The Media Guru

Jan 28, 2008

Everyone complains of high prices and the low quality of service they get… & how we are still stuck with lower-than-world-average speeds - 128K, 256K & 512K.

The most basic unlimited offer, i.e. Wanadoo ADSL 128Kbps, starts at Rs. 750. This connection is supposed to be reliable 24/24 7/7… meaning you should be getting a permanent 128kbps connection.
The other popular offer is the My.T 256Kbps, which is also unlimited & the price is still Rs. 750. But the big difference is that My.T is a Quality of Service offer which does not guarantee maximum speeds at peak hours.
(I’m not considering any other ISPs, because MT has a monopoly over Internet)

During the past few months, I’ve seen an acute deterioration of my internet speed at specific hours. At first I thought that it was something to do with the server from which I’m downloading… but very soon I had to admit it was the connection that was faulty. No matter what server I downloaded from, no matter how many threads/parallel connections I used with download managers, the result was always the same - I’m getting speeds between 4 to 9KB/s. The average speed of a 128K connection is between 11 to 16KB/s. So I’m getting half the speed I’m paying for.

The peak hours are on weekdays between 15.00 to 18.00 & during past two week-ends from 13.00 to 18.00. (This week-end, speed was great - that's my top speed above) These are exactly the times when most users are on the Internet. One more thing I’ve noticed is that the speed gets back to normal at the very instant when the clock ticks 18.00… probably when the businesses shut down?

This chart shows the level of priority to Internet access. Though I have not included it, the topmost rung consists of ISPs & VOIP companies that purchase bandwidth directly from MT on SAFE. & we common Internet users are found at the very bottom. At peaks, it’s only after all these businesses get their reserved bandwidth that we, common unimportant mortals, get a piece of the cake… Half the speed we are paying for… We are only cash-cows and are certainly not entitled to a decent speed.

A look at the top speed found in Mauritius… where are the 1Mbps & 512Kbps connections? Actually, the top speed of a 512K is 320Kbps… Why?

The SAFE cable has a capacity of around 130Gbit/s. Considering that the bandwidth is shared between South Africa, Reunion & Mauritius & half of it for international traffic, Mauritius has around 10 to 20 Gbps bandwidth. After removing all those dedicated access & companies that purchase their own bandwidth, this translates into around 5 Gbps of bandwidth for the people, i.e 5,000Mbps = 5,000 1Mbps connection = 50,000 512Kbps connections!!!
& considering that we have around 300,000 Internet users & 22,000 broadband subscribers, the conclusion is simple - we are running out of bandwidth.

This explains just about everything.
We are getting low speeds at the peak hours, because the network is at its limit, & that’s what had happened during the past two week-ends when everyone accessed the Internet at the same time.
Why are prices extremely high? The sales price of a 128K connection is around Rs. 500 & that of 512K around Rs. 900…
Why is MT so aggresively promoting My.T & NetPC, offers with network-dependent speeds? Why is the price of ADSL 128K the same as My.T 256K while My.T offers thrice more services?
The truth is… to discourage people from subscribing to broadband connections. MT knows that the network has reached its almost full capacity.

Eassy, the solution?
Eassy - the problem with Eassy is that it will be shared by a large number of countries & so Mauritius won’t have any significant gain in speed. If you were thinking that with Eassy, you’d be getting a 1Mbps connection at Rs. 500, dream on… that’s still decades away.

Africa & the Indian Ocean is the world’s poorest region in terms of fibre connectivity. No wonder Africa is always behind. What we need is more fibre-optic links. But the problem is that there’s always more talk than action… no one really wants to invest.
UCL is considering investing into an island-wide Fibre-To-Home network in Mauritius… but who would want a FTTH connection that gives you a 128Kbps international speed?
The Mauritian Dream
Bilan of Internet Service Providers (ISP) in Mauritius

Update: Map of all Fibre-Optic links in the world

Update: According to Le Matinal, the Indian Ocean Commission (ICO) is organising meetings to discuss the possibility to invest into a SAFE-like Fibre Optic Cable that will link all Indian Ocean islands to the rest of the world.
My advice: Just do it!

