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Comment Re:Free voice does not mean free plan (Score 1) 92

considering we pay $80 plus taxes for voice service on three feature phones (and that is without nationwide roaming or unlimited minutes.. that would be something like $30-35 more and take us off our old pre-verizon plan), chopping off voice calls from the bill and charging a measly 75 cents for a gigabyte of data sounds like a hell of a deal.

india must not have ridiculous baked-in per-line taxes, fees and other 'mandatory' charges for voice and not have the stupid money merry-go-round between carriers for each voice call.. so they can basically eliminate voice from phone plans completely. it's a wonderful idea. the u.s. will never see such a thing.

Try Google Fi which uses VOIP but is integrated with your phone and you get a phone number just like a conventional phone. They still charge you $20 a month for voice and $10 for 1GB but you do get the benefits of VOIP such as national/international roaming for free, very low priced international calling rates etc.

But yes, this is all made possible because Jio has its own backhaul network that is entirely IP packet based. This is what telecoms will become in the future. ISPs.

Comment Re:Not free (Score 1) 92

The real question is - do you have VOIP integrated with your cellphone and your phone number? To my knowledge, every single cellphone service provider charges separately for voice, and this is always a mandatory charge. Even Google Fi which uses VOIP for voice calls charges $20 a month for voice, and then $10 a month for every 1GB used (which rolls over).

Nobody offers a cellphone with a phone number where you are only charged for data usage and for nothing else. At least to my knowledge. As such, what Jio is doing in India is what all wireless telecom companies will be doing in the future. Especially since the entire backhaul is IP based anyway. They will all become ISPs.

Comment Chromecast Audio for high quality audio streaming (Score 1) 226

I was looking for a Squeezebox replacement since my device died and they stopped making it. I really didn't want to build out a dedicated PC or Raspberry solution just for audio, so was making do with Roku for audio (it acutally has a surprisingly large number of audio streaming services - it even covers my local FM radio channels).

Tried the first Chromecast - and it was largely a "meh" experience. Video was grainy and choppy and audio sounded quite substandard. For example the same youtube audio or internet audio would sound much better when streamed from the Roku channel than when casted from Chromecast.

Took another gamble at the new Chromecast Audio - and it is a phenomenal device. It actually plays as well as my Squeezebox. For $35, you get really high quality audio, and it has digital out so you can connect it to a DAC, or optionally use its inbuilt DAC which is not bad at all. Some people are even using it to drive moderately hard to drive headphones. It also supports high res audio up to 24/96. The really neat thing is that if you cast Spotify or Pandora from your phone to the CCA device, it will stream directly from Spotify after the initial handshake and will not stream through your phone. All in all, I can't imagine how they pulled off this quality of audio output and features for $35.

Comment Re:Why so expensive? (Score 1) 88

Expensive? Your old fashion land lines would be $35+ a month. Vonage is also $10/month for home service.

In order to get this service, you already need to have Google's fiber service.

$10 a month is indeed expensive when compared to Ooma. Ooma is free - all you have to do is pay for the device, which admittedly is $100. But it works well, and I have been using it for over a year without any complaints or issues. And international call rates are very reasonable too - about 6-8 cents a minute. And while $100 is a bit high, the device itself is quite sleek and well implemented. It has voicemail and recording facility, and is really easy to use and setup (took me all of 2 minutes to setup).

I do pay tax for the landline service (everyone has to) but it only amounts to about 3-4 bucks a month. I would imagine that one would have to pay the same rate or possibly higher for the Google landline service.

But yes, Vonage (which I replaced with Ooma) is indeed overpriced and not at all worth the money.

Comment Re:Duh. Because God made it (Score 1) 720

"Yeah! God loves you so much that he'll torture forever if you don't love him back."

A lot of people like that trope you just keyed and repeat it quote often. The problem is that it misrepresents Christianity completely. In Christianity, one does not "love" God like one "loves" a person -- or a dog -- or a sandwich. It's not the same thing.

