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2011 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,200 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Written by Neelesh Mohile

January 1, 2012 at 11:08 am

Use “Print to PDF” or Draft mode to save on printer ink – but not to print barcodes

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Even though it might be a cliché, I’d still like to repeat it. Save Paper. Take print outs only when you have to. But what about those times when you absolutely HAVE to save that webpage or document.

If there isn’t really a need to have a physical print out, and saving a copy on your computer for future reference is an alternative, you can save that paper, and save on printer ink too. If you want to save a document, web page or anything else on the computer, saving it as a PDF document is a cost-effective and viable alternative.

For Windows, there are many free alternatives to download like DoPDF, CutePDF, PrimoPDF (being some of them). Adobe Acrobat Professional is also an option, if you can/have the inclination to buy it. After installing one of the above programs, when you want to print to pdf, hit the print command and select the PDF printer in the Print dialog box. Linux has a “Print to PDF” feature built right into the printer dialog box. In OpenOffice (or LibreOffice), if you want to save your document as a PDF, then you will have to select File -> Export as PDF.

Google Chrome browser also has a Print to PDF feature built-in, which when selected in the print dialog box, will save the printed output as a PDF document.

Draft Mode
Print Dialog, Draft Mode

But what if you need a physical copy. Well, there is a way to save on some ink in this case too. Use “Draft” mode. Draft Color or Draft Grayscale mode prints in draft mode in color or black ink.  Draft mode prints using less ink and the printouts are not of very high quality, but of medium to low quality depending on your printer driver settings. Most times this is enough, and the prints are of decent quality too. This is usually enough if all you want to do is take a print of your route map or some web content for reference. While taking print outs on my HP Inkjet printer, I usually use “draft” mode as default, to save on printer ink. Apparently printing in draft mode uses just half the ink of regular print mode.

How do you select draft mode? Select it from the “Properties” or “Advanced Properties in the print dialog box and look for the Print Quality, Color or Image Quality settings tab.

There is one warning though, and this is a lesson I’ve learnt the hard way. Bar codes printed in draft mode do NOT get scanned by the barcode scanner machines. Shopping receipts for store pick-up, Boarding passes and other pages where you have to print a bar code that will be scanned at the store or kiosk using a laser barcode scanner will NOT be scanned if it is printed using DRAFT quality. Make sure the bar code itself is printed in “Normal” mode even if the rest of the text is not.

Hope these tips help you saving some money on paper and printer ink. After all, printer ink is one of the most expensive liquids (by volume) available to mankind, even more expensive than crude oil, medicine and even human blood, as this infographic from Nuesion.com shows:

Written by Neelesh Mohile

November 5, 2011 at 6:44 pm

How to “Exit X” to manually install latest nvidia drivers on Ubuntu Oneiric 11.10

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I recently upgraded my Ubuntu installation to Oneiric 11.10 x64. I did a clean install and was disappointed to see that my nvidia drivers were not the latest that were available from the nvidia website. My system had 280.13 while the latest 64bit stable drivers available on nvidia’s website was 285.05

I dutifully downloaded the drivers from the website on my computer, but when I wanted to run and install the driver, I was getting a message to “Exit X” before trying to install these graphics drivers. After slapping my forehead once (because I had already encountered this issue last year too!) I promptly pressed

Ctrl + Alt+ F1

to get into Virtual Console (tty1) and logged in. Then I typed the usual

sudo service gdm stop

to disable the X server temporarily, as I’m used to do in 11.04 and earlier. But this gave rise to the error message

gdm is an unrecognized service

Another head slapping moment. I remembered that 11.10 has ditched gdm in favor of lightdm. So the command has to change to

sudo service lightdm stop

Install the graphics driver with the command

xyz@Ubuntu64:~/Downloads$ sudo sh ./NVIDIA-Linux-x86_64-285.05.09.run

Once the driver is successfully installed, you can restart X server with the command

sudo service lightdm start

to enjoy your newly installed nvidia graphics drivers.

Note: This post is relevant to the Gnome version of Ubuntu Oneiric 11.10.
For Kubuntu 11.10: To start stop x server in kde, replace lightdm with kdm

References:
http://askubuntu.com/questions/65856/how-does-one-exit-the-x-server
http://duopetalflower.blogspot.com/2011/10/startingstopping-x-in-ubuntu-1110.html 

Written by Neelesh Mohile

November 2, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Posted in Linux, Ubuntu

Tagged with , , , , ,

Top 10 torrent clients for linux (via a non-geek’s blog)

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A very nice, concise and decent list of Torrent clients for Linux users.

I’ve also started using QBitTorrent and it’s much faster, lighter and easier to use than Vuze. Transmission is too basic for my tastes and I was using Deluge until the YARSS plugin stopped working. Used Vuze for a while, but its too heavy and bloated, due to which it feels slow.

