Hear that book

Relive stories in your mother tongue with audiobooks in Indian languages

A month ago Bangalore-based Ranjita Bhagwan, a researcher with Microsoft Research India, was thrilled to discover Shonakatha , a website set up in 2010 that sells Bengali audiobooks. “I didn’t know this kind of a website existed. This is great for people like me who understand the language but cannot read the script,” she says. Bhagwan is a Tamilian but grew up in Kolkata, where she learnt to speak Bengali. “Unfortunately, though I can read the script, it happens only at a snail’s pace,” she says, adding that this takes away the charm of reading Bengali books. “Somebody should do this for Hindi as well. I’d love to hear Munshi Premchand in an audiobook, rather than plod through a book.”

Hearing is easy

Vidyanand Vartak, a software developer based in London, launched a blog called BoltiPustake in 2008 that offers free, downloadable Marathi audiobooks in MP3 format. “One day, I came across a site for English audiobooks where volunteers read books for free and started listening to them,” says Vartak, “That’s where I thought of doing something similar in Marathi.”

For Vartak, the blog is a way to revive his mother tongue. Currently, he’s recording a 100-year-old Marathi adaptation of Jane Austen’sPride And Prejudice called Aaj Pasun 50 Varshanni (50 Years From Today), which was written as a futuristic novel at the time.

“This whole narration business is nothing new in India,” says Jai Madhukar Zende, co-founder, BooksTALK, an year-old audiobook publisher. “We have a rich tradition of oral storytelling in all languages in India and have been a listening culture historically.” Zende remembers how he grew up hearing audiobooks on cassettes, narrated on Bombay Doordarshan and then some years later, on CDs.

“Even today if you go to a music shop you can pick up Katha audiobooks on CDs,” he says. With a funky website and a subhead “Story telling is back… Just listen”, BooksTALK aims to introduce about 100 audiobooks in three languages—English, Kannada and Bengali—in the market by year-end. “While in Kannada and Bengali audiobooks we stick to classics only, in English we are bringing out all kinds of titles, non-fiction, classics, fiction etc.,” says Zende.

New Horizon Media Pvt. Ltd (NHM), established in 2004, is one of the earliest ventures in audiobooks in Tamil and has uploaded over 100 audiobooks in the language since 2006. It sells CDs through its website for Rs. 99-199 and on Audible for approximately $10 (or Rs. 555) each on a revenue-sharing basis. “It is the people who do not like to read much but like to know things that go for these titles. These listeners prefer non-fiction titles such as biographies, political histories, self-improvement and history. Fiction sells less,” says Badri Seshadri, publisher and managing director, NHM.

Recording is tough

Even though most regional publishers in languages ranging from Marathi, Oriya, Bengali and Hindi to Tamil, Kannada and others are considering and trying out the audiobook space, the number of books in the market remains low. One reason is that it takes a lot of time to make one. Since its inception in 2008, Vartak has uploaded only 14 audiobooks on his blog BoltiPustake.

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What’s your gadget update?

Techie socialist or flighty fashionista? The gadgets you carry say a lot about you

Cellphones, laptops and all the other stylish electronic paraphernalia are fast becoming like jewellery and clothes—a personality statement. “I stereotype people and their gadgets,” says Nilofar Ansher, 28, a communications analyst from Hyderabad. “If someone sports a flashy, brand new gadget as soon as it’s released, then I would mentally tick off tags like rich, brand slave, or show-off.” Even the brand name matters. “If his brand turns out to be an Apple product, then I feel ticked off as I do not subscribe to the Apple code of ethics,” says Ansher.

She’s not alone. According to a September 2010 study Gadget Census, conducted by Retrevo Labs, a US-based gadgets company researcher, the gadgets you use help people form opinions about you.

