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WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 13, 2010, DELHI

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 13, 2010, DELHI

TOMORROW IN BUSINESS OF LIFE SPORTS

TECHNOLOGY

Look out for this new section every fortnight CAUGHT OFF­SITE

International football has a strong Indian connection—the balls are either made here or the material is exported from here

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PLAY THINGS SIDIN VADUKUT

OS. OH YES S

uddenly, for no fathomable reason, operating systems around me are crashing and burning. Helter-skelter. First the BlackBerry operating system (OS) conked out. It kept loading, going to the home screen, and then...nothing. It has now been dispatched to Berry intensive care for recuperation. And then, over the weekend, an otherwise dependable Sony Vaio laptop with Windows slowed to continental drift speeds (yes. Windows Vista. I blame it solely on persuasive Microsoft marketing). This was shortly after a perky little Eee PC in white, loaded with a trimmed down version of Windows XP, erupted in a Blue Screen of Death. What in Steve Jobs’ name was going on? Every operating system in sight was going belly up before I could say “Wait. Do I have a backup?” Thankfully I did have backups. This soothed the pain and inconvenience. But there is something about fiddling with operating systems that separates the geek men from the geek boys. Pull aside even a fairly advanced iPhone-browsing, Kindle-reading, 3G-anticipating tech geek and ask him to replace the operating system on your device. Chances are he’ll run away “to do some R&D” and never come back. Operating systems have historically been big, messy, intimidating bundles of software. What made them quite repulsive was that they usually had only one way of installing correctly. But potentially a thousand ways of failing miserably. And mysteriously. Anything, I’ve come to realize, can interrupt, inhibit or irreversibly terminate an OS installation session.

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FREE VIDEO­EDITING SOFTWARE

System overhaul: Take a backup of your data before reinstalling OS. Power fluctuations, bad DVDs, tiny little hard drive errors and even looking at the computer sternly for too long could crash an installation and waste hours of effort. Which is why so many people never, ever replace the operating systems on their computers. Even if there are perfectly good, fully functional and completely free operating systems you can download from the Internet. As long as most things work and you can do the basics such as browse and email, most users tend to stick with horrible operating systems, such as Windows Vista, which has no place on the planet except, perhaps, in Guantanamo Bay. “Tell us where Bin Laden is or we will make you change the desktopwallpaperon this Vista PC with VERY, VERY LITTLE RAM!” In 2010, there is really no need to be so afraid of operating systems at all. If you have a computer, or even an old iPod, you want to give a fresh lease of life, there are excellent free operating systems that you can download, install and use without blowing up anything. For the Vaio, in addition to Windows, I installed Ubuntu, a free Linux-based operating system that does more than just the basics. It comes with a Firefox browser, media players and an office suite and, most importantly, is quite fast and clean. And for the entirely tech averse there is a Windows installer that installs Ubuntu like any regular program. Open source, mind you, does not mean ugly and buggy. Ubuntu versions have got better with each release; they look nice, feel nice and the learning curve for most Windows users is not too steep. One of the most common problems with swapping OS types is that the new system might not work well with existing hardware. In my case, Ubuntu (www.ubuntu.com) seems to be getting along with everything except the webcam. I can deal with that. The Eee PC is a netbook with little memory and lean processing capacity. The regular flavour of Ubuntu would be too much for it, so I chose Easy Peasy (www.geteasypeasy.com), a variant of Ubuntu specifically designed for netbooks. Downloading and installing it on the Eee PC was painless. And for a small, light bundle of code, Easy Peasy packs a solid punch. Perfect for the no-nonsense netbook platform. There are even alternatives for the firmware that makes your iPods and older MP3 players work. Rockbox (www.rockbox.org) is an open source replacement for the software that makes your music play. And this too is easily installed. So next time you feel like giving your computer a complete makeover, don’t rule out an OS change. Things are better now. Just make sure you have backups before you start. Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com

www.livemint.com Play Things is the official tech and time­pass blog of Mint. Drop in for a dose of cool tech gossip and online merriment at http://blog.livemint.com/play­things

An Indian duo—a programmer and a mathematician—has developed a tool to expose anonymous writers and cleanse Wikipedia of rogue editors

u Movie Maker (Windows) It comes pre­installed on PCs running with Windows XP and Vista. Movie Maker offers many video filters, special effects and titles, and allows you to edit videos, photos and audio. Perfect for beginners. u iMovie (Mac) It’s the Mac equivalent of Windows Movie Maker. Its latest version, iMovie 09, has drag­and­drop editing, a precision editing feature (which makes it easier than ever to get exact frame edits) and extras such as image stabilization, dynamic themes, transitions and effects.

