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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Summary of Posts- Jan Feb March 09

Quick listing with a brief description of various posts published during the month of Jan to March 2009

Travel & living
Skandagiri
My second visit to Skandagiri. This time it involved overnight camping, hot noodle soup, sunrise and descend via different trail.

Yercaud (near Salem, TN) travelogue
Not so great place but still made a satisfactory trip.

Ramanagara Rock Climbing
Published in Ergo, a post detailing history of Pattabhirama temple of Ramanagara and other details

Deep forest trekking
An experience of getting arrested by police, for venturing into reserve forest without proper authorization- CTC members who were part of this will not forget it. Details and some precautions in the post.

Self Drive car rentals
How much different cars will cost on a per day basis? Which one is cheaper? Self drive or chauffer drive?

Maravanthe Beach
Arabian sea on one side and River Souparnika on the other… this place has a unique landscape

Keladi Bidanur Fort
A partially damaged fort belonging to Keladi dynasty

Rally for the blind
A unique car rally wherein blind navigators guide the drivers towards destination using tulip charts

Safe Braking Distance
A forgotten factor. Be sure to maintain it- both in front as well as in the back.

Had it been a little more affordable I would have given it a consideration

Some scenarios wherein I missed to take a pic, only to regret later.

Product/Service Reviews
Mahindra Xylo
Spacious, techno savvy and good value for money. But low on safety and a hard to toggle transmission.

Fiat Linea
Good looks, spacious and well priced.

Compare Xylo with new Toyota Innova 2009
Both have their own pros and cons. Check out for details

Sony DSC H50 Digicam
Ultra Zoom that takes you so close to the moon so that you don’t need a telescope. This and more features and limitations of this camera, listed in detail.


Others:
Make note of some of the observations listed in this post, to be able to handle an emergency effectively.

Natural Drinks for this summer
Drink natural instead of artificial drinks. Watermelon, Buttermilk, Tender coconut, Fruit Juices, Toddy Palm… so many options to chose from

Sandhya Ravishankar’s workshop on Broadcast Journalism
Understand how a newsroom operates and what it takes to put together the news bulletin you see on your TV. Sandhya also shared her experiences and some tips for aspiring journalists. [Article 19, MIC Manipal, Another session on Future of print media]

Designer doors in South Canara homes
Craftswork on doors

About the new blog template
A little more about the all new template of this blog.

AWPT Pet care centre
Published in Ergo, Caring for animals..

Banigondu Elle ellide- Kannada film song
Lyrics and translation

Kids drinking- A never ending debate

We encountered his motorcade in Venkatagiri- the whole town was geared up to welcome him

Is it fair not to display the number plates at their designated positions?

Also read: Best of 2008

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Nishindra Verma on future of print media

Nidhindra Verma is a veteran in print media with about 25 years of experience and was Vice President (Ad-Sales), DNA Mumbai. He was one of the invited speakers at Article-19, Manipal Institute of Communications’ annual communication festival. He spoke about future of print media and some excerpts from his talk, to the extent I can recall, is listed below, for the benefit of interested audience.
  1. We’ve a rather routine mornings which we don’t want to change and prefer a very dynamic evenings. Morning habits (time of waking, exercising/not exercising, the brand of toothpaste one uses) do not change with ease. Since newspapers fall in morning category subscribers do not change newspapers without a strong reason. But TV is essentially an evening medium where there isn’t much loyalty in terms of news channel/show one prefers to watch.
  2. It is easy to start a TV channel-anyone can launch a channel in about 5 crore rupees. But newspaper is a deep pocket business which costs more than 150 crores to set up and ROI takes long time
  3. Though television and internet give more instant news, newspaper’s existence is not under threat because of reasons such as- it gives all possibly important news/information under as one platter without requiring the reader to search all around (as in TV/net),-what gets printed in newspaper goes through higher level of verification and carries much better credibility, because of which everyone (readers, politicians) takes it seriously,- Over a period of time readers develop a bond with their newspaper and will not give it up easily
  4. But the threat to print media is from advertising revenue. A newspaper sold for Rs 2 costs anywhere between Rs 15-20 per copy to manufacture. If it is getting sold for Rs 2 it is solely because the income from advertisements. But with the competition from television and online media, customer’s ad-budget is getting spited and print’s share is taking a hit. On internet one can measure success of an ad by calculating how many leads/acquisitions resulted from it-something not possible in print. Also due to economic slowdown and competition from other newspapers, ad revenue can see a dip and that’s where the real threat lies.
  5. Mr Verma mentioned some business tactics (referred to as dirty games by event coordinator Ram) adopted by Times of India, when DNA was launched (threatening the distributors of terminating their contracts if they entertain DNA, telling advertisers that they won’t get any discount on TOI if they advertise on DNA). Due to all these DNA launch got delayed and did upset the customer who had paid in advance for the subscription and was waiting for his copy.
  6. He said that the ad rates in print are extremely negotiable, particularly during bulk campaigns. He quoted instances wherein he got ad space for less than 10% of the standard rates for some large campaigns (something like 45 full page ads over 2 months)
  7. I asked a question on plagiarism and he said there isn’t an effective mechanism inside newspaper office to identify and prevent cases of plagiarism. [Read Times of India copies my photograph and later publishes clarification]
  8. My another question to him was if we can reduce drastically the time gap in delivering a news through print (The newspaper you’re getting at 6AM is printed at 12 midnight, for which editing is done at 11PM the previous day and reporters will have a deadline of say 10Pm to send in that day’s news. Essentially there is about 8 hours delay from the news happens and newspapers deliver it to your doorstep. Mr. Nishindra Verma did quote few technological and business developments (better and faster printing techniques, local editions) but despite the technological advances there hasn’t been much improvements reducing this delay (It would have been great if we can extend reporter’s deadline to say 1AM, finish editing by 2AM, print it by 3 AM and still be able to deliver it by 6AM)
  9. Verma said many readers prefer to subscribe to two newspapers instead of discontinuing one for the sake of another. He quoted INS numbers for Delhi wherein total circulation shot up when new newspaper entered the market.
In summary Nishindra Verma felt there is no threat to newspaper readership as such because of internet, television and new media, but the threat definitely exists in terms of reduction in advertisement revenue- the most vital element for existence of a newspaper-due to economic slowdown and due to splitting of ad-budget of companies over non-print mediums