Update 2: Akamai caching websites in Mauritius...

(2010) Update 3:

Sorry, but this whole article is rubbish. Really. At the time this was posted, I had a very crude knowledge of how the network was built. So actually I was very much wrong. Although SAFE has reached its limit, the problem is with the old local infrastructure. It can't handle peaks. With the arrival of Eassy (1Mbps at Rs 1000), it has slightly improved but you do still notice slowdowns. However, gradually, users are being migrated to FTTC. Until all users are on the FTTC network, these slowdowns will continue, no matter how many fibre optic cables are connected to Mauritius...

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Jan 25, 2008

Yesterday, when I loaded up my latest post on the Tata Nano, I saw this video ad at the bottom. At first I thought that it was an image ad that was made to look like a Blogger video…

But it works. Turned out it was really Google AdSense video ad unit… the first time I’ve come across one.

Video ad units (not YouTube embedded ads) are quite common in the US, it’s quite rare to find them outside the US as publishers only handpick specific sites to generate maximum exposure.

After the scrolling ads, now video ads are being tested on my blog! The guinea blog for AdSense! LOL

The video is just like the one used by Blogger, except that there’s a an “Ads by Google” instead of the Blogger logo. The video is hosted on Google Video.

Anyone can watch the video, including the publisher. But you get paid only if someone clicks on the video link that shows up…

Here’s the video of the ad video:

Check out the sample video ad & instructions here.
FAQ about AdSense Video units.

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Jan 24, 2008

The Tata Nano, the world’s cheapest car, the People’s car, the impossible dream made true…
- Air Conditioning
- Power Steering
- Heater & Defroster
- Radio & CD player (& Speakers)
- Power Windows
- Dual Airbags
- Traction Control
- Rear Wiper
- ABS (Anti-lock Braking System)
- Adjustable seats
- Left Side Door Mirror
- Cruise Control
- Rear seat belts
- Tachometer (RPM Meter)
- Anti-theft device (or alarm) with central locking
- Spare wheel
Are some of the (standard) features it doesn’t have…

The People’s Car, as Ratan Tata describes it, is a 1-Lakh rupee car ($2500 - £1250 - Rs.75000). It has a 623cc 33hp rear engine, brakes, a four-gear manual transmission, seatbelts, locking, wind-down windows, a steering wheel & is 3,100,000,000 nanometres long. It has also a small boot at the front. That’s in the standard version (red car).

To save $10, Tata engineers redesigned the suspension to eliminate actuators in the headlights, the levelers that adjust the angle of the beam depending on how the car is loaded…
That’s one small example of how Tata have managed to make that car really really cheap… But there’s more - the body has been glued together instead of the more expensive welding, it has an aluminium engine (with the same power of a small outboard boat engine or that of a lawn-mower) & the transmission system used in the Tata Nano had been originally designed by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Just as the Japanese popularized Kanban (just in time) and Kaizen (continuous improvement), Indians could export a kind of “Gandhian Engineering,” combining irreverence for conventional ways of thinking with a frugality born of scarcity.

The deluxe version (yellow car) has air conditioning & some other options.

Even the deluxe version is extremely stripped-down…

The Specs:
- Engine:
- 2 cylinder petrol with Bosch multi-point fuel injection (single injector) all aluminium 623 cc (38 cu in)
- 2 valves per cylinder overhead camshaft
- Compression ratio - 9.5:1
- bore × stroke 73.5 × 73.5 mm
- Power: 33 PS (33 hp/24 kW) @ 5500 rpm
- Torque: 48 N·m (35 ft·lbf) @ 2500 rpm
- Rear wheel drive, 4-speed manual transmission
- Steering – mechanical rack and pinion

- Acceleration: 0-70 km/h (43 mph): 14 seconds
- Maximum speed: 105 km/h (65 mph)
- Fuel economy (combined City + Highway): 20 kilometres per litre (5 L/100 km, 47 US mpg, 56 UK mpg)

Body & Dimensions
- Seat Belts: 2
- Trunk capacity: 30 L (1.1 cu ft)

Suspension, tires and brakes
- Front brake: disc
- Rear brake: drum
- Front track: 1,325 mm (52.2 in)
- Rear track: 1,315 mm (51.8 in)
- Ground clearance: 180 mm (7.1 in)
- Front suspension: McPherson strut with lower A arm
- Rear suspension: Independent coil spring
- 12-inch wheels

Stylish, comfortable
The People’s Car, designed with a family in mind, has a roomy passenger compartment with generous leg space and head room. It can comfortably seat four persons. Four doors with high seating position make ingress and egress easy.

