Windows Phone Mango. Really.
Posted on August 9, 2011 1 Comment
For the last few months I’ve been using a Windows Phone that runs on the new OS, Mango. Simply put, since I bought and used my first iPhone, I haven’t been this enchanted with a phone until now. And I’d recommend it to you.
Going out on a limb to get hands on a gadget one has waited for longingly until release and ardently admired in pre-release is not an unheard of incident. Story of the man who sold his kidney for money to buy an iPad is quite famous and I know how Apple fans line up for its product launch from before the eve of its release. In fact, I have a similar story of loyalty to share. Those of you, who’ve experienced summers in Hyderabad, India, will understand the meaning of my sacrifice.
The summer of 2010 in Hyderabad was one of the hottest that region has ever lived through. Even the number of deaths from the heat shot up to hundreds. Most of us, sheltered from the heat but affected nevertheless, couldn’t sleep. The media was abuzz with “news” articles on “Ways to stay cool.” Amid all this, I refused to buy an air conditioner as I needed that money to further the Apple cause at my end.
Some generous landlords had installed air conditioners in most of the houses I lived in. But in the house I was living in at the time of this summer did not have any sort of air conditioning. And my room had no ventilation whatsoever.
While these issues are insignificant compared to the troubles that some people have, they made it harder for me to function normally. My writing gig at ConsumerMate had given me a little “extra money,” that if needed I could use to buy an AC. I started looking around and almost bought one.
But then, that very week Apple launched the iPhone 3GS in India and suddenly the heat didn’t matter anymore. Studies show that Apple products generate the same activity in the brain that religion does. I’ve never been very religious, but I’m sure I experienced the same feeling of devotion the day I decided to buy an iPhone. After all, it’s not like I needed an AC to improve my standard of living. I needed a new and expensive phone.
I adored the iPhone. While writing about phones for ConsumerMate, I had realized the iPhone really was the best one around. Apple had designed it fabulously. At the same time, other companies were making phones that Donald Norman would love to rip apart. Advertisements of poorly designed features, which would hardly ever be used, bothered me.
Anyhow, the iPhone was available near me. I had money saved up. I decided not to buy an AC and bought an iPhone instead. After all, if someone can part with a kidney for an iPad, giving up cool ventilation for an iPhone was the least I could do.
I switched to Samsung Focus, a Windows Phone 7 device, after I moved to the United States in November 2010. I definitely missed my iPhone apps, but the Windows Phone was good enough and I decided not to get my iPhone unlocked.
Mango, the latest version of Windows Phone has given me the same jolt yet again. Even after a few months of owning it, I take it out of my pocket every few minutes just to play with it.
Two features that I love are Groups, and the chat integration with Facebook and Windows Live Messenger. You can create a group for friends you hang out with often, and can easily text or email all of them and can also see what’s new with them. You can even pin a group to the home screen to see group members’ updates right there.
I applaud the WinPhone team for the fantastic Facebook chat implementation. As the phone offers it, you don’t need “an app for that.”
The iPhone is “magical.” I tried getting all my friends and family members to buy one, and will always have a soft spot for it in my heart.
But now that I’ve had a chance to use Mango, I definitely prefer Windows Phone 7. There’s nothing like it and yes it is better than the iPhone. Fast and easy to use, Mango does help getting things done quicker. I’d more than recommend this to all friends and family members. Heck, I’d go without an air conditioner for it!
Read the Windows Phone Blog to know more about the features in Mango.
Here’s Joe Belfiore showing off Mango.
The bug stops here
Posted on June 19, 2011 Leave a Comment
Or something like that is what every tester would want to be able to put on his/her business card. This means, “I CAN TEST”, and “I will NOT get us (the feature team) into those “Oops!” moments.” Once you’ve mastered this skill, developers want you to test their code. Program managers want you on their team. Others have more confidence in your ability to test.
But there are still always those annoying little “damn I should have caught that one” bugs that get away. No matter how thoroughly you feel you’re testing the system. No matter how many angles you think you’ve covered. No matter how many different ways you’ve looked at the system. They do get away.