Other workshops at A-19: Workshop on Broadcast Journalism by Sandhya Ravishankar and What Prahlad Kakkar said about Pepsi Commercial

If you can read Kannada please read Vishveshwara Bhat’s column- Suddi Mane Kathe (news room stories) in Vijaya Karnataka. I asked the organizers if they’ve made attempt to invite any prominent persons from Kannada print industry (Ravi Belegere, Vishveshwara Bhat and the likes) and I was told they wanted to invite media men from English only…

Related posts:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Life saving skills from movies

What have you learnt from all those action movies you’ve seen till date? I’ve made few notes, but hope I’ll never encounter a situation wherein I’ll have to implement them for survival.

Listing a set of instructions or best practices for emergency situations involving armed conflicts, crafted after viewing lots of action movies. Feel free to add.

1. Avoid unnecessary communication
When you’re on a mission and away from your loved ones you may have a temptation to call them and tell them you’re fine. Avoid such communications and maintain absolute radio silence to the extent possible. Though your call can comfort the other person it can compromise your position-your phone could be trapped/there could be bugs planted in your home or your loved one himself/herself might be working for your enemies.

2. Sanitize the place
Assume you’ve just achieved your stated objective (freeing your loved one from the hands of goons, searching for a treasure, arresting the criminal). Your immediate temptation will be to celebrate (hug your loved one and express relief and compassion/jump with joy on finding treasure, or tease/give a speech in front of the person you arrested). Initiating this sort of unsecure, lesser important activities without a security all clear can be dangerous. So once you achieve your primary objective, perform what’s called as Sanitization Process, which involves:
  • Ensuring that those who are supposed to be dead are fully/properly dead. (these half dead men are the ones who create all the trouble by picking up a nearby weapon and harming our Hero/Heroine when they just shift from action to romantic mode)
  • Ensuring that there’re no booby traps and no weapons around that could be easily accessed by an enemy
  • Reloading your weapon and ammunition collection for a possible threat
  • Ensuring that there’s no further danger like timed explosives, self destructive systems
  • Assessing the situation and identifying a safe exist passage
  • Communicating your team mates, if any, briefing them on the matter and giving/receiving all clear.
  • Moving injured team mates to a relatively secure place (say behind some cover, away from open space to protect from possible gun fire) and first aid, if possible
  • Moving to a more strategic place (if you plan to stay there for some more time). An elevated place, a place with better view, a place near exit, a place behind some barricades etc are more ideal than standing in open space.
  • Destroying any possible evidences (if that is one of the mandates) and other precautionary measures as the case may be.
3. When you have a gun, shoot
Bollywood film actors are required to deliver a mandatory 15 minute dialogue after they catch the villain. The dialogue is aimed at making the later understand all the misdeeds he did in his life, which is about to end now as our hero has a gun pointed towards his head. But life is like a game of chess and other player thinks his best to outsmart you. So you’ve captured the bad guy and decided to kill him, then just shoot. By giving lectures you’ll only allow him buy time.

4. Watch your back
The way you were sent to eliminate someone, there could be someone behind you to keep a watch or eliminate you if necessary. Keep your safety measures in place to be alive at the end of the day.

5. Think
When the British wanted to rule India, they had a nice way of conquering kingdoms- they would grab an insider, tempt him with money and power and make him betray his king and help British win the battle. Post victory, when these people approach the British for their reward, they would be promptly beheaded, with a statement- you weren’t loyal to your king, why should we expect you to be loyal to us? So think twice before trusting someone’s promises or betraying your friends.

