Sunday, March 11, 2007

What You Should Know before You Buy a TiVo

For the starters: TiVo (pronounced as tee-voh) is a popular brand of digital video recorder (DVR). It is a consumer video device which allows users to capture television programs to internal hard disk storage for later viewing.


  • Digital Recording: It gets you every episode of all your favorite shows (minus the repeats) even when you are watching the show. TiVo automatically finds it and digitally records it every time they are on. You may choose to record it one time as well if you prefer. It can record from multiple sources, e.g. cable, satellite, regular antenna or old-fashioned rabbit-ears (depends on TiVo product)
  • Wish List: TiVo works like a search engine to find programs, features, or anything at all and records when it is broadcast. You just have to enter the keywords (e.g., name of the show, movie, actor, actress or director) and TiVo will search them and record them.
  • Online Schedule: You can schedule online what you want to record: TiVo will record it for you!
  • Home Media: If you have a broadband connection, you can easily access Internet radio, podcasts, movie times & tickets, Yahoo Weather & Traffic, and share digital photos. Plus, schedule last-minute recordings from the web via TiVo. If you have more that one TiVo box, you can share among the boxes (multiroom access), too.
  • Product Watch: It will automatically find and deliver relevant video clips for the products you are planning to buy (e.g., car, vacation deal, etc) straight to your Now Playing List.

What you need:

  • TiVo Package: TiVo box and a subscription plan.
  • Program Source: cable box (digital/ analog), cable (without or without converter box), satellite, antenna or old-fashioned "rabbit-ears"
  • Phone/ broadband connection: It ensures the TiVo box has the information it needs to find and record the entertainment you care most about. At present TiVo lets you use only a wired connection, but there will be an option to use wireless broadband connections very soon.

The TiVo box:

The box handles all the major operations of a digital video recording in its internal hard-disk. The option for storing data in an external drive is not available yet but will be at the corner soon, as TiVo has promised!

  • Input/ output options: 1 phone line, 1 stereo audio, 1 RF, 1 S-video, 1 composite, 1 Ethernet 10/100 and 2 USB ports
  • Price: (i) 80-hr TiVo Series2 DT DVR ($99.99), (ii) 180-hr TiVo Series2 DT DVR ($199), (iii) 300-hr TiVo Series3 HD Digital Media Recorder ($799).
Price varies from $99 to $799 depending on amount of internal hard-disk space and type of program source. It also differs somewhat if you plan to buy directly from or from other retailers (e.g. BestBuy, Circuit City, etc)

Subscription Plans:

You have to pay TiVo Inc. for TV schedules as well as software updates and any other relevant information which are automatically downloaded via a phone (dial-up) or a broadband internet connection. Earlier TiVo used to sell the TiVo box and subscription service separately and you could pay for the latter through a monthly or a one-time plan.

Starting from March of 2006 TiVo started to bundle the hardware and subscription fees. If you buy a unit from there are six options—three monthly plans and three pre-paid plans. The monthly plans are $16.95/month for a 1-year commitment ($203.40 total), $14.95/month for a 2-year commitment ($358.80 total), and $12.95/month for a 3-year commitment ($466.20 total). Pre-paid plans are $179 for a 1-year commitment, $299 for a 2-year commitment, and $299 (limited time offer, regular price: $349) for a 3-year commitment.

Read More: TiVo Website, Wikipedia, CNet

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Why are 1, 2, 3, etc written in the way we write them?

We started counting 1, 2, 3, etc very early in our childhood. But do you know the significance of those symbols, i.e. why one is written as 1, two 2, and so on?

The symbolic representation of Roman numerals is pretty straightforward, e.g. symbol for one is I (one finger), two is II (two fingers) and three is III (three fingers). And when you raise all your five fingers with all but the thumb pressed together (just like when you take an oath), you'll see that the thumb and the rest of your five fingers are making a "V": that's how you get V for five. If you put one finger to the left of "V", it's negative one
(left = sinister = bad ~ negative), and similarly when you put it on the right you have a positive one (right = good ~ positive): that's how you get IV for four (= 5-1) and VI for six (= 5+1). In the same way you get VII for seven and VIII for eight. You get X (ten) when you use all ten fingers of your hands in the opposing "V" position. Now you must have guessed how you get IX for 9, XI for eleven and so on. Don't ask me why they started using other letters later on (e.g. L for fifty, C for hundred, D for five hundred and M for thousand), because I don't know! (I guess C has something to do with century).

But we are not talking about Roman numerals. How did we get the symbols for the Arabic numerals (e.g. 1, 2, 3, .......)?

Dr. Malka has an idea that it is all about angles. When you write down 1 you draw one angle, for 2 two angles and so on. No wonder why 0 is zero! He gave a diagram to support it and I think it's pretty intriguing (although I didn't like 5, 7 and 9, and moreover he didn't give any reference).

