Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Buying a phone outside US

In my anticipated arrival to US next week, I tried ordering a Galaxy Nexus from the Google Play Store in advance. I wanted to get it shipped to my friends' house so I can use it as soon as I get there. Unfortunately, I was denied access from the Play Store because I was accessing it in a country where they don't deliver. For some reason, Google assumes that if someone is logged in from a certain country, they will not be in US any time soon to receive the shipment!

So, I used Tor to mask my IP and make Google think that I was logged in from US. This time I was successful in placing the order and I gave my friends' house to get it shipped. Felt excited to have it in my hands as soon as I get there!

A few minutes later, I got an email from Google that my order was cancelled because there were some 'discrepancies' in the order. I can only assume that it has something to do with the fact that I was not in US while placing the order.

Finally, with no other option, I had to ask my friend to order it for me and I will reimburse the amount to him. It is very strange that Google makes it so difficult for people to order from abroad. As long as someone is entering a US address to ship to, it shouldn't matter!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Deleting your Yahoo! account

A few days ago, 453,000 Yahoo accounts were compromised. Apparently, Yahoo stores user login and password in plain-text, without encryption! This reminded me that I had long ago created a Yahoo account myself. Since I haven't used that account in many years, I thought I should delete it.

I was actually surprised that I entered the correct login and password in the first attempt! After deleting all the junk mail, and obvious signs of it already being hacked, I tried to deactivate the account. Apparently, it's not so easy! First, I tried the 'Account Settings' option. It only has profile information, password security, subscriptions etc. There's no option of deleting your account.

Then I tried going into the inbox and going through the 'Mail Options'. As expected, there was only information for routing email, forwarding etc.

Finally, I did a Google search for deleting my Yahoo account. I came across this link. Lo and behold, after a couple of password checks, my account "has been deactivated and scheduled for deletion." Why could I not find this link in any of the settings is beyond me. Ironically, I had to use Google to delete my Yahoo account!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Galaxy Nexus is back!

In an earlier post, I had compared differences between Samsung Galaxy SIII, HTC One X and Galaxy Nexus. Keeping the prices in mind, I had decided that the Galaxy Nexus would be a best buy for me. As luck would have it, Apple filed a petition against Google regarding software patents and Google had to agree to stop selling the Nexus phone.

The Nexus is Google's flagship Android phone. It's the only Android phone which is sold directly from Google without any carrier bloatware. It is also expected to be first in line to get Android 4.1 Jelly Bean upgrade coming in mid-July. At last month's Google I/O, the price for Nexus was also dropped from $399 to $349.

Apple filed a lawsuit against the sale of Galaxy Nexus, claiming that Google was infringing on patents issued to Apple. One of these patents included the ability to display search results from different sources in one place. The reference is probably to Siri.

On June 30th, U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh granted an injunction against Galaxy Nexus. If Apple posted bond of $96 million, Google would not be allowed to sell Galaxy Nexus throughout the U.S. until the case went through trial. The bond money would cover losses incurred by Google in lost sales if Apple lost the case. Of course, Apple posted bond immediately.

The Galaxy Nexus phone on the Google Play Store was no longer available for sale. Rumors started to spin that Google would upgrade the phone with a patch to circumvent the patent infringement. In a surprising turn of events, Samsung appealed to the courts to stay the injunction. On 6th July, the judge agreed and stayed the injunction and allowed the Galaxy Nexus back in the market until 12th July.

The Galaxy Nexus is now available on the Google Play Store. But when an order is placed, it is due to be shipped in 2-3 weeks. Rumors are, that Google might update the Nexus to Jelly Bean and also circumvent the patent issue at the same time before delivering the phone. This would mean that the judge might overturn the injunction, since the infringement that prompted it will no longer be occurring.

Luckily, I'll be able to buy the Nexus phone when I get to USA! :)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Pay more to choose my seat?

Recently, I wrote a post about buying my airline ticket. After paying almost $2,000 for two tickets, I went online to the airlines' websites to choose my seats. My itinerary involves three airlines:

  1. Emirates (Karachi - Dubai)
  2. British Airways (Dubai - London)
  3. American Airlines (London - Chicago - Minneapolis)
I first logged on to American Airlines website and entered my booking details to access my reservation. It showed up with both my flights and gave a whole seating chart to let me choose my seat. I went on to Seat Guru to get recommendations on which seats would be the best. But surprisingly, most of the seats were already taken. There were a few seats, in economy class, which were empty. I tried choosing them, and lo and behold, there was a $44 extra charge per seat for sitting in those seats. These seats are also in economy class, but they are 'preferred seats'! After paying $2,000 I expected the airline to at least let me choose good seats! Of course, I did not choose those 'preferred seats' and just selected regular seats.

I then logged on to British Airways website and accessed my reservation. When I clicked on the 'Choose my seats' selection, I was shocked to know that they charge extra if I want to select my seat! The price for each seat selection is ¥ 3,610. If I don't want to pay extra, I have to wait until check-in and then select seats. If they let the customer choose their own seats, I would assume they would save time at the check-in counter. Hence, less labor costs involved! So, rather than making it convenient for customers (as well as check-in counter staff), they would rather deter customers from choosing a seat and make the check-in counter staff go through the hassle.

After being disappointed with two of the airlines, I finally logged onto Emirates website and accessed my itinerary. Since Emirates is usually considered a premium airline, I almost expected there to be extra charges associated with seat selection. Fortunately, they are smart enough to let the customers easily choose their own seats so their check in-staff doesn't have to deal with it!

In the recent years, its common knowledge that airlines are suffering such heavy losses that they are trying to make money from customers in every possible way. These include drinks/food on short flights, check-in luggage and now seat selection. There are some costs which the airline incurs and is justified passing it onto the customer. But seat selection by customer actually saves the airline costs in terms of manpower at the check-in counter. Deterring the customer from this facility does not make any financial sense!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sixth Sense: Old version of Google Glass

Amid much fanfare, Google did a demo of Project Glass at Google I/O a few days ago. In all this hype, we have lost track of an actual prototype of Sixth Sense demonstrated at TED by Pranav Mistry in February 2009. While Google showed Project Glass' ability to be a wireless webcam, Sixth Sense had potential of being much more!

The prototype for Sixth Sense can be constructed for $350 and is completely open source! Considering this demo was more than three years ago, it is surprising that there haven't been many updates on the project. I would have expected it to be much further ahead of Google Glass by now.

Pranav had combined all the technologies together and instead of a heads-up display, he used a projector to use any surface as a display. With the availability of fast data connection like LTE and widespread use of wifi networks, it could be used much more easily today. As a prototype, it seemed like a clunky bunch of different devices. With some potential of mass market, it could have developed into a much sleeker version. If he could have kept the price less than $500 and fit the technology into one device, Google Glass would seem like an outdated webcam by now!