6. Do not fall for blackmails
When you have an important asset (diamonds/some secret code/money/evidences to a crime), a standard practice adopted by goons is to kidnap someone from your family and threaten that they will be killed if you don’t handover the asset you have in your possession. In such cases, there’s every possibility that both you and your family will be killed after you handover what they wanted and you and your loved one will be alive only as long as you have what they wanted. So in case you’ve decided to exchange it for your family member, always insist on a safe passage. Refuse to compromise till they free the hostage and send them home or provide you with a fool proof way to escape etc.

7. Have a checklist
Lots of stories take dramatic twist because of some simple mistakes. Have a checklist for each scenario (like- verifying the identity of the person on the other side of the phone before speaking confidential info, checking your vehicle/gun for fuel/ammunition before starting and so on. Have a basic checklist as to what all needs to be verified for a particular activity.

8. Shoot at right place
What if the other person is a Hero and director wants you to fire 30cm away from his leg when he is running? Fire at chest level for better success rate (head shots will be less accurate for moving targets). The gun given by film crew might be fake- carry a backup one.
Similarly if you’re fighting some gigantic and hitherto unknown animal which has a very strong body, firing on its body may not help. Fire at its eye to make it blind.

9. Consider different possibilities
If you are working for secret service or any underground group, you’re not supposed to think or question your superiors. But understand that those above you can have personal objectives which could be different from stated mission objectives. So an unquestionable faith can get you killed. So have your own information network, validation mechanisms, backup plans, evidence backups and escape money.

10. Think Safe before cutting that red wire
There’s a bomb and you’ve to defuse it by cutting a wire- you don’t know which one, but your instinct says it’s the red one. That may not always work right. Bomb makers do not necessarily have to follow colour coding-after all its all copper wires inside-any combination will work. So before attempting to defuse get behind some impact absorbers (Sandbags or any available material which can absorb the impact of explosion and shrapnel (shrapnel are sharp and tiny objects hidden inside explosives with an intent of maximizing damage as they fire in all directions after an explosion- each of them can act as a bullet and cause more damage than the bomb). Better still, dump impact absorbers on the explosive, isolate the place and wait for the bomb squad to arrive. Also note that explosives needn’t necessarily have a LED display indicating time left.

11. Get a physical wheel lock for your car
Hindi film heros will always have a car or bike with ignition turned on at their disposal when they need a vehicle urgently (vehicle owner might be away attending nature’s call). So be sure not to leave the key inside (the central locking facility cars these days lock themselves automatically if you leave the key inside-even more dangerous). But this may not work all the time- Hollywood heros know how to pull out the wires and complete ignition circuit. So get a physical wheel lock which will prevent the vehicle from moving.

12. (New)Learn to stop the car when brakes aren't working

(contributed by a reader) If someone has intentionally disconnected the brakes of your car you'll usually know within few kms of starting, because its hard to drive in the city for long without braking. Still in case you speed up and realize brake fail, remember that vehicle will slow down and eventually stop if you stop accelerating. (except downhill) Try hand brakes, try taking an uphill road, so that vehicle will stop faster, get two left side wheels off the road- higher friction offered by rocks and otherstuff on the roadside will slow down the car faster. Also one can stop the vehicle abruptly by keeping it in higher gear for lower speeds (down shifting at higher speed will also help limit the speed if brakes don't work) (Related: Safe braking distance)

13. Observe for anything out of ordinary
A maid wearing an overpriced shoe/ornament, a nanny mentioning your boyfriend's name when you've never revealed it to her... Keep your senses open for anything remotely suspicious.

Last but not the least: Put your mobile in Silent Mode

Too much of GYAN? It may save your life one day- you never know. Images from icanhascheezburger.com, Amazon.com, clickandbuild.com and subiegal.com respectively

Monday, March 23, 2009

Car Rally for the blind-Chennai 2009

This is the second guest post on this blog (read the first one here).Harsha Koda is a senior IT professional and entrepreneur who runs Jalakara.com and several other initiatives. In this post, he writes about a unique rally which is being held in Chennai. Rally for the blind, is a unique rally wherein blind navigators guide their drivers by reading out the instructions given to them in Braille and together they reach the destination. Harsha was the winner in Novice category in the 2007 edition of this event. This year’s event in happening on coming Sunday, 29th March, so explore if you can participate. Find out more about this rally in the post below. - Admin

The Rally for the blind this year is next Sunday - March 29th in Chennai.

I'm not sure if you know how the blind rally works but it is a very interesting format... Every time we help the blind cross the road, they put their 'faith' in us ... I think it is payback time and this rally is designed to ask us to put our ‘blind faith’ in their 'navigational skills' ... using a braille navigation chart. The tulip chart (driving instructions chart) is given in Braille which a sighted person cannot read. So the blind navigator reads out the instructions on the speed, directions, etc which guides the car thru the streets of Chennai ... to the finish. (something similar to World Rally Championship or WRC where navigators guide drivers. But WRC is considered an EXTREME SPEED event for SKILLED DRIVERS while the blind rally is more a TIME_SPEED_DISTANCE rally.... very SLOW... more skill and co-ordination.... so that everyday drivers can take part)

There’ll be usually 3-4 people in each car, the driver, the blind navigator, the time keeper and sometimes, one more person who plays the role of the writer. The roles of the Driver, Blind Navigator, and Time keeper are pretty clear. The role of a writer is to write down all the instructions as they are read out by the blind and pass it on to the sighted navigator. This is done because it is sometimes difficult for the blind to go back to a previous instruction or read instructions again and again (in a moving car).

