Unofficial Method to Update WP7 to ‘NoDo’

While at TechEd India 2011 in Bangalore last week, my phone suddenly popped up a message saying that a new update is available. Unfortunately since my laptop was not on the Internet at the time, I had to click the button to “Remind me Later”. Sadly I didn’t know how much later this was going to be. Repeated trying to get the update when I did finally get connected did not show me the update on the phone or the Zune software.

But thanks to some enterprising guys over at XDA-Developers (dawnrazr, Bonebreaker, pLUSpISTOL, zard, and others), there is a way to get your phone to find the update immediately. Note that I’ve tested this on my unlocked Samsung Omnia 7. However please try this at your own risk. I’m not responsible for bricking or otherwise damaging your phone or data.

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Categories: Gadgets | Tips | Windows Phone

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My New Phone–Samsung Omnia 7

An update to the blog after a long time! And this is to announce my new phone – a Samsung Omnia 7 running Windows Phone 7! The specs of the phone are:

  • Operating System: Windows Phone 7 Omnia7
  • Processor: Qualcomm SnapDragon QSD8250
  • Display: 4" WVGA (800x480) Super-AMOLED 24 bit
  • Camera: 5.0MP Camera with LED flash and Auto-Focus
  • Memory: 512 MB RAM, 1GB ROM, 8 GB Internal Storage
  • Connectivity: WLAN 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR, USB 2.0
  • Dimensions: 122 x 64 x 10.99 mm
  • Weight: 138g
  • Battery: 1500mAh
  • Other: FM Radio, Digital Compass, Ambient Light Sensor, Proximity Sensor, G-Sensor and capacitive sensor buttons

Said to be the best WP7 device available, it’s a big upgrade from the HTC TyTn II (WM6.1) that I had previously. It’s got a bigger screen, Super-AMOLED so the blacks are super sharp and crisp images.

I got an unlocked device for Rs. 24,999/- from a dealer in Gurgaon. I went over and tested the device and picked it up. (Contact me and I’ll send over the dealer’s details if you want.) This price was a steal considering the Clove UK was showing for approx. Rs. 32,000 with shipping to India (customs duty extra).

The phone setup went off quite easily too. I already had the Zune software on my machine and it detected the phone immediately and downloaded some drivers. I started syncing up some music and videos. They show very nicely in the phone.

Getting the apps from the WP7 Marketplace was a little more involved. Basically as Microsoft has not yet launched WP7 in India yet, the marketplace is not available on the Phone or through Zune. But thanks to the guys over at The Windows Club, you can use a simple software to enable apps from India as well. I’ve managed to load a ton of free apps so far – yet to try some paid ones – although they do show prices in Rupees!

Pros

  • Stunning screen, fast response, light, thin
  • Integration with Zune is brilliant
  • New Metro UI is really cool and snappy
  • Apps look great

Cons

  • Still getting used to the Phone Dialer
  • Can’t search Exchange mail from Inbox – but can do it from the browser
  • The “Search” key on my phone is too sensitive, I keep jumping into the search unintentionally

I’ll start posting about some of the apps I’m starting to use on the phone soon.


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Categories: Gadgets | Windows Phone

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Desktops Gadgets for Windows 7

I really liked the blog post by Bill Evjen regarding some of his favorite desktop gadgets. I’ve been using a bunch of gadgets since Vista days and I continue to use them here. Here’s my list of gadgets on the desktop:

G01G02Large Notes Gadget: This is a modification of the built-in Notes gadget available in Vista (but not in Win7). It allows you  to quickly write a sticky note on the screen and also increase the size of the note. I know Windows 7 has a built in Sticky Notes application, but I like my desktop to be clean and this fits the bill perfectly. Just remember to click the “English” link at the top to view the site in English when you go to download the gadget.

G04G03 I also use the built in Weather and Currency gadgets with settings for my city and country. I find this quite sufficient for my needs. The good part is that these gadgets are  now enhanced in Windows 7 and have a large mode as well for looking at multiple days of weather or multiple currencies at a time.