“The prestige associated with brands offers an experience of a ‘class’,” says Girishwar Misra, 61, a professor of psychology at Delhi University. “The hierarchically structured Indian mindset has found it another space for enacting and expressing power differential.” He says people’s notion of self-worth and sense of belonging rest on the opinions of others in their community or society. “Technology has become yet another aspect of reflecting and conveying one’s identity to others around them.”

“What isn’t a status symbol?” asks Nishant Shah, director—research, Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore. “In the commodified world, where everything is mass-produced, the consumer has to be made to believe that everything they are buying is a part of their expression and personality, and even though this wasn’t created keeping them in mind, it is specially made only for them.”

This is also the reason, according to him, why most people like to own the most cutting-edge gadgets but end up using them like any other low-end gadget. After all, how many smartphone owners go beyond making calls, sending SMSes and updating their social networks? “This is where you start wondering what then propels people to buy that new gadget,” says Shah.

We present a tongue-in-cheek analysis of gadget-owner camps in India. Which camp do you belong to?

iBragger

 

iPhone 4S: Rs 44,500; www.apple.com/in/iphone

iPhone 4S: Rs. 44,500; www.apple.com/in/iphone

 

There are better gadgets out there than iPhones, iPads and iPods, but it doesn’t matter. Every time there’s a new update or a new gadget from Apple, you have to shell out the money and grab it. A day in your life begins on the iCloud, hanging out with friends who belong to the “iEcosystem”. You don’t know how you would survive if iTunes stopped working for even half a day. You love to flaunt your shiny gadgets and smile when someone asks you about them. You don’t necessarily know how the iGadget works, but can still talk about it with pride.

In your bag: iPhones, iPads, and any other gadget that begins with an ‘i’.

Your personality: You are slightly egotistical and love attention. You also like to get compliments on everything, whether it’s your attire or your gadget.

Your fashion fix: iPhone 5 is going to be released in a few months. If you don’t want to wait that long for a rumoured 4-inch screen, go for iPhone 4S, the one with that sexy “iSecretary”, Siri.

Retro relic

 

Retro phone handset: Rs1,399; www.excitinglives.com

Retro phone handset: Rs1,399; www.excitinglives.com

 

You believe that overuse of gadgets is responsible for all the diseases in society, from the common cold to cancer. You don’t use Internet on your phone, and have an old desktop on which you might check email once a week. You think that GPS stands for “Going Perfectly Straight” and stay safely away from the time wasters of modern living.

In your bag: Nothing. You have a landline and an old desktop that needs to be upgraded urgently.

Your personality: You prefer talking face-to-face instead of emailing people. You would rather discuss things in the middle of the street instead of shooting off a text message.

Your fashion fix: Turn your cellphone into a landline with the retro phone handset. So even the most modern devices will feel comfortably old.

Beg, borrow, buy techie

 

Raspberry Pi: around $35*; www.element14.com

Raspberry Pi: around $35*; www.element14.com

 

You love gadgets. You always need to know what makes things tick. Every time a new gadget comes around, you start saving and stop buying anything unnecessary, such as clothes, or food, and go buy the new shiny devices. Brands don’t matter, just so long as you can see innovation.  Continue reading “What’s your gadget update?”

8 ways to total transformation

 

Convert that smartphone into a superphone with these useful little accessories and add-ons

All of us know the importance of that one-second conversation just before the cellphone battery dies on you. And when have we not wished that our phone would not lose signal in the middle of an important negotiation? If you are looking to enhance the performance of your cellphone, here are some add-ons to convert it into a superphone. Believe us, your handset will never be the same.

BoxWave Presentation Capacitive Stylus

The trend of the stylus is back for new-generation touch screens. Use this one if you like to be precise in writing and drawing on a tiny screen or simply want to keep it scratch-free. This stylus is slightly heavier than a pen and comes integrated with an LED reading light as well as a laser pointer. All you need to do is put slight pressure and the stylus works smoothly even on screen protectors. The clip-on at the side ensures you will not leave it behind in the cab. It even has a headphone jack plug anchor if you prefer it to dangle stylishly. It comes in four colours—black, silver, ruby and white.