Top 10 torrent clients for linux Two years ago I wrote an article about the best 5 torrent clients for linux. In the open-source world, two years means a lot of time. So, here it is an updated and enlarged list : GUI torrent clients: 1)  Deluge Deluge is a full-featured BitTorrent client written in python, for Linux, OS X, Unix and Windows. It uses  libtorrent in it's backend and features multiple user-interfaces including: GTK+, web and console. It has been designed using the c … Read More

via a non-geek's blog

Written by Neelesh Mohile

May 11, 2011 at 12:44 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Panasonic Cube AC, initial ownership review

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Panasonic launched it’s new ‘Designed and Made for India‘ AC range called the Panasonic Cube AC in the end of Jan 2011. The Cube AC is supposed to have the benefits and features of a split AC combined with the price and economy of a window AC. It comes 1.2 and 1.5 tonne capacity, each with or without Remote Control. The Panasonic website describes it thus:

The Cube AC has been developed and launched considering the requirements of the Indian consumer, which reflected in the survey conducted by Panasonic starting in mid 2009 using interview method with the consumers. Keeping in mind the Indian climate conditions and space restrictions with a rise in the apartment lifestyle, the Cube retains the best features of both spilt and window AC stronger air throw with reduced noise levels,  quick cooling, sleek and stylish looks, can be mounted on the wall and most importantly, is an economical option.

Determined to accomplish strong air flow and fast cooling with low noise level, they have redesigned new diagonal propeller fan for the indoor unit. Improved blade shape curvature simultaneously enhances aerodynamic performance and reduces noise level. Added to this, front intake grill with a wider air discharge further delivers better airflow for fast cooling effect The result was the CUBE – a compact, energy-efficient, high-performer with a sleek and stylish design that would look equally attractive mounted close to the ceiling or at window level.

I was slightly impressed by the reviews and write ups and wanted to get it for the home. I was looking for 2 ACs for the apartment but thought I’ll get one first and if I like it, get another one of the same type. I started asking for this AC at major electronics dealers, but most had not even heard of it (guess I am ahead of them in terms of latest tech news, eh ;) ) and many said they will get stock after 2 months! I had to go to the only exclusive Panasonic dealer in the city to ask about it. Luckily the dealer had the models in stock ready to deliver. There was just one piece available for display but he would not even switch it on for a demo. I wanted to listen to the sound to see how noisy it was and compare it’s thickness to a regular (rectangular) split AC. Luckily he was able to point out the specs for the noise in the manual and I could compare those numbers to the specs of the regular split ACs (which were also found in the manual!). The thickness of the Cube AC was just a bit more than that of a regular split AC (also on display at the store) and the sound levels were comparable and much lesser than the window AC levels.

Given below is a comparison of few dimensions and units from the manual:

This was enough to satisfy my curiosity and the price was compelling enough for me to buy this AC for the bedroom. Since this was a new product launched by Panasonic India, they also offered free installation (labor only) for a limited time as a promo offer. And so the deal was clinched. The AC was delivered same day to my home, but the installation would be done 2 days later, as the dealer said they were inundated with deliveries and installation slots for the next day! The buying experience was a pleasant one, but little did I know that the installation would be a nightmare!

Installation was scheduled for Monday evening after my work hours. The installers (2 of them) came before I could reach home, and insisted on starting work right away. My spouse told them where we wanted the AC installed in the bedroom. They immediately started taking measurements and making markings on the wall. They did not bother to explain her what they were going to do and how they were going to fix the AC unit. They made holes for the screws and fixed the mounting bracket on the wall. Gawd knows what measurement they were taking for so long because the bracket ultimately turned out to be NOT horizontal! The dust from poking the holes was all over the room, they could have at least asked us to cover the stuff below the wall which they were poking holes in!

Very fast and efficient cooling. There is no directional control to direct the airflow, but still the “throw” is decent. The wind throw is quite powerful and a little to the right of the unit (diagonally) instead of dead straight. Only feature I did not like is that there are only 2 fan speeds, low and high, nothing in between! The unit itself is pretty quiet.
The installers were very disappointing and took more than 3 hours to install the thing, poked holes in the wall without asking and used electrical outlets without confirming. Plus, he forced me to buy his voltage stabilizer even though I had a circuit breaker already installed.
If the size appeals to you (it does look odd having a huge cube so high in the wall) then it surely is a good buy.

My initial impression of the unit is as I mentioned earlier. It’s got a powerful blower which cools my ~150 sq ft room in minutes. The fan blows air over the oversized cooling fins, hence the cooling occurs much faster. Relatively silent. Waiting for the bill shock at the end of the month. It could have done with a little more choice in fan speed than just low and high (nothing in between). Both the inner and outer units are “Made in Malaysia”.

