19
Jan 14

Gingee Fort – Photo Gallery

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Photos taken at Gingee in Dec 2009. Stopped by while returning from Pondicherry to Bangalore.

I had expected that I will be able to see the Gingee “fort” in a couple of hours. From the road, it does not look much. But when I stopped I was in for a big surprise. It was not just one fort, but a complex of forts and citadels perched atop rocky heights overlooking what used to be the erstwhile royal city of Gingee.

And it goes without saying that I could barely cover one and a half of the several forts, I was thirsty and tired from the climbs and finally my camera ran out of juice. I do plan to go there again someday. For someone seriously interested in exploring forts, Gingee will be at least a 1 to 2 day affair.

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01
Sep 13

Roadtrip to North Karnataka Historical Circuit – Hampi, Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami

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How it Began

In the past many years I had considered visiting Hampi on multiple occasions. People advised me that it was far,  the roads were bad and  there were not many good places to stay which dissuaded me in the past.

Every December our company has the annual shutdown. In December of 2012 I was resigned to the fate of lazing around in Bangalore. At work everyone had a plan to go somewhere, and I could not resist. Hampi was back in my radar, and with less than 24 hours to plan and prepare we  were off to Hampi on 22nd December 6 AM.

When we returned 3 days later, this was the most memorable road trip every. I am going back again in a few years and this time at least for a couple of weeks.

The Planning

Decisions was made that we were going to Hampi next morning. Started with planning the route on Google Maps. With full circuit of Hampi, Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami the road trip with be roughly around 1200 KMs. Hospet appeared to be a good place to setup base.

Hotel

Started looking for decent hotels in Hospet and started calling up. Found that there was a Royal Orchid in Hospet and price was reasonable. Called them up, they said they were all full but will call back in couple of hours if they can accommodate. They never called back. On ClearTrip.com, I found rooms available on Royal Orchid, so booked it there.

When returning from work in the evening, topped up the fuel tank and check the tire pressure. Stopped at the neighboring Super Market to pick up some snacks, some chocolates and some canned drinks – left every thing in the car. Packing for the trip is easy, as wife took care of it. In the evening

Route

I needed to determine the route to take. Google maps gave three options. I read a few posts in Team-BHP.com, one recent post suggested we take the Hiriyur-Bellary-Hospet route and I decided this will be the route to take as the route through Chitradurga  takes longer. Bangalore to Hospet via Bellary

The Drive

Bangalore-Hiriyur – NH4

We started at 6 AM, road were clear. When we reached IISC the road was dug up  and had to go through some inside streets. We had Google Maps navigation on the phone, it guided us easily through the diversion. We than took the Neelamangla expressway  headed towards Tumkur. The road was pretty good – four lane high way and easy to maintain decent speed. Once after Tumkur there were multiple flyovers under construction on the highway where the traffic was diverted to the service lane.  All through the highway we came across multiple loaded trucks tumble sideways. In all these years of driving on India highways, never saw so many trucks in that state in a short span of road.

Hiriyur-Bellary Bypass – AH47

Once you we got into Hiriyur, Google Navigation asked  us to  move into the service lane just before a flyover. I was skeptical as I saw no road sign anywhere. Nonetheless we turned into the service lane which was narrow and there was a big goat market by it. Literally I had to drive through the herds of goat.

After half a KM or so there was a board saying Bellary to the right.  Had Google Navigation not told me, I would have never seen this board under the flyover and would have gone past it towards Chitradurga. At this point we were onto a 2 lane state highway towards Bellary. Within minutes of crossing Hiriyur, traffic became sparse. We came across multiple hers of goad as we drove along.

The road was in excellent state. Once in a while we came across slower vehicles but overtaking was easy. Throughout this leg we had a Baleno with large Hella lamps as company, at occasion the Baleno would be the pilot car and on others we  would take the lead. Google Navigation guided us towards the Bellary bypass. So far roads were much better than our expectation, but the road beyond was altogether was different story.