Here is how the tulip chart reads... in brail... for e.g..

Speed change 0.00 to 3.50 Kms. Travel at 30 Kmph
0.00 Zero Odo at gate and turn left onto main road.
0.50 Traffic signal take left.
1.80 T junction take left
2.30 Turn right keeping Sangeeta Restaurant on your left.etc.


Here is a tip on how to succeed... ask the blind to read all the instructions continuously without waiting for reaching the next reading/ marking. This helps us sighted people as we are always 'looking' for a 'reference' that we can 'see'.

But by experience I have found the as much as we underestimate the blind... I have had my navigator tell me once... "saar! if you turn left here you will go to T.Nagar".... amazing!... they are subconsciously aware of where we are - in time and space... so to speak.

A very interesting rally covers about 60 kms in Chennai city and helps several blind people 'see' how we 'sighted' people react when we get lost or clueless as to where we are going.

I have participated in this unique experience before and my experiences of the rally are on my blog. Please do read it to get more idea of what it is all about.

This year’s Rally for the Blind is scheduled for Sunday, 29th March 2009. The event is organized by Madras Motor Sports Club (MMSC) with the support of the National Association of the Blind and sponsored by Chennai's Savera Hotels. So if you have a car, a bunch of friends, 500 Rs (Registration fee per team) and half-a-Sunday to spare... come take part in this rally and make it meaningful... and I guarantee you will have a great time.

In case you wish to participate:
Supplementary Regulations and entry forms are available for download at
http://madrasmotorsports.in/Rally_for_the_Blind_SRs.doc
http://madrasmotorsports.in/Rally_for_the_Blind_Entryform.doc

Registrations are on at MMSC office or with the Lobby Manager at Savera Hotel. Call 2499 0998, for more details. Entries can also be sent by email to mmsc_chennai@yahoo.co.in, the fee can be paid at the briefing meeting. which is on 28th march at 3:30 P.M. at Savera Hotel, Radha Krisha Salai, Mylapore Chennai. Please make sure you attend the briefing positively because you will be allotted your blind navigators, Competition numbers and given your sample tulip/speed chart to do a test run on Saturday.

The Rally will start from Savera Hotel at 9:30 A.M. sharp it will cover a distance of approx. 50-60 K.M. and finish at Savera hotel. There will be lunch at Savera for all participants along with entertainment and games.

Please pass this info to your friends who might be interested in participating.
-Harsha Koda

Post Event Update: Harsha tells me that this year's event, for the first time ever in the history, attracted more cars than number of blind navigators and organizers had to send back some enthusiasts.


Mitsubishi Cedia Sports Great Driving Challenge: My views *

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Baanuigondu elle ellide? Lyrics Translation ಬಾನಿಗೊ೦ದು ಎಲ್ಲೆ ಎಲ್ಲಿದೆ?

Non Kannada Readers excuse. This post only contains lyrics of a popular Kannada song.

When I wrote about my favorite lyrics
in this post, Sandesh commented that one of his favorite songs in “ಬಾನಿಗೊ೦ದು ಎಲ್ಲೆ ಎಲ್ಲಿದೆ?”, “Yaava Mohana Murali” etc. Many people came to my blog searching for lyrics of these songs, but only to find its title. Since I found that there’re hardly any websites listing these lyrics, I thought of publishing some of them here.

ಬಾನಿಗೊ೦ದು ಎಲ್ಲೆ ಎಲ್ಲಿದೇ? ನಿನ್ನಾಸೆಗೆಲ್ಲಿ ಕೊನೆಯಿದೇ?
ಏಕೆ ಕನಸು ಕಾಣುವೇ? ನಿಧಾನಿಸು.. ನಿಧಾನಿಸು..

Baanuigondu elle ellide? Ninnasegelli koneyide?
Eke Kanasu kaanuve? Nidhaanisu Nidhaanisu!!

Where is a limit to the sky? Where is the end for your wishlist?
Why are you dreaming? Slowdown, Slowdown (take it easy)...

ಆಸೆ ಎ೦ಬ ಬಿಸಿಲು ಕುದುರೆ ಏಕೆ ಏರುವೇ? ಮರಳುಗಾಡಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಸುಮ್ಮನೇಕೆ ಅಲೆಯುವೇ?
ಅವನ ನಿಯಮ ಮೀರಿ ಇಲ್ಲೀ ಏನು ಸಾಗದು... ನಾವು ನೆನೆಸಿದ೦ತೆ ಬಾಳಲೇನು ನಡೆಯದು...
ದುರಾಸೆ ಏತಕೆ? ನಿರಾಸೆ ಏತಕೆ? ಅದೇನೆ ಬ೦ದರೂ ಅವನ ಕಾಣಿಕೆ...

