Smart home coming to reality...

A Smart Home is one that provides its home owners comfort, security, energy efficiency (low operating costs) and convenience at all times, regardless of whether anyone is home.

"Smart Home" is the term commonly used to define a residence that has appliances, lighting, heating, air conditioning, TVs, computers, entertainment audio & video systems, security, and camera systems that are capable of communicating with one another and can be controlled remotely by a time schedule, from any room in the home, as well as remotely from any location in the world by phone or internet.

Most homes do not have these appliances and systems built into them, therefore the most common and affordable approach is for the home owner to retrofit smart products into their own finished home.

Automated  home in India and Automated home solution is a small step to achieve this goal and is becoming integral part of our life. Imagine a single button for you to control. Automated home in India applications not     know all person about its features. Automated home solution now became famous in metro cities in India.

Following are broad spectrum of features that makes home a "smart home":
1 Lighting
2 Curtain
3 Any home appliance control
4 Timer control
5 Temperature control
6 Scene control
7 Streaming of Music and videos
8 Enhance Security
9 Sensors which can trigger alarm in your absence due to Gas leakage or any intruder invasion

Following are essential elements you would want to control:
Security
User Interface
Controlling  Devices
Safety Devices

The big question however is what does it takes to make a home a "smart home". There are many products avialable in the market which are in the forms of KITS or SETS which are as simple as plug and play devices. It will have a central hub through which all the devices are connected and shall communicate. 

Some of these products can be browsed at:
http://www.z-wave.in/
http://www.smart-home.co.in/
http://www.bpl.in/consumer-products/smart-home1.html
http://acrex.in/Smarthome.html

There are many such products and for each product the price will vary based on the features and nodes that are installed. But the cost will range from 15K to 50K for standard kits while of-course the upper limit can go as high as 3L INR.

Posted by Amber Marfatia

The wonders of Mind Mapping!

Mind mapping is one of the best ways to capture your thoughts and bring them to life in visual form. Beyond just note-taking, though, mind maps can help you become more creative, remember more, and solve problems more effectively. Whether you're new to mind maps or just want a refresher, here's all you need to know about this technique.

A mind map is basically a diagram that connects information around a central subject. I like to think of it like a tree, although it has more of a radial structure. In any case, at the center is your main idea, say, poetry, and the branches are subtopics or related ideas, such as types of poetry, famous poets, and poetry publications. Greater levels of detail branch out from there and branches can be linked together.

Mind maps can be more effective than other brainstorming and linear note-taking methods for a number of reasons:

Think of it this way. Imagine you were asked to write down as many uses for a brick as possible. Many people would just start listing all their ideas (building a wall, building a walkway, etc.). But what if you started from a broader perspective, such as thinking about the properties of a brick. It's heavy, so you could use it: as a paperweight, to hold down a garbage bag while raking, as an exercise weight, to grill juicer chicken, etc. It's also thick, so you could use it to prop up a planter or as a doorstop. It's red, it's hard, it's rectangular, etc. That's the magic of mind mapping: Once you start, the possibilities seem almost endless.

It's a graphical tool that can incorporate words, images, numbers, and color, so it can be more memorable and enjoyable to create and review. The combination of words and pictures is six times better for remembering information than words alone.

Mind maps link and group concepts together through natural associations. This helps generate more ideas, find deeper meaning in your subject, and also prompt you to fill in more or find what you're missing.

A mind map can at once give you an overview of a large subject while also holding large amounts of information.

It's also a very intuitive way to organize your thoughts, since mind maps mimic the way our brains think—bouncing ideas off of each other, rather than thinking linearly.

You can generate ideas very quickly with this technique and are encouraged to explore different creative pathways.