Money matters: $19.95 (around Rs. 1,020) at www.boxwave.com. Shipping charges extra.

Violight UV Cellphone Sanitizer

A March study by the London School of Hygiene says your cellphone has more germs than a toilet seat. Kill the germs on your device the ‘Star Trek’ way with Violight UV Cellphone Sanitizer. It is a metal basket with a lid in which you can put your phone, charger, MP3 player, PDA, even earbuds or anything else which will fit in the slim box. The germicidal UV rays will zap the viruses and bacteria in just 5 minutes. It can only be used for flat phones and not for flip phones or sliders—those are too bulky.

Money matters: $49.95 for the Violight UV Cellphone Sanitizer,atwww.violight.com. Portable versions for toothbrushes and earbuds are cheaper. Shipping charges extra.

iZon Remote Room Monitor

Want to keep an eye on your child or pet while you are in office? This app-controlled camera live-streams video and audio of any space. The camera connects to your iPhone via an app called Stem:Connect. The camera has a magnetic base so that you can position it at any angle. Once set, you can see a live feed from the camera (with about 15 seconds delay) anywhere in the world on your iPhone. It can be configured to alert you when it senses motion or sound in the room. You can set the app to record feeds and upload them to a free, private YouTube account. The live stream is encrypted and sent only to your device. It works only for iOS products now (iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad), but the company is also developing Android and Mac apps, and a Web browser interface.

Money matters: $129.95 at Steminnovation.com/izon. Shipping costs extra.

 

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Your favourite books, on the digital highway

 

Forget just reading—now you can experience books with soundtrack, videos, animation and games

After 244 years, the Encyclopaedia Britannica announced earlier this month that it would stop publishing its 32-volume print edition. Forever. A month ago, in February, a digitally enhanced version of the Game of Thrones, the first book in the much-touted fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, was released as an eBook for iPad. The “book” is much more than a reading experience. It comes with a pop-up column of a glossary of characters and a dynamic map which tells you where all the series’ characters are at any point in the book. To add to the fun, there are clips from the audio book. To call it a book is like asking Marvin, the paranoid android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to get you a cup of coffee.

The book has evolved into a multimedia, multi-touch, customizable offering with the advent of touch-screen devices, especially the launch of the iPad. This evolved version can talk back to you, entertain you with additional videos and references and help you explore itself in non-linear ways. For want of a better phrase, the industry is calling these “enhanced eBooks”.

“Enhanced eBooks are not eBooks, or digital versions of books,” explains Sriram Panchanathan, 41, the Bangalore-based senior vice-president of Digital Solutions, part of the US-based Aptara Inc. “They are something else altogether. They have additional features to an eBook that complement or add to the reading experience.” Aptara works with some of the biggest publishers worldwide, like John Wiley & Sons, Pearson and Random House, and digital publishers like Inkling (www.inkling.com) to create digitally enhanced eBooks of their content. Their most recent titles include The Professional Chef, The Culinary Institute of America for John Wiley & Sons and Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, a self-published title.

According to Panchanathan, you can completely change the experience of reading a book on a touch-screen gadget with extra elements like audio, video, multimedia, scripted animation, a dictionary, or an interactive interface. “A year ago, publishers started with enhancing children’s and educational books with graphics, animations and audio and video but now we see a demand from them to convert non-fiction categories like cookbooks, books on gardening and even biographies,” he says. Take the example of the forthcoming enhanced title from Penguin of Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable. It’s a biography of the legendary black activist, features rare archival video footage of his life and photos, and has an interactive map of Harlem, Manhattan, to better visualise where he came from.

