Friday, December 28, 2007

Review of Brother MFC 465cn (Multi-Page Scanner)

Brother MFC 465cn (

I've used Brother products mostly at work and found them to be functional no-nonsense products with the right features for SOHO (small office / home office) users. Although the feeder of our workplace Brother MFC device is busted... but these things never last too long, not more than a few (5K-10K) 1000 pages due to dust and wear/tear.

My main reasons for buying this multi-function center (Brother MFC 465cn) device:

* Multi-page scan and fax (now I can scan in multiple documents, one by one from the feeder instead of being forced to use the flat bed, which is also an option for scanning larger or original/certificate-style documents that should not be put in a feeder). There are few/none low end products with this capability. You either get flat bed or heavy duty feeder machines that cost over $250.

==> The main value of this feature & my primary reason for buying this device is to scan all my important documents in to PDF for long term preservation. This is to reduce the number of copies of original I have to keep and anywhere access of digital documents. Not sure how well their OCR software will read the text in the documents. If it does read most of the stuff and that content is searchable via Spotlight/Google Desktop/Vista - whoohoo!

* Good software (PaperPort LE for Windows (XP & Vista) and PageManager for Mac OS X (10.4.1 and later I believe) for converting docs to PDF

* Network connectivity using Ethernet - connect it to a network hub/router and share it! And ofcourse it also supports USB.

* Decent price for refill cartridges (slightly higher than Epson & Canon but not mind bending, pocket busting prices like Lexmark). I don't care much for the inkjet color/photo printing since I don't need it and have a cheap & efficient Samsung (ML1040) black & white laser printer. For photo printing I'd rather go to retail stores since I don't print too many photos. But it can be useful for emergencies.

* Light-weight driver installation. I agree with the other reviewer that HP needs to take a good look at their software and reduce the bloat. Even Epson has some heavy duty stuff. Running their (HP, Epson & others) software at startup slows down the computer and the tray icons are just too distracting or hard to remove. Can't stress this point enough!

* A minor factor: Silver black finish, the flat top of this product makes it easier to pack and move if you lose the original box.

* And the rest, the usual: multi-function fax/scan/copy/print, multiple-memory card support, USB support.

After use review: 3-4 hours of solid usage
  • Setup is a breeze on both Mac & Windows: install software, connect device and boom you are ready.
  • Mac version of the software is not fun at all, gives out poor quality scans even at high resolution, chokes at handling large files and converting to PDF. PageManager looks like a OS 9 version of the software even though Activity Manager reports it to be an Intel version. Will investigate if there is any way to improve this since MacBook is my primary 'pooter.
  • Windows software supplied (PaperPort LE and Brother's software) is excellent at scanning multiple pages, naming them and managing them at a basic level.
  • MFC has some problems in handling non-standard paper sizes (like W-2's which are a tad wider than A4, but longer than Letter size and have words from one edge to the other, thank you IRS). Using the feeder or flatbed did not help much.
  • The feeder works pretty well with original documents too, so far.
  • The low height of the MFC means that it can easily fit in printer shelves of computer desks which rarely have a lot of room

Thursday, December 27, 2007

iPhone 2.0 wishlist

In descending order of importance:
  • All features in the current iPhone with following improvements/changes
  • Faster network connectivity: UMTS + HSDPA
  • A-GPS with navigation software
  • Full blown SDK for secure 3rd party software development
  • Microsoft Exchange support (atleast email and calendar)
  • Export all iPhone settings and data for backup & restore
  • Stereo Bluetooth
  • Louder ringer/speaker/alarm
  • WiFi support (802.11b atleast)
  • Larger or auxiliary/augmented battery
  • Detachable keyboard
  • Anti-slip side material for those who want to show it off in the nude (i.e no case)
Obviously usability and Apple elegance of the touch interface is paramount. All else can and should be sacrificed in favor of usability.

Other Comments & Features of Interest:
  • GPS: Throwing in a GPS chip without good navigation software (something Apple excels at) is not a good idea, but may be acceptable if the SDK allows full GPS access. GPS integrated with Google Maps is fine too if they can't get Navteq (after the Nokia buyout) directly or TeleAtlas (TomTom); although Google does use NAVTEQ...
  • GPS: Additional location based services (LBS) support/software would be nice, but the SDK will bring a whole community of developers that will improve this. Yes, this includes location awareness, 'mobile social' interactiveness: friend alerter/warner (you're walking in the mall, 'friend' alert, hide!).
  • Keyboard: might be a good idea to allow an attachable physical keyboard for the trigger happy community. Most people don't need to type so much that the touch keyboard is an issue.
  • Battery: everything sucks juice and an auxillary/augmented battery could look ugly, but if this can be done within design and aesthetics concerns, then more power to me, the user. A slightly thicker iPhone won't be a bad idea and might make it a little more grippable/non-slip.
  • Camera: A non-camera version for enterprise, government and military-related users who are often restricted in using camera-enabled devices within secure facilities.

iPhone 1.0: $399
3G+ + $ 50
GPS + $ 150
Huh? - $ 100 (let's call this amortized initial R & D cost)
Total = $499

$499 is very justifiable on a pure value basis:
  • $150 for a basic smartphone
  • $200 for a basic GPS (atleast $50 more if free traffic data is included. Navigon sells lifetime traffic update for ~$80-100)
  • $150 for a 4GB iPod (not just an mp3 player)
  • $25 in accessories saved from having to buy and lug only one set of cables (USB car charger is the only cable to purchase, the USB to iPhone cable provided by Apple can connect to a car charger or a laptop. Perhaps a wall charger for the non-laptop carrying folks).
Total: $525
And this does not include the excellent usability, Apple cachet and the fact that iPhone 1.0 is much more than a basic smartphone.