  • Start in the CENTRE of a blank page turned sideways. Why? Because starting in the centre gives your Brain freedom to spread out in all directions and to express itself more freely and naturally.
  • Use an IMAGE or PICTURE for your central idea. Why? Because an image is worth a thousand words and helps you use your Imagination. A central image is more interesting, keeps you focussed, helps you concentrate, and gives your Brain more of a buzz!
  • Use COLOURS throughout. Why? Because colours are as exciting to your Brain as are images. Colour adds extra vibrancy and life to your Mind Map, adds tremendous energy to your Creative Thinking, and is fun!
  • CONNECT your MAIN BRANCHES to the central image and connect your second- and third-level branches to the first and second levels, etc. Why? Because your Brain works by association. It likes to link two (or three, or four) things together. If you connect the branches, you will understand and remember a lot more easily.
  • Make your branches CURVED rather than straight-lined. Why? Because having nothing but straight lines is boring to your Brain.
  • Use ONE KEY WORD PER LINE. Why Because single key words give your Mind Map more power and flexibility.
  • Use IMAGES throughout. Why Because each image, like the central image, is also worth a thousand words. So if you have only 10 images in your Mind Map, it’s already the equal of 10,000 words of notes!


There are many tools (free and paid) available that offers mind mapping. You can find the entire list here

However my favorite tools are MindMeister and MS Office One Notes.

One of the map that I created, can be found at http://www.mindmeister.com/40993055/cloud

The map is all about what cloud computing is and the way I represented the same in form of Mind Map.

There are many sample maps available which can be explored to get some ideas. Hope you enjoy this way of putting the thoughts and remembering the same.

Posted by Amber Marfatia

Kindle or Kindle Paper White? Compare both to find which one is better!

No doubt, Kindle is indeed an excellent dedicated e-reader that will change your reading experience for good. How does it compared with the latest ‘Kindle Paperwhite’? What are the pros and cons when we compare basic Kindle Vs Kindle Paperwhite? That is something that i am trying to address through this post.

You will pay more for Kindle Paperwhite as it offers more features than the basic kindle. However, understand that more features doesn’t necessarily mean better device. It is more importantly about your requirements.


Let's get technical and understand the difference around it's configuration:



Feature
Kindle Paper White
Kindle
Display
Paper White Built In Light
E Ink Pearl
Resolution/Pixel density
212 Pixels per inch
167 Pixels per inch
Connectivity
3G + Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi only
Wi-Fi only
Dimension
6.7" x 4.6" x 0.36"
6.5" x 4.5" x 0.34"
Battery life
8 weeks wireless off
4 weeks wireless off
Weight
221 gm (3G+Wi-Fi) and 212 gm (Wi-Fi only)
169 gm
Interface
2-point multi-touch
5-way controller

Kindle, also known as ‘basic Kindle’ is small, light and extremely portable. It’s an ideal device for reading tons of books without worrying about eyestrain or battery life. The 5-way controller is rather user friendly and easy to navigate or turn pages. The absence of buttons to turn pages on Paperwhite is often criticized by users. This is because with your fingers sweating you can easily dirty the display in the process of turning pages or navigating. Kindle is overall a good value. It is the cheapest version of kindle and would work just fine at night with a reading light that would cost less than 5000 INR.

There are no major negative remarks for basic Kindle but there are things which are not so good as compared to Kindle Paperwhite. First, the lack of physical keyboard or touch-screen can be a pain when you take notes or type. The virtual keyboard that you access from the 5-way controller is terrible for typing.

Secondly, it is the battery life. It is not as good as the Paperwhite. In fact, it can offer only up to 4 weeks with the wireless off which is half the battery life span of Paperwhite.

The best thing about Kindle Paperwhite is its display technology including E Ink (4th generation) along with patented built-in light. The display consists of three layers to deliver a comfortable and amazing reading experience.

The fist layer is the E Ink display that features 768×1024 resolution with 221 PPI (pixels per inch). This is compared to 600×800 resolution with 167 PPI of Kindle. The second layer is the capacitive Touch screen. The third layer which is the outer layer is the nano-imprinted light guide.

The lighting is beautifully done to get perfectly balanced whiteness. It’s a small low-power LED lights that’s projected over the cover, so that you can read at dark with no eye strain or sun glare. It’s not uneven like the ‘reading light’ that we use on Kindle that doesn’t self illuminate. You can customize the light with 24 different levels but you can’t turn it off.

The Paperwhite turn pages faster than Kindle. Also, Paperwhite support X-Ray feature that allow readers to track a book’s character or certain common information. With Paperwhite you have the option of 3G+Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi only version. Kindle comes with Wi-Fi connectivity only. Paper white will cost around 10K INR.