What’s helped obviously is that publishers now have the tools to embed multimedia in a digital book in a fast and cost-effective way. Epub 3, the latest update to the open eBook format .epub, and its counterpart, Amazon’s Kindle Format 8, were both released in October. While the .epub version 3 works for almost all touch-screen eReaders, including Android-based tablets and the Nook, Cobo and Sony tablets, Kindle Format 8 works only for Kindle Fire devices. Both formats use HTML 5, which can be used to embed multimedia elements directly into the eBook file, making it look much like a website. “This reduces the cost and size of an eBook and gives creators, the ability to experiment with styling, animation and scripting,” says Panchanathan.

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Dialling for the doctor

 

Your cellphone might have a convenient service for medical help, but how reliable is it?

Acouple’s sleep is disturbed in the middle of the night. Their nine-month-old child is crying in pain, and has fever. The couple try to call their family doctor but can’t get through. The mother suggests calling a health helpline on their mobile service provider. Within minutes, they are connected to a doctor who asks for the symptoms and then offers a prescription.

At the press of a button: It is a quick way to connect to a health professional for minor ailments at a nominal cost.

At the press of a button: It is a quick way to connect to a health professional for minor ailments at a nominal cost.

So goes the advertisement for Mediphone, a tele-triage (medical advice over the phone) service for Airtel subscribers that started its call-a-doctor facility across India in January. On similar lines, Spice has launchedJeeyo Healthy, a service that offers its customers doctors-on-call with health-related information and advice on their handsets. Companies such as Aircel and Tata Docomo are also offering tele-triage services.

Meant for minor problems like back, neck and stomach aches, cold and fever, tele-triage is a quick way to connect to a health professional at a nominal cost. Mediphone charges Airtel customers across the country Rs. 35 per call for consultation, a mere fraction of what it would cost to visit a doctor (which could range from Rs. 200-500).

“This is one of the reasons for its popularity,” says Nitin Verma, 43, vice-president, Healthfore, a division of Religare Technologies which runs Mediphone. Dr Verma has 25 doctors in his team. He explains that Mediphone is actually a call centre designed to answer questions related to medical problems. When you call the service, you get to speak to a medical officer or a nurse. The person ascertains whether it’s an emergency, in which case they connect you to an ambulance service. But if they feel it is a minor problem that can be resolved on the phone, they connect the caller to a doctor or resolve it themselves.

The idea of diagnose-on-call doesn’t go down well with everyone from the medical fraternity. “A doctor should never prescribe a drug without seeing a patient,” says G.K. Ramachandrappa, national president, Indian Medical Association. “If someone says I have a fever, it could be anything from typhoid to malaria or a simple virus. A basic drug like a paracetamol may harm the patient in the long run.” According to Dr Ramachandrappa, a visit to the family doctor is best. “Either that or go to the emergency ward of a hospital near you, or call up 108 for a free ambulance,” he says.

Nandu Madhava, 35, CEO of mDhil.com, an online and mobile phone portal on health education, agrees with Dr Ramachandrappa. Madhava tried tele-triage as a business model but quit after a while. “Calling and talking to a doctor just doesn’t work. Four out of five of those calls always ended with advice to call an ambulance or go see a doctor. The risk of misdiagnosis is far too high on the phone.” That pain in the groin could be anything from a pulled muscle to hernia or cancer, says Madhava, adding that this was the reason mDhil.com decided to focus on health-informative videos.

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A personal trainer at the press of a button

Technology is changing the way people get in shape. Here is a round-up of fitness gadgets that can help you look good

 

Actor Hrithik Roshan apparently has two expat personal trainers to help him shape his already fab body for Krrish 3. It is rumoured that Aamir Khan has also hired an expat trainer to beef up for Dhoom 3. It is a good idea to hire personal trainers because not only do they encourage and push you, but also figure out a fitness routine especially made for your body. But not all of us can afford to pay hourly fees of Rs. 500-Rs.2,000 for consultation. If you fall in this category, fret not; you can buy new-age fitness gadgets and technology that can play the part of your very own personal trainer. Be it running, swimming, walking, dancing or gymming—these devices track your steps and heart rate and give a detailed analysis of your daily workout. The right gadget depends on the type of exercises you do, so we found the best in each category.

