Radio is dead. Long live the radio

With the advent of internet and satellite radio, it is not a surprise that conventional terrestrial radio is finding its way out. Ofcom, Britain’s telecom regulatory authority is now mulling over shutting down the terrestrial AM and FM radios and allocating the spectrum for new digital services like Mobile TV.

BBC    This makes a lot of sense – with satellite radios like XM and Worldspace available for cars and in much smaller packages as portables, the need for a terrestrial services is slowly waning away. The only advantage that conventional radios have over internet or satellite radios is the bouquet of local information like weather, traffic updates etc., which are provided in between programs.

Re-allocating the FM/AM band for new services is a great move, as it opens up a whole new spectrum, hitherto unused for IP services. This is probably the only band across the world, which the militaries do not have a control over. So the new standards can easily get adopted in different countries without worrying about manufacturing the devices for a different band. This will also help in keeping the cost of the equipment to a minimum.

Back home, local radio from broadcasters like All India Radio are already available via satellite through DTH networks. You will not miss your Vividh Bharathi, even if TRAI decides to re-allocate AM/FM channels to mobile operators!

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BSNL DNS Problems and how to solve it

If you are a BSNL dataone user, chances are that you are facing DNS issues for the last few weeks or so. Their DNS servers are just unresponsive. The lookup takes a long duration and many times just time out. The solution? Use third party DNS servers or run your own one like djbdns.

The easiest options is to use OpenDNS. Just reconfigure your network to use the following DNS servers:

208.67.222.222
208.67.220.220

Detailed instructions specific to your router are available in the OpenDNS website itself. After I reconfigured my Linksys router to use the above 2 IP addresses, my DNS problems just vanished! Other ‘freebies’ that come with OpenDNS are phishing filters and automatic URL correction. Even if your service provider’s DNS servers are working fine, you can still use OpenDNS just for these two special features.

Top 10 Java applications for your mobile phone

You don’t need a Treo or a flashy Windows Mobile phone to work or play on your mobile. With these nifty Java applications, you can turn your cell phone into a tiny computer which can do much more than making calls and sending SMS. And did I say that all these applications are free to download and use? Please note that some of these applications need a data plan to access wireless internet.

10. Calculator. Forget the useless +,-/,* calculator on your mobile phone. This great calculator application looks and works like a real scientific calculator. Includes: Trigonometrical and statistical functions, decimal to binary/hex/octal, GCD, LCM, reciprocal, square root etc., etc.,

9. Microcalc. Some people cannot live without spreadsheets. This one is for your mobile. Though the development seems to have ceased for this application, the latest version available works really well. There is a beta for Microcalc 2 available with more features.

8. Flurry. Free email client and RSS reader. You can check your personal email accounts including Gmail with a nice Java GUI rather than the WAP interface provided by your email service provider. Another nice J2ME email client is MovaMail – but it is not free.

7. M-Sudoku. GPL Sudoku for your mobile phone. There are many non-free versions out there, but this one is the best.

6. EQO. EQO brings the power of Skype to your mobile phone. Yes, free SkypeOut calls from your mobile phone! The downside? You need to keep your home PC running all the time, so that EQO can connect to your Skype. If you make a lot of calls and want to save some air time, use EQO.

Reporo

5. Reporo. Reporo is an integrated messaging and IM client for Yahoo, MSN, AOL, Google Talk etc., You can even be logged-in to multiple IM accounts at the same time. The developers constantly keep improving this product – Reporo now has online shopping on it!

4. Google Maps. Driving directions. Real-time traffic. Satellite imagery. Install this on your mobile phone before you do anything else.

Widsets

3. Widsets. Widsets [beta] is the Konfabulator for your cell phone. With so many widgets to choose from – RSS readers to little games, Widsets brings in eye candy and plenty of entertainment to your mobile phone. Windows Mobile Pocket PC users note: It does not yet work with your touch screen, but can take input from the keyboard. Trivia: Widsets is owned by Nokia.

Opera Mini

2. Opera Mini. Opera Mini uses a proxy to strip-off much of the unwanted graphics and compresses the html data for faster access and rendering on your mobile screen. Opera Mini re-formats the HTML content to render properly on your cell phone. The caching mechanism on the phone works lightning fast – you have to use it to believe it! Just hit the back button and notice how fast the previous page loads! Dump that stupid WAP browser on your mobile and start using Opera Mini. Go to http://mini.opera.com on your mobile phone to download and install Opera Mini.

Official Gmail for Mobile

1. Gmail Mobile. Arguably, the best email client ever created with J2ME. Gmail Mobile attempts to bring the desktop Gmail experience to your tiny mobile screen and succeeds in that. Threaded conversations, the legendary Gmail search, ability to mark mails as spam and ability to view attachments of any type including MS Word/MS Powerpoint and PDF makes this little client a must have for your mobile phone. Type in http://gmail.com/app on your mobile browser to install Gmail Mobile. Windows Mobile users: Use the IBM J9 JVM for best results.