The question is for how long are they going to continue this escapade at our expense? It’s frustrating and making us age faster sooner and we hate it. No one wants to be in a position where they have to say, “this got away because…” How can you ensure that these don’t get away? That you don’t give anyone else a chance to find bugs that you should have found?
I’m no expert yet but am determined of getting there and one way is by making a mental/blog note of all I learn.
For starters, post-mortems are a MUST! Figure out what went wrong and why it went wrong.
Assuming in general is a dangerous way to function. One thing that I’ve learnt the hard way is to NOT make assumptions. Testers aren’t supposed to make assumptions. Repeat and memorise.
Behind every successful bug is an unintelligent (witless, dumb, half-witted, imbecilic, rash, short-sighted, puerile) assumption. Frequently stop to take a step back to figure out what assumptions you’re making. Ask yourself why you’re making those assumptions. If you aren’t absolutely convinced, write tests for them. Because, behind every successful test is an unintelligent assumption.
Secondly, know the expected results of your tests before you finally run your tests. Or, at the very least, know what the system should not be doing. Tests that go like “lets see what this does” are only successful if you know what should not happen. And check to be sure that hasn’t indeed happened.
Another thing you must do is to make sure you understand the system. Keep picking up parts of the system that you feel you know the least about, or parts that you haven’t completely understood and learn them better. A good test to check whether or not you’ve understood is to try and explain the part to someone else. If you feel yourself skipping a small bit of it cause you can’t explain it, it is because you haven’t understood it… This new understanding will help you come up with new tests.
I’m wiser today, even if by one step, is because I lived the step and rued it over and over again. When a blatant bug was found in something I’d tested, all the in-depth testing I’d done didn’t matter anymore. The one that got away for me was because of “inattentional blindness“. This is something I found out about when I was trying to figure out why this got away. But this was something I should have had tests for. I’d made assumptions about the existing system we were touching. I’d not understood exactly how stuff was supposed to happen. And therefore I didn’t have the tests for this. (I would give specifics but I’m sure I’d get fired. It’s all hidden under the word ‘confidential.’ Maybe after checking with legal :).)
These are just a couple of things I’ve figured out in the post-mortem I did. I’m not there yet :)! But I am working towards being able to put “the bug stops here” on my card and not worrying about bugs surfacing.
Stuff I’ve written
Posted on June 19, 2011 2 Comments
An engineer by profession, for a while, I was writing for ConsumerMate, an online portal that offers buyers advice on products like laptops, mobile phones, televisions and digital cameras. This is an initiative of 9.9 Media — the folks who do Digit, one of India’s most read technology magazines. Here are links to some of the articles I’ve written.
Articles on Tablets
According to the tech soothsayers, tablet PCs are going to take over the world in 2010. They’re going to be in the news, in articles, in conversations and on peoples’ minds and hopefully in most hands all through the year. Though tablet PCs have been around for quite a while, they are just beginning to strike the right chord with consumers. What is it about these devices that makes tech enthusiasts’ eyes teary? And after being around for almost a decade, why are they picking up steam now? (Read more)
For months, the blogosphere had been full of talks and predictions about the tablet computer from Apple and finally Apple has unveiled the iPad, giving the world more to talk about. Apple announced the much awaited iPad, the “magical and revolutionary” tablet computing device. Apple has a track record of creating revolutionary devices such as the iPod and the iPhone, and people have come to expect the world from the iPad, which it might actually deliver, albeit at a price that will make people want to beg, borrow, steal or kill just so they can then get their hands on it. (read more)
The iPad, the Kindle DX and Netbooks. Who does what better
iWant. Even though it does not have a camera, cannot multitask and does not support flash, most people, including those who are only slightly aware of an iPad, want to own one. Of the rest, while some evangelize netbooks, others are simply content with features that the Amazon Kindle DX offers. Different people want and need different things. Lack of a few features might be a deal breaker for some, while others might not even feel that there’s anything missing. The iPad has been compared, by some, to a rock, a beach, netbooks and the Amazon Kindle DX — an eBook reader that costs about the same.