I have not put a direct price on software because people directly discount that from consideration. It's strange, I would value MSFT Exchange support (email & calendar) almost as much as GPS + nav. software, but would be uncomfortable paying $100 for enabling Exchange support (out of my pocket, the company's money is another matter). But software, especially from Apple, does translate into usability, brand awareness and ultimately customer lock-in. Same goes for the touch interface and ability to read and surf regular web pages crisply. Its hard to value those features individually, but they are really make or break decisions in buying the gadget. Don't know if there are any (or what are the) specific economic terms for software features like these. Yet standalone software (does not mean non-network connected software) that delivers a specific value can be priced and sold much more easily than add-on software features compared to add-on hardware.

And after that launch let's start with iPhone 3.0 wishlist...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Tough days... getting rid of Windows vermin

I downloaded a small utility to figure out my Windows XP's license key and lo & behold I had a nasty virus/worm/trojan/adware... which none of the regular anti-virus anti-adware programs could beat. In fact while these things were working/scanning the trojan would pop-up windows - mocking all my efforts.

Well the culprit was some variant of the Downloader trojan. After plenty of research I found out that this beast used rootkit to hide and be stealthy from the products. And here's the endorsement: F-Secure managed to get rid of the Downloader trojan, with some help from the ProcessExplorer utility by the fantastic ol' SysInternals folks, now with Microsoft.

Here's the way to get rid of the Downloader trojan (you'l need admin privileges for this, perhaps):
  1. Download and install ProcessExplorer:
  2. Download and install F-Secure Anti-Virus 2008 (30 day trial product)
  3. Start F-Secure full scan and immediately pause it as soon as it starts
  4. Start ProcessExplorer and then right click on 'explorer.exe' & 'windows logon' and select 'Suspend'. This ensures that the rootkit/trojan cannot launch to re-hide or do its dirty work.
  5. Use alt-tab keys to switch to F-Secure and let it do its work. Takes a while depending on your disk size/utilization and computer's hardware.
  6. Once F-Secure finishes, right-click on the suspended processes in ProcessExplorer and 'Resume' them.
  7. Say 'phew' and never run unknown/untrusted software. My company's IT admin tells me that there is a way to find out your XP license key from the registry. I couldn't find anything on this except a utility at MSFT's site that only shows the last 15 digits. See:
If you find this useful do let me know or if you removed Downloader using other tools/methods.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Searching Thunderbird emails in Spotlight

Very useful How-To for those using Thunderbird on Apple computers. As the title below suggests, this How-To explains how to (eh?) enable indexing of emails in your Thunderbird email client so that Spotlight (the Mac OS X desktop search tool) can find them. Spotlight does this for Apple Mail and Microsoft Entourage. But after months of using both Mail and Entourage I find them both very problematic. But Thunderbird 2.x is very good. It combines the look and feel of Mail and offers Firefox-style solid usability and functionality. And the range of plug-ins for Thunderbird just keeps getting better.

Howto: Make Spotlight and Google Desktop Index Thunderbird Messages

Friday, May 18, 2007

Clearwire at Morgan Stanley 12th Annual Communications Conference

Notes on Clearwire's discussion at the conference.

Obviously, I am very keen to learn more details about the following. If anybody has more information on these, please let me know.

1. Intel, Motorola & Clearwire have a joint Mobile WiMAX trial in the Portland, Oregon area
2. Clearwire will soon release results of their WiMAX trials
3. Sales Channels: Direct sales reps, Clearwire stores, BestBuy partnership, website.
3-6 months to get the channels going in a new market. Direct at first and then lower cost indirect channels.
4. Competitive Advantage in 5 years: Quality of service, low latency, quality equivalent to wireline broadband, advertised data rates today versus actual rates. Better experience in the local market. Cost structure is fundamentally different, $/bit is better. Spectrum limitations will limit competitors.
5. AOL agreement: previously in 4 early markets, now that ease of use with AOL & Clearwire being expanded to all Clearwire markets (US & International). AOL is now a distribution channel.
6. Chipset in laptops will not be unique to Clearwire, open to all WiMAX carriers => roaming. How will CLWR work with laptop makers (in terms of software) to enable ease of usage.
7. Intel will make WiFi-WiMAX chipset available by middle of 2008. CLWR will have a co-branded service/mktg with Intel. Some (undisclosed) volume agreements/commitments by Intel.
8. Not clear data, yet, on how many are using CLWR as substitute or complement to existing broadband services like DSL & cable.
9. CLWR being used often as a portable service, for some kind of business service.
10. Debt & equity both expected to be needed.
11. Mobile WiMAX developments: 2.5GHz in US (also Canada & Mexico), 3.5GHz in Europe. CLWR has licenses in both of these in the respective markets. Motorola eqiupment is available for both, not in roaming mode yet.
12. CLWR & Sprint both commited to stds based networks, no roaming agreement yet.
13. Must optimize VoIP on their network. Use additional hardware for this, right now in 13 mkts, in all domestic efforts by end of 2007. See 25% of customer base adopting this. ARPU of $30.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

