Friday, April 11, 2014

Life without a smartphone -- The better and the worse

It happens when you least expect about it. On one fine evening, I was on the scooter with my mum going to my aunt's place when one of my worst nightmares happened. I call it a nightmare because I did not dread about it, but I started once I faced the situation. I guess people who are so attached with their phones go through which I went through

I was so lazy in the evening on that day that I was still on my pyjamas, got on the bike and put my phone in the pocket which  did not have a zip. I was taking a turn near my aunt's home when I realised that my left pocket seemed lighter. The phone had slipped off and fell on the road. Worst thing another bike went over and it! . My heart stopped for a couple of seconds and my brain went blank. My darling phone had just been run over by a bike ;(

Having no faith left that the phone could be repaired, I  took it to an authorised service centre anyways.  later on ,I was  told that my Xperia ZR's screen is way different from the others. Both the touch screen and the panel are fused together in some way and there was no option to source the panel. When I enquired a bit more about it in the Sony forums, I was told that it would cost around 70% of the MRP price for the screen :0 . That means around ten thousand bucks for the damned screen! 

Leaving with no other option, I started using my mum's phone for a month. There was no update what so ever from the service centre for this whole period. It only created more aggravation within me as I was very much attached to my phone. So much so that I would even take it to the loo with me and read my daily dose of BBC news and flip board there. I recapped what has happened for two months without it and this is what I realised. Couldn't go for the morning jog because I was depending on run keeper. Would not read the news as I used to as I would only do so in the loo (We no longer get BBC on our cable TV nowadays) . Stopped listening to songs even though I had a yoga tab with me. One of my friend loaned me his Apple iPad for a while to see if I could adapt to it but, that wasn't helping me much either. Being obsessed with photography, my Instagram feed was always running. Even that activity had come to a halt. These were some of the bad instances which I faced and could not do anything from my end.

Coming to the good, the two months gave me ample opportunity to detach from my virtual  life. Sometimes, you take your phone for granted as your best buddy. There is a life outside the interconnected world which we access through applications like whatsapp,viber,messenger and what not . Not having these for two months would also mean that I had to groom my self to go outside more often, meet my friends and perhaps travel to places to do the same. Did I feel good? Initially no.But as time progressed , I realised that hanging out with the people you care and who give you some great time made more sense then doing so virtually. Overall, it has been a mixed bag. I have decreased my phone usage now and stay online only when I need to be there. There are always two sides to a coin and the case is the same when you adapt smarter technology.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Giving away a better way - Yoga tab donation

People say that things happen for a reason. I didn't understand it then, but now I really do. This is my short story of fruitful things that I've been able to do since I joined the Lenovo community in 2008.For those of you who are not familiar with it, it's a place where people help each other with their tech issues. Some of  the loyal lot stay back and become it's core users or super users. They are people who's names are never  known but ,they help the brand by staying in the front line -  defending it as an advocate, as a super user or a loyal customer. I was fortunate enough to be one of an  earlier member who was mentored upon by a handful of people to become  a moderator. And this was when I  got a sense of fulfillment for joining the forums.

Fast forward six years, I've had plenty of opportunities to interact with many people and was  invited to  join a Lenovo influencer network  which gives me an opportunity to reach out and share my story. And this is story one of those. It was in late January when I was given a chance by Lenovo to donate a Yoga tab to a charity of my choice. I agreed  to take on this opportunity and was looking out for a fitting organization or a person. This is when one of my family friend came to my rescue. Ms Premalatha is a Child development project officer who works  with the Department of Women welfare. She suggested that I take a tour of  Maaillu(Our home when translated) and then decide if it was the right place where  I could  donate the tab. This is when I told about Rajitha. The moment I met this girl, I knew that she was a deserving person.
Being an orphan did not stop her from pursuing her dreams. I personally spoke with her as she took me for a tour of the massive campus which is run for the betterment of orphan kids and especially girls. I was moved by the enthusiasm and dedication that the girls were putting upon. She also explained her own story about how she joined the orphanage around 8 years ago, and how her interest in Mathematics allowed to complete her master's in one of India's most prestigious colleges. 
Maaillu is located in a serene location, far way from the chaos of the city. This helps the kids to grow up in a peaceful environment. Maintaining a constant flow of donations for 200 orphans is quite a big deal but they have been able to pull through situations because of  the kids are bright and  have shown their mettle in various streams they are pursuing. I've seen girls who are pursuing their education in Math, Computers, Medicine, Nursing and other vocational courses.