u Open Movie Editor (Linux) Openmovieeditor.org emphasizes ease of use. Comparable with both Movie Maker and iMovie, it includes features such as audio annotations, which let you make some parts of the audio quieter than oth­ ers, and the ability to mute the original track at a click. u Jaycut (online) If you’re shooting video primarily to share with friends online and have a speedy broadband connection, this online video editing suite (www.jaycut.com) may be just the thing for you.

er, the inevitable marriage of two technologies—phone and camcorder—hasn’t quite been love at first click. Even the most advanced camera phones are still no match for digital cameras that also shoot video, let alone dedicated camcorders. Videos, for one, take up a lot more room than still photos, and until now, the high cost of memory has hindered progress. Fullfeature camcorders also possess a plethora of associated technologies—image stabilization and optical zoom, to name two that are

difficult to replicate in a phonesized device. That said, mobile phone cameras have one feature that will continue to ensure their continued survival—built-in connectivity. For a generation of YouTube purveyors and Facebook addicts , what’s the point of flawless, pristine camcorder clips that you can’t instantly broadcast to, well, the whole of humanity? Let’s take a look at the five best cellphones for recording and sharing videos.

GUIDE TO VIDEO RESOLUTIONS u Video graphics array (VGA) A graphics display system for PCs developed by IBM in 1987, which has since become an industry benchmark for mobile phones. For video recording, it translates to 640x480 pixels. In real terms, this is close to DVD resolution. u Quarter VGA (QVGA) It refers to screens that have a 320x240 resolution. The first vid­ eo­capable cellphones maxed out at QVGA. This is also roughly the resolution offered by good­old VHS cassettes.

u D1 The D1 format was the first major professional digital video format, introduced in 1986. In the context of mobile phones, it means a resolu­ tion of 720x486 and is approxi­ mately equivalent to wide­screen DVD. u HD (high definition) The lowest resolution that can be considered true HD is 1280x720. So far only one mobile phone, the Samsung Omnia HD, can record HD video.

PHOTOIMAGING BY HARISH RAWAT/MINT

GUIDE TO FRAME RATE Frame rate refers to how many frames a video camera cap­ tures in a second. It is expressed in the unit fps (frames per second)—the high­ er the frame rate, the smoother your video will look. A frame rate of 30fps or faster is typical for smooth video, while 15fps or lower—common in first­gen­ eration mobile phone camer­ as—will have noticeable flicker or choppiness. Newer phones can record at anywhere from 30fps to 120fps.

POPULAR VIDEO UPLOAD/SHARING u Youtube.com u Vimeo.com u Clipshack.com u Dailymotion.com u Metacafe.com