This article highlights some plus points of some of these devices that are being pitted against each other all over the internet. If you can’t decide what you want or need, this article might be of some help. (read more)
Adam from Notion Ink takes on iPad
People like rooting for the underdog. As we often see in movies, a small startup bravely takes on a big organization, which is infamous for its strict policies. The big rich corporation is often considered evil and insensitive towards customers as it doesn’t usually change something for a few customers for the fear of losing other customers. On the other hand, the startup is shown sweating it out, trying to create a better product. In this story, Adam, the tablet computing device from Notion Ink takes on the iPad from Apple. (read more)
We’re not even half-way through 2010 and tablet PCs have begun taking over the world. They are in the news, in articles, in conversations and on peoples’ minds and have already made their way into a few hands. Having come a long way from when they were defined as “pen-enabled computers,” they are now beginning to strike the right chord with consumers. Here are a few tablets which are expected to be available by the end of this year. (read more)
Articles that offer “expert” advice 🙂
Move Your Contacts to the Cloud
What happens when a phone gets lost? Or it gets stolen? Or damaged beyond repair? It hurts. The loss of all contacts, photos, videos, notes and messages is an irretrievable loss of monumental magnitude, a literal pain with no sedative to curb. But, what if there was a way to minimize the loss and restrict it to just the device so that when you buy a new handset, you can have all collected data restored on the new phone in a jiffy? (Read more)
Choose a Better Camera — 3 Ways to Choose a Camera that you didn’t Know About
The feature of cameras that is most highlighted is a number followed by MP. This is the resolution in megapixels that the digital camera is capable of capturing. It is the easiest for customers to understand and the easiest for salesmen to sell. Apart from megapixels, the most common factors considered while deciding which camera to buy are size and color. However, there are a few other little known things that can help you make a better decision. Professional photographers look at a host of other things as well to be able to take better quality pictures. This article covers a few things that can help beginners choose better. (Read more)
An Introduction to Entry-Level DSLRs
DSLRs are fun. They combine the thrill the sound of the shutter gives with the instant gratification the LCD display provides. They let the user take a large number of great quality shots, see them right after they’ve been taken, and share them with ease. DSLRs add intensity to color and depth to photographs, and are ideal for casual photographers looking for better pictures and also for photo hobbyists, who want to enhance their skills. This article talks about two popular entry level DSLRs made essentially for those getting started with serious photography. (Read more)
Technology Behind (D)SLR Cameras
With or without any knowledge of a good or bad camera, there’s just something about the Single Lens Reflex (SLR) cameras and Digital SLRs (DSLRs) that just makes one want to take pictures. Professional photographers have always chosen them partly because photos clicked using these are of unmatched quality. In addition, they give the artist the flexibility to experiment with different styles of photography and specialize in the one that stimulates them the most. (Read more)
3D TVs were hot at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), one of the largest exhibitions, this year. Market leaders like Samsung and Sony announced TVs with 3D capability. New models with native 3D support are expected to hit stores later this year. Here is a brief look at the technology behind 3D TVs. (Read more)
The year gone by has, to say the least, been eventful. 2009 — the last year of the decade saw birth of a plenty of mind boggling technologically advanced devices. Simply put, we enter the new decade pretty well equipped to have the wide world on our finger tips in some form or the other. This year, Microsoft gave Windows Mobiles a makeover and launched the Windows marketplace. All handset manufacturers launched phones that looked like the iPhone. Android phones started gaining traction in the market. Nokia placed its money on the overpriced N97. However, in 2009, there were a few recurring themes that were quite noticeable. There was an increased focus on Android, touch as an input mechanism and phones actively participating in the social revolution on the Internet. Let’s take a look at what really stood out and what 2010 might have in store for us. (Read more)
Apple iPhone v/s Google Android
Android devices have been hogging all the conversations off late. Some have hailed this platform from Google as the “iPhone killer!” Handset makers (like HTC, Motorola, Samsung and Acer) are working hard to release phones with Android on them. India already has a couple of these devices targeted at geeks from HTC and Samsung. Technology addicts and phone enthusiasts all around the world are drooling all over the new device. What is this new-platform-on-the-block and why is there so much hype around it? What is it about these phones that sets them apart from the iPhone? Can the Android be good enough to threaten the much-desired Apple iPhone? (Read more)
There are always some accessories available for mobile phones that do not make it to the “must-have” list. While there are a few reasons for this, the lack of creativity is definitely not one of them. Some of these are useful, while most are just impulse buys that are not used more than once. However, even though these add-ons aren’t mainstream accessories, they do deserve a mention just out of respect to their creativity and coolness. For example, the genius hands free device is just a rubber band. Let’s talk of some of such add-ons that are not car-chargers, bluetooth headsets, cases, holsters and screen protectors, but ones that will surely amuse you. (Read more)
Experience More With Foursquare
Almost always, it is a friend who introduces you to something — be it a new restaurant, a delicious item on the menu, the best sale in town or the most happening parties that weekend. Also, there is a lot that you know about your surroundings that you can tell your friends. For example, I know that at Janpath, in New Delhi, you get cheap yet fashionable clothes, and, in sector 37, Noida, a neat place called the Tea Shop that serves awesome tea and Momos.