It was a humbling experience for me to spend that day at the orphanage. After being told about how people from companies like oracle come over in the weekends to teach the students when needed, I was wondering if I could do the same  from my end whenever time permits me. Women empowerment is the key here,and the better way is only when these girls have the right tools to utilize and source information for their needs. I thank Lenovo from the bottom of my heart for making this happen, and I look forward towards similar opportunities where I can do my bit of help to the society.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Psoriasis and beyond

When a person is  passing through one of those times when  pressures of  career growth and lack of stable health converge as a problem upon you - it might result in something which you would never have expected before. I faced the same issue in the last week of October after loosing my job when   Psoriasis was at an aggravating stage.

 The world we live in is sometimes so full of mysteries I might say because, you would least expect to suffer from something which has been wrongly diagnosed twice and only when you really face  the outcome of it  is when you go for an alternative opinion. I was devastated when a doctor in Hyderabad confirmed my worst fears of having Psoriasis. This was more of having a social stigma then a health condition because, you cannot hide it unless your mental condition is stabilized. It will  start effecting your scalp and other parts of the body with reddish lesions which are nothing but extra cells that have come out of the inner dermis layers.

Although I was taking tropical treatment and was trying to keep it in check as much as  I could, rapid changes in my career around 4 months back have catalysed the condition and I decided enough was enough. I was told that Psoriasis also causes mental depression and it wouldn't have come at the wrong time . However, during my recent trip to Bangalore, my perspective of the condition has changed a lot and here is what I learned

One of my aunt is a professor of Biochemistry at a dental college. She is like a motherly figure to me  and it was she who told me that there were many reasons due to which the condition would occur and that could include hereditary ones.  Her son(My cousin) was facing the same issue and so was my mother's uncle. She explained that somewhere down the line we all were sharing the common genes which lead to have this condition an there was nothing to worry about it. She also suggested that I hit the gym as early as possible because regular exercise leads to the creation of  Endorphins which control your mental state and mitigate your depression levels. I believed her and joined in a nearby gym for a cardio program(to reduce my body weight) and it had resulted in wonders. 15 days after regular cardio, the feel  the change already and have also been able to control my heighted level of excitement over time.

I realised this last week when my Sony phone fell from my pocket onto the road and a vehicle went over it. I wasn't thinking of the worst case scenario this time as I believe that something magical(or scientific) process was going on in my brain and that was the increased state of sanity! .So yes I finally got my level of sanity after regular exercise and also by infusing a bit of spirituality within me!

So there you are folks, do not worry if you have psoriasis, it might not have a cure in sight but you can certainly control it using various methods. Be calm, stay positive, do the hard work you have to do and trust in god.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A week with the Lenovo Horizon

I first heard of  the Horizon PC when Lenovo announced it in CES this year. But what made it to gain recognition from the rest of the products was something which fascinated me. Because this is a family of PC's which no other company out there had ever attempted to set their foot in. Rightly called as table PC due to its form factor and usage, Lenovo has rolled the ball which has allowed other PC manufacturers to follow suite.

Luckily for me, I've finally got the opportunity to share my thoughts about this amazing machine which brings in  a whole new breed of PC's in the market. 