Compared to kindle, Paperwhite is priced higher. But, my take is it is worth. Although there are complaints that while holding Paperwhite, I’d often touch the screen accidentally and turn pages. This is because I don’t always sit upright while reading from Paperwhite. But, once get used to the orientation its not a problem at all. 

If budget is not a constraint, Kindle Paper White is the way to go. 

Note: Pricing may change from what i have mentioned above. Please visit www.amazon.in for the latest pricing. 

Got Google Chromecast (yes...in India and from India)

Google Chromecast has been around since some time now, but wasn't available in India. However, from last week or so, the same is now available in India and one can buy the same from http://goo.gl/mXm3dY.

Chromecast is an USB stick like device developed by Google, that can stream images, files or videos from mobile (androids) or from browser onto TV. The device, a 2.83-inch (72 mm) HDMI dongle, plays audio/video content on a high-definition display by directly streaming it via Wi-Fi from the TV using the local Wi-fi network available in home. Users select the media to play using mobile apps and web apps that support the Google Cast technology.

Cloud explained through Pizza Delivery Services

There is much said and written about cloud service offering. As we do a simple Google on cloud we get Millions of answer around it. All answers and articles will have one thing in common. That cloud services are offered as IaaS or PaaS or SaaS. And much have been talked about each of them, as well. 

Cloud application services, or Software as a Service (SaaS), represent the largest cloud market and are still growing quickly. SaaS uses the web to deliver applications that are managed by a third-party vendor and whose interface is accessed on the clients’. 

In the PaaS models, cloud providers deliver a computing platform, typically including operating system, programming language execution environment, database, and web server. Application developers can develop and run their software solutions on a cloud portfolio.

Cloud Service Offerings VS Pizza Service Offerings
Cloud infrastructure services, known as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), are self-service models for accessing, monitoring, and managing remote data center infrastructures, such as compute (virtualized or bare mental), storage, networking, and networking.

Although many simplified variations of the above explanations exists, i found above info-graphic one of the better way of explaining what it is all about. This graphic tries to explain the concept of the same terms through Pizza Delivery Service Models!

The analogy used fits the cloud concept so nicely and maps to the concept of various cloud services. 

The concept of "You Manage" is what we used to do in the earlier days. Once ownership of a machine (computer) was given to us, we had to manage all of it. But as the concept of Internet Data Center (IDC) evolved, some portion of the management was taken away from us and was managed by the IDC folks. 

As the concept of cloud evolved, we have the options of choosing what we want to manage and what vendor (the cloud service provider - in case of cloud computing) should manage. 

And that is what is explained in the graphic. As we move from IaaS to SaaS or Take and Bake to Dinning Out, our job of managing things reduces. Just as we go out to a hotel and dine out for Pizza, we go to web site and email through services like GMAIL or HOTMAIL. In both the cases, we don't bother about what is happening behind the doors. We just order and enjoy our service!


Posted by Amber Marfatia

Get Amazed for whats coming up at LEGO

BIG‘s LEGO House is now under construction, following a one of a kind foundation laying ceremony featuring – what else – super sized lego bricks. Bjarke Ingels himself was in attendance to lay one of the foundation bricks. Constructed in LEGO‘s hometown of Billund. 

The gallery at the very top of the design is modeled after a gigantic LEGO brick, labelled the ‘Keystone’ by BIG. Inside, the LEGO House will feature multiple ‘experience areas’, a cafĂ©, a unique LEGO store, and a 2,000 square metre public square, as well as several open roof terraces. LEGO Group hopes that the LEGO House will host approximately 250,000 people annually.

The architect, Bjarke Ingels, designed the entire building to look like the iconic Lego brick, and a gigantic Lego brick will sit atop the 75-foot-tall building. Ingels described the concept for the building as follows.


Lego hopes the Lego Experience House will deliver the ultimate Lego experience, letting people of all ages channel their creativity while building things with Lego. Visitors can share their creations with other Lego fans from around the world, as well as with the designers of official Lego products. The building will feature vast experience areas, where you can create to your heart's content, as well as a cafe, a Lego store, and several open roof terraces to hang out and talk about Lego.