Have you seen/ read this somewhere else?

Link: Dr. Malka's website

Friday, March 9, 2007

Day-Light Saving bug: Impact on the Digital World

In case you don't know about it: the day-light saving time (DST) is going to begin at 2AM on Sunday, March 11, 2007 (instead of April 1) and end at 2AM on Sunday, November 4, 2007 (in the past it used to start in April and end in October).

FYI: The sole idea of day-light saving time is to save energy by using more of the solar energy that we get for free. The Energy Policy Act 2005 contains an addendum to the Uniform Time Act (2006) which aims at saving more by using more of the sun's energy.

But what does it mean to us (other than making us wake up an hour earlier in the morning)? It won't be as devastating as Y2K bug(estimated loss: $23 billion), for sure. But, let's see what could happen if sufficient measures are not taken: most of the time-sensitive applications (for example, time cards) do not know how to react to this change, and it could lead to incorrect arrival and departure times in the travel industry and result in errors in bank transactions, causing late payments. In addition, trading applications might execute purchases and sales at the wrong time, and cell phone-billing software could charge peak rates at off-peak hours.

Microsoft and other software-makers have created patches to fend the blow. But it seems that the companies using Microsoft Exchange as their email client can still face problem. Many of them still use MS softwares which Microsoft has stopped providing support for: Windows 2000 and Windows XP prior to SP2 are probably the best examples.

Let's see how it can affect us!

Read more:
CNN, CNet, Wikipedia, Microsoft

Thursday, March 8, 2007

How to Intercept a Text Message in a Cell Phone

Wanna eavesdrop a mobile phone conversation or intercept a text message? That is so "super" illegal. And I am not here to teach you how to do it (believe me, I have never tried it).

It happened recently in Wal Mart where a technician was caught red handed! And based on that incidence

There are a few ways to do this. One method, phone cloning, lets you intercept incoming messages and send outgoing ones as if your phone were the original. If both phones are near the same broadcast tower, you can also listen in on calls. To clone a phone, you have to make a copy of its SIM card, which stores the phone's identifying information. This requires a SIM reader that can read the card's unique cryptographic key and transfer it to another phone. (Warning: This is super illegal, but there are still sites that show you how.) The problem with cloning is that it only lets you intercept messages sent to one phone number. Plus, you need physical access to the target phone to make it work.

It's also possible to intercept unencrypted or poorly encrypted messages directly as they're broadcast over cellular channels. (If the network uses sophisticated encryption, you might be out of luck.) To steal messages with your phone, you would need to upload illegal "firmware" onto your phone. This essentially turns your phone into a radio and allows it to pick up all the texts broadcast on a given channel—instead of limiting you to the ones addressed to you. You'd also need to know the network for the target phone—Verizon, Cingular, T-Mobile, etc.—and you'd have to make sure that both your phone and the target are within range of the same base station. This method isn't too expensive since you don't need much more than a computer, a phone, and some firmware that any serious techie could find online for free.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Top 13 Firefox Extensions that I Can't Live without!

I have been using Firefox for quite sometime and as everyone else I was just amazed to see how well it can be tweaked to do the things that I want to get done. The best feature of this browser is the incorporation of loads of extensions which help you do all sort of things from news reading to blogging. Here are 13 of them which I like most (well, I have a lot more than that installed, but I think these are the best and 13 is a cool number!).

All-in-One Sidebar
All-in-One Sidebar (AiOS) is a sidebar control, inspired by Opera's. Click on the left edge of your browser window to open the sidebar and get easy access to all your panels. It lets you quickly switch between sidebar panels, view dialog windows such as downloads, extensions, and more in the sidebar, or view source or websites in the sidebar. It includes a slide-out button and a toolbar, all of which can be extensively customized.

Diigo Toolbar for Firefox
The best tool to do all your online research. Highlight, bookmark, or forward -- all in one! You can share your bookmarks from any computer and forward the link to someone else just by a click of your mouse. But the best feature that I like (and use often) is the ability to highlight and leave sticky notes on the pages.

Performancing for Firefox is a full featured blog editor that sits right in your Firefox browser and lets you post to your blog easily. You can drag and drop formatted text from the page you happen to be browsing, and take notes as well as post to your blog.

4. Tab Mix Plus
Enhance your tab browsing experience with tab mix plus. You can customize what various mouse events (click and pointing) can do to the tabs. For example, whenever I point my mouse to a tab it comes to the foreground and it saves me a click (of course, you can use key combinations instead)! It helps you to configure how and where to open new links and lets you modify how the tabs should look. Tabbed browsing without Tab Mix Plus? No way!