What makes you think OP was talking about a Christian god?

Comment Re:It's not a $4 smart phone (Score 2) 72

In India where Poverty runs rampant, how does this effort help? Children will still be starving, while manufactures of these subsidized phones will be getting fat. There may be a place and time for a government subsidy for cell phones, but in this case, in India, I'm not so sure it's the right place or the right time.

The kind of generation upon generation endemic poverty exists because of lack of access, lack of communication, lack of transport, lack of awareness of employment options, lack of information. Take a subsistence farmer or a contract farmer for example. He is completely dependent on rain and weather conditions to get a reasonably successful crop that will give his family just about enough calories to last the rest of the year, and a little bit of money for other survival needs. One bad crop, one bad season means that he has to take a loan from a loanshark / local moneylender at interest rates of 3-5% a week. Inevitably he will become indebted for life, and if another bad season follows, his children with either die of malnutrition or he will commit suicide by drinking pesticide. Or often both. Not necessarily in the same order.

The other big category of poverty stricken people in India are the ones that are less tied to the land. Part time laborers, the ones who work in construction sites, brick kilns, mines, public or private construction projects, etc.

In many of these categories of people, there is a very real benefit to having a cell phone and having rudimentary internet access. Even if not the internet or even wikipedia, to mesaging apps like whatsapp, weather forecasting apps, apps that display job opportunities for temp workers, daily wage laborers etc.

A subsistence farmer or a daily wage laborer could benefit enormously from access to job opportunities, access to better information about the weather, commodity prices, prices of pesticides, grains etc. Or even just the ability to message relatives and be better networked and better informed. Consider the fact that a daily wage laborer in a big city makes 10x the money than a daily wage worker in a remote inaccessible village. Not only that, the big city laborer is also employed many more days in a year.

So why does the poverty stricken villager not move to the big city? Why does the villager let his children become matchsticks? Why does the villager commit suicide even when he knows it also means a death sentence for his family? Why is he, for lack of a better word, so *dumb*? You think a charity organization that will visit his village once a decade and will give him a sack of rice will help him in any way in the long run??

Comment Re:Don't be so quick to take sides. (Score 1) 32


Given how much opposition there is to what facebook is offering, you'd think facebook got exclusivity or something and pushed every other free internet provider off the market. Or you'd think they'd get together and be able to offer an alternative that's freer and less walled.

The main source of opposition by the way is ordinary users, not corporations or telcos. The reason for the opposition is not that facebook will become a monopoly ISP. The reason is that facebook's service breaks net neutrality.

Ordinary users everywhere are fighting to preserve net neutrality, while corporations are fighting against it (for it gives them a chance to strong-arm websites and services and extort money from them).

Basic services need to be neutral. If toll roads started charging differently depending on the brand of car you are driving (because they get kickbacks from certain car manufacturers), there would be a shit-storm of controversy. And when it comes to basic services being monopolies, the irony is that the US has far worse monopolies when it comes to services like internet, cable, etc.

India has a rapidly growing startup culture, and a lot of these startups are heavily dependent on the internet for either service delivery or communication. However, if net neutrality breaks, the entry barrier for startups would be so high and cumbersome and expensive, that most of them would die.

You can talk about net neutrality being obsolete in a post internet world, etc. But the reality is that it only works in countries that have very very strong protection against monopoly abuse, so that they can guarantee that the free market works truly like a free market with a chance for everyone to try and succeed. However, this situation is already massively distorted because the big companies have become so big and rich and monopolized that small fry startups essentially pose no competition.

But heck, even in the US, with all the protection, monopolies basically do what they want.

A country like India *needs* its basic services to be open and neutral so the nascent growing companies have half a chance to succeed.

