for different televisions.

The television has all the necessary firepower to provide you with amazing video. This includes Progressive Scan Playback, DCDi video processing, and Video Noise Shaping. Moreover, the Denon DVD-2910 will play almost anything that you can wish for including DVD-Audio, DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW, SACD, CD-R/RW, VCD, MP3, and WMA!!! What more can you ask for?! One great thing that you will immediately notice about the video is the precise detail even when it's upscaling pictures to a higher resolution television.

The sound is backed up with Dolby Digital and provides digital audio for up to 6 channels!

Now I must say, I love playing with my gadgets but even after playing with the Denon DVD-2910 HDMI DVD Player for more than an hour, I still felt as though I had barely scratched the surface. Now, if you are a novice who doesn't really want all the extra detail or perhaps you just don't have the time, then this DVD Player might be a little overwhelming!

Conclusion: If you own a LCD or a Plasma, then go ahead and buy the Denon DVD-2910 HDMI DVD Player. You won't regret it! Denon is world-renowned for making quality DVD Players that are exceptional in every sense! This DVD Player certainly lives up to all the hype! It support almost every format and is jam-packed with features. But, on the other hand, if you have a low-end television, then it is probably best if you stick with something like the Philips 3046 DVD Player (upgrade your television before buying this baby)!

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Monday, June 4, 2007

Philips 3046 DVD Player

A couple days ago, we covered the LG 42PX4RV Plasma Television and Samsung LCD Television! Well, now you are going to need a decent DVD player to go with that cool television! This is where I need a friend to help me out! One of my friends has the Philips 3046 DVD Player and so I figured I would use him as a guinea pig!!

One think that is appealing about the Philips 3046 DVD Player is the price. If you shop around, you can purchase this dvd player for under Rs.4,000. So is it any good?

Well firstly, this dvd player has a beautiful slim design and looks good in my friend's living room. But when it comes to dvd players, good looks is only a minor issue! The real test would come while playing movies. I tested a number of movies with different formats such as VCD and DivX and I was pleasantly surprised at the excellent quality of the audio and video! The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel surround sound ensures that you get a movie-theater like sound. Basically, the 5.1 channel surround sound processes the sound into 6 different channels. The 5 in 5:1 includes front right, rear right, front left, rear left, and center while the 1 stands for low bass sound. In this case, the sound would be evenly spread all over the room and would seem like it is coming from everywhere, a bit like the theater!

The video is backed by the Progressive Scan technology which provides smoother and detailed video images. Remember though that this DVD player will only play PAL, and NTSC formats.

Of course, dvd players can also play music! The Philips 3046 DVD Player is equipped with the Windows Media Audio for playing music and is good at reducing distortion and noise!

The Philips 3046 DVD Player is good value for money. At the end of the day, great picture quality and sound are the most important factors when buying any DVD player. The Philips 3046 DVD Player does exactly that. My friend is quite happy with this DVD player and so am I!

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Sony DSC-H2 Digital Camera

Image Source: Sony

I recently bought this camera and I am quite happy with my purchase! The Sony DSC-H2 is priced at Rs.19,990 and at first feels a little bulky. After a while using this camera, you actually appreciate holding the sturdy camera with its big grip! This camera is 6 megapixel with 12 x optical zoom lens and has image stabilization technology. This is particularly important for an amateur like myself. Basically, the image stabilization technology detects the camera move in your hands and automatically compensates this motion by shifting the camera lens. The Sony DSC-H2's predecessor "H1" also had this technology.

The picture quality is fantastic specially indoors and the red eye reduction tool is very handy indeed! Also, you can utilize the white balance feature by setting it to Auto, Manual, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, or Flash. Moreover, you can set various image parameters such as Saturation, Sharpness, and Contrast. Depending on your image setting, you can also select different shooting modes such as Landscape, Portrait, or Beach. Recording small movies is also a breeze.

Basically, it is up to you as to how far you want to go with these advanced settings. Of course, you can connect this camera to your computer through the USB port.

I was very impressed with the battery life of the Sony DSC-H2 Digital Camera compared to some of the Olympus cameras in this range. This is particularly important for me as I travel a lot throughout India.