Yet with a length of 3.1 metres, width of 1.5 metres and height of 1.6 metres, with adequate ground clearance, it can effortlessly manoeuvre on busy roads in cities as well as in rural areas. Its mono-volume design, with wheels at the corners and the powertrain at the rear, enables it to uniquely combine both space and manoeuvrability, which will set a new benchmark among small cars.

When launched, the car will be available in both standard and deluxe versions. Both versions will offer a wide range of body colours, and other accessories so that the car can be customised to an individual’s preferences.
No doubt about that… the Nano will be a massive success in India. It is indeed a dream come true for people who wanted to switch from their two-wheeler to a proper car… the Maruti 800 was the only alternative then, but it was not a proper car. The Nano is more spacious & is more affordable. Finally everyone can drive a real car… at least for Indians. Most Asian people are short & will comfortably fit in the Nano. But “normal” people will find it really hard to drive the standard version without the reclining & movable seats. As for the back seat, that would be reserved for children.
The lack of air-conditioning will be mostly felt during heat waves… & in the traffic jams.
For an ultra-low-cost car, you don’t expect the exquisite design of a Ferrari or a Lamborghini… but it is indeed an ugly hatchback. The aerodynamics can be reworked to give a better (& safer) front look & coax more speed out of this car. & the centre of gravity can be further lowered to provide better stability & to prevent roll-overs…

Fuel-efficient engine
The People’s Car has a rear-wheel drive, all-aluminium, two-cylinder, 623 cc, 33 PS, multi point fuel injection petrol engine. This is the first time that a two-cylinder gasoline engine is being used in a car with single balancer shaft. The lean design strategy has helped minimise weight, which helps maximise performance per unit of energy consumed and delivers high fuel efficiency. Performance is controlled by a specially designed electronic engine management system.
Selling a car at Rs. 100,000 requires quite a lot of sacrifices… & the Tata Nano excels in that. It’s supposed to be environmental-friendly since it is made from recyclable material (the same junk the scrap metal dealers stole off your backyard last year), & an all-aluminium small engine with low weight ratio (the weight is around 500kg). At 5L/100km, the engineers have done a marvellous job. However it does have a particular disadvantage… to preserve costs, the maximum speed is limited at 70Km/h… meaning the car parts (such as the wheel bearings) are made to sustain speeds up to 70Km/h. & if by mistake you go beyond 70… the car will literally disintegrate!
All these calculations have been made considering only the driver… Add in a whole family, the fuel consumption will increase & the car will be much slower!

Meets all safety requirements
The People’s Car’s safety performance exceeds current regulatory requirements. With an all sheet-metal body, it has a strong passenger compartment, with safety features such as crumple zones, intrusion-resistant doors, seat belts, strong seats and
anchorages, and the rear tailgate glass bonded to the body. Tubeless tyres further enhance safety.
This is where the Tata Nano fails heavily… even though it may have passed (prehistoric) Indian safety laws… it is a potential risk to owners. Even the addition of airbags won’t help it pass EU safety standards. For frontal & backward collisions, the car may not crumple enough to prevent fatal injuries due to its design… As for side collisions, safety is nil - because it doesn’t have a collision bar inside the doors.
Even if the car can’t go beyond 70km/h, other cars can… & those cars have better protection than the Nano.
& even the long-term reliability of the car is being questioned. Using cheaper parts will mean it requires more maintenance than is normally required & those parts will have to be frequently replaced.