Comment UX is not always UI! (Score 3, Informative) 192

A few thoughts

- UX is not always UI. Most discussions on this topic end up being about UI aesthetics, the Metro look, and what not. UX is about the user experience. Eye candy certainly has the bling aspect to it, and might even get you into the door with certain clients. However, I do feel that for complex products (ERP certainly is one!), what is more important is that the application functionality and application data should be structured around the way people *want* to use the application. It should not be based on how product designers or even UX experts think that people *should* use the product.

tl;dr - You can improve UX significantly by making small changes in a legacy user interface.

- From what I have seen, big bang approaches to UI overhaul (or even functional overhaul) almost *never* works for a large complex product. Think about chipping away at the problem instead. Think about the 80/20 rule of getting the most bang for the buck by making a few quick changes that can significantly improve the UX of your product.

- Consider a survey or face to face interviews or best, both. If you can measure the benefits of the changes you are making, or even get enough qualitative anecdotal feedback (especially from power users and from key clients), you will have a much stronger case for making more far reaching changes.

- This is a topic of debate and some controversy - but consider the Net Promoter Score. It gives you at least one way to measure what your clients think about your product.

Comment Re:Not actually that impressive.... (Score 1) 179

GPU floating point performance has been leading general purpose x86 CPU floating point performance by an order of magnitude - for many many years now. There's nothing new in what you are saying.

What is indeed new is that this is the first general purpose x86 based solution that gives you similar floating point performance as a graphics card. And you get all the advantages of the general purpose CPUs as well as all the x86 codebase you might want to support.

There must also be a reason why the number 1 supercomputer on the planet, the Tianhe 2, uses Xeon Phi.

Oh, and while the dedicated RAM allocation is much smaller than the nVidia card in question, it is also much higher bandwidth, and is stacked RAM, similar to AMD's HBM.

Comment Re:So? (Score 1) 259

The answer is that "walkable" Evanston is only walkable in a handful of spots - downtown, parts of Chicago Avenue, Dempster/Main shopping districts. Effectively, only the part of the "city" that is east of Ridge Street or the 8 blocks nearest Lake Michigan.

Which is a tiny part of actual Evanston - the majority of which is an old-line suburb with a mix of single family homes and small apartments with lots of cars. You have two other business "districts" (Central/Green Bay and Emerson/Dodge) but the two block Central district is the only one that's "walkable" and it doesn't have a grocery store. Dodge is a high crime area (and location of the high school) - walking is a daylight operation only and even then there's parts you don't walk.

The Evanston city council is basically made up of goo-goo types from the richer East Side attempting to buy off the poor South/West side with services that no one can afford. It sort-of works - unless by "works" you mean has a reasonable budget and tax base and schools that perform on par with surrounding communities, in which case it doesn't work at all. But they do have better restaurants...

Yes, Dodge is definitely dodgy. But you miss the point completely - the article was about Evanston using a contrarian strategy (unlike other suburbs) and reinventing itself to attract businesses, shops, and more residents.

And that fact is undeniable. It is indeed the suburb with the biggest buzz compared to most of Chicagoland, or even other Northshore "villages" or "towns" in Chicagoland. Yes, this has not been inclusive and Evanston has really rough parts. But it has had this problem for decades - the problem has not arisen because of the commuter oriented policies. And for what it is worth, the outlying communities are also seeing the benefits of overall prosperity of Evanston. Slowly, yes, I will agree with you.

And if you talk about being "on par" with neighboring communities, you were really referring to the much richer communities North - Wilmette, Winnetka, Glencoe etc. Which are also 97% white communities where every rich white person in Chicago ends up sooner or later because they want to be around more people like them, and because of New Trier high school (or the other private schools in that area).

But you conveniently ignore the other neighborhoods like Rogers Park, Skokie, Devon etc. For better or for worse, Evanston is really a meeting ground of these two very different worlds. Fact of the matter is, it has been able to manage these contradictions and challenges quite decently. Room for improvement - for sure.