Now for the negative stuff! I wish this camera had a slightly larger LCD screen, a bit like its predecessor, the H1! The second issue is that it is quite noisy for high ISO sensitivity settings. However, this issue is there with most other cameras as well. Generally, higher ISO settings = more noise! Really, I would recommend that you only increase the ISO for extreme conditions.

Conclusion: The Sony DSC-H2 Digital Camera is great value for money! It has an excellent battery life, produces quality pictures, and includes some really cool features for advanced users! A good buy!

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Sunday, June 3, 2007

Kent Water Purifier - Prince of the Jungle!

We recently covered the Aquaguard Water Purifier - King of the Jungle, the leader in the 900 crore water purifier market! Well, now it is time to talk about the Kent Water Purifier, the Prince of the Jungle! It seems everyone has a view on which one is better. Those that have Aquaguard will tell you that Kent is better while people that use the Kent will tell you that Aquaguard is the best! As the famous saying goes "the grass is greener on the other side"!

The Kent Group have a number of water purifiers in their range of products for you to choose from:
  • Kent Wonder
  • Kent Grand Super
  • Kent Excell Super
The most popular would be the Kent Grand Super which is priced at about Rs.14,000.
Image Source: Kent

The unit is quite large and will take up quite a bit of space in your kitchen. However you can mount this on your wall which will save space below the water purifier. It utilises the Reverse Osmosis technology to remove bacteria and other solute materials from the water leaving you with pure water! One great thing about this unit is that it has a capacity of storing 8 Litres of water in the tank while it can produce 15 Litres of water per hour!! That is alone a good reason to buy this unit.

One important thing to remember about Kent water purifiers is that they do not have the largest network of service specialists like other water purifiers particularly the Aquaguard water purifier from Eureka Forbes Ltd. Now, your Kent water purifier is going to require annual maintenance. And it is highly possible that you might get a raw deal and end up with a defective unit. Also, some of the parts might fail which would require urgent servicing. If you live outside of metropolitan cities, then you might have to wait a while before your Kent unit gets serviced!

Overall though, Kent is a great choice for your water purifying needs! It has good quality products and better than average customer service.

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LG 42PX4RV Plasma Television

If you are looking for an affordable quality Plasma television under the Rs.1 Lakh(Rs.100000) range, then this might be the perfect television for you. A few days ago, we reviewed the Samsung LCD television. You might be wondering "what is the difference between Plasma and LCD?". Well, Plasma and LCD use a different technology to display a picture. I won't go into the technical specifications. Basically, Plasma televisions are generally larger than LCD televisions and have better contrast and deeper blacks than LCD. On the other hand, LCD televisions have longer lifespan, higher resolution, lower power consumption, and are lighter than Plasma televisions. So, if you are looking for a large television with great picture quality for watching your favorite shows and movies, then go for a Plasma. But, if you want a smaller television including viewing digital photography, then LCD is your best choice.

LG 42PX4RV Plasma Television - Price Rs.95,000

Image Source: LG

The LG 42PX4RV plasma television provides a lot of bang for your buck! The design of the television is slim, elegant, and looks good in the LG showroom. It is quite lightweight, and can be easily wall mounted. The resolution is 852x80 which would provide you with good quality High definition pictures.

One of the great things about this tv is that it includes SRS TruSurround. This would provide you with a clear and crisp 3d sound that would be great for watching movies or listening to music. To add to this, you can connect almost anything to this television using the High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) such as your camcorder, video game, dvd player, or even your pc. Of course with HDMI , you get better picture and sound and it allows you to connect your video and audio to your television with only 1 cable.

Overall, this television would be a fantastic choice under the Rs.1 Lakh price range. It includes all sorts of fancy technology, and features that will make watching television a pleasure!

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Saturday, June 2, 2007

Wireless Internet - Reliance Data Card

I travel a lot in India from Delhi to Lucknow to Dehradun and so I require a wireless Internet connection that I can use anytime from anywhere on my laptop. In India, unfortunately there are only 2 serious contenders; Reliance, or Tata. Both these companies provide wireless Data Cards that you can plug into your laptop and access the Internet. These cards use the CDMA2000 technology (mobile digital radio that transmits bits of data) . I have been using the Reliance Data Card for the last 6 months and here is my review.