Some photos and my opinions I made on another site about this AC: My Panasonic CUBE AC review on Team-BHP.com

But IMO it would look ugly in a living room, but again, its just my opinion. Looks a little “fat”  Very good VFM for a bedroom AC.

Update: Panasonic has launched an updated version with 3 fan speed settings, Low, Medium and High, but rest of the features remain the same.

Written by Neelesh Mohile

March 2, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Tips to buy a used car in India

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I never thought I would think about buying a used car in India. I was a looking at buying a car, and a new one at that. I started thinking in terms of buying a bigger, better hatch and I did not want a ‘Tall Boy’. The most visible (bigger, better) hatches on the road (in no particular order, mind you) were the Hyundai i10, Maruti Swift, VW Polo, Fiat Grand Punto, Ford Figo, Hyundai i20 and Honda Jazz. I was not sold on the ‘diesel makes more sense’ argument, hence was looking primarily at petrol cars.  The Polo, Punto, i20, Jazz variants I felt were too expensive and I was not particularly impressed by Maruti, except for the resale value and the ‘kitna deti hai’ part. Read about too many rattles and niggles on not-very-old Swifts.

That’s when I got hooked onto a website called Team-BHP. I absolutely loved the discussions going on in the forums of that site and it increased and corroborated a lot about my knowledge about cars in India. That’s what planted the thought of buying a used car into my mind. Reading so many threads about the same partly convinced me about at least having a look at used cars, in addition to new cars. That’s what opened up a whole new segment of cars that wouldn’t have factored into my budget earlier. Most impressive was this thread which was like a pictorial invitation to fulfill my wet dreams about cars at just the right price: The Best (used) Enthusiast cars for 6 lakh rupees! Or less Of course, all these were indicative prices in Mumbai, where the supply of cars is huge and the prices low (as opposed to South India, or Hyderabad). But the bug was firmly planted.

I did go through a lot more threads in the forums and gathered what to look for  in a used car and how to do the inspection. I started going through a lot of the classifieds that I came across both online and in the newspapers. I found that in this online era, the best places to find classifieds from individuals (not dealers) still remains the local newspaper (sadly), but Sulekha.com, Team-BHP classifieds do come close. Visiting used car dealers and franchises like Maruti True Value and Mahindra First Choice and Dr. Car also gives you a lot of options but prices do tend to be a bit higher than what individuals quote. Some dealers provide a few free services or maintenance services along with certified multi point Pre Delivery Checks for vehicles. An excellent site to check the indicative values of used cars in various cities is CarWale.com.

Some lessons I learnt while hunting for used cars are summarized here:

1. Never trust the seller (especially dealer) at face value. Check and analyze the car yourself. Individuals have a tendency to hype their car’s performance, fuel efficiency and comfort, while dealers’ over-hype can range from blatant misinformation to outright lies.
2. Avoid brokers as much as possible.
3. Never trust the odometer reading on a car at a dealer’s lot. It is almost always been tampered with (yes, even the electronic ones) to show a lower reading. Always judge a car by Test Driving (TD) it and getting a feel of it.
4. When going to see a car, take a comprehensive check-list and if possible, another friend or a trusted partner.  At least one of you must me fairly knowledgeable about cars. If none of you is, then preferably, take a trusted mechanic. I used to take my wife with me, she would check the rear seat comfort and/or problems and I would check the front seat and driving :)
5. As far as possible, inspect the car during daylight.
6. Ask lots of questions about the car. You can tell if the owner actually knows and cares for the car or not just by noticing the way the seller responds to your questions.
7. Check all the papers and documents of the car. If the seller poses as the owner and is actually just a broker, he will have a transfer form already signed by the original owner. Beware of such deals.
8. Go ahead with further dealings about the car only if you are genuinely happy about the car. You are under no obligation to buy a car just because the seller is pressurizing you. You can always back out of the deal and look for another car.
9.  Always get the car thoroughly checked by a mechanic before agreeing to buy the car. Twice I had been enamored enough to almost buy the car then and there, but my sense prevailed and I got it checked by a mechanic. Both times, the inspection revealed that the car had been involved in an accident and many parts had been welded or changed. In one of the cases, service history of the car at the authorized service station (A.S.S) revealed that the car had undergone repairs of more than a lac!
10. Finding a used car takes time, sometimes months, so start looking early and be patient.
11. Sometimes when you find a decent, well maintained car, from a trustworthy owner, which passes all your TDs and mechanic checks and one which you would really like to own, you should be ready to pay a little premium (5k to 20k depending upon condition)  over the current market price/value, especially if you plan to keep the car for a long time. Such cars are hard to come by and its not worth losing the car for a small amount of money.

