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

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.


20
Aug 11

Android Moment

Last weekend after I had after boarding a Jet Lite flight at Guwahati, I noticed the gentlemen on the aisle seat pull out a Galaxy S. He did not seem to be the usual tech savvy person I would have expected to see with a high end android phone. I little later I noticed a younger girl with a Xperia X10 mini  on the other aisle seat in my row.. This made four android phones in a row of 6 people, this after counting my Galaxy S and wife’s Galaxy 3 Apollo.

Only a couple of days back, the tenant at my father’s house in Guwahati was talking about buying a Galaxy Tab 10.1 and not buy a iPad2.

All this time, I was under the impression that Android phones were becoming a hit only with the tech savvy folks in bigger cities. It is common to see plenty of folks with Android phones at my office in Bangalore. In a place like Guwahati and other smaller cities where feature phones still rule and where Nokia is still a very strong brand, I was not expecting to see Android making such a headway.

This is the Android moment.

The mainstream tech press hails Android as a success because it now sells more than iPhone in US. But can the Android phone makers get a true mass market phone for places like 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.

 


25
Dec 10

OlivePad VT-1000 – 7 inch Android 2.2 Tablet Hands-on Review

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OlivePad VT1000

OlivePad VT1000 is a seven inch Android 2.2 Tablet computer from India based Olive Telecom.

OlivePad has been selling for a  few months now, but it has not been able to create the interest Notion Ink has been able to generate  on its yet to be released Adam tablet.   I had been on a hunt for a decent Android Tablet for many weeks and never came across the OlivePad until one day saw one on eBay India.   This led me to Olive Telecom’s website where I found out that OlivePad is available on retail at Croma stores across India.  I picked up my OlivePad from the new Croma Store on the Outer Ring Road in Bangalore for INR 23999 (cheaper than the online prices at eBay.in).

This review is based on my hands on experience of using the OlivePad in the last three weeks.  My familiarity with Android devices which includes a Samsung Galaxy S phone running Android 2.2, a Samsung Galaxy 3 that my wife owns.  In between I also used a ten inch Chinese Apad ZT180 tablet running  Android 2.1.

Lets begin the review  with the Quick Specs of the Olive Pad VT1000.

OSAndroid 2.2 Froyo
Processor ARM11 600MHz
Chipset Qualcomm MSM7227
Battery Li Polymer 3240 mAh
Screen 7 inch 800x400 LCD with Capacitive Touch screen
Connectivity 802.11bg wifi, Bluetooth 2.1 EDR, GPS, GSM, 3G
Memory 512 MB RAM
Storage 512 MB built in Flash, and my unit came bundled with a 16 GB micro-SD card
Camera Rear 3 mega pixel, front VGA
Audio microphone, stereo speakers, 3.5 mm stereo audio out
Others G-sensor, e-compass, ambient light sensor.

Hardware and Build

Design

The Olive Tab is rectangular with glass in front with a shiny black plastic in the rear. The sides are aluminum. The sides are not tapered like the Galaxy Tab which makes it look thicker. Nevertheless it’s comfortable to hold. The key here is the 7 inch form factor that is small enough to hold with hone hand. At 380 gm it’s not comfortable holding it for  long duration. However, its much comfortable using the OlivePad tablet  with the leather diary  styled jacket.

Processor Speed and Responsiveness

OlivePad comes with a 600 MHz ARM11 processor. The Tablet is  very responsive and I do not find any perceptible real world difference between the Galaxy S and the OlivePad in terms of responsiveness. However, ARM11 on paper appears slower compared to Cortex A8 chips being used in most recent Android Tablet, and not to mention the upcoming dual core Cortex A9 chips like the Nvidia Tegra2. Bottom line, the ARM11 chip in the OlivePd is adequate to give a very good user experience.

Storage and Memory

The SIM card and the SD card slots can be accessed from the side.OlivePad came bundles with a 16 GB microSD card. The internal flash is just 512 MB, which just leaves 173 MB for user applications. I wish OlivePad had at least  1 or 2 GH internal flash storage. With Froyo apps can be moved to the SD card, but still a lot of junk accumulates in the internal flash storage. The RAM is 512 MB is  adequate and at par with most of the high end Android tablets or phones.

Screen

The screen at best can be called average.   It looks nice  and vibrant when looking straight, but at the slightest angle the colours start getting weird. It indicates a cheap TN panel. I am not saying that it is not usable, but this no iPAD IPS panel or the Galaxy S Super AMOLED display.  Fonts look good and crisp providing a good web browsing experience and reading eBooks is a good experience. I would suggest giving the bundled Aldiko reader the skip and installing FBReader or Cool Reader from the market.

Audio

Two speakers have been places on the top and the bottom side of OlivePad. The speaks are excellent for the form factor.  These are clear and loader than the average tablet speaker and better than some Netbook speaker. a +1 to Olive Telecom fro this.  This is a great when playing games and  I can even dare to watch YouTube videos without a headphone.

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