I bought my Data Card in Delhi from a salesman who came to my home. He plugged the Data Card into his laptop's USB port and was happy to give a demo. On the other hand, Tata were also prepared to send a representative but wouldn't give a demo! As a general rule of thumb, NEVER BUY ANYTHING IN INDIA UNLESS YOU CAN HAVE A DEMO! There is virtually zero regulation in India when it comes to fraudulent practices or defective products (see also Aquaguard water purifier). So make sure they give you a demo!

During the demo, the Reliance Data Card was giving a speed of about 5kbps!!! Yes, I said 5kbps which is an absolute disgrace in this modern world! Tata is even slower! But, given the lack of choices, I finally decided to buy the data card for Rs.3,600 (USD 90). This is a non-refundable fee and the data card is yours to keep for life irrespective of whether you connect to Reliance. Of course, with this Data Card, you can only connect to Reliance.

The Data Card also allows you to make phone calls. More on this later.

Now as of writing (3 June 2007), there are 3 plans for you to choose from.
  • Freedom - Rs.650/month (USD 17) - 1GB download
  • Freedom Plus - Rs.900/month (USD 23) - 1.5GB download
  • Platinum - Rs.1500/month (USD 38) - Unlimited download.
So which one should you get? Let's do a little math. For the last 6 months, I have been averaging a speed of 3kbps! But for the sake of argument, let us assume you get lucky and get a speed of 5kbps. Now, 5kbps would allow you to download a mere 18mb in 1 hour! This is if you are downloading a file continuously for 1 hour. For casual-medium Internet browsing and file downloading, you would probably max out at about 50mb/day. Multiply that with 30 days in a month, and you get 1.5Gb(1500mb) download. Now personally, I use the internet a lot (about 7 hours per day) on my laptop and since I am getting a speed of only 2kbps, realistically I can not download more than 1GB. For these reasons, I would highly recommend the Freedom Plan. If you are a heavy user and will be using this data card in metropolitan areas like Delhi, then go for the Freedom Plus plan as you would get a better speed and so would be able to download more.

Now, download speed is a big problem. So, Reliance have recently introduced a new software called NetBooster to help you browse the Internet quicker. When you buy the Data Card, NetBooster will come with it. Basically, NetBooster increases your download speed by optimising the images that you automatically download when you surf the Internet. It reduces the quality of the images by duplicating some of the pixels so that you see a blurred image. This means that the image size is reduced and so is the download which allows you to view a webpage quickly. Without NetBooster, it would become unbearable to use this Reliance connection. When you buy the data card, the salesman will come to your home and install it for you. Make sure you ask the salesman (who delivers it) to test it in on your computer in front of you and show you how to turn on NetBooster.

You can also make phone calls and send sms to any phone in India. The voice quality is fuzzy but it does the job! Voice call charges do apply but I think you get some free sms. Ask the salesman for more information. By the way, you can not browse the internet and make calls or send sms at the same time. You must disconnect one to use the other.

Another thing that you must take note of is that in order to use the Reliance Data Card from anywhere in India, you must call Reliance Customer Service and ask them to turn on roaming. Yes I know it is stupid as most people that would buy this card would do roaming. But that is the way they have done it! So for example, if you buy the Data Card in Delhi, you cannot use it outside of the National Capital Region unless roaming is turned on.

One thing to be wary of is if the salesman offers you a discount on the rental plan!!!!! If he does, don't take his word!! To make sure, go to the Reliance website and check out their tarrifs. This is a common fraudulent practice among the salesmen in India!! My father has fallen prey to a salesman who claimed that there was 2 month free rent with the Data Card. Of course, when the bill arrived for Rs.850 after 1 month, my father was shocked and called Reliance Customer Service who said that no such deal was ever present. A complaint was registered but nothing has happened yet!

In conclusion, the Reliance Data Card is hopelessly slow with an uptime of only 90%! Compare that with the landline Airtel broadband in Delhi where I was getting an uptime of 99%! But, given the lack of Internet broadband connectivity outside of metropolitan areas in India and poor competition in the wireless market, Reliance is the best choice for wireless Internet access!

To see my other posts on Reliance, click here.

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