For starters,the horizon looks like a big tablet albeit till you understand the exact form factor. While it's an all  in one PC in purpose, the main intention of the horizon has been to bring people together to spend some quality time be it for multi user gaming or as a  weekend entertainment hotspot. 

The Horizon which  I got came with the following specifications 

                 Operating System : Windows 8 64bits 
               CPU                    : Intel Core i7 3667U @ 2.00GHz
               RAM                   : 8.00GB Dual-Channel DDR3
               Graphics              :Intel HD Graphics 4000 and NVIDIA GeForce GT620M
                Storage               : 1 TB segate HDD

Depending on what model of Horizon you get, there might be variations in CPU make  and the graphics processing unit. The display of the Horizon is approximately 27 inches - making it a perfect instrument for your multimedia and  multi user gaming. I upgraded mine to windows 8.1 and I do feel the fluidness of the OS throughout the UI and in the desktop mode as well. The screen comes with a resolution of  1920 x 1080 (Full HD) . If you have a switchable graphics model,there is the advantage of taking the help of both the GPU's depending on your power management mode. 

It was a delight to watch the colors come to life when I started using the desktop backgrounds which come with windows8/8.1 . I've actually found some wonderful wallpapers some having panoramic views - which bring a sense of liveliness to the horizon! It is one thing to experience them on a regular desktop but when you have such a system it is sometimes hard to choose the right wallpaper too! Another good thing of using a big screen AIO would be the full screen experience which you get with the metro apps in windows 8. It feels intuitive when you open them for the first time and there is natural interaction between you and the system. 

Watching movies or playing multi user games is what the Horizon has been designed apart from saving space in our homes.The system comes with built in support for Dolby home theater .Watching movies has been a delight on the horizon. You will get to know the full potential of the pc when running a high definition movie. I was watching Life of Pi on it the other day and the presence of the tiger on the screen was thrilling experience. 

With one of the main purpose being to save space, the horizon comes with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.It reduces the overall clutter on your desk which also helps you to concentrate on your work rather than messing around with wires which happens on a conventional desktop. The keyboard is of an accutype one but I haven't really found as comfortable as a traditional one. So I keep using my Microsoft ergonomic keyboard at times.The mouse is my favorite though .You will always feel that things are in control as long as you are using it because it is a big screen and once again requires a clutter free environment.You need to rotate the mouse to 180 degrees to switch it on and vice versa. I never saw these kind of devices but that could be just me 

One of the other main features of the horizon is the ability to play multi user games. It comes pre loaded with variety of games like Roulette, Monopoly,Tycoon and Air hockey and many other which are available in the Lenovo app shop. There also a number of education based titles which can be useful to parents who might want to teach to their kids.Whether playing a multi user game or working on your photos or education,the table mode brings in people together which also creates more interaction between people on a same thing. Lenovo has made this possible though an interface called "Aura" which kicks into action once you lay down the horizon. 

  While I have enjoyed this PC for a week,there are certain hiccups which I have faced and I hope lenovo takes note of them for the future versions. There are only two USB ports which are not really enough when one of the port taken up by the wireless keyboard and mouse. While there is an option to increase and decrease the volume via the capacitive touch buttons,it is not in the case of screen brightness - where only a single button has been given to increase/decrease the brightness value.This means if you want to decrease to the lowest level or next, you need to increase it to the full level before decreasing it down. The included battery has lasted for 3 hours This has been a noble attempt from Lenovo to produce a new breed of PC's. If you are looking to fill the gap between your multimedia centers and your conventional TV this would help you do that.It would also be a great way to spend some time with your family with the level of interactive features that this PC has to offer. Disclosure : - I am a member of the Lenovo Influencer network. Been lucky to be a part of the group which allows me to share my experiences and stories of the tech side of my life.

Friday, November 8, 2013

400 Miles of Bliss and Green -- A Life changing experience

There are some journeys in our life which only happen if  we are meant to have it. This one was something on a similar terms as   I  never expected it to happen in the first place. It was a firm determination of my friend  Suresh which made this incredible journey into a reality.