 

G05 System Monitor is the next gadget I use. It’s a combo gadget which shows a multi-CPU monitor, a memory monitor, date & time, notebook battery level, wireless strength and IP address. It also has useful tools like ping, traceroute and whois as well!

G06Another gadget from the same company is the Quick Launch gadget. This allows me to store shortcuts to apps that I use occasionally but are not “installed” normally. For instance, I have moved the Recycle bin off my desktop to this gadget as well as quick clicks to my C and D drives. I also have “portable apps” such as WinSCP, FireFox 3.5.2 and MS FTM that I use occasionally but are not in my Start Menu.

G07 Next is “The Region” Gadget which allows me to see the latest featured posts from TheRegion.com – the blog aggregation space for Microsoft Regional Directors. It’s good to see what some of the top experts in the Microsoft technology space are talking about and i’m honored and humbled to be in this same list!

 

Since I’m on a 17” notebook running at 1920x1200 i have a bunch of more space that I occasionally try out some other gadgets in the space available. But the above ones are some that I use all the time.


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Categories: Gadgets | Windows 7 | Tips

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Windows 7 & Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse

I have a Microsoft Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000 which is a really great input devices that I carry around with my notebook. I’ve been using it with Vista when doing presentations and it has been a really useful companion.

However, with Windows 7, the device seems to be a little flaky. During the beta I even gave it as a feedback and now that the RC is here I tried it out today. Windows Bluetooth recognized the device and showed me the full name even. It even downloaded some driver from Windows Update and installed it successfully. Or so it said. I simply couldn’t get the mouse pointer to move using the mouse.

I then downloaded the beta drivers for the IntelliPoint software for Windows 7 (x86, x64) for my installation and tried again. Removed the device, updated the drivers manually and everything, but it still wouldn’t work. Doggedly, repeated the process a few more times till suddenly the mouse sprung to life. I have no clue whatsoever regarding what I done to get it working. But it seems to be ok for now.

Update 1: I’ve switched off the mouse and turned it back on. Seems to be still working

Update 2: Switched off Bluetooth and turned it on again and it’s working still. Yay.

Update 3: As the release notes for the beta drivers state, you cannot switch to “presentation” mode with these drivers and the presentation special buttons don’t function. BUMMER! But at least I’ve got a working mouse now.


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Categories: Windows 7 | Tips | Gadgets

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HD Digital Media Player

I’ve been thinking of getting either a multi-format media player or a Windows Media Center PC for my house for a while. This is to play all the HD TV shows that we watch (Lost, Desperate Housewives, The Big Bang Theory, etc.) and all my archived movies and TV shows. The Media Center PC was working out to be a little too expensive and I really didn’t need the Pause-Play-Record TV feature anyway.

I suddenly came across the Western Digital WD-TV device. This is a tiny device that plugs into your LCD HDTV using composite or HDMI cables and plays media sitting in any USB based storage device that is connected to it. For a price of < $100 I went about looking to see if it was available in India.

 WD

I luckily found it in Nehru Place from the WD distributors themselves. Available currently at Rs. 7000+tax, it was a steal. I bought it yesterday and connected it up. I also got the latest firmware and upgraded the device. It not only recognized every single format I threw at it (AVI, WMV, MKV and more), it played them without even a hint of a stutter.

I’m now converting all my kid’s DVDs (Thomas & Friends, Tom & Jerry, Noddy, Mr. Bean, etc.) to a high compression MKV format that I can leave attached to the device. Any time he asks for a different thing to watch, we can quickly switch without requiring to physically change DVDs. Also, TV shows that I get from the Internet can also be easily watched without burning a DVD for it. The only thing missing is Wi-Fi connectivity – but it’s really not of much importance for what I need this for. A great buy if you are into a lot of digital media watching on your HDTV.


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Categories: Gadgets | Rave

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Windows 7, F.E.A.R. 2 and My Notebook

I’m an occasional, avid gamer and once in a while, when I get some free time, I like to go ahead and shoot some baddies on screen. That’s why I bought a fairly expensive Dell XPS M1710 almost exactly 2 years ago.