Bellary Bypass-Hospet

As we got into the Bellary bypass the road became bad to worse. Adding salt to injury, they charged INR 10 as toll. There were gigantic speed breakers and potholed. The road continued to get worse till we cross the Jindal Steel Plant. After that road got better. All through the fellows in the Baleno kept company till just before Hospet. This is a good practice on the unpredictable India highways.

Some 20 KMs before Hospet we finally stopped. I had been driving non stop since morning. We reached the hotel around 2 PM. We took the same route on the way back to Bangalore.

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31
Aug 11

Crucial M4 SSD Now Faster with Firmware 009, Benchmarked !! Best Value SATA3 SSD

Crucial M4 SSD

Crucial has released firmware version 009 for the M4 SSD line. The firmware version jumps from 002 directly to 009, giving an indication that this is a significant update. The 009 firmware release notes make some big claims of improvement.

We will test to find out if the new firmware improves the already fantastic drive.

Crucial M4 SSD firmware 009 vs 001

Test System

  • CPU – AMD Phenom X6 1055
  • RAM – 8 GB DDR3 1300
  • Disk – Crucial C4  64 GB (CT064M4SSD2 )
  • Graphic Card – Zoatc Geforce GT 460 768Mb
  • SATA version – 3.0 (6 Gbps)
  • OS – Windows 7 Ultimate Sp1 – 64 bit

 AS SSD Results

AS SSD Benchmark 1.6.4237.30508 - Higher is Better

With AS SSD Benchmark, we find impressive gains in read speed. The 100 MB/s improvement in sequential read is striking. There is also gain in Write , but not a significant as we see with Read. Crucial lives up to the claims in the Release Notes

Release Date: 08/25/2011

Change Log:

  • Changes made in version 0002 (m4 can be updated to revision 0009 directly from either revision 0001 or 0002)
  • Improved throughput performance.
  • Increase in PCMark Vantage benchmark score, resulting in improved user experience in most operating systems.
  • Improved write latency for better performance under heavy write workloads.
  • Faster boot up times.
  • Improved compatibility with latest chipsets.
  • Compensation for SATA speed negotiation issues between some SATA-II chipsets and the SATA-III device.
  • Improvement for intermittent failures in cold boot up related to some specific host systems.

via Crucial.com Product Downloads – Firmware Updates.

Installing the Firmware

Installing the firmware was straight forward.

  • Download the firmware from http://www.crucial.com/support/firmware.aspx (Caution – Make sure you get the correct firmware for your drive)
  • Unzip the download firmware, it turns out to be a very small iso disk image
  • Burn the iso to a CD using your favorite CD burner
  • Keep the CD in the drive and restart the computer
  • During the BIOS POST press the appropriate key to bring up the boot selection menu. Select boot from CD ROM
  • This boot into some kind of live Linux ( at this stage I felt I wasted a CD, I could have tried burning the iso to a USB flash drive – never mind :( )
  • Once the live CD starts it will try to locate if you have any upgradable drive installed.
  • When the utility find the M4, type yes. Upgrade will be done in 10-15 seconds
  • Reboot  and enjoy the new speed gain of your Crucial M4

Final Words

The is good job from Crucial and a big win for the end users. When I had purchased the Crucial C4, I found it a better value for money compared to OCZ Agility3. With this update, the Crucial C4 SSD is likely the best value for money SSD now.


31
Aug 11

Android Moment – Mass Market Androids Phones for India

A week back when I wrote this post, I described what I though would be a real mass market Android phone in India.

What would it take for a successful mass selling Android phone in India –

Price should be sub-5K INR, a capacitive screen, a processor adequate to make the UI responsive without lag and at least 5 day standby without mobile data. All fancy features can be cut, as long as the phone is not crippled by a underpowered CPU and badly customised OS. Think like GPS, 3G , even wifi can be skipped to keep the cost down. At this time 3G services in India is a sham, too expensive and cant do much with the crippled metered plans.

via Android Moment | Luhit – Reviews, Analysis.

It was inevitable that someone would come out with such a device. This morning I came across this news in Times of India. On the face value these pair of sub-5K INR phones is what I thought is required for Android to go mass market.