5. URL Fixer
Everybody makes mistakes while typing in the address bar. This extension corrects most of the misspelling of .com, .net, .org, .edu, .gov, and .mil, as well as the protocol (http:, https:). It will also correct errors in country code TLDS such as .com.XX, .net.XX, and .org.XX.

6. Wizz RSS
A nice RSS and atom feed reader. I use it to get all the feeds that I need to do my online research!

7. Parent Folder
Use it to go to the parent folder. It's useful when you have a long URL and you want to go home (the parent folder)!

8. Download Statusbar
View and manage downloads from a tidy statusbar - without the download window getting in the way of your web browsing.

9. Flashblock
Block annoying flashes using it. You may turn it back on if you want!

10. No Script
This is the best that I have seen (that's why it's in #10). It makes your web browsing hassle-free without any sort of web annoyance:
it allows JavaScript, Java and other executable content to run only from trusted domains of your choice.

11. TryAgain
It will keep trying to load a page again and again if it did not load at your click.

12. Cooliris Preview
Look before you leap: this extension lets you preview a web page without actually clicking at and visiting the page.

13. Keyconfig
Configure key combinations to fit your needs in order to enhance the experience of mouse-less browsing.

Hope you'll like the top 13 list. Looking forward to your feedback.

Source: Firefox Extensions

Hidden cell phone functions: 'bogus'

I received this message several times regarding the hidden cell phone functions, for example, using it to unlock your car when you are locked out, disabling a stolen cell phone, using the phone when there is no network, etc. All of these sound too good to be true! Here' s what has to say:

1. Situation: You have a phone with the keypad locked or you are in a remote place where there is no cell-phone network available

Dialing 112 connects you to the emergency service.
Fact: In Europe it connects you to local emergency services even when the keypad is locked. However, the 112 number does not have (as is sometimes claimed) special properties that enable callers to use it in areas where all cellular signals are blocked (or otherwise unavailable).

2. Situation: You are locked out of your car and you have an extra remote keyless entry (RKE) at home.

Claim: Get somebody at home on phone, ask him/ her to press the unlock button of the RKE that is at home, hold your phone at a distance of about a foot from the car door, and boom: your door is open!

Fact: Relaying remote entry system signals via telephone might work if the signals were sound-based, but they're not. An RKE system transmits an encrypted data stream to a receiver inside the automobile via an RF (radio frequency) signal, a signal that can't be effectively relayed via cell phone. (In any event, RKE systems and cell phones typically operate on completely different frequencies; the former in the 300 MHz range and the latter in the 800 MHz range.)

"More than a few people have inadvertently fooled themselves into believing the cell phone method of unlocking car doors actually works because they tried it and achieved the desired results — not realizing their cars were still within range of their keyless remote devices, and the signals that unlocked the doors were transmitted the usual way [i.e., through the air], not via cellular phone connections"

3. Situation: Your cell phone is low on battery.

Type in *3370# and your cell will restart with this reserve and the instrument will show a 50% increase in battery.

Fact: It originates from a misunderstanding of an option available on some brands of cell phone (such as Nokia) for Half Rate Codec, which provides about 30% more talk time on a battery charge at the expense of lower sound quality. However, this option is enabled by pressing the sequence *#4720# — the sequence *3370# actually enables Enhanced Full Rate Codec, which provides better sound quality at the expense of shorter battery life.

4. Situation: Your mobile phone has been stolen.

Get the 15 digit code (unique to your p hone) by dialing * # 0 6 # A (before you lost your phone, of course). Give that code to the service provider when you lose the phone, and they will block the phone even if the thief changes the SIM card.

Fact: That function only works with some types of cell phones, and the efficacy of reporting the ID number to a cellular service provider to head off unauthorized use of a lost or stolen phone is limited.

5. Situation: You want to get directory information by dialing 411 for free (the service provider charges about $1.00 to $1.75 for it)

Claim: Dial (800) FREE 411 or (800) 373-3411

Fact: Some business outfits such as (800) FREE-411 do provide free directory assistance services to cell phone customers. However, users should note that the service is "free" in the sense that FREE-411 provides directory information to callers at no charge, but cellular service providers may still assess charges related to placing such calls

Source: Urban Legends

PS: I just got this from blogger bulletproof production. The key combinations (different ones) that he mentioned seem to work.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Tech Tomorrow: March 07, 2007

I am going to start a new column today: Tech Tomorrow. In this column you'll find the most exciting things happening in the scientific and the technological world. Here's the first issue:

Publishers will allow the readers browse books online

  • Random House, HarperCollins to allow online book searches
  • Users can add book material to pages on social networks
  • Amazon, Google allow customers to look at book pages
  • HarperCollins Publishers, whose authors include Michael Crichton, on Monday said it was introducing a browse function that lets consumers embed pages of books onto networking sites such as MySpace. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News Corp owns HarperCollins and MySpace.