u PRICE u DIMENSIONS u WEIGHT u SCREEN SIZE u INTERNAL MEMORY u CARD SLOT u MAX VIDEO RESOLUTION u TV­OUT

BY SUNIL ABRAHAM policy. NPOV is Wikipedia’s particular spin on ············································ non-partisanship, providing equal space to all angalore-based Kiran Jonnalagadda, a Web opinions. However, some Wikipedia researchers programming guru, and Hans Varghese Mathsuch as Geert Lovink, head of the Institute of Netews, a mathematician, are the new entrants to the work Cultures, Amsterdam, and co-organizer of the emerging field of Wikipedia research. The duo is WikiWars conference, believes that the dominance credited with building Wiki Analysis, a tool that of English and textual citation requirements has helps researchers understand the growing phenom- meant that NPOV is never translated into practice. enon of astroturfing, the practice of faking grassAn American team based out of the Santa Fe Instiroots support on Wikipedia and other websites. tute, US, has developed WikiScanner, a public dataWikipedia is the first Google result for most searchbase of IP addresses that helps reveal the organizaes and this has made it a popular destination for tions behind anonymous edits on Wikipedia. WikiSthose trying to manipulate public opinion on the canner has been used to expose the US Central IntelInternet. Corporations, governments and even pop ligence Agency’s manipulation of pages. WikiScanner artists have been caught astroturfing in the past. doesn’t yet work for edits by authenticated users. The Jonnalagadda and Mathews are among 34 reWikiScanner team has also developed another tool BLOOMBERG searchers from 17 countries called Potential Sock Puppetry, attending a two-day conferwhich exposes those who use ence in Bangalore, WikiWars, multiple user accounts from which is concluding today. the same IP address. However, WikiWars is taking a fresh look both tools could be circumat many different aspects of vented by purchasing multiple the world’s biggest encyclodata cards or getting people to paedia, the sixth most popular work from public access website on the Internet. points such as coffee shops The first generation of asand cyber cafés. troturfing on Wikipedia has It is this gap the Indian been, thus far, largely unsoduo’s tool tries to plug. The phisticated, with little attenfirst version of their Wiki tion paid to covering up digiAnalysis tool clusters users tal evidence. Remember the into potential lobbies based campaign Avril Lavigne’s fans on the pages they edit within launched last year that turned a date range. The tool’s next her music video Girlfriend version will cluster users into into the most viewed clip on lobbies based on the words YouTube? Wal-Mart Stores they consistently add and Inc. contracted its public delete across pages. Says relations firm Edelman to Jonnalagadda, “Wikipedia is maintain a fake website called now close to a decade old “Working Families for Waland has many articles that Mart”. They pretended to be have existed since its earliest ordinary citizens who opdays and have been edited posed the views of the firm’s Fan fooling: Avril Lavigne’s fans launched by thousands of individuals.” labour union. a fake campaign to make her music video It is now the primary encyIt is well known that platthe most watched clip on YouTube. clopaedic destination for Informs such as Twitter and ternet users, and that makes Facebook, with opaque management procedures, it a ripe target for astroturfing. At no point in the are susceptible to astroturf campaigns. Supporters history of human civilization have so many colof open licensing and peer production have allaborated over so long to produce one canonical ways held that Wikipedia and other communitydocument on any article of human knowledge. managed platforms are protected thanks to their “Wikipedia users rarely bother to check how a transparency in policies and practices. But as far page was edited, but that information is all there, as Wikipedia researchers are concerned, the jury available to anyone who cares to look. We’re is still out. building the tools to help make sense of it,” JonMicrosoft tried to pay technology blogger Rick nalagadda says. Once Wiki Analysis is ready, you Jelliffe to work on Wikipedia connected to OOXML will be able to check if, for example, the editors of (Office Open XML) during the ISO (International the climate change page on Wikipedia are more Organization for Standardization) approval process interested in ecology or energy. in an attempt to influence the global vote. OOXML was the new file format for MS Office documents Sunil Abraham is the executive director, Centre for that urgently needed approval to check the growInternet and Society, Bangalore. ing popularity of Open Office. A user called “Ril_editor”, active between September 2007 and Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com May 2008, who claimed to be working out of Reliance Industries Ltd’s chief Mukesh Ambani’s offices, tried to expunge pages connected to negative Read the backstory for each and every Wikipedia entry at publicity about Reliance. Scientologists were www.livemint.com/wikiwarrior.htm blocked by Wikipedia’s arbitration committee when they were found trying to systematically unwww.livemint.com dermine Wikipedia’s NPOV (neutral point of view)

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For all their smart features, most mobile phones fall short when it comes to taking videos. A few, though, have managed to deliver on this front two of the oldest tools of electronic communication—the camera was invented in 1814, the telephone in 1875—were finally going steady. And it’s proved to be a fruitful relationship—an estimated 80% of all cellphones today have built-in cameras. Advances in digital camera technology and miniaturization mean that photos from the latest camera phones approach and sometimes match the quality of pictures taken with dedicated digital cameras. When it comes to video, howev-

There are now enough football devotees in India for advertisers and marketeers to sit up and take note

Wiki’s worth, on a different turf

TALKING PICTURES B Y Z AHEER M ERCHANT ·························· ellphones and cameras are—with due acknowledgement to Forrest Gump—the peas and carrots of the YouTube generation. In the early days, manufacturers reserved the feature for only their top-end models. It did not matter that pictures taken with these cameras looked for the most part like the results of your average sonography—customers snapped them up in hordes. It was clear soon, though, that

HERE'S THE KICKER

SAMSUNG i890 HD (OMNIA HD)