The People’s Car’s tailpipe emission performance exceeds regulatory requirements. In terms of overall pollutants, it has a lower pollution level than two-wheelers being manufactured in India today. The high fuel efficiency also ensures that the car has low carbon dioxide emissions, thereby providing the twin benefits of an affordable transportation solution with a low carbon footprint.
Total rubbish! The Tata Nano is a global threat to human survival. Unlike what Tata suggests, it pollutes more than a two-wheeler. It may pass the Euro IV emissions, but it fails miserably in more stringent tests. While the car by itself is less polluting… add up all the emissions of a million like these & its disaster. & because it is extremely cheap, numbers can range from a few million to around 50 million cars! Of course, proponents would say that other cars pollute just as much. But that shouldn’t be a reason for being environment-unfriendly, while the rest of the world is going green with hybrids, cleaner diesels, electric cars, fuel-cell cars & hydrogen-powered cars. If the same car was to be launched in 5 years time, it could have been entirely electric!
Other problems include traffic congestion. The Tata Nano is a car, not a motorcycle & takes up space on roads, meaning higher traffic, more congestion & more pollution…

Can you beat China at its own game - make something cheaper than the Chinese? In the next few years, expect around 25 different Tata clones to crop up in China which is half less expensive & pollutes twice more! The Tata Nano will inevitably lead to an arms-race of low-cost, unsafe & polluting cars.
& of course, the Tata Nano doesn’t run on water - it runs on petrol! Will it really be a People’s car in a few years time, when victim of its own success, it would have made oil prices go beyond the $250 mark?

Since no test car has been given out to reviewers, & that Top Gear hasn’t yet tested it out (or rather blown it up or smashed or crashed or drowned or simply destroyed it), nothing can be said of its road performance.
Is the Tata Nano on track to replace the VW Beetle as the most shameful car in human history?

More on the Tata Nano:
Official Press Release
More photos
Tata fanboy - Why critics of the Tata small car are barking up the wrong tree article

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Jan 18, 2008

Detroit 08 was not only a showcase for General Motors & other US manufacturers with their pick-up trucks, crossovers & SUVs - the Germans & the Japanese were there as well. However it was Audi that mesmerized the show with its diesel-powered Audi R8…

Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
No need to present the ZR1… it’s best supercar made in the US. & this new version of the ZR1 is just as stunning. Carbon fibre body, carbon ceramic disc brakes & the 6.2-litre supercharged V8 LS9 (620hp). The Corvette ZR1 is a pure muscle car!

Ford Verve Concept
This is an eco-friendly fuel efficient sedan concept that Ford hopes to sell in 2010. The design is quite good & it’s supposed to have a 4-cylinder engine & PowerShift dual clutch transmission.

Hyundai Genesis
Lexus have some competition in the luxury sedan section with the Hyundai Genesis that wants to become the next LS400. & it has all those luxury items like cooled & heated seats, adaptive headlights, sat-nav, backup camera, cruise control & Lexicon 7.1 stereo system. Watch out for these!

Ford F-150
The new 2009 Ford F-150 comes in different looks, & is expected to be as best-selling as the previous version (it’s the best-selling pickup in the US). & I must admit it has great looks!

Lexus LF-A Roadster
This is it!!! In addition to the GT-R & the R8, Porsche 911s now have to contend with the LF-A series… The Lexus LF-A Roadster is as good as the original LF-A coupe, if not better with that stunning red colour! & the engine is a 5-litre V10 with transmission at the back, with a power rating at 500hp. Toyota is back!!!

Land Rover LRX Concept
Great cheers to Land Rover’s Design team for bringing out a new life out of those boring Land Rover’s. How about a Defender concept?

Mazda Furai
The best concept in Detroit… front design is awesome! Although it doesn’t have a proper engine (with only 450hp), it would be great if Mazda could just tweak it a little bit more & it would be a race car to contend with (in the likes of the Pagani Zonda?)

Toyota Venza
Toyota have presented this crossover that is expected to rival Nissan’s Murano. Not bad.

Ferrari 430 Spider Bio-fuel
Ferrari goes green! Well, not exactly… this F430 runs on E85 (85% ethanol & 15% gasoline), which results in a 10hp power increase and only 5% fuel economy.