Posted by Amber Marfatia
Tag : ,

Backing up the backups at Hot or Cold Cloud Storage Space

These days, external hard drives are really cheap (as compared to their prizes year ago). Hence, backing up photos, videos, files, movies, etc. is not a big deal.

However, here comes the scary part!
What is the external hard drive itself crashes? After all its a mechanical device with discs in it!

Taking a back up of the external hard drive onto another hard drive is not practical enough.....for sure

Hence, wise and most logical thing to do is rely on cloud storage options. Cloud backup solutions enable individuals to store their data and computer files on the Internet using a storage service provider, rather than storing the data locally on a physical disk, such as a hard drive or tape backup. Cloud backup providers then enable their customers to remotely access the provider's services using a secure client log in application to back up files from the customer’s computers or mobile phones / tablets to the online storage server using an encrypted connection. It provides seamless sync options that ensures all devices are ready with files as required.

Before we get into which are different cloud providers, there are 2 major drawbacks of opting for cloud storage service providers.
1. You will always need internet - but i guess, that is not a big issue these days
2. You will have to pay the storage service provider a recurring fees (depending on the storage space we use)


There are 2 types of cloud storage providers:
1. Hot storage - One can retrive their information (files, photos, etc.) immideatly.
2. Cold storage -  One can retrive their information (files, photos, etc.) after 4 to 12 hours of the request place.

But then cold storage offers almost unlimited storage space at very cheap price. The following table provides various hot storage service options. The column trend shows the popularity of the company or the service provider. Popularity is based on:
1. Price
2. Storage capacity offered
3. Ease of sync.
4. Multiple device support
5. Security
6. Support

To an initial storage capacity, these providers offer free storage. For instance, justCloud offers 2GB free strorage and then it starts charging. Pricing models and operation models are different for each of them but the guiding principle for all is the same. For detail comparison, visit here.


But here comes an exception. What if I don't want to spend $$$. Is there a way to combine all such first free space and access it seamlessly? Answer is Yes.....there are paid and free apps that allow access to all such cloud storage from one interface. Once such example is cloudGoo. It onnects all your cloud drives with cloudGOO and act like it's all one big space. No more switching between multiple cloud accounts or apps. But then there is a limit to the first free space we get. Even if we add up all such free spaces we get, it's very difficult to cross 25GB. But, then still worth a consideration.

The other option is Cold Storage. It may not give you, the required files right away - but it takes around 4 hours.

Based on the Amazon Glacier technology, Zoolz introduces an interesting spin with Cold Storage; a low cost storage that is ideal for archival purposes and data that is infrequently accessed but needs to be backed up.

Zoolz is a complete comprehensive storage, which makes browsing easy with its thumbnail view of all the backed up photos, instant search, and a complete list of backed up files and folders stored on Cold Storage. This saves us the time spent wondering wondering about which file was just backed up and which was not.


I have a paid Zoolz account and i am loving it due to it's extremely friendly pricing. 

At the end, we may use an application like CloudGoo to extract free storage spaces from all hot cloud storage providers and sync. frequently used files (mainly images and videos) while we can use a paid cold storage provider like Zoolz for storing infrequently used files.


Posted by Amber Marfatia

Why is lego getting uglier?

If I remember my days playing with Lego or if i imagine my son's playing days with Lego, I would not want him to be surrounded with ugly Lego faces at all!

But as per the news just in, Lego has launched Mixels series in their portfolio for 6+ aged kids. And the picture in the blog will make us all figure out why i call them ugly!

Lego has such a wonderful set of figures (lego men / women) which are cute, preety and for sure not ugly!

Not that Lego has done it for the first time, read out this post....here

Well, what i would like to see Lego do is of course get new series in their portfolio but let it be more enjoyable and lovable!

When i look at this image of 10 random Lego men or their sets, the emphasis is on building something creative. Something that inculcates the very idea of re-usability and yet giving different outcomes every time. Its not only about the cuteness or ugliness its also about the creativity. With fewer parts and more complex parts, kids are not really left with bigger scope of triggering the thought process.

Posted by Amber Marfatia
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