Kindle Unlimited in India – Value for Money if you love Indian authors.

I subscribed to Kindle Unlimited when it was launched in India. It was a very attractive offer. You pay less than INR 2k for unlimited book reading. Pure joy for any bibliophile with a Kindle. In next 2-3 days, I realized that the books available under Kindle Unlimited are very limited and even those who were available were not worth my time. I did continue my subscription due to my sheer laziness and some bit of hope that I might find a couple of books that were worth trying. I was disappointed in the end.

After that I did not renew my Kindle Unlimited subscription. But in last 2-3 months, Kindle store started stocking a large number of titles in Hindi. The collection is impressive. Amazon India store has really added a great amount of vernacular content. I have always felt that since Kindle became my primary mode of reading, I started reading fewer books in Hindi. Now, I have picked quite some books in Hindi on my Kindle. It seems that Kindle Unlimited is slowing offering better value to its Indian subscribers but it is still nowhere close to what is available to US subscribers. Also, one key feature that Amazon India store does not let us lend/share Kindle books that we have bought to other family members or friend. You can do that by setting a family library if you are buying books from Amazon US store.

For the time being I am sticking to Kindle Unlimited but I expect it to evolve and respect India customers.

The Amazon India bookstore itself needs to pay some attention to its design and features. If I am looking to pick a New York Times bestseller, there is no way to readily explore the titles. Usually, I explore the titles on Amazon US store and then buy them in India store. The bestsellers listed in Amazon India stores.. well do not reflect my taste (see the picture above) and I believe that of a majority bibliophiles.

The biggest Productivity bottleneck for gadget/tech-lovers, and how to overcome it.

We love our gadgets and tinkering with them. We like to use the best of the best and cannot wait to get our hands on the next ‘beta’ or ‘developer version’. We experiments with all the shortcuts, mail-management systems, inbox zero, GTD… But if you are like me, we always feel that our systems are not perfect and spend significant time on improving them. Ironically, the time spent on improving the systems makes our systems inefficient.

I spent a lot of time perfecting my system and religiously improving my system to achieve the next level of productivity. And, I realized that the biggest bottleneck in achieving the next level of efficiency and productivity is ‘my in-flux productivity setup’. I was not letting my ‘system’ to mature.

I decided to correct the system and here are some learnings from that.

  1. Knowing the limitations of your ‘system’ is key to achieving stress-free productivity. It is more important than knowing several fancy features in detail. We need to know the limitations. I messed my backup once as I was not aware of Apple Time-machine’s backup limitations. (Apple Time-machine is not for archiving or long duration backup.)
  2. Stick to one Operating System. I have worked extensively on all the major operating systems and have multiple machines configured with different operating systems. I tried my best to achieve a seamless syncing and uniform work-flow that can work on my MacOS, Windows, Linux, iOS and Android setup. But, it is impossible. Better, stick to one operating system, and a compatible mobile operating system and life becomes blissful. My vote goes for MacOS and iOS setup till google comes up with a better OS for laptops or Microsoft comes up with better mobile OS.
  3. Remove as many decision points as you can. My machines had 3–4 word processing applications, 4 note-taking application and subscription to 4 cloud storage/photo storage services. I was in love with Ulysses interface, Scrivener’s extensive feature list and forced to have Microsoft Word because of professional compulsions. I was using multiple mail clients (Airmail, Outlook, Mailbird, Thunderbird etc.) on my multiple machines. I realized that for every routine work I needed to make a choice which machine and which application to use. I made my life much easier by removing all the decisions and making my next steps automatic.

I am now working on perfecting my system and I am quite excited by the outcomes.

Dell XPS 13, 2015- Keyboard Problem

The compulsion of my professional environment often forces me to resort to Windows operating system. Especially for those spreadsheets and Microsoft Exchange requirements, when MacOS or Linux are still not up there. I use  Macbook Pro as my primary machine but I wanted to get an ultrabook which I could use for travel and for those tasks when I need a Windows based machine. Dell_Desktop

A quick research on the available options and their specs made it clear that Dell XPS 13 with its infinity display and Lenovo Thinkpad Cabon X1 were the two top machines with good computing power, battery life and portability. I went in favor of Dell XPS 13 as it offered a  display with mind-blowing resolution and form factor (smallest 13 inch machine). I chose the top-end version with i7 processor and touch screen display.

It was a costly purchase and I was expecting a great experience with the machine, which is essential for my sanity as my tolerance level with a few things is absolutely pathetic. And, I am really finicky about my gadgets. Unfortunately, there was a horrible experience waiting for me.

No doubt the machine is a gorgeous and powerful piece of technology from DELL but there is a big problem with this machine. The keyboard has a double typing problem. I started spotting double/triple typed characters while typing and sometime a random sequence of intended characters. First, I thought that I might be typing fast or not able to adjust to the keyboard. I changed keyboard settings to make sure that there is enough time between repeat of characters. Nothing worked.

