I'm a Social Media Entrepreneur, Professor of Digital Marketing, Author of 5 books, Podcaster and an Organic Farmer.


Kiruba Shankar

The perfect running gadget

Let me begin this article by saying this. If you are interested in running and if you are considering buying a device that helps you track your performance, then stop thinking right now. Save your thinking time and go right forward with the Garmin Forerunner 305. Once you have it, you will never run again without it! This watch does everything you will ever need it to.

For those who train regularly, you can compare your current performance with your earlier run. You can compare the pace and your heart rate and thus keep track of your improvement. You can see the average and max temperatures and wind speed to see if climate may have affected your performance.

Bharani Shivakumar, an ardent cyclist and runner has this to say, “Before I started using Garmin Forerunner, it was just a digital watch where I note the time and keep running. Running got more interesting and easy with the Garmin Forerunner. I have a total track of the entire distance, time, heart rate and lot more stats. The key advantage is the ‘virtual partner’ feature that helps me run against my own previous record and try to do better every time. The ‘beep’ at every km is like a pat for doing more miles. “

It can record and share your workouts with fellow runners and your coach. It can export routes to GoogleEarth or GoogleMaps and use the data to practice, rehearse mentally and visualise your upcoming events and races.

The heart rate monitor is a strap that gets wrapped around your breast bone. Some were worried it would be uncomfortable, but surprisingly you can’t feel it at all. It’s adjustable and very easy to put on.

Karthik Padmanabhan, an ardent runner with the Chennai Runners group has this about his Garmin, “There are plenty of positives and ticks off all the right boxes: It has big screen, big buttons and good screen readability the helps you to see when you are running. It’s robust enough to handle a few falls and is its accuracy is an amazing 99%.”

You also can use Forerunner 305 to train for your next duathlon or triathlon with multi-sport workouts, a feature that lets you seamlessly transition between sports without resetting the unit, so you can use it for running, biking and more.

The only downside about the watch is the hard buttons. The buttons are slightly difficult to push and it can get irritating when setting up the watch and trying to navigate through each setting.

Shahid Kandrikar, a very passionate runner, who uses the more advanced 405 feels a bit disappointed by it. Sometimes, when there is too much sweat, it is unresponsive to touches. He strongly recommends to go for the older, but more reliable, Forerunner 305 model.

A very good benefit of the Garmin 305 is its battery life. It can last up to 20 hours and saves you the hassle of charging it every day. I have heard runners say that they like the feel of the Forerunner 305 on their wrist a lot better as it can vibrate to alert you and the displays are very customisable.

It is waterproof, of course, considering runners can sweat buckets. This means that it is also suitable for triathlon sports which include swimming.

The runners I know swear by it.

They feel it’s the one device they can’t run without.


A worthy entry-level DSLR camera

When you begin to admire photos from a certain camera, there’s a good chance that you’ll soon fall in love with it. My friend’s Canon 500D produced consistently great pictures and it has already earned my respect. When I had a chance to review a DSLR, I had no hesitating in picking up its bigger cousin, the 550D.

The entry level DSLR market is not only crowded but very fiercely fought over for a market share. The camera companies are competing amongst themselves in packaging in more and more features so much so that this year’s entry level cameras have higher features than last year’s mid-range models. But hey, no one’s complaining!

The 550D is a newcomer’s dream. It packs a powerful punch with its ultra high resolution 18 megapixel sensor and an advanced DIGIC 4 image processor. The reason why I say it’s a newcomer’s delight is because of its pre-selected 14 shooting modes. These are placed in familiar bottle top style dial on the top which allows for instant familiarisation for those who have been using the point-and-shoot cameras.

Video has now become standard in most DSLRs. What I like about the Canon 550D is that it records video in full 1920x1080p HD resolution which is better than most other competing models which offer 720p. When I first saw the external mic slot, I almost whooped with joy! This along with the HD video facility is a great combination for video podcasting. I can now plug in high quality microphones when I am recording interviews. I now no longer need to invest in a separate camcorder.

The presence of an integrated HDMI port means that the photos and videos can be viewed on a HD ready TV and controlled via the TV remote. The 550D has so many features usually seen in the semi-professional category that people affectionately call this the ‘Baby 7D’. In other words, you get a higher range camera at much lower cost.

The downside is that the body feels plasticky. It belies the amazing features that are inside the body. It’s a far cry from the metallic, sturdy body seen in higher range models. I also wasn’t very impressed with the live view mode. It took a lot longer to focus and I felt it a lot easier to just use the traditional eye view.

The 550D is designed to take good pictures and that the camera does brilliantly. It gives pictures that are consistently well exposed and sharp. With a high ISO, its pictures are very good even in low light.

The camera comes with a beefy 4GB memory card which means you can afford to click lots of photos in hi-res mode without worrying about running out of space. The battery life is also quite impressive. A full charge will see you through 440 clicks, which should impress trigger happy photo enthusiasts.