After recently installing Windows 7, I really hadn’t tried out any games. But when the F.E.A.R. 2 demo was released last week, I went ahead and downloaded the whopping 1.76 GB demo file to try out.

The install on Windows 7 was smooth – although I was surprised that it required me to install DirectX 9c. Since Windows 7 has DirectX 10.1, I assumed that it would be backward compatible. Anyway, after installing and starting it up, I went into the Graphics Options screen and cranked everything to maximum settings. The only thing I turned off was Motion Blur (gives me a headache) and FSAA and AF to 2x each.

It’s great to note that my 2 year old notebook can still play the latest game at 1920x1200, 2xFSAA, 2xAF and all other settings at Maximum at a very decent playable frame rate! Yipee!!!


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Categories: Windows 7 | Gadgets

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Tech Crystal Ball 2009

As the year is truly under way now, here are a few predictions I can think of in the technology world that is going to happen this year.

Hardware/Gadgets become cheaper and more powerful

We’ve seen this happen the last couple of years – with dual, quad and now oct-core systems readily available. Devices such as high end mobiles are also becoming quite popular as are Netbooks and LCD TVs. All of these will continue to grow as well as becoming more affordable – both to beat the recession as well as due to innovations in this area.

Hosted Paid Services or Pay-Per-Use Model becomes more popular

Most small to medium companies will start finding value in using hosted services for many of their IT infrastructure requirements rather than doing it all themselves. Hosted Exchange, SharePoint and CRM are going to take off this year in a large way – even in India. (Believe me, I recently moved to this model and it’s not just cheaper, it’s much lesser headache to manage.)

The Pay-Per-Use model will also catch on – for services that are required on a less frequent use basis. For instance, in companies that do not require all the high-end features of Office installed on every desktop, it might make a lot of sense to have a PPU model for certain advanced tasks that can be used as and when required by designated people.

Online Storage Balloons Up

Currently you get a good 5-25 GB in most online storage areas – however I see this to grow to the range of 100-250GB this year for free storage and practically unlimited for paying customers. Everything – documents, photos, music and movies will be allowed to sync back to the “cloud” as it were.

Corollary: Optical Media Starts to go away

As the online storage area heats up, I predict that the requirement for offline optical media will go away – may not happen completely this year – but this year will be that start to the end of optical media.

FOSS vs. Microsoft – the war continues

We won’t see a real respite from the FOSS/MS war. The FOSS camp is going to play the “free” card in these recession times to a lot of people, while MS will need to pull up their socks and show a more cautious approach to handling sales of their products. The PPU and Hosted models will be a great help to them in this war. MS of course has a number of products in the pipeline that can make a huge difference. FOSS does have its own set of drawbacks – like stagnating product lines (OpenOffice for e.g.) and TCO for subscription based supports being higher than MS costs. Both sets will need to offer much better value proposition to customers.

Microsoft - Winners: Windows 7, Office 14, Visual Studio 2010

Windows 7 is going to be the big hype product of the year. The “mistakes” of Vista are hopefully soon going to be forgotten with the pre-beta and the leaked beta already getting excellent reviews. If MS pushes it out this year especially giving a better value proposition including hyping cost savings thanks to “GREEN” systems, it will have a sure-fire winner in it’s hands.

Office 14 hasn’t got too much coverage – but a web-based version – with almost all the features makes perfect sense for the PPU/Hosted model and can help drive up adoption. We’ve yet to see other features that make it into this release, though.

Microsoft – Losing Ground: Windows Mobile, Internet Explorer

I predict that WM and IE will continue to lose ground to others – unless MS does something very, very innovative in both of them. WM is a great platform for business users. However, the interface clunkiness as well as long time gaps between updates don’t let it really go the way it should.

Internet Explorer 8 is right round the corner and is a great browser. But I still feel that there is so much more that it could have done than Web Slices and Accelerators. Hopefully it won’t be plagued with bugs once it comes out.

GREEN Computing

A lot of companies are going to go GREEN – it terms of energy efficiency of their infrastructure. Both hardware and software can help this out tremendously. Vista and Win7’s “sleep” functionality, Hyper-V based server consolidation, efficient cooling and other technologies will become part of mainstream and recommended to use.