But you are cherry picking when comparing Evanston to other communities, while ignoring the other very real challenges that are an integral part of Evanston and always were. You simply cannot have diversity, safety, prosperity, amazing schools - all at once, all at the same time. At least Evanston is doing something bold about this.

Comment Re:So? (Score 1) 259

Most cities that got established before cars became popular were built to be walkable. Hence, they were also densely packed, especially around the city center. And public transit systems had their focal point around the city center. Evanston was also built this way. So yes, every old city is essentially a commuter oriented city.

The big difference is - most old cities let this advantage rot. They started copying the suburban city planning formula instead and became car friendly. Which meant massive parking lots, spaced out buildings, lower population density, ultrawide roads and expressways. Fact of the matter is, after cars became popular, most Americans started valuing privacy, acres of backyards, etc. They want to create their own little isolated mini universe inside their private lots.

But I digress.

The real effect of this can be seen everywhere in America - except for New York and other old cities in the East Coast, most other modern cities are built mainly as car oriented cities and suburbs - even their downtowns.

Mind you, I am not being judgmental here as to what is right and what is wrong. People on this have even leapt to conclusions that high density means socialist/commie and low density means conservative! Which is a strange extrapolation, from my perspective.

What Evanston did and is noteworthy, is that it bucked the trend and took a contrarian approach instead. It changed the zoning laws to allow higher density buildings with significantly lesser parking allocation. And the numbers from the article are quite startling. A parking space costs a builder $20000 - $50000. On top of this, huge parking requirements means that a builder literally cannot build a good looking building in a small lot - either he has to build a massive parking lot next to the building (which means he needs a much bigger lot - again destroying density and walkability) - or he has to build several levels of grey ugly parking, and only then can build apartments or offices on top of it.

And to be fair, the timing worked out too. Smartphone apps have made commuting so much more easier. And Evanston now has literally 50+ good quality restaurants, pubs, microbreweries, movies, dozens of doctors and dentists, hardware store, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's and Jewel Osco, and pharmacies - all in a 10 minute walking radius. And because of the density, the restaurants are able to do business. Even other Northshore communities now come to Evanston to eat and dine instead of going downtown.

Comment How I learned to stop worrying and cut the cord (Score 2) 236

When my Comcast bill steadily crept up and reached $250 with all the bundling (internet, cable, phone - which I didn't even hook up after a year), I got fed up and seriously looked at cutting the cord. Plus, the customer service was so frustrating that I just wanted to shake off the whole bundling and customer service mess so I could breathe a little better.

I first solved the internet problem by hooking up with a local vendor - a setup that I ran in parallel with Comcast's internet for a month or so. I live in a building and my local vendor has hooked up her pipe directly to the Ethernet switch in my building, so all I have to do is to hook up my wireless router to the Ethernet port in my living room. Quite elegant actually. Cabling is Cat5, but really, for my needs (~30-50mbps), that really is quite sufficient. The only downside is that the local vendor is not fiber or even copper all the way through. They have a wireless connection before they reach my building, which means that in really bad weather, connectivity is sometimes spotty. And sometimes, the wind is so strong that it moves the dish that they use for transceiving. So a tech has to reposition the dish, and I lose internet connectivity when that happens. Has happened a few times last year, but all in all, the service is decent and support is actually quite nice and human.

Next problem: OTA. I was really tempted by options like Simple TV. I especially liked its Roku integration - which meant that I could have used Roku as my one stop shop for all TV content - on-demand or live. However, the reviews also indicated that it did have some drawbacks. So I ended up buying a Mohu Leaf indoor antenna (powered), a ChannelMaster+ DVR without storage, and a 256GB pen drive for $80 to act as storage. Antenna positioning was a bit finicky but in the end, the setup worked. Channelmaster was quite decent actually in terms of user interface, and would even get programming info from the internet for free. I didn't go for a Tivo because I hated paying a monthly fee for channel info and for their service - in my mind, the whole point of cord cutting was to reduce these monthly payments.