I love the small size and its fairly light weight at a little over 500 grams. I like the way it nicely fits into my hand. The 550D comes with a higher price tag of Rs 51,000 which can be quite steep for a first DSLR buy. As it usually happens with technology, I am hoping the price slides down in the coming weeks. With a lower price tag, I would strongly vouch for this camera.

Source- http://www.financialexpress.com/news/a-worthy-entrylevel-dslr-camera/653070/0

A new dimension to smartphones

Nokia’s latest salvo in the smartphone segment was recently unveiled in Singapore and I was amongst the first people in the world to touch and play around with it. Here’s my in-depth review of the phone that’s directly pitted against the Google Nexus One and even the iPhone.

The Nokia N8 introduces a 12 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, Xenon flash and a large sensor that rivals those found in compact digital cameras. I have used the Nokia N82 which has a 5 MP camera and I was super impressed with the photos. So, I have very high respect for Carl Zeiss and Xenon combination. Expect very good photos from this phone.

The N8 is the world’s first smartphone to incorporate Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround sound technology. The folks at Nokia demonstrated it and I have to say that it offers a home theatre experience. The inclusion of Dolby Digital Plus in the Nokia N8 brings a new dimension to the capabilities of the smartphone, transforming it into an HD mobile entertainment device, which can output high definition content with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 channel surround sound to HD-ready TVs and home theatre systems.

Powered by Symbian ^3, the Nokia N8 supports gestures such as flick scrolling and pinch-zoom and offers multiple, personalisable homescreens which can be loaded with apps from Ovi Store. Honestly, all this is nothing new. The biggest negative factor that will weigh down the N8 is its operating system. Symbian ^3 does not match up to the iOS4 (in iPhones) or Android. The positive thing to note is that Symbian ^3 is a stop-gap solution, just as Windows Mobile 6.5 was for Windows Phone 7. A lot of hope rests on Symbian 4 which is expected to be way better.

The music player is quite nice. Its powerful 1GHz CPU along with a dedicated Graphics Processing Unit means that the music plays seamlessly and is quick to respond. Add that to the unique and amazing feature called ‘Nokia Comes with Music’ which lets you access a whole truck full of music tracks. It has both 2D and 3D graphics acceleration that should make it feel at home while using graphics heavy mobile games.

There’s even sufficient space for you to fill up your music. The Nokia N8 has 16 GB of in-built storage space, expandable up to 48 GB with a Micro SD card. Large files can be easily transferred to a memory stick with the USB On-the-Go.

I was quite impressed with the performance of N900 and it looks like the goodness of memory management also gets reflected on the N8. This means that you can use multiple applications at the same time without feeling the lag.

Nokia is offering developers a new platform to innovate on. The Nokia N8 comes integrated with Qt, a software development environment that simplifies the development and makes it possible to build applications once and deploy across Symbian and other software platforms. Nokia has also made it simple to use Nokia Qt SDK available in its initial beta, to enable developers to start realising the potential of Qt. The N8 is also Nokia’s first handset that’s integrated with Qt.

The touchscreen is capacitive which means that its quick to respond to your finger touches. It measures 3.5 inches diagonally and has a resolution of 640 x 360 pixels. Nokia announced that the cost of N8 is 370 Euros before taxes. This is around Rs 21,000 which is quite competitively priced. Nokia N8 has taken some positive steps forward in the smartphone segment even though its rivals are increasingly raising the bar higher.

Source- http://www.financialexpress.com/news/a-new-dimension-to-smartphones/637677/0

3G: What does it mean to us?

If there is one term that is least understood but still continues to generate a lot of buzz, it has to be 3G. I’ll demystify this jargon and find out exactly what it is and how we can benefit from it. 3G will also unleash an amazing number of new gadgets that will redefine the way we look at entertainment, education and communication.

3G stands for third generation, a wireless technology that helps to simultaneously transfer voice (telephone calls) and data (broadband Internet). 3G is an evolution of the existing 2G technologies that has limited capabilities, both on the device side and on the network side. The mobile connectivity we currently use runs on 2G network and its plagued on two accounts. One is the limited network bandwidth which explains why our calls can’t go through because of network congestion. The second is extremely lean data bandwidth, which explains why surfing on the mobile phone or the GPRS data card is so pathetically slow.

3G could be our solution. 3G offers a huge bandwidth which means that we no longer have to suffer from congestion. We can now benefit from superior voice quality, higher call connections and lower consumption of battery power.

Networks supporting 3G would have data transfer speeds up to 3 Mbps. This is a huge improvement over the extremely limited 144 Kbps we are used to so far. For example, if you chose to download a Tamil song over the existing setup, it would take you upwards of 10 minutes.

But with a 3G connection, you will be done in under 15 seconds. One can take advantage of higher mega pixel cameras that come with the latest phones and upload both photos and videos online or even stream live. Higher bandwidth means easier way to listen to music, watch videos, do social networking and play advanced games.