For days my friend would ask me to come visit his native town so that we could traverse the length of coastal Andhra Pradesh to complete a sacred journey of all the major Shiva temples in the region. Belief has it that if one could visit all the 5 major temples scattered along the eastern coast,our long cherished wishes would become a reality.

We had to start at 3 AM in the morning in order to cover the entire journey. As the darkness turned to light,the sights around  me we full of green.There was so much green that I could not find a small part of barren land anywhere.No wonder that coastal AP is called the rice bowl of India.

Vast green lands were rushing past for hours and hours. Our first stop was the historic 1200  year old temple at Samarlakota. Built by the chola dynasity during the early 800 AD, the temple is one of the few in India which is actually double storied. As we were exploring the temple complex, ancient vedic hyms were reveberating everywhere. The very sound of them gives you some of sort of mental stimulus. Once inside the temple complex, we has to go through an labyrinth of stair cases to reach the top where the actual cerimonies where being performed on Lord Shiva.  The Shiva lingam itself is one the of center of attraction - 14 feet in height and made of  limestone

The Lotus pond behind the temple

After an hour long prayer ceremony we came out and  started for our second destination - Draksharamam.  I have been told that these five famous temples are scattered  across the either sides of the river Godavari. They are seperated by at least a hundred kilometers each and it seemed covering all the temples in a day was quite strenuous. The journey itself was demanding and we  had to race against time to see all of them. 

The journey to Draksharamam  had been more than memorable.Every village through which we were passing had an impact of Godavari. I could see naturally made canals which were  running parallel to the fields where farmers would cool off in the evening by taking a plunge. There were also plenty of coconut plantations along the coast and it seemed a lot to take in for the day!  There was this one place on the way which did not seem to look like a typical Indian village. Most of the people there seemed to be millionaires and they  became so due to hundreds of acres of paddy fields which they own. The Village had beautiful lotus ponds and lake side villas - quite un common in a rural area. The rama temple in the midst   of the village remains the center of attraction. Although we were running out of time and had no business to do there,we stopped the car for a while and started taking some snaps.

After a quick bite at Yanam,we set out towards east Godavari  to cover two more temples. what amazed me was the scale at which the fertile lands were being utilized to raise and maintain fisheries apart from the lush paddy fields. While it was almost night fall by the time we covered the entire journey of 660 kms, there was a sense of satisfaction that we achieved what we started out for - and finishing the journey also meant that everything went well without any hiccups throughout. This was one the first sacred journeys which I took and perhaps much more will be covered in the future when time permits. While there was nothing special which I took in terms of  camera gear with me apart from my phone, a fully charged thinkpad x220T helped me in the form of an alternative phone charging source . Google Maps came to our rescue in a number of occasions and I wonder how this tedious journey would have been possible without leveraging on modern technology to traverse the length of ancient India. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Evolution of Ideapads

I've always had a liking of the IdeaPad range from Lenovo from my very first S10-2 to the very latest Z500 which I got very recently . While people think they are inferior in nature to the ThinkPads,I believe they fill the void in the entertainment space since the other range is mostly buisiness centric. From my personal experience and usage of many of the Idea series from 2009 to present, I've seen them evolve over time from design and usage perspective. This time I am sharing some of my personal thoughts about the Z500 from the IdeaPad range.

The first thing when I opened up the box was to see how the thickness of the Z500 had reduced.Also outer part of the screen has a clean design rather than having a pattern which the previous laptops had. Mine was a dark chocolate coloured laptop with clean looking matte finish on the top. 
Photo courtesy -- Lenovo India

The Z500 is 25% slimmer than a standard notebook. While that might be true,the weight factor doesn't change much when compared to my older Y560. Lenovo says it is slim and light but being a desktop replacement and a mainstream Multimedia notebook, I am not so sure if its "light" enough. Having said that - I have been happily using it as my primary computer for sometime from running Virtual machines,watching movies and sometimes exploring the features of Windows 8 ( Mine was a touch model) so the kind of interaction you have with the system via touch is quite amazing. While the 15.6 inches HD screen is a boon in the making, the choice of switching between Discreet and Integrated graphics gives us the advantage of  not sacrificing the battery life at the cost of the performance. 