Walking

Striiv

 

A pedometer/keychain that acts like a cheerful trainer, encouraging you to walk more daily through various games. It counts every step you take and every stair you climb and gives a daily/weekly chart of calories burned and distance covered on its 2-inch high-resolution touch-screen display. It also gives you goals whereby you can make a social contribution: Take 60,000 steps and Striiv will donate a dose of polio to a child in India; take 18,000 steps and it will conserve one parking-spot size rainforest in Tanzania or provide one day of water for one child in Bolivia. The more you walk, the more you give. Then there’s ‘Myland’, a game in which you build huts and plant trees in various territories—growth and moving up new levels are based on walking, running, and taking the stairs. A new feature lets it make personalized challenges geared for you after it adapts to your progress and performance. You can even use the device to challenge a friend and outdo them by real-time walking. All this, by simply keeping Striiv anywhere on your body—in your pocket, purse or attached to your belt.

Wallet dent: $99, on www.amazon.com

Cycling

iBike POWERHOUSE

 

All you need to do with this device is select a goal-based plan. The gadget offers options like iSlim, ExpressFIT, Brazilian Butt, KidFit, Weekend Warrior. All are available through the official app which can be downloaded in App Store. While iSlim is free, the other options cost $9.99 each. Once your plan is selected, the iBike POWERHOUSE uses power management and analysis technology to guide you through 45-90 minute bike rides over four-six weeks. The plan tracks your real-time performance and automatically updates your workout plans. It encourages you to pedal at the right levels for better performance. You can even take calls or listen to music while cycling though that is not really recommended. The only drawback is that it works only with iPhone and iPod Touch.

Wallet dent: $269, for the device, the Powerhouse app and the iSlim plan. Extra plans cost $9.99 each and are purchased through the app. Order onwww.ibikesports.com

All in one

Basis B1 band

Launched in January

If you thrive on numbers and stats, then pick up this wrist band. The gadget won the Best of Innovations Design award as well as the Engineering Award Honor by The Consumer Electronics Association at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, US, earlier this year and is available on pre-order from Mybasis.com. The Basis looks like a wristwatch and is the neatest health tracker. You must wear it at all times, and it tracks quite a lot of fitness stats: It has a 3D accelerometer to track activity (walking, running and strolling), then there are extra sensors to monitor your temperature, galvanic skin response, heart rate and through that, the number of calories you burn. In addition to all this, Basis also monitors the quality of your sleep—how long you slept, how often you woke up and how often you turned on your side. The gadget then crafts all these little pieces of information into a comprehensive picture of your health. The Basis syncs via USB to the website where you can get an online update of your overall activity and health. You can even share the charts with your friends online.

Wallet dent: Expected to be $199 (or around Rs. 9,751), on Mybasis.com

 

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Message across the e-ocean

The nerdiest romantic proposals of all time—any geeks out there who can top these this Valentine’s, do write in

In April, Aayush Jain, 27, an engineer, proposed to Ambika Bumb while dancing in a flash mob to Bhangra tunes at Pier 39, San Francisco, US. Called the “Bollywood-Bhangra Flash Mob Proposal”, the video of his proposal on YouTube had garnered 161,352 hits by Tuesday and has made the couple online stars. A delighted Bumb was surprised by the effort her boyfriend had put into the proposal. “He even involved my brother, sister and friends through a secret Facebook group, which made the whole thing 10 times better,” she said. What surprised the couple was the buzz it created online.

Love 2.0: These geek proposals redefine romance.

For a generation which lives on the Internet and BBMs on mobile phones, proposals with sunsets in the backdrop are passé. Take the example of Greg Rewis, who was the first one to tweet a marriage proposal to Stephanie Sullivan, in March 2008. All he did was put in four words, “Will you marry me”, as part of a conversation he was already having with Sullivan.. Her reply: “…I’d be happy to spend the rest of my geek life with you…”. Home-made videos, lolcats, iPhone apps, virtual reality games, Google Maps or Foursquare—people are finding tech tweaks to make their proposals stand out. Here are a few of our favourites.