Aaseyemba bisilu kudure eke eruve? Maralugaadinalli summaneke aleyuve?
Avana niyama meeri illi enu saagadu! Naavu nenesidanthe baalalenu nadeyadu!
duraaseyethake?? niraaseyethake?? Adene bandaru avana kaanike!

Why ride a stallion named greed? Why wander in a desert?
Nothing happens here violating his (God Almighty) rules
Nothing happens in life as we expect. Distress or Joy or whatever happens only he is responsible…

Baanigondu elle ellidE...

ಹುಟ್ಟು ಸಾವು ಬದುಕಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಎರಡು ಕೊನೆಗಳು... ಬಯಸಿದಾಗ ಕಾಣದಿರುವ ಎರಡು ಮುಖಗಳು...
ಹರುಷವೊ೦ದೆ ಯಾರಿಗು೦ಟು ಹೇಳು ಜಗದಲಿ.. ಹೊವು ಮುಳ್ಳು ಎರಡು ಉ೦ಟು ಬಾಳ ಲತೆಯಲಿ...
ವಿಶಾದವಾಗಲೀ, ವಿನೋದವಾಗಲಿ, ಅದೇನೆ ಆಗಲಿ, ಅವನೆ ಕಾರಣ

Huttu saavu baalinalli eradu konegaLu, bayasidaaga kaanadiruva eradu mukhagaLu
harushavonde yaariguntu helu jagadali, hoovu mullu eradu untu baala latheyali
vishaadavaagali, vinodavaagali, adene aagali! Avane kaarana

Birth and death are two endpoints in life
The two faces we can’t see when we wish to see them
No single person enjoys all happiness without any sorrow
Don’t be greedy, don’t be disappointed, whatever comes will be his gift…

Baanigondu with Nidhaanisu repeating and fading...

A beautiful poem indeed but not sure if its conveying right message. (33 years ago one wouldn't have questioned it, but we can certainly debate it now) Do you agree with the core message of this poem? It says nothing is in our hands, everything happens as per god's wish, so we should leave it to him. Do you believe that? These are the days when we say "We need to control our own destiny" or "Your future is in your own hands-only you can shape it, no one else". So should we expect divine intervention for everything or we ourselves should take command?

Credits: The Song, Banigondu Elle Ellide, was featured in a 1976 Kannada movie- Premada KaNike (Gift of Love), sung by Dr. Rajkumar and written by Raghavendra Swamy. Lyrics provided to me by Sandesh and verbatim english translation by self...

Video of this song below:

Monday, March 16, 2009

Should this boy be afraid to drink?

During my school days there were campaigns which discouraged people from consuming alcohol products (ಹೆ೦ಡ ಸರಾಯಿ ಸಹವಾಸ, ಹೆ೦ಡತಿ ಮಕ್ಕಳ ಉಪವಾಸ : If you get addicted to alcohol, your family will starve). Alcohol was a taboo and consuming it was by no means a matter of pride. I am not sure if such campaigns are conducted these days, but last heard was a newspaper report quoting Karnataka CM BS Yadiyurappa saying “Drink but don’t dance”. I do not know what’s so great about these drinks and never cared to try one as I still believe it is a bad idea. But it appears not many people around think so and anyone advocating against alcohol will be bombarded with statements like “What’s wrong in drinking?”, “Everyone has a right to decide what’s good and bad for him/her”, “it’s a symbol of personal freedom”, “how dare someone tell us it is bad” and so on.

If going to pubs, having drinks and partying till early morning is a way of chilling out/expressing freedom/having good time for city’s youth, should the kids in villages be left behind?

I accidently landed upon this photograph from one of my albums-a local boy secretly consuming some alcohol product hiding behind the rocks in Antaragange, a village near Kolar district of Karnataka. I’d clicked this photo last December while on a cave exploration expedition in Antaragange. After seeing this photo few thoughts came to my mind. Just listing them below. Share your opinion

• Should we have some hesitation in declaring what is doing is “not right” or do you feel we shouldn’t criticize him?
• If this boy feels it is right for him to drink alcohol in broad day light right inside his home or school, should we (society in general, parents and family in particular) support him?
• If his mother gives him money to buy food for family and he buys liquor for himself instead-is that right?
• When this boy grows up, becomes a drunkard and beats his wife every day, should we ignore that as a family matter?
• Or should we say, only those with high income who can afford to go to pubs can drink while rest (low income group who spend their all day earnings on local arrack) should be prevented from drinking?
• Should we warn him- "don't drink now-you should be 18 years+ for that" and subsequently issue a drinking license (like driving license) to those 18+ ones who wish to buy alcohol?
• If someone (his family members/teacher/senior citizens of the village) find him consuming alcohol and warn him will it be a violation of his freedom?
• If he was your son/brother how would you react?
• Assume there is also a girl in the frame-his sister or classmate-who is also drinking. How do you feel? Feel good that boys and girls have achieved equality or feel bad for girls also falling into ‘what once was believed to be bad’ habit?