HDoA - HD TV over Air

The mainstream media learns about HDTV over air. There's an article on about use of antenna's to get local HD content. In the Los Angeles area I get the following HD (720p/1080i) channels:
- 2 PBS channels
- Tube (Music videos channel)

In addition each of these have 1-2 SD channels that have local/weather information broadcast in digital. And they all have digital program/schedule guides.

The CEA website and forums on HDTV's were critical for me in deciding to use HDoA. Hopefully, this post helps others decide what to do. The critical thing is ofcourse distance from the antenna station and a good antenna.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Cheap Phones in India?

There's an interesting article on how the iPhone could provide some pricing power to the vendors on Telephony Magazine's website: The iPhone effect.

I do agree that the iPhone could bring pricing power to the vendors. All the me-too phones will be priced close to the $350-$450 range. Looking at WiMAX I feel like reviving the concept of a killer device! The killer app for personal mobile broadband is certainly checking email/gmail, finding local Google Maps (which hopefully is integrated with the GPS). Mobile TV will be a hit once the power/battery issue is resolved, i.e. either new more powerful batteries come out, or watching mobile tv in a place where the device is powered externally, either in a car, coffeeshop or a friend's home...

But I am not convinced about the observation made in the article, and in numerous other articles & analyst reports, that phones in the developing world are sold at low prices. A lot of the middle-class people I know in India buy their phones outright, with no carrier subsidies. And the phone prices typically range from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 20,000. That is about $220 to $440 @ Rs.45 = USD 1.

And these are not high-end phones, but phones very similar to the 'middle-end' phones that we in the US use.

Obviously this is a large investment for a (economically speaking) middle-class person, but this is the largest cellphone segment in India right now. The lower-class user base (the drivers, peons, small grocers, ), who buy the really cheap and often second-hand phones, is growing pretty fast.

Monday, April 23, 2007

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) - Additional Funding Model

So I've been reading about OLPC in bits & pieces over time. I am not 100% clear on their distribution model. But they seem to be primarily targeting the technologically undeveloped societies, with primary funding coming from governments in those countries.

Living in the US, I feel left out!

There are some interesting technical & social concepts that are being embedded in these computers. Read about their philosophy, mission... at OLPC

I hope that they do plan to target the US and other such 'developed' countries because there is certainly a digital divide here too - albeit not on the scale of other places.

Here's an additional funding/distribution model:
Sell the laptop in the developed countries at 150% of the price the developing countries pay.

This will:

- provide additional funding for providing the laptops in areas where the governments cannot or will not provide funding for them (using the additional 50%). OLPC org will have additional funds to launch pilot projects and future 'products'.

- enable people like me who don't have loads of money but lots of enthusiasm about such projects to show and tell about such projects. This is more than just promotion/advertising, its proving to people that such concepts can be made into a reality.

- tech savvy people as me to learn about some new interesting concepts. Yes, the jazzy technology described on their website could be valuable in rethinking some parts of mainstream computing.

I am not proposing that OLPC turn into a company that has a for-profit initiative on the side. Perhaps, I am... still have to think through this one.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Surprise! Intel favors WiMAX over 3G for Centrino

Read the story on

Well, this was going to happen sooner or later. Sooner the better.

One of the big scary/fuzzy things about WiMAX has been about 'killer' apps and devices. 3G struggled through that and with the help of Treo, Blackberry & 3G-PC cards found a niche with business users. Ordinary consumers will have to wait till Apple's iPhone (and its imitators) come out with an HSDPA version.

This is the big push that Intel was expected to deliver. A WiMAX device in almost every new Intel-based laptop to replicate the WiFi-Centrino success.

Ofcourse this hinges on delivering (not necessarily in the short-term) a 'world' WiMAX card/device, like the world-GSM phones out there right now. Also, important will be roaming agreements that the WiMAX Forum is hammering out currently (I believe).

To keep my facts straight (from PCWorld):
The new version of Centrino will be called Santa Rosa.
But Wikipedia says that WiMAX will be part of the next Centrino platform called Montevina.

Update: May 1, 2007
- Clearwire announces the Expedience WiMAX PC card from Motorola. Datasheet for the device.
- Nokia announces its WiMAX devices for 2008

Thursday, April 19, 2007

AOENet - Anywhere On Earth Network

I first heard of the AOE concept from the IEEE 802.16 Working Group's policy on accepting documents by the AOE deadline. Wireless can bring network access anywhere on Earth. This web log will collect my thoughts and readings on this area.

My primary focus will be on new developments in WiMAX, WiFi, mesh networks and cellular networks. I will also highlight modeling of these networks as this relates to my work life.