I already had Netflix and Amazon Prime, but the Roku2 XS was hanging fairly often. So I replaced it with a Roku 3 (about $90) and boy, did it make a difference. I also added Hulu and Sling subscriptions. Sling really represents the future of television broadcasting. The only downside was their sports coverage - while they show ESPN, I was unable to get football. I was getting football on OTA but due to several storms etc during last winter, the coverage was often spotty. In a couple of cases, I had recorded football games and was avoiding seeing the score so I could watch it later not knowing the outcome. However, a significant part of the match was unwatchable because the screen was totally pixellated or too flickery. It is interesting to see how much we have taken reliability for granted. A nice thing about Sling though is that it allows you to see all programs in all channels "on demand" that were aired in the last 48 hours. In other words, it acts as a DVR that records everything in every channel for the last 48 hours. Something that no DVR currently does today. Well, scratch that. Comcast allows us to see a lot of content "on demand", but it often takes them a few days to make the content available on demand after it has aired.

Finally, I also got Google Chromecast so I could throw or cast non-youtube content on to my TV. Roku finally has a youtube channel and also has a couple of other apps but there are often limitations. I did a A/B comparison of youtube over Chromecast versus youtube via Roku (directly via Roku as well as streaming from my phone - but casting into Roku's youtube channel instead of casting into Chromecast). The funny/ironic thing is that the quality of video and audio on Roku's youtube channels (direct streamed as well as cast from my phone) was significantly superior compared to Chromecast. Ironic because Google's Chromecast is inferior for Google's own youtube compared to Roku.

I also use Roku as a full blown media player - I have a USB stick that has my music from my CDs stored as FLACs and high bitrate MP3s. I use Roku's app to browse audio content and play it from the attached USB stick. I also use Roku for other streaming audio channels - such as Pandora. It has 100+ audio apps and it really covers almost everything. I've been using Roku as my audio player since my Squeezebox Classic died and since it is no longer being made (what a tragedy that was). I have held the notion that Squeezebox was the best audio player made (barring multi $k high end audiophile options - yes, Auralic Aries, I am looking at you), but really, Roku is not a bad alternative at all.

Another super awesome thing about Roku 3 is that the remote has a headphone jack in it. It works seamlessly and when I want to watch a movie or a documentary silently, especially when everyone else is sleeping. I can just plug in any headphones or earbuds I have lying around and it "just works". And works with fairly good audio quality. Consider that wireless headphones cost as much as the Roku device itself and have additional hassles of keeping them charged etc.

Finally, phone. I was paying a ton of money (about $50 or so) for Vonage. While Vonage's service was good, I wanted to try something different. So I replaced it with Ooma. The device costs $100 but it gives me lifetime phone service and lifetime unlimited domestic calls - which honestly, is a no brainer. Service and voice quality has been as good as anything else I have ever used for telephony. International calls are not free (unlike domestic calls) but are still priced very reasonably - about 6 cents or so a minute. And the device has an answering machine built into it.

All in all, I felt that despite Channelmaster and OTA channels, I was quite let down and disappointed by it. If I had to do it again, I would not even bother. I guess the main reason is that the content available OTA just does not interest me personally (except football and sports of course!). And then it is spotty and unreliable. I would focus purely on stuff available online - on-demand or live streaming. I only wish that services like Sling would expand their coverage to become full blown cable TV alternatives. Even if they priced themselves similarly (say, $50-$80) and offered enough options for users to mix and match channels at different price points, it still represents a significantly better option compared to traditional cable. It is to cable what Google Fi is to cell phone services. For phone, I would highly recommend Ooma. Just as I would highly recommend Roku 3.

Oh, and I would also highly recommend a Logitech Harmony 650 (or above) remote. I was able to cut down from 5 remotes down to 1. While I can manage multiple remotes, my family was just so frustrated and would often get stuck because the TV was on, the DVR was on, but the AVR was switched off - or some such.

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