Robots are being taught to learn Japanese culture in Japan to fit in their life style

  • Researchers at the University of Tokyo are exploring just that. In a demonstration this week, a humanoid with camera eyes made by Kawada Industries Inc. poured tea from a bottle into a cup.
  • The tea-pouring humanoid has been programmed to do the dishes.

Set out to seize the day with Jeeve's
  • The Voco clock boasts an alarm of several morning greetings in the dulcet tones of Stephen Fry reprising his role as Jeeves from the 1990s British television comedy series "Jeeves and Wooster," based on the novels of P.G. Wodehouse.
  • The clock has nearly 50 different wake-up messages including: "Good morning sir. I'm so sorry to disturb you but it appears to be morning. Very inconvenient I agree sir." and "Come come sir. Let us not be defeated. Let us seize the day..."
  • Get your own at:

Kenyans will use cell phones to do banking
  • The first of its kind in the world.
  • It allows its 5.8 million subscribers to use their cell phones to send money in the east African country where it is commonplace for one family member working in the city to support a whole family living in rural areas.
  • Kenyans will deposit or access the money through Safaricom agents like supermarkets or shops situated all over the country.
  • Safaricom -- a joint venture between Kenya's state-owned landline company, Telkom, and Britain's Vodafone (VOD.L) -- is the country's most profitable company having made a 12.2 billion shilling ($175.5 million) pre-tax profit in 2006
New safety measures in BMW
  • The 2008 5 series, which will make its official debut at this week's Geneva Auto Show, will come with the intelligent Lane Departure Warning system (LDW), which will warn drivers if they are about to cross over a lane-dividing line without using their turn signal.
  • Rather than sounding a chime or flashing a light on the dashboard (the system in the 2007 Infiniti M35 Sport), the BMW system will actually reproduce the physical sensation of driving over a rumble strip by generating tactile (or "haptic") feedback in the steering wheel--in a similar way to that in video-game steering wheels.

Freeware alert: Manage your finances with Money Manager Ex

Do you have a hard time making the ends meet? Do you swipe that damn credit card into that 'money-making' machine to pay the minimum balances for another card? Do you have a hard time sleeping at night? If so, you are in trouble! A BIG trouble! There are a few things that money can't buy but for everything else there is your credit card! Hope you can remember the popular ad which sounds somewhat like that, but do you really trust those words now? I guess, not! Right? An average American carries a credit card debt of about $8000 (on top of other debts like car and home mortgage).

If you have a high debt you can either go bankrupt like a sinking boat or you can get a grip on your life and get yourself out of the quagmire. The first step of course is to figure out where you are spending and how you are spending and then to decide how to cut your coat according to your pocket! You can sit down and figure these things using the traditional pen-and-paper method or you can buy money-managing softwares (not free) like Microsoft Money or Quicken. Will you want to spend some more money on those when you have very little left? Some will say that it's worth the investment. But why, when you can get free stuff like Money Manager Ex? It has almost all the features (and yet very light) and it's all you need to track your expenses and make a budget:

Money Manager is a personal finance software. It primarily helps organize one's finances and keeps track of where, when and how the money goes. It is also a tool to get a bird's eye view of your financial worth. The program supports checking accounts, savings and credit card accounts, as well as Fixed Deposit and Portfolio accounts. The Outlook-style interface provides an overview for all your accounts and total balance. You can transfer money between accounts, create custom categories to organize your income/expenses and more.

Money Manager Ex is a complete rewrite of the original .NET Money Manager. It is Cross Platform and can be ported to run on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. It has a very powerful and flexible open data storage using SQLite databases.

Money Manager has the following other editions available: Money Manager .NET, Money Manager Ex for Windows 9x/Me and Money Manager Ex for Linux.

It's pretty self-explanatory and you can make sense out of it just starting to use it. Good luck!

Link: via fileforum

Monday, March 5, 2007

Mac's advice: write down your password on a paper

Write down your passwords on a piece of paper? Are you kidding? Aren't those supposed to be committed to memory and never to be left a trace on paper?

That's what the mandatory information security courses teach us (I had to take one last month). Well, let's consider the downside of what we have been taught: what if you forget your password of your router? You might say, "No problem! there is reset button on the rear panel". Reset it and your settings are gone! Don't you remember how many times you had to sweat yourself and were about to get a heart-attack when you could not log into your online credit card account thinking that somebody must have gotten an access to it? Well, here's a solution from Mac: the Mac cheat sheet:

Whether your Mac asks you for certain information or you're seeking help from Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider (AASP), there may come a time when you need to have your various passwords, dial-up numbers, mail server addresses, email addresses, hardware specifications, serial number, and other information handy. And then you discover that you've either forgotten or misplaced this information

So fill out the cheat sheet, stash it where you and only have an access, and sleep well - never ever worrying about what if you forget your password.