Please treat this post as an independent one and not linked to certain developments related to this topic. Your thoughts please.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

SuperZoom Sony DSC H50 digital camera review

Writing this review of my Sony DSC H50 digital camera after 9 months of purchase and loads of photographs. Before deciding to review this camera for a moment I thought this product might have become obsolete and there may not be a point in reviewing it. But after having a look at Sony India website I noticed that DSC H50 is still the top-end digicam they have on offer and current price quoted on the site is actually 2000 Rs more than what I paid in June 2008. (upward revision of cost might be due to weak rupee-not sure). So it still makes sense to review this camera and here we go…
Features and specifications are readily available in Sony website, so I won’t repeat them unless necessary.

What I like in this camera:
Zoom Zoom Zoom…
On every outing where we camp overnight and there’s a moon in the sky, I take a full close up photo of the moon (see image) and show it to other trekkers/campers around. Trust me, without fail it gets “Wow!” from everyone who sees it. In VGA Mode, 15x optical Zoom + 81x digital zoom (31-465mm in 35mm equivalent) can take me this close to moon (Wondering why ISRO spent crores on Chandrayaan! Little more zoom and they can see everything from here itself-Lol!) There is a general opinion that Digital Zoom is unreliable and useless-but this camera proves it wrong, its digital zoom is very precise. Ordinary digicams with 3x optical zoom and SLRs with 18-55mm lens fail pathetically when it comes to clicking far away objects and my H50 leaves them miles behind.- Sing with me.. Zara Zoom Zooom Zara Zooom Zoom …

Note: the downside of higher zoom in digicam is reduced resolution. Higher the zoom I need, lower will be the resolution I’ll have to settle for. The moon photo you saw above was taken in VGA mode and is just good enough to see on computer or use in a web page but no good if you want to enlarge or take print. The Zoom at 9.1 MP is very little increases if you settle for 5M or 3M.

In Summary: Sony’s top end DSC H50 digital still camera has lots of key features- 15x optical +81x digital zoom, tilt able large LCD, Upto 9 mega pixels, excellent image clarity, full manual controls and more, but has some inherent disadvantages such as inadequate battery, expensive accessories and bulkiness. Costs 3 times a decent entry level digicam and half that of a decent entry level SLR. Its reasonably close to SLRs (in terms of quality and controls and looks) and is a good choice for those wanting something much better than ordinary PAS cameras but not comfortable spending heavily on SLRs and their lenses
Clarity of images
Again, excellent. Very happy. Refer to albums at the end for photos taken with Sony DSCH50.

Features: Just too many. 9.1 mega pixels is just too much for ordinary photographs. Each photo clicked at 9MP weighs more than 3MB. Since I don’t have to send my photos for high resolution printing, clicking each photo at 3MB becomes a headache, as storing and uploading hundreds of photos at that size demands lots of resources. Hence I use 9MP only for extremely important photos and use 5MP or 3MP mode for most of the regular photos, which results in excellent photos within a size of manageable 1-2MB. Face detection, smiley shutter, image stabilization and host of other features, including full manual controls to set aperture and shutterspeed take this camera very close to a professional one. But still it is not a replacement for professional cameras. LCD Can be tilted upwards. (but not sideward like some Cannon models wherein you can photograph yourself with ease). Buttons and controls are well positioned and soon one will get comfortable with them.

How good it is for the video?
Digicams are no match for handycams for recording video. But DSC-H50 is good enough for taking quick video clips, though I’ve not recorded much videos of late.



So far I didn’t feel the need for tripod. Image Stabilization is good enough and it is possible to manage without a tripod. No technical issues since its purchase.

I zeroed in on DSC H50 due to following reasons:

  • I wanted something better than ordinary digicams. The 3x Zoom in my earlier Olympus FE170 wasn’t adequate.
  • I don’t earn from my photos, so too much of investment without any returns didn’t appear sensible
  • I didn’t want to spend 30-40k on a decent entry level SLR and lenses. Even if I had chosen to spend that much, the risk associated with it (of possible theft/damage/loss) was too much.
  • I didn’t want to carry around a big bag exclusively for the camera and its lenses
  • I was impressed by the built in zoom of 31-465mm


(Just to give a comparison-A Nikkor AF-S 70-300mm lens costs 26k and weighs full 2Kgs (source:jjmehta.com)-In exchange for not having to spend so much money and carry the load all around, all I compromise in DSC h50 is image resolution, whenever I want higher zoom-works fine for me, but if you work for newspaper or such organizations that need high resolution images DSCH50 may not be ideal for you)

My other options while I was considering this camera was a Fujifilm model with 18x zoom (S8000fd), which was cheaper by 3k. I decided to go with Sony, expecting better quality, service and durability. Till date I don’t have reasons to regret my purchase and am happy with the camera. But if you’re considering buying Sony DSC H50, then do these: 1 Ensure that your requirements/expectations from the camera meet that of mine (listed above), 2 Read some of the downsides listed below, 3: There’re some new models in the market from Nikon (Coolpix P90) and Olympus (SP 560UZ) offering up to 24x optical zooms-you might want to give them some serious considerations (I’ve not checked them in person, but specs say digital zoom is very less, hence total zoom could be less. Also some of them come with an adapter so that additional lens can be attached. Not possible in Sony)

Bracket feature is also nice.