Stream it live

What’s a happy event if none of your family members are there with you? Matt Van Horn, who works for a tech start-up called Path, appreciated the value of family and friends. So in August 2010 he used Qik, a live-streaming mobile service, to propose to his girlfriend, Lauren. He arranged for a friend to take his girlfriend to the top of a hill in San Francisco where he was hiding behind a rock. Yet another friend used his iPhone to live-stream the proposal through Qik. “It took me a week’s planning to do this. I added last-minute touches on the day of the proposal,” said Van Horn via email. Family and friends had been alerted half an hour earlier to keep a lookout on his Qik channel. As soon as he saw Lauren, he checked into the spot via Foursquare, which auto-updated his Qik, Twitter and Facebook accounts. “I knew Lauren received my tweets via text message on her phone,” he wrote on his blog, “so I asked her to turn around as I proposed!” Meanwhile, his girlfriend, who didn’t even know her boyfriend was in town, was delighted and surprised when she saw him pop up from behind the rock with a smaller but very important rock in his palm. They are now happily married. “I am extremely happy with the way it turned out. I love doing things for my wife, so there will be plenty more surprises for her in future,” he said in an email interview.

See it online

iDo

In 2009, Bryan Haggerty, 30, a San Francisco-based designer for Twitter, created an app to propose to his partner Jeannie Choe on her iPhone. “I design mobile apps for a living so I decided to take this way,” said Haggerty in an email interview. “I finally designed the app as a mobile Web app so that she would receive a text message from me with the link to launch it.” The app, called Romantech, displayed a map containing location points throughout San Francisco. Each point had a video in which Haggerty gave clues on where to go next. Eventually the two met at a point where all the location dots on the map connected to form the shape of a heart (<3) symbol which had a lot of sentimental value for the techie couple. “The app was one time only use, tailored specifically to one person,” Haggerty explained over email. For romantics, Choe said yes. The couple is now happily married, with a four-month-old daughter, Euna.

See it online

A new kind of bottle

A staunch believer in the idea of a message in a bottle, KC’s boyfriend John, a Web developer, created an online website to propose to KC in July 2006. The website (www.willyoumarrymekc.com) had an online quiz to check if the person who replied was the real KC. It took KC until June 2009 to reply and say “yes”. Why?

 

Continue reading “Message across the e-ocean”

A guide to online data plotting

 

When you’re dealing with complex data, visualization tools can help you simplify it and, more importantly, spot key trends and gain new insights

Shweta Taneja

 

Sales figures, consumer behaviour and market research – the work we do often involves understanding and communicating a lot of complex information. To make good decisions, you need to be able to understand the data, and quickly. Visualization tools can simplify data, and make it easier to understand and spot key trends.

According to Deloitte’s “Tech Trends 2011: The Natural Convergence of Business and IT” report released in March, data-visualization tools were the fastest developing area in software last year.

Data in, graphic out: Visual representations of data are easier to understand.

Data in, graphic out: Visual representations of data are easier to understand.

“Data visualization compresses information quickly,” says S. Anand, 37, chief data scientist, Gramener, a Hyderabad-based data-visualization company. “For example, in a chart, a bar can give you a data set with its height, colour and thickness, so you have already compressed a table with three columns into one graph,” he explains. “A 40-page report can easily be converted into a single page of graphics.” By doing this, a large amount of data becomes easily accessible, and trends and highlights are easy to pick out, compared to a table of numbers.

“Data-visualization tools are typically designed to highlight relevant insights, rather than just present raw data as in a dashboard,” explains Stewart Langille, co-founder, Visual.ly, a new online visualization tool. Another useful aspect of viewing data as visuals is that you can highlight the information that’s really important and even get newer, completely unexpected insights into the data sets.