Keyboards have also evolved in the IdeaPads.My previous Y560's keyboard was a delight to type on for long hours. The tactile feedback was good and I feel the same about the Z500 whose keyboard style has changed to island style which are slightly raised. Its a different experience when coming from the older keyboard type but you do get used to it over time. Another surprise was the full size keyboard with the dedicated number pad. Yay! Great job there Lenovo! . Oh and to mention that it comes with a backlight option just made some of my friends feel envy towards me ;) .

Having Windows 8 with a slimmer desktop replacement like this feels good . I am waiting for Windows 8.1 to comeout since it is a more polished version and hopefully that would complete some of the void that are present in Windows 8 .

Monday, May 13, 2013

Thinkpad Fan Replacement --- A Noob's perspective

Today I finally feel like I know a bit about Thinkpads atleast about the model which I am using - inside and out. Of the three ThinkPads  which I use, The T410 was the one which was acting desktop replacement. Some time back I faced a "Fan Errror" when  I tried to boot into the laptop.While I googled for a solution, I came across the same situations on the online forums at Lenovo. Suggestions ranged from fan replacement to using compressed air. Ultimately It turns out that the bearings had  worn out leading to the failure of the fan.

Now it was one thing where the fan failed and the laptop refused to boot. The other thing was to change the fan myself. Me being a Noob when it comes to thinkpads made the matter more complicated. I had a replacement part with me but was still  tinkering with the Idea about getting it serviced where ever it was possible. One of my friend even suggested that I take it to an HP service center to get it repaired which sounded so silly to me.To get rid of all these impediments, I decided to take the plunge myself wondering whether I could fix this issue at the earliest. 

The first place for me to go and do some reading was the Lenovo support site where I could not  only find some training videos which were giving some hands on examples but also a step by step based document which can be very essential to people who are still not adept at opening up the laptop.For a regular Thinkpadder, dealing with these kind of situations might be a breeze but doing it for the first time in my case wasnt all nice. The frst steps seemed to be pretty rudimentary for thinkpads i.e to open up the access panel and the and access the inside. Pulling out the keyboard was also an easy part as it needed only a single screw to be removed from the access panel

There were moments where I was apprehensive in dealing with the internal guiding wires which provided connectivity for the Thinklight, the trackpad,speakers and and the CPU/Heatsink. The wires seemed very delicate to deal with my hands but I started to remove them quite slowly according to the service training videos. Before I could remove the keyboard, I had to open up the track pad,the speaker assembly and the surrounding Bezel. After all this I  was able to look into the inner workings of the thinkpad once  removed the above mentioned parts.

Now came the critical part of opening up the LCD assembly. Critical for me because I had to use a bit of force to remove the LCD when it didn't work out the gentle way.Perhaps I need to be more careful here in the future when dealing with such a situation. Once the LCD unit was detached, I was finally able to see the complete roll cage which was supposed to protect the thinkpad from Accidental falls.It was an Aha moment for me as  I was very close to achieving what I was supposed to do. 

The previous place where the Fan was present was filled with a lot of dust. Visual proof of the situations in which I was using the ThinkPad be it dusty conditions or high tropical climate changes which are common in  India in most of the places. 

Removing the Fan was an easy part again and after applying what they specified as 0.2gms of thermal paste on the dedicated places,I placed it back and started to assemble the units in the reverse order. I also learnt here that the Fan model might vary depening whether you have a discrete or a Dedicated graphics unit. I can now proudly say that I am a tinkerer and a thinkpadder!