NOKIA N82

LG VIEWTY SMART

SAMSUNG S8300 ULTRATOUCH

iPHONE 3GS

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to deduce that this 8MP camera phone is the undisputed king of video­recording phones—the clue is in the name. Most of us don’t even own a high­ definition (HD) television, let alone a mobile phone. The i890 HD is the first—and so far the only—mobile phone that lets you record and play HD video. You can record in one of four res­ olutions: from mouth­watering HD720p at 24fps down to measly QVGA at 120fps. Crucially, both the still and video cameras offer image stabilization, which counters the effect of camera shake. The good: HD video, plenty of storage The bad: Expensive; HD video recording sometimes drops below 24fps or duplicates frames to equal 24

Released in November 2007, the N82 is easi­ ly the dinosaur of this pack. Though Nokia has since released about a zillion more N­se­ ries handsets, they all have pretty much the same video­recording capabilities. This is not to say the quality is poor—two years on, the N82 remains one of the best. It can capture VGA resolution video (640x480) at 30fps. While that’s nowhere in the vicinity of the i890’s HD videos, the N82’s videos are argu­ ably the best of any VGA­class phone. This is thanks, in no small measure, to its video sta­ bilization feature. The good: Cheap, excellent quality VGA video The bad: 2GB storage may not be enough if you shoot a lot

This cousin of the older—and presumably dumber—LG Viewty has video recording capa­ bilities that are second only to the Omnia’s. Equipped with an 8MP camera, the Viewty Smart can record video at D1 resolution (720x486), one step above VGA, and one below full­blown HD. Even if video resolution is not your primary concern, the camera packs plenty of features that distinguish it from competitors. These include the option to switch on the phone’s flash to record video in the dark and the option to record videos so that they fit exactly that of MMS. The good: Records at D1 resolution; flash doubles up as light to record in the dark The bad: Records in 3GPP (Third­generation Partnership Project, a file format)

If the Nokia N82 shoots the best VGA­reso­ lution videos, the title for D1 resolution goes to Samsung’s 8MP S8300. It can record flawless, vibrant D1 video at 30fps. It can also record ultra­slow motion video in QVGA resolution at 120fps. It is currently the only phone that can shoot time­lapse (fast­mo­ tion) video in VGA resolution—all other phones are limited to QVGA in this mode. The fast­motion result is up to 16 times fast­ er than reality (that is, 16 seconds of shoot­ ing results in 1 second of video). The good: Excellent, fluid videos; unique time­lapse mode The bad: Only 80MB of phone memory, no memory card included

It’s hard to believe that this 3MP camera phone could even hold its own against the other behemoths. Truth is, the 3GS can record at VGA resolution at 30fps, and the size, clarity and smoothness of clips are on a par with many contenders in this space. Another bonus is the tap­to­focus feature of the still camera: It also carries over to video. A handy feature is the ability to auto­com­ press and upload videos. As is generally the case with Apple, it’s simplicity of use, not exclusivity of features, that puts the all­ round superb iPhone 3GS on this list. The good: Ease of use; video geo­tagging, video quality at par with that of 5MP and 8MP cameras The bad: Pricey; poor editing software

Rs33,000 123x59x12.9mm 148g 360x640 pixels, 3.7 inches 16GB storage, 256MB RAM microSD, up to 32GB HD 720p (1280x720) at 24fps Yes

Rs13,000 112x50.2x17.3mm 114g 240x320 pixels, 2.4 inches 100MB storage, 128MB RAM microSD, up to 16GB (2GB card included) VGA at 30fps Yes

Rs27,500 108.9x56.1x12.4mm 102g 800x480 pixels, 3 inches 1.5GB microSD, up to 32GB 720x480 at 30fps Yes

Rs27,500 110x51.5x12.7mm 105g 240x400 pixels, 2.8 inches 80MB microSD, up to 16GB 720x480 pixels at 30fps Yes

Rs32,000 (16GB), Rs39,000 (32GB) 115.5x62.1x12.3mm 135g 320x480 pixels, 3.5 inches 16GB/32GB storage, 256MB RAM None VGA at 30fps Yes

PLAYCAST WIKIPEDIA Most of us don’t really think about Wikipedia. Behind its simple encyclopaedic shell is the most fascinating work of collective knowledge the Internet has ever produced. Its 14 million articles in 272 languages are all free to view, and a study by science journal ‘Nature’ found that its accuracy was comparable to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. We speak to Nishant Shah, research director, Cen­ tre for Internet and Society, Bangalore, on the unique concerns and debates that Wikipedia has generated and issues being discussed at their two­day conference WikiWars, which ends today. Krish Raghav

To hear the Playcast, log on to www.livemint.com/playcast

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