3G makes video streaming applications such as Live TV, movie downloads, high speed data download possible on mobile phones. Higher bandwidth opens up many possibilities and thereby enables a common user to experience a host of advanced data services like mobile banking and micro finance. Now with such widespread mobile penetration, imagine the wide reach of banking.

A business user using 3G-enabled hand-held devices will be able to download large-sized files quickly; his email capabilities and Internet experience will increase considerably due to higher network speeds, thereby making laptops redundant.

3G has immense potential in India. We are nearing 600 million mobile phone users in India and it is expected to double by 2012. Every month, we add over 20 million new users. We continue to be the fastest growing country in the world when it comes to mobile adoption. The good news is that in India, there are at least 40 million 3G-enabled phones, which means India already has 5 times Singapore’s population as a potential 3G market.

However, due to the government bureaucracy, red tapism and the haggling over the prices, the licenses for 3G have taken far longer than it should. The auction has been completed and the good news is that the private players will join in the fray very soon. When private players like Airtel, Reliance and Idea get into the fray, their marketing blitzkrieg will push adoption levels higher. But that’s in the near future. Add to this the government player’s long arm of reaching 700 cities, 3G is definite to take off.

For the present, only government players like BSNL and MTNL have been given licenses but their sales has been very disappointing so far. Analysts say that the big players have not marketed the services well.

Countries like Japan and Korea have made 3G a national agenda and have waived the huge license fees. This has drastically increased the adoption levels and the benefits of economy are for everyone to see. Its just a matter of time that India takes that path.

Source- http://www.financialexpress.com/news/3g-what-does-it-mean-to-us/628496/0

Flip: The ultra camcorder you’ll love

When a product has high KAF a.k.a Kid Approved Factor, its time to give the product a lot of respect. Ever since a friend gifted me the Flip Ultra camcorder, my 8-year old daughter loves using it to rehearse as a TV anchor.

It doesn’t take long to figure out why the Flip Ultra is such a loved video camcorder. The biggest advantage of this product is its ‘no-frills’ simplicity. It has just three buttons, the biggest one reserved for ‘Record’ and two smaller ones for Playback and Delete. It’s that simple.

It’s the Flip’s uncomplicated approach to easy video recording, combined with a pocket-friendly pricing that has made this a much loved camcorder for the YouTube, Facebook generation. Once you shoot the video, it’s just a simple two step process to upload your videos online. The product comes with inbuilt software which means that there’s no need for a CD or to download any software.

It changed the way people capture and share video by making it simple, accessible and fun for anyone. “I have them in my backpack and it goes wherever I go. It helps me to capture all those wonderful places and moments,” says Venky Krishnamoorthy, an IT professional. So popular that it attracted the attention of the IT giant, Cisco, which eventually bought the company a few years ago.

What I really liked was the friendly spring-loaded USB arm. With just a press of a knob, the USB arm pops out at right angles. This means, no more lugging around the USB cable and more importantly, no more losing them. Once videos are shot, you just simply plug in the camera to the USB in your computer and it automatically launches FlipShare software.

The audio clarity is quite good for a camera of this size. However, you begin to sorely miss the audio input especially in noisy environs. You wish there was a provision to plug in your microphone to cut out the external noises. Seshu, a professional wedding photographer strongly feels that without good audio input, the HD capability in the flip loses its edge.

Not many know that one can do excellent audio podcasting using Flip camcorders. While editing the video, you can easily split out the audio from the video. This re-emphasises the need for a good audio input, especially for interviews, something that I do so often for my Kiruba.TV show.

What you can’t complain about is the Flip’s ability to shoot in low-light areas. It shows its class in indoor filming. While it does very well for outdoors shooting, it gives washed out images when you shoot in bright sunlight. The Flip does have a 2x optical zoom but you are better off not using this facility as it gives you pixilated results.

Another thing I like about this flip is it uses two AA batteries. I use two re-chargeable batteries and in the scenario where the batteries run out of juice while I am outdoors, I have the simple option of buying two new batteries without scurrying around for plug points to charge them. I like this flexibility.

Not many are big fans of Flip’s tiny 2 inch camera. “I bought it and ultimately returned it after using it for a day. The first thing that irritated me was that really tiny screen which made it so tough to take proper videos. Half the time, I wasn’t sure what I was filming,” says Filpert Devasahayam. After getting used to big screens in other devices like the iTouch, the Flip’s screen does feel very tiny.

In spite of the few downsides, I find the Flip the easiest and most affordable low end camcorder to buy. It’s a great portable camcorder for the YouTube generation. Just remember that its not a replacement for full-blown video camera and if you can set the expectations right, you’ll love this one just as I do.

Source- http://www.financialexpress.com/news/flip-the-ultra-camcorder-youll-love/624124/0