Dodge Ram
There’s nothing special about this pickup except the way it was presented at Detroit. A large herd of cattle was made to stampede through Detroit streets as the Dodge Ram 2009 was unveiled.

Honda Pilot Prototype
The Honda Pilot is a SUV with Honda's ACE (Advanced Compatibility Engineering) safety technology and VCM cylinder deactivation management system. The Variable Cylinder Managaement system allows this V6 to run on 6, 4 or 3 cylinders depending on the need. Wow! That should drastically reduce fuel consumption. The design is not that good with those upward-looking headlights.

This is the hybrid crossover, which BMW presented last year at Frankfurt, now in production version.

Audi TT-S
The Audi TT-S is the new version of the Audi TT with 265hp, large 19-inch wheels & a dual-clutch automatic allowing 0-100 in 5.2s.

Mitsubishi Concept-RA
A sports coupe concept that shows off the blending of aluminium, carbon & plastic. Hope it stays as a concept…

Hummer HX Eco-friendly
Hummer & eco-friendly are two words that are poles apart… but against all odds, Hummer have managed it with this E85 flex-fuel concept. The design is great… let’s hope now that the US Army will consider using this design in its future Hummers!

Lamborghini Ad Personam
Unfortunately there was no Reventón on display at Detroit, but Lamborghini have announced that they will be launching the Ad Personam program where customers will be able to customise the colours & the interior of their Lamborghinis.

Toyota A-BAT Hybrid Concept
I think Toyota have created this concept to allow Top Gear to reach the South Pole. Unlike what it suggests, this really fat truck is a hybrid & has solar panels as well!

Ford Explorer Concept
Yet another SUV, but this one is a really cool concept (except for the “humped” bonnet)

Dodge Zeo
This Zeo concept is an electric car that provides 64KWh to the rear wheels via a 265hp engine. It can cover 250 miles before it runs out of juice.

Chevrolet Camaro SS
Bumblebee was there as well!!!

Audi R8 V12 TDI

The R8 V12 TDI is a concept that melds the 6.0L V-12 diesel engine from last year’s Q7 concept with the award winning R8 sports car.

The concept engine shares a cylinder count with the race-winning R10, but it's actually a completely new engine with a 60-degree bank angle instead of the 90 degrees used on the race engine. While the 500 hp is only par for the course in its class, the 738 lb-ft of torque is enough to shred all four tires with ease.

While the R8 V12 TDI storms to 62mph in 4.2 seconds and maxes out at 186mph, it also manages to get 23 MPG. The combination of a 29,000-psi direct-inject fuel injection system, particulate filters and urea injection allows this beast to pass 2014 EuroVI emissions standards, too.
Check out the video here.
More on Autoblog.
Gallery of all Detroit cars…

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Jan 16, 2008

The Macbook air is an ultra-thin Macbook at 0.16 inches (4 mm) at its thinnest & 0.76 inches (19 mm) at its thickest, making it the thinnest laptop in the world. So thin… that it can fit in a manila envelope.

It has a 13.3 inch widescreen display, a backlit keyboard & a multi-touch trackpad. The multi-touch trackpad allows the user to reciprocate the same hand motions as with the iPhone - pinch, scroll, drag, etc. There’s also an iSight webcam at the top of the screen.

The Macbook Air comes with an 1.8-inch 80GB hard disk (as in the iPods) or a 64GB SSD.

The Intel Core 2 Duo processor has been shrunk down by 60% to provide a speed of 1.6GHz & 1.8GHz!!!

To make the Macbook Air really thin, you have to shrink down the electronics… & Apple engineers have just managed it!

It has a single USB 2.0, Micro-DVI & headphone jack. There’s also the 802.11n WiFi (248 Mbit/s!!!) & the latest Bluetooth 2.1!

Unfortunately, there’s no optical drive & the battery lasts only for 5 hours. But you can get an optional $99 USB external DVD burner.