A quick check online highlighted that the double typing is a major problem with this flagship DELL machine. Many people have faced the problem and it seemed that there was no solution from DELL. I made a complaint to DELL support and got really nice after sale-service support from them. They replaced my keyboard but it did not solve my problem. The only thing seems to work was downgrading of the BIOS from Vers 5 to Vers 0. It is strange as Vers 5 was to fix the double typing error but it aggravated it. Once I upgraded to Vers 5, it was impossible to work on the machine. I downgraded the BIOS again and made a complain.

This time, DELL support changed my motherboard, keyboard processing unit and keyboard. I tested the machine and realized that I did not spot double typed characters in my brief test in front of the service engineer. But soon I started spotting the double typing characters. Although, less frequently than earlier. I checked the BIOS it was set to Ver 0. I upgraded the BIOS and realized that it again aggravated the problem. I downgraded the BIOS and gave up on the machine. I can still do work on it but it has taken my confidence out of my typing. I do touch typing and pretty confident of my typing accuracy but with this machine I have to make sure that there are no typos.

Coming back to BIOS ver 0, this version of BIOS gives the better experience with the keyboard but it has other problems such as noisy laptop fan and laptop heating. I am waiting for DELL to upgrade the BIOS or accept that DELL XPS 13 has this problem and takes corrective measures.

Apple India- No options to customize iMacs

I often find laptops not adequate when I am working on multiple applications windows and require a bit of more power for photo editing or any other resource hungry operations. Since I have been pretty impressed by the quality (both in terms of software and hardware) of Apple products, I decided to invest in an iMac. A rather expensive yet the best options considering the compatibility with my other devices and already invested softwares.

A 27 inch iMac with 16 GB of RAM, 1 GB of graphics memory and an 1 TB fusion drive is what I am looking for. And, it is easily available in United States. However, when I approached the local Apple retailer, I found that Apple India does not have the required tech specification for iMac. I can only get normal mechanical hard drive of 1 TB, no option to upgrade to a fusion or SSD drive. There are not many options in terms of system with higher capacity RAM, though I can buy an iMac 8gb ram and upgrade it to 16 gb as the 27 inch iMac comes with 2 empty RAM slots. However, if you are buying the 21.5 inch iMac you can only get 8 gb RAM and you cannot upgrade it.

Sad. Apple India should start providing either customization options like Apple US does or Apple should facilitate upgrade through their service centres.

Asus RT N56u is a big disappointment.

Asus RT N56U received rave reviews when it was launched and almost universally touted as the best N band wireless router for advance home users. It offered 2 usb ports, dual band frequency (2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz) and beat many other competitors on different test parameters such as signal quality and speed. I bought it going through all the reviews and finer details (not worth mentioning here) but after 6-7 months of use I can say it is a big disappointment.

The biggest annoyance is the frequent drop of connection. The moment I connect 6-7 devices, I get frequent losses of connection. And, the only cure is to restart the router. This router, though has two usb ports for sharing devices over home network, is difficult to configure for most of the devices apart from the usb storage drives and the speed is not unto the mark. I tried streaming media to xbox and television, but the experience was not good.

I also committed a mistake while looking at the specification and I had no idea that it does not support DD-WRT firmware. Moreover, the only reason I bought this, ignoring Airport Extreme or Airport Express was I thought it supports VPN client login. It does not. It has VPN server capabilities but it does not have inbuilt client login to VPN. So anyone who is looking forward to use this router to take all the devices online through a VPN, would be disappointed. However, it does support VPN if you have VPN client configured on each of the individual devices. But that is not the point. I wanted to use my XBOX to connect to US store for streaming movies over Netflix, but this was not possible as XBOX does not support any built in VPN capabilities.

I also experienced even more problematic connection (super slow speed and frequent connection drop) if I start my torrent client. Evidently, this is not a good router for anyone with moderate use of torrent clients.

Out of the two bands, 5 Ghz does not even show in all corners of my house (it is a small house and I do not think it should require two routers to cover all the corners). The list goes on..

I am stuck with this so I tried all the tweaking in the settings, upgrade to numerous official software version but things did not work to my expectations. However, I used a third-party firmware (http://code.google.com/p/rt-n56u/) to upgrade the router firmware and things have changed for a bit better. At least the frequent drop in connection is not there and I can stream my media at a decent speed.

Buying eBooks in India ?

A few weeks ago, Apple opened its iTunes music and movies store for India users but Apple bookstore is still not available for Indian users. Similarly, Google Market/Google Play does not offer its vast collection of ebooks to Indian users. The Indian stores Flipkart and infibeam do offere ebooks but their collection is nothing much to talk about. The only option Indian users have is to buy books from Amazon kindle store.