These and a lot more tips and caveats have been discussed in the myriad threads of Team-BHP. There is another excellent forum geared towards tips for motoring in India, http://gearheads.in Although I have not frequented this one as much as I have Team-BHP, GearHeads.in has a lot of useful tips and interesting topics to help sort out your motoring queries.

Hope these tips help someone in getting the car of their dreams at just the right price.

Cheers.

- Neel

Written by Neelesh Mohile

January 24, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Keep your contacts in sync on different mobile phones using Funambol

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If you are in the habit of changing cell phones as much as I do (or more) then you already must have felt the pain of transferring all your contacts from one phone to the other. I was always on the lookout for a (preferably free) software which would help me transfer all my contacts between phones since a long time. And many a times, having to type in contacts and their numbers manually was a BIG deterrent for me to switch phones (I guess the carriers would really love to hear that).

Some of the earlier methods I tried were getting the phone’s proprietary phone management software (often not-free) and downloading my contact to the computer. If my new phone was from the same manufacturer, then voila, but most often, I had to convert the downloaded contacts into a neutral format (.csv file or something similar), then load it up in the new phone’s proprietary phone management software and pray to god that it’s in a readable format ;) and then load it up in my new phone.

This method had me acquiring each phone’s Desktop management software and the cable required to connect each phone to the computer and then sync them both. Most of the times, the phone used to understand the MS-Outlook phonebook, so converting to Outlook’s format would work, but more than once I’ve had situations that the phone wouldn’t sync without MS Outlook physically being installed on the computer.

Then one day I came across a simple looking and “fun” sounding software called Funambol. That time Funambol was new on the web and were offering free accounts to people who registered with them. The software was compatible with multiple phone models and the best part was there was no need to tether your phone to the computer! Funambol supports all the major phone OS including Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Symbian. More information can be found on this page. Once you install Funambol on your phone, either by visiting their site on the phone, side loading it via the computer, or going through the phone’s respective app stores, you will have to create a free account with Funambol. Once you signup and register, then process is fairly easy.

MyFunambol-screenshot

 

Depending on what phone you have, you have options of syncing your Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Notes and Pictures. And these can be set to sync manually or scheduled to be synced automatically at a preset time(again depending on your phone model). It has options to sync one-way or two-way, meaning either only from phone to cloud server (or vice versa), or keep both phone and cloud server in sync.

This lets you sync all your Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Notes and Pictures in the cloud, and you can also access and edit them on the web at http://my.funambol.com/. Now whenever you switch your phone handset, all you have to do is install the Funambol client on the new phone, login to your account on it, and sync your contacts from the cloud, like magic.

I have also found another use for it. I use a Blackberry cell phone and my wife has an iPhone. Funambol client has been installed on both phones and synced so both have the same phonebook. Now, this might not be convenient for some people, but it works for the both of us, because now when I want to call a common friend whose number was saved only on her phone, I need not call my wife to get the number from her iPhone, it’s already synced to my BlackBerry. Also, when I ask her to confirm reservations at a certain place which I had stored on my phone, she need not hunt around for the number, it’s already there, synced to her iPhone!

This would also be useful for parents who want to keep tabs on the contact books of their kids, of course the kids wouldn’t be too happy (and it’s also darn easy to cancel the sync :P)

But that’s not to say this free cloud sync functionality is a god send all the time (though it sure is most of the time). There was one time when I was trying to “upgrade” my iPhone using iTunes and after taking the backup and deleting the existing OS, iTunes just gave up sometime during the software load and the upgrade left me with a bricked iPhone. I somehow got the iPhone back to life using various methods, one of which finally worked, but it left me with a half filled phonebook. Then I remembered, I just have to install Funambol and the phonebook would be in sync. But Noooooooooo!!! I forgot to set the options to one-way from server to phone, and then the unthinkable happened. Funambol changed my phonebook in the cloud to the half filled phone book from the failed iPhone. I tried to sync my BlackBerry to the cloud so it would pick up all the contacts, but I guess Moore’s Law was in full effect that day, even that phone lost 180 contacts out of a total of 247 and left me with around 67 contacts. Luckily, I was able to restore the phonebook of my iPhone using the backup iTunes had made before the software upgrade. Then synced that to Funambol cloud, and then synced my BlackBerry back to the way it was.

So the lesson is, Funambol is a great software to use for your daily use and to lessen your burden with scheduled backups. But it’s always important to have another backup in case of a failure.

In fact, even Ubuntu seems to be offering a Ubuntu One Contact Sync client based on the Funambol software.

Here are few of the blogs I found having excellent reviews and instructions for setting up Funambol on your phone:
BlackBerry
iPhone
Symbian(Nokia)

Cheers.

- Neel

Written by Neelesh Mohile

January 20, 2011 at 4:21 pm

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