Downside/Limitations of DSC H50
Very poor battery life
A device like H50 with heavy motors (to move the lens), large LCD and flash needs lots of energy. The standard Sony battery that comes with it will last just half a day/300 photos under normal circumstances. By turning off the sounds, auto review, by using viewfinder instead of LCD, by switching off whenever possible etc one can extend the life for a day for my kind of usage (Keeping the camera ready all the time, all through the day and clicking anything that looks remotely/possibly interesting).

After buying a camera for 20k, last thing one would want is to miss out few possible photos for want of battery. So I had to spend another 2.5k and buy an additional battery before my Binsar trip, with which now I am able to manage a 2 day outing with ease without the fear of running out of battery power.

Bulkiness
I shouldn't be complaining on this one-we can't have a professional camera coming in pocket size-atleast for near future. Sony DSC H50 has the size of a normal SLR and weighs about half a kilo. So it doesn’t have the convenience of “carry in your pocket” size digicams. Takes enough space in your bag and needs to protection from impact, water etc.

Its sheer size and similarity with that of a professional SLR camera also gets some unwanted attention at times. Last July while in Mussoorie, we went into a shop on Mall Road. Few shop owners gathered around me asking which newspaper I work for… I said none and they weren’t willing to believe I am an ordinary tourist. I had to survive their over enthusiastic description of products available in their shop before they let me go… There was a product called Dolphin Massager and the shopkeeper massaged all over my back using it for free and all I had to do was take few photos of his products (from different angles for added effect-else how will I look professional?)

At times I also get a "what's so funny happening here? why is he moving around with such a big camera?" look from others.



Also, anyone who sees this camera first asks: “is it an SLR?” I say ‘NO’ and usually suffix a note ‘but it is very close’. But the other person’s interest in the camera is lost the moment he hears ‘NO’.


Wide Angle is not Wide enough


Can’t match a SLR
It is very close but can’t match a SLR. I couldn’t take some of the candid shots others have taken in their SLRs. (I’ll take some blame on myself instead of blaming the Camera-May be some of them were Photoshop after effects and maybe I am yet to master all controls my camera has on offer. Despite best manual settings I could adopt to, there were instances when I lost an image due to motion blurr or reduced clarity/focus or loss of subject by the time camera did its calculations)


Can’t take SD cards
Needs Sony’s proprietary memory card, Memory Stick Pro Duo. Compatible Up to 2GB Max. 1GB Card comes free with the pack. Pouch is not included. With little negotiation you might be able to get a free upgrade to 2GB card or a pouch or get 3% standard discount. As you know Sony’s accessories are fairly expensive compared to others.


No provision to attach Flash Gun
Besides giving extra powerful flash, a flashgun helps photographer decide where to direct the light-on the subject or the background etc, by tilting the angle of flash.
Also no adapters available to affic additional lenses.
Conclusion
DSC H50 is about 3 times more expensive than an entry level Digital Still Camera, hence some financial judgment is required before spending so much. If you’re travelling a lot and need a good camera which is a right compromise between sleek, cheap, light but not so good digicams and expensive, heavy & bulky SLRs with their lenses, DSC H50 is a right choice.


Jan 2011 Updates: I dropped it once and its display unit is damaged. Have given to service now, expected damage: 4k...

Some set of Photos taken using Sony DSC H50
YercaudWayanad, KeralaJavadhu
Olympus FE 170 review * Laptop review: Dell vs HP vs Sony vs rest (103 comments) *Panasonic DMC FT3 review * 

Monday, March 09, 2009

Let’s drink natural this Summer

Regular readers of this blog will know that I always recommended natural drinks instead of aerated softdrinks. This post is a quick listing of few such products and related info. Some of them you must be already familiar with. If there’re any other product you’d like to add, please comment.

Unlike bottled soft drink products with nationwide distribution network there’re challenges/limitations in availability preparation, storage, transportation and consumption of these alternate drinks and the likes of SRK, Sachin and Dhonis are not interested in speaking a few good words about these products, because there’s no big money involved. These natural drinks are made/sold mainly by unorganized small time merchants/small business units without heavy advertising budgets, so we need to use our own judgment to decide which one’s best suited for us.