All-in-all, this year will have its own ups-and-downs. These are my (current) predictions. I might revisit them 6 months down and see if there are any changes I think that might happen. Here’s wishing you a Happy, Prosperous, Productive and Safe New Year 2009.


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Categories: Microsoft | Windows 7 | Windows Vista | Internet | Gadgets

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Detailed System Monitor Gadget

System Monitor GadgetIf you're a Vista Sidebar gadget freak like me, then this one is for you. I ran across a gadget called System Monitor from BuildAGadget.com. This is one that can show you a whole bunch of information about your currently running system. This includes:

  1. Date
  2. Time
  3. Single, Dual, Quad core usage stats
  4. Memory usage stats
  5. WiFi signal strength
  6. Battery status and remaining time
  7. IP Address - both internal (NAT) and external
  8. Network tools - like WHOIS, Ping, Trace route, IP and Domain lookups

This basically lets you replace a bunch of other system Sidebar tools. The nice thing is that you can easily enable or disable any of these "monitors" and individually configure settings for them such as what to display (text or graphics), color of the display bar, and other specific information (number of cores/which IPs to show, etc.).

This is a great tool to be quickly informed about a number of system resources and a must if you use the Vista Sidebar.


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Categories: Gadgets | Rave | Windows Vista

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Dell Support Shines Again

I finally got the nagging problem I had with my Dell notebook sorted out. I happened to notice that the Dell XPS M1730 is now available in India. Seeing this I thought it might be possible that they now also support my Dell XPS M1710 - the predecessor the one they sell here. And turns out they do.

I rang up Dell support last Thursday and on Friday 2 support guys show up my office. I told them that none of my video-out ports (VGA, DVI, S-Video) are functioning. At first they said that it might be a software setting problem or a driver issue and started doing their standard series of test. After I told them exactly what steps they would try next and that I had already tried them and failed, they didn't say anything further - just gave me a big grin and said "No problems sir, we'll replace your motherboard". 20 minutes later with a brand new motherboard, the notebook is happily chugging away and being able to project! Yay to Dell support again!!


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Categories: Gadgets | Rave

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iPhone 3g in India: Is it worth it?

Well, for the people living under a rock, the IPhone (v2.0/3G) is finally in India thanks to Airtel and VodaPhone. But is it really worth it? Let's take a look.

  1. For a minimum price of almost Rs. 32,000, it is sure a very expensive phone. And there are many better options out there that can do everything that the iPhone can and better. Some examples are the iMate Ultimate 9502, HTC Touch Diamond and the top-end HTC Touch Pro.
  2. You are vendor locked in to Airtel/Vodaphone. Which means that you cannot swap SIM cards when you please - for instance, you cannot swap out to a Matrix SIM card when traveling internationally.
  3. The iPhone available with vendor lock-in in the US is about USD 200 - approximately Rs. 8,500. The current rate is 4 TIMES the US rate - even with taxes and stuff, this is ridiculous.
  4. The worst part is that you are paying full price for stuff that you really cannot even use - no 3G in India, no swapping of SIM cards, etc.
  5. A 2MP camera with no flash is soooo old school -  at that price a minimum of 3.2 MP and ideally at least a 5MP with flash should have been there - especially since the phone is being touted as a multimedia friendly one.
  6. Phones like the Touch Diamond and the Touch Pro have all the features that the iPhone claims and much, much more. For instance, the Touch Pro is touch friendly (including multi-touch), a 3.2MP camera with flash, a full QWERTY keyboard, 1000s of 3rd party applications for all sorts of needs, Direct Push, no vendor lock-in and many more things.
  7. All the problems with the original iPhone continue - no copy-paste, soft keyboard only, no 3rd party applications other than through the Apple Store, call clarity, etc.
  8. New problems such as a horrible battery, bad reception quality, 3G and GPS drops have also been now coming frequently to light

All-in-all, if you really have/want to spend a whole bunch of money for a very well hyped phone, go for it - otherwise pick up a real phone like the TyTn II, Touch Diamond or Touch Pro


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Categories: Gadgets | Rant

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