Like the idea? We list some of the most innovative online data-visualization tools:

Tableau Public

Website:www.tableausoftware.com/public

After you install the software, you enter the data either as a spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access) or text file with tab spaces. The software reads the file to identify variables. Once you choose the relevant variables, it creates a visual chart of your data. The software automatically tries to give the right kind of chart, but you can also manually choose from options such as bar charts, histograms, scatter plots, bubble charts, pie charts, bullet graphs, maps and heat matrix, etc. Tableau charts can also be interactive, so viewers can rearrange the data to analyse it from different perspectives. The chart is saved on www.tableausoftware.com

The downside is that visualizations and data are public—anyone can download your work. To keep it private, and for added features such as more filters and representations, you could buy the Personal Edition for $999 (around Rs. 50,300), or the Professional Edition for $1,999.

Cost: Free to use, with paid editions starting at $999.

Many Eyes

Website:www-958.ibm.com

Many Eyes, launched in January 2007, is one of the first data-visualization tools, and was created by IBM Research.

 

Continue reading “A guide to online data plotting”

Plug in, and tune out everything else

 

Looking for headphones? Don’t make do with the free pair you get with your gadgets. Get a pair that suits your needs

Earphones are being used with every gadget today: a tablet, a smartphone, an MP3 player or even a wireless set with the TV if it is in a bedroom. “Most of us don’t hesitate to invest in a good gadget, but forget about the earphones,” says Bangalore-based Sridhar Reddy, 38, an audiophile and independent consultant on custom-made audio systems.

“The earphones that come as a package deal with most gadgets are basic. They don’t fit our ears well and if they do, they don’t do a good job of blocking out external noise,” says Reddy.

These generic earphones also fail to adapt to your lifestyle needs—answering calls on the go or running while listening to music. “A good pair of headphones is necessary to enjoy your gadget to its full capacity. Serious audiophiles, for example, will never go for in-the-ear earphones. They like them big and round so that music can breathe,” explains Reddy. In the same way, if you answer a lot of calls while on the move, the last thing you want is static in your Bluetooth headset. We list headphones to match your every need.

• Music on the move

Want headphones that stay with you and give you good quality music while you run, sweat and work out in the gym? The Sennheiser Sports series has three different designs, PMX 680i, OMX 680i and MX 680i, for medium-to-heavy workouts. They are highly flexible, so you can run faster or work out harder without worrying about dislodging the headphones. All of them come with a powerful stereo sound, an integrated remote, built-in volume control and a microphone to track and take calls in the middle of a workout. The kit includes many accessories and sleeves, to make sure you find the perfect fit for your ears and the earplugs stay firmly in place. The earphones are sweat- and water-resistant.

Money Matters: Rs. 3,990 for PMX 680i and OMX 680i and Rs. 3,290 for MX 680i, available at select stores. Check for discounted prices on www.gadgets.in

TV watching

Don’t want to disturb your partner with your idiot-box viewing? Help is at hand with Sennheiser RS120 Wireless Headphones, which come with a charge station. Though they are older than the more recently launched Sennheiser RS180, they are still our favourites for the amount of listen-time they give in one charge (20 hours, rather than 6 hours in the newer model), so you can use them for longer without having to get up and charge them. These wireless headphones have a range of up to 100m, come with volume control, and give a detailed sound reproduction with strong stereo bass. The reception works through walls and ceilings. They are lightweight and very comfortable to wear.

Money Matters: Rs. 6,190, available on www.letsbuy.com

• Cut off sound

Your work requires you to make transcripts from audio recordings or your office is just too noisy and you need music to help you concentrate. Or perhaps you want to listen to music while on your way to work, but the noise from the road makes it impossible to enjoy yourself. Noise-cancelling headsets help here and the Bose QuietComfort 15 is the best option. Each headphone earcup comes with an inbuilt microphone both inside and outside. The microphone senses and cancels the sounds that are filtering in from outside, keeping your ears noise-free. You can use its microphone for a hands-free phone conversation too, though that works only with an iPhone. An average AAA battery makes the headphones last about 35 hours. The QuietComfort 15 is comfortable, with ear cushions, lightweight and collapsible, and can be packed compactly in case you want to use them while you travel.