What all would you want to do with information about a location? When I enter a mall, I want to know where the best sales are and which restaurant has the best Indian food. I want information specifically relevant to me based on what my location is. The “here” information — knowing “what’s good/bad/ugly/cheap/quick/tasty … here” is of great importance. That’s where Foursquare comes in – a location based social network that tells you about the place. (Read more)
Posted on June 19, 2011 1 Comment
All across the world, there are at least 10,000 cell phones launched every day. Okay, maybe not, but there are far too many released every week. For about 6 months, I got a chance to write about some of the new releases as part of a gig, I was fortunate enough to land at ConsumerMate, an online portal that offers buyers advice on products like laptops, mobile phones, televisions and digital cameras. ConsumerMate is an initiative of 9.9 Media, the folks who do Digit, one of India’s most read technology magazines.
In this brief stint covering gadgets, creating content for a weekly newsletter, I’ve written close to about 200 articles on mobile phones, cameras, laptops, tablets and a few on televisions as well. The articles that I had most fun writing were the ones where I was trying to explain the technology powering things, like 3D TVs and DSLRs, in a way that would be easy to understand. Before I started writing, like a good well researched writer (as I had always read they are), I enquired about the target audience and I was told that I should assume that I was writing for the general “lay” public and not technology enthusiasts, and those are the people I wrote for!
Two of my favorites are — an article on how tablet computing devices are all set for a comeback, and another on the technology behind DSLR cameras. More here.
Most of the articles I wrote were about phones and after a while I began to wonder if handset manufacturers released phones just to give advertisers and marketing agencies practice. Of the many phones launched every week, at most only one seemed brilliant. Some phones were average at best with nothing to set them apart from other phones. Most were, well let’s just say, really not required or wanted and are somewhere simply polluting the earth, confusing, frustrating and eventually fleecing customers.
It seemed to me that in most cases, among the factors determining the success of the phone, the user interface played a bigger role than the features. If the phone was fun to use and the interface was intuitive, the features would be used. For instance, Wi-Fi and 3G are of no use to me if the screen is tiny and scrolling means going from one link to the other on the page. I better not start on the analysis, so more “insights” later. 🙂
Writing was one of my first experiments and was exhilarating. Although I started writing just for fun, it became more than a hobby and I not only enjoyed it but I grew with it. Writing six articles every week, given that I have a day job, was quite challenging and did take up a lot of my time. I want to get better at how I write and this is definitely only a start to my writing career. I do know for me to ensure people like what I write, I will need to keep on writing. That alone will help me know my readers better and pull me up in the way. The good reviews that I got in my writing stint have given me confidence to try out more stuff.
I am extremely grateful to Charu, a great friend and a brilliant editor, who pushed me to this opportunity and then helped make my articles better by doing her bit week after week, often at unearthly hours after she got back from work. I would also like to thank Geetaj and Ahmed from 9.9 Media. Geetaj gave me a chance to write for them even though I had no prior experience. Geetaj and then later Ahmed co-ordinated with me, suggested topics and gave me feedback. Charu, Geetaj and Ahmed made my ConsumerMate experience fun! Thanks guys!