The Specs:
Height: 0.16-0.76 inch (0.4-1.94 cm)
Width: 12.8 inches (32.5 cm)
Depth: 8.94 inches (22.7 cm)
Weight: 3.0 pounds (1.36 kg)

- Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 4MB on-chip shared L2 cache
- 800MHz FSB
- 2GB of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM onboard

- 80GB 4200-rpm Parallel ATA hard disk drive
- Optional 64GB solid-state drive
- Optional external USB MacBook Air SuperDrive

- 13.3-inch (diagonal) glossy widescreen TFT LED backlit display with support for millions of colours
- Supported resolutions: 1280 by 800 (native), 1152 by 720, 1024 by 768…

- DVI output using micro-DVI to DVI adapter (included)
- VGA output using micro-DVI to VGA adapter (included)
- Composite output using micro-DVI to video adapter (optional)
- S-video output using micro-DVI to video adapter (optional)
- Intel GMA X3100 graphics processor with 144MB of DDR2 SDRAM shared with main memory
- Extended desktop and video mirroring: Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display and up to 1920 by 1200 pixels on an external display, both at millions of colours
- Built-in iSight camera

- Built-in full-size keyboard with 78 (U.S.) or 79 (ISO) keys, including 12 function keys, 4 arrow keys (inverted “T” arrangement), and embedded numeric keypad
- Backlit keyboard with ambient light sensor for automatic adjustment of keyboard illumination and screen brightness
- Solid-state trackpad with multi-touch gesture support for precise cursor control; supports two-finger scrolling, pinch, rotate, swipe, tap, double-tap, and drag capabilities

- Built-in AirPort Extreme Wi-Fi wireless networking (based on IEEE 802.11n draft specification); IEEE 802.11a/b/g compatible
- Built-in Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate)

- Analog audio output/headphone out (minijack)
- Built-in mono speaker
- Built-in omnidirectional microphone

- Integrated 37-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
- 45W MagSafe power adapter with cable management system
- MagSafe power adapter port

In the box:
- MacBook Air
- Micro-DVI to DVI adapter
- Micro-DVI to VGA adapter
- Cleaning/polishing cloth
- MagSafe power adapter
- Install/restore DVDs
- Printed documentation

The Price:

The Macbook Air is a great piece of technological marvel, with the small processor, built-in WiFi & that razor-thin body…
BUT it’s not enough. It has faults… too many, in fact!
- It has only a single USB port… now it’s up to you to decide which is more important to connect… your modem or your optical drive or the USB pen drive?
- It has no Ethernet port… meaning you can’t network it with your PC Mac.
- The Micro-DVI adapter to this, Micro-DVI adapter to that… is not a solution. We need proper working ports!!!
- To make it thinner, Apple decided to chuck out the optical drive… & instead provided a software that will allow you to use other Macs & PCs burners. But you need to carry around the Remote Disk dvd to install the software on other computers.
- & what happens when those computers don’t have any proper WiFi connection??
- Another problem with going thin is that the battery takes up 3/4 of the space but provides only 5 hours of battery life!!!
- The battery cannot be removed. If it’s dead, you need to bring it back to Apple to replace it.
- & it’s not the thinnest in the world!!! The Mitsubishi Pedion (12-inch screen, Pentium MMX 233 MHz) was 0.72 inch (18 mm) thick! Read here.
- No stereo sound output or input.
- The 2GB memory is fixed. You can’t add more.
- The 64GB SSD is not optional… you’ll need to pay $1000 more to replace the 80 GB with it.
- For the 1.8GHz Core 2 Duo, you need to pay $300 more.
- The price: $1799 (Rs. 54,000) & $3098 (Rs. 92,000). You can get much better hardware at much lower prices. Even the Macbook Pro is not that expensive!

The Verdict:
The only people I know, that are crazy enough (or fool enough) to buy that… are Americans. Apple were caught in between UMPC & laptop… they didn’t know what to make… so they decided to bring out a laptop with the features of a UMPC - the Macbook Air.
On a positive side, let’s assume the Macbook Air is a hardware prototype for next year’s Macbook Touch. They’ve achieved the thinness, how about the Touch?

See you next year, Steve Jobs!

Full coverage of Macworld 2008 from Engadget & Gizmodo.

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