Cleartype LCD patch on Mandriva Linux 2007

My biggest gripe on any GNU operating system is the poor font rendering. Because of patents held by biggies like Microsoft and Apple, many interesting font rendering technologies cannot be applied on Linux without the chance of getting sued.

Perhaps the best patch available for font rendering is the LCD cleartype patch from Freetype maintainer David Turner. Though this patch is no longer available from Turner, you can download it from several places on the internet. I have shared one of them here. Let us see how we can apply this patch on Mandriva 2007. Ubuntu users, please refer to my another interesting howto here.

We need the following 3 files:

Extract all the packages to a folder:

$ tar -xzvf filename.tar.gz

Now we need to apply the patches for individual packages.
For freetype, there is no patch, but we can edit the file manually. Go to your freetype source folder, and open the file aflatin.c:

$ vim ./src/autofit/aflatin.c

Search for the term FT_RENDER_MODE_MONO. You will find two instances. Remove the OR statement that follows this in both cases. It will read like the following once you edit it:

if ( mode == FT_RENDER_MODE_MONO )
other_flags |= AF_LATIN_HINTS_VERT_SNAP;

You are done patching freetype.

Now go to the xft folder and run:

patch -p1 < path/to/your/libXft-2.1.10-etcpatchfile

Go to the cairo folder and run:

patch -p1 < /path/to/your/cairo_patch

You are done with all the patching. Now, go to individual folders for these packages and run:

$ ./configure --prefix=/usr
$ make

Now login as root and:

$ su
# make install
# exit

This will overwrite the default libraries that shipped with your system. Repeat the same for all the other packages.

Go to font preferenes and select sub-pixel font rendering.

Just restart X (Ctrl+Alt+Backspace) and enjoy your new beautiful Mandriva!

Sample:

After patching

Acknowledgements: This guide is based on a thread in Ubuntu forums.


	

Wii Cricket?

With the motion sensing Wii-mote, there is lot of potential for a Cricket game in the Wii. Imagine the possibility of you and your friends playing multiplayer cricket online! With a swish of your wii-mote, you can hit the ball all around the virtual park. Fielding will be the most extraordianry. How will you catch the ball with your wii-mote? I think wicket keeping will be the most unwanted role to play in a Wii-cricket game.

Also, the bowler should never forget that he is playing a virtual game, otherwise he may end up in-swinging or leg-spinning the Wii remote, which will do more harm to the remote than the batsmen.

Update (21/Nov/2006): I meant the above paragraph as a joke. But then, there are reports of things like this happening. Apparently, this guy broke his 60″ LCD screen when bowling (bowling as in baseball) in WiiSports!!

PSP Wi-Fi annoyance and how to fix it

Thanks to Devhook, I still run only the 1.5 firmware for my PSP. Yesterday, since my wife was using my laptop, I had no other option but to browse the net on the PSP. I was surprised that I could not connect to my APN using my emulated 2.71 firmware. It is quite sometime since I used the Wi-Fi on my PSP but I could not recollect an instance where it failed to connect to my home network. I use WPA AES encryption and was repeatedly getting a stupid 80410D05 error message. If I change the encryption, I got a nice 80410D06 message! What an improvement!

The fix (after some extensive Googling) is simple. This seems to happen to folks using the linksys router. Login as administrator in your router, go to Wireless-> Advanced Wireless Settings. You’ll see a combo box for Basic Rate among others. Change the value from default to 1-2 MBps and save your settings. Now try reconnecting your PSP. It should work.

Ubuntu on PS3?

Now that it is officially confirmed that you are free to install any OS on PS3, it is time to save some money and buy one as soon as it is launched here or when someone starts selling it on ebay. Going by Sony’s past track record in India, it is unlikely that it will be in showrooms before the end of 2007.

Ever since I read about the Cell processor, I always wanted to get hold of a PS3. The cell based PS3 is likely to be very powerful in terms of processing heavy duty stuff like media encoding, which I often do on my laptop. The 9 core processor will be a refreshing change to the x86 based computers that we have been using for a while now. Though the official Linux is going to be Yellow Dog with enlightenment, I think hardly anyone will go for it. Ubuntu is likely to win the race here, closely followed by Fedora core. (Unforunately, Mandriva stopped shipping PPC versions of there distro sometime back). Interestingly, IBM is already shipping a Cell based general purpose computer with Fedora pre-installed!

This strategy of Sony comes as a big surprise, considering their continued efforts to thwart homebrew development on the PSP.

Sure, exciting days are ahead!

Update (28-Dec-2006): Here are some instructions for installing Ubuntu on PS3.  Warning: Not for the faint of heart.