Sistema Shyam TeleServices Ltd ( SSTL), which operates under the brand name MTS, has launched two Android-based smartphones priced below Rs 5,000.
via MTS launches sub-Rs 5K Android-based smartphones.

Will this be the beginning of things to come ?

I could not locate any information on these phones or the contract required on MTS website. Their website does show another Android MTS Pulse3 ( looked pretty much like a rebadged HTC device).

MTS MTAG 3.1 – Rebadged Huawei, Capacitive Screen with 240×320 resolution, runs on Froyo. Could not find much else on the web. Recently, Huawei got a lot of press on the stellar success of the USD 100 device called IDEOS in Kenya. It could be the same phone coming to India.

MTS Livewire – Rebadged ZTE. I am still to mind out anything informational  about this device. Will update the post when I got more information.

While this could be a beginning of Android going mainstream and mass in India, but I pretty much doubt these devices from MTS will make any significant difference ? People will continue to buy feature phones, unless one of the big big guns like Samsung or LG would come up with a affordable smartphones without carrier contracts.


27
Aug 11

Linux Browsers Compared – Firefox Aurora, Opera Next, Chrome Dev

Web Browsers Compared

The browser war is once again at it’s peak. Google Chrome has shaken up the web browsers landscape on Linux in terms of speed and it’s agile release cycle. Older established players like Firefox and Opera have responded with their own faster release cycles. All of the browsers allow ends uses to preview and test  upcoming versions. Firefox now has the Aurora channel and Opera has the Next release channel to preview the future versions.

This review compares the current in-development versions of the Chrome, Firefox and Opera web browsers on Linux.  Is the new release cycle of Firefox and Opera helping them to match Chrome in speed and performance? Cutting the chase, lets find out.

Browsers Tested

  • Opera Next 12 pre-alpha amd64
  • Firefox Aurora 8.0a2 2011-08-25 amd64
  • Google Chrome dev  15.0.861.0  amd64

Test Methodology

  • All extensions disabled in each browser
  • Only one test was run at a time
  • All browser cache in a tmpfs ram disk

Test System

  • CPU   – AMD Phenom X6 1055
  • RAM –  8 GB DDR3 1300
  • Disk – Intel X25V  40 GB
  • Graphic Card – Zoatc Geforce GT 460 768Mb
  • OS Ubuntu 11.04 running Unity/ 2.6.38-11-generic #48-Ubuntu SMP

The Tests

V8 Benchmark Suite – version 6

V8 Benchmark Suite - version 6 - Higher is Better

Google  Chrome dev  is the stand-out winner in the benchmark, for obvious reasons.  This is the bench mark that developers of Google Chrome uses to baseline he V8 javascript engine and most likely Chrome is heavily optimised for  this benchmark.  Firefox and Opera fall way behind as a distant second and third respectively.

Sunspider

Sunspide 0.9.1 - Lower is better (ms)

This is another javascript benchmark.   Here the difference between Chrome and Firefox is not so dramatic as in the V8 benchmark, but tables are turned.  Firefox is significantly faster in this benchmark, interestingly even Opera is faster then Chrome.

HTML 5 Test Suite

HTML5 Suite - Higher is better

The HTML5 test suite indicates how well the browser can render HTML5.  Google Chrome with 342/450 leads the pack, with Opera coming last with 286/450. Firefox is in between with 314/450.

This will be a bench mark to watch out for in future. As HTML5 becomes more widespread in the future, the winner will be the one that has the best support for HTML5.

Acid3 Test

Sunspide 0.9.1 - Lower is better (ms)

Only Firefox Aurora misses out the perfect hunderd and could manage 97/100; while both Google Chrome dev and Opera Next came up with perfect 100/100.

Final Words

It is clear from all the benchmark Chrome remains the king of speed and performance on Linux.

These preview versions of the web browsers we have compared will be released before the end of this year, and Chrome will remain the leader for 2011.

What does Firefox and Opera have for 2012 that will beat Chrome ?