This is strange considering India is a booming market for tablets. And, many of the tablet users do use the tablets as ebook reader but when it comes to buying ebooks they do not have many optoins. Recently, we saw Amazon launching its outdated ebook reader Kindle in India and Asus launching its Nexus tablet. Although, ebook readers are not going to find much market here (even globally they are losing out to tablets) but people are looking forward to buying ebooks and reading them on iPads or android tablets. But eBook lovers do not have many options. As of now, there is only one option. Buy ebooks on Amazon and download kindle app for reading books on your devices (luckily the app is available for all your devices and for all operating systems). However, the prices of ebooks/kindle books are more than the price of hardcopy edition of the same book in India. I wish google play or Apple bookstove soon start selling ebooks in India till then we are better buying hardcopies of the books.

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iPad Mini: A disappointment

The iPad 3rd generation (with ratina display) is a fantastic piece of technology but it is surely not for those who want to use it for prolonged period as a book reader. It is too big and too heavy to be a great ebook reader. So when the rumors started about the possibility of miniature version of iPad, I had this inkling that it would a good device for those who want to use iPad for their primary ebook reading device. And, yesterday’s Apple event confirmed that. iPad mini is great for those who want to buy a light portable ebook reader or for those who think the iPad is too big and bulky.

I would have surely gone for iPad mini had it been priced under USD 250. At sub USD 250 price, it would have killed the competition. But it does not deserve the USD 329 price. First, the display is quite a disappointement. Anyone who has used retina display iPad or iPhone would be disappointed by the low resolution display. Google Nexus and even Amazon Fire HD have better displays than this iPad. The processor and RAM are also not upto the current standards; it has A5 processor and RAM is only 512 MB.

On the technological innovation front, it offers nothing. It is just watered down miniature version of the iPad. Probably, I will be better buying Kindle Paperwhite if I need a great ebook reader. It comes much cheaper at USD 119 and Amazon does sell ebooks globally. For us living in India, iBook store is still not available for buying ebooks.

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The must know Excel Financial Functions: Future Value

Future Value : The future value of an asset or investment is the value of asset or investment on a specific date in future. Most of the people who use excel for financial analysis or accounting purpose rely heavily on the excel’s inbuilt function for deriving the future value.

FV = (rate, nper, pmt, [pv], [type])

Example: You just opened a bank account with Rs. 20000 and you have decided to deposit Rs. 4000 at the end of every month for next 10 years. The bank offers 9 per cent annual interest on the savings account. Now, you want to know how much money you will have in your account at the end of 10 years. Here you can use excel’s future value function to calculate the total amount that you will get at the end of 10 years.
Lets break this problem in key variables that will be required by the FV() of Excel.
Rate: 9 per cent per annum. But we need to calculate the monthly rate of interest as the period of payment is monthly. So Rate = 9%/12% = 0.75% or 0.0075 (Take note of the percentage sign).

Periods (nper): 120 months (10 years X 12 Months)

Payment (pmt) : -4000 (since its going out from your pocket, hence the minus sign)

Present Value (pv): – 20000 (same logic as above)

Type : 0 (if payment is deposited at the end of the period), 1 (if payment is deposited at the beginning of the period)

The function now becomes:

FV=(0.75%, 120, -4000, -20000,0)

You will get Rs. 823,084.25 as the result. This is the money you will receive at the end of the 10 years.

How to reset the security password for Day One app on Mountain Lion?

Day One is really very handy app for anyone  interested in writing daily journals. It syncs beautifully to all your devices using either Dropbox or iCloud. You can use a password to protect your journal from prying eyes and  it works perfectly. However, if you forget the password, reseting the password is not easy. You have to go through a number of steps, depending on whether you are keeping your content synced through Dropbox or iCloud. The detailed procedure is given here. But, the procedure given at the official support webpage does not apply for those users who are using iCloud for syncing on Mountain Lion. The reason, there is no ‘Mobile Document’ folder that you can access on Mountain Lion. But you can do it by deleting the ‘security.plist’.

‘Go to System Preferences’ -> ‘iCloud’

Click on Manage and Choose ‘Day One’  and then find ‘security.plist’ and delete it.

 

Amazon Kindle: After-sale service in India?

I really loved my Kindle classic, probably the best book reader around, but just las week it developed a snag with its displace and it made it completely unusable. There is a one ad that is stuck 3/4 of my display and only 1/4 of the screen is working properly. That means that you cannot use it for anything. I tried resetting many times but nothing seem to work.

I am wondering if there is any way to get it repaired in India. We got it from US and I think it is still under warranty. But the warranty is not available in India and I am not aware of any agency that does repair officially or unofficially. Did anyone face the same problem and more importantly did you get the kindle to work again?