Money Matters: Rs. 17,550, available on www.boseindia.com

Also try:Sony MDR-NC200D Digital Noise-Cancelling Headphones, $179.99 (around Rs. 9,750), plus shipping, available on www.ebay.com. Its noise-cancelling technology drains battery faster but the headset is quite good at blocking external noise. It is also lightweight, cushioned, and can be folded compactly.

• Pure audio

If all you want to do is listen to music as if it was being performed right in front of you, opt for Audeze LCD-2, manufactured by the Las Vegas-based niche company Audeze. The headset prioritizes quality over portability or affordability. The technology used is rather different from most headphones—each pair comes with tiny dynamic drivers that are mini versions of the drivers used in box speakers. The Audeze uses thin-film planar magnetic drivers and larger diaphragms that project sounds around your ear rather than straight into it, creating more depth in the notes. The thick lambskin earpads sit softly on your ears and are comfortable to wear for long hours.

Money Matters: On special order for $995, with $115.58 in shipping, available on www.audeze.com

Also try: The Audio Technica ATH-M50 for Rs. 13,913, available onwww.ebay.in, offers performance on a budget. Meant for professional studio monitoring and mixing, its over-the-ear cups create a seal for maximum isolation

 

Continue reading “Plug in, and tune out everything else”

Stream home the cinema

 

Better Internet connections and increased video content are making it easier than ever to order or watch Indian and Hollywood movies online, legally

It was a weekend and instead of going to a mall to watch an expensive movie, Uttara Narayanan, 29, a social activist, decided to rent the latest Bollywood flick and watch it at home. She was surprised to see that she couldn’t find any movie rental shops in her Bangalore neighbourhood. “I didn’t want to buy a pirated cheap DVD or download a pirated version of the movie, so I went online to search for a video rental around my home,” she says. Her search led her to YouTube. “I couldn’t believe that YouTube is streaming some of the latest Bollywood movies which I wanted to see online for free!”

In October, actor Shah Rukh Khan partnered with Google India to promote his film Ra.One on YouTube. The site celebrated a month-long festival of his movies, which included superhits like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Chak De! India, Kal Ho Na Ho, Om Shanti Om and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, through October.

Free and easy: In several cases, there are no charges for movies online.

Free and easy: In several cases, there are no charges for movies online.

The model of streaming movies online seems to be working quite well with the Indian audience. Since the launch of YouTube Box Office in June, the website has already garnered over 18 million views and has about 1,500 movie titles.

Yahoo India launched Movieplex, its online free movie streaming platform, in August, but has uploaded only 30 movies. The company is in talks with both film and television studios for large distribution deals though, and is expected to increase that number greatly.

People who would rather not see pirated movies, and don’t want to shell out huge amounts at cinema halls, now have a number of options. Some of the best ones are:

YouTube’s Box Office

YouTube has created a microsite with ad-supported free movies. There are around 1,500 titles on the site as of now, and most of the collection is made up of older movies from the black and white era onwards. There are many regional language films on the site, along with Hindi movies. If you want to watch Hollywood or world cinema, check the complete listing of the movies on www.youtube.com/movies. Depending on the rights YouTube has, some of them might not play in India.

Upside: There are no delivery delays either.

Downside: Buffering happens fairly often. The films are also being streamed at a lower resolution, and don’t look great on full screen.

Cost: Free

Where: Youtube.com/boxoffice for the latest Indian movies. For the complete list of movies on YouTube, go to Youtube.com/movies

Yahoo Movieplex

Launched at the same time as YouTube’s Box Office, Yahoo’s Movieplex is also a free streaming site for legal movies.

 

Continue reading “Stream home the cinema”