1. Tender coconut water-
My favorite, but unfortunately it is getting more and more expensive. During my engineering days I used to get 3 small sized tender coconuts for Rs 10, now even the small sized not so good ones cost Rs 10+ and bigger and fresh ones cost Rs 15, 17 or even more. (May 2009 update: Good tender coconut costs Rs 18-20 in Chennai, price is cheaper in Bangalore at around Rs 12-15)
tender coconut on the tree

Try drinking it directly without using the straw. Avoid buying them near hospitals-Since tender coconut is recommended by doctors, shops near hospitals are found to sell it for a price premium. Bottled tender coconut water is also available in some cities.
I don’t have to go into details of goodness of tender coconut water-it is always refreshing and healthy. Some of its benefits (Sourced from FruitHut Beverages)benefits of coconut water vs soft drinks
  • Low in carbohydrates
  • Low in fat 99% fat free
  • Keeps the body cool
  • Maintains the human body’s natural fluids levels
  • Low in naturally occurring sugars
  • Helps in carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells
More about tender coconut in this blog: Coco Fresco, Hyderabad * Upadhya’s tender coconut opener *
In some cities Tender coconut water is processed and sold in bottles.

2. Buttermilk-
Next favorite, provided it is prepared with right ingredients in right proportion. Adding water & salt to curd and stirring it doesn’t always make good buttermilk. A bit of pepper/chilly, ginger, dhaniya and such stuff should go into it to get the strong feel. Traditionally one had to make it at home or go to roadside shops/hotels for buttermilk, but currently buttermilk is sold in small packets as well. A 200 ml packet comes for Rs 2.50 or so


3. Lassi-
Though not my personal favorite and I don’t have much information, this is also a very good alternative. Also available in packets besides at hotels and dabhas.

4. Watermelon-
As there may be hygiene issues at roadside shops who cut watermelon and sell in small slices, I recommend buying an entire fruit and taking it home. Depending on season and shop, it costs anywhere between Rs 6/kg to Rs 25/kg and a small sized water melon weighs 2kg+. (Current rate in Chennai is Rs 10/kg- a normal sized one comes for Rs 30 and can serve a 4 member family twice to their heart’s content). Have heard of seedless variant but haven’t seen them. Easy to make a juice as well, if you prefer it that way. Yellow coloured ones are also available (costs more) besides conventional red coloured ones, but I’ve not felt any difference in taste and not worth the price difference. It is also available in different shapes (remember Japanese farmers growing square shaped ones?)

farmers unloading watermelon cargo at a village near Shimoga5. Sugarcane Juice-
Another favorite, but should be had without ice, because most of the vendors carry ice in gunny bags and store them in dirty places. Also there're some branded shops (Cane-o-La) which sell Sugar cane juice exclusively, in different flavors.

6. Toddy palm or palm apple-
Not easy to find a shop selling Toddy palm. But if I see one, I usually do not miss the opportunity to eat as much as possible. Insist on small sized fresh ones which have more water and tasty. In an attempt to clear their stock, vendors usually give you bigger and over ripe ones if you leave the selection to their discretion. More about Toddy palm in this post. (this is also getting expensive- was costing Rs 5 an year back for a unit (3 eyes), now costs Rs 10 in Bengaluru. In Chennai 5 eyes (about 2 units) cost Rs 10 currently)

7. Pudina water-
Have seen them in some shops in Hyderabad but haven’t tasted.

8. Lime juice-
Very easy to make. A great combination of sour lemon and sweet sugar.

9. Ganji/KooLu-
Not a cold product. This is a rather warm one and is a staple food in many parts of South India and is a very good energizer. Have it with pickle/fried chilly. More about Ganji/KooLu in this post.

10. Badam milk-
Available in bottles in most of the places. Sold in glasses directly from freezer in some places like Hyderabad.

11. Kulfi/other milk products-
Available in Nandini/Aavin outlets.

12. Other fruit juices-
Don’t have enough info to explain in detail. Most of the fruits can be converted into juices and with added sugar and ice, they taste much better than the fruit. Manufacturing process is fairly simple- peel off, chop, add into the container of a mixer grinder, add sugar, water/milk, stir, filter, serve...

But I hate buying fruit juices at shops here in Chennai, as the prices are unreasonably high. A glass of watermelon juice doesn’t cost more than Rs 5 for the amount of watermelon, sugar and electricity used, but it is priced at Rs 15-20. At least in Bangalore Sri Ganesha chain of Fruit juice centers and other places are selling them at reasonable price.


13. Ragi based products (contributed by MS)
Ragi malt (hot and cold), Ragi mudde (balls)-a nutrient meal and other Ragi products

14. Neera (Contributed by Sanjay)
Neera (more on Wikipedia) is a non alcoholic product but susceptible to fermentation. Treated versions which do not ferment are reportedly available. Reader's discretion advised.

15. Punarpuli sharbath (cocam, murugala, beerunda) - Contributed by Dr Pavanaja

There is a quality concern associated with some of the above products (water used in them, the way they are manufactured and stored), but it is not fair to generalize and with little extra effort I think we should be able to verify if quality is up to our satisfaction.

My strong recommendation (+request):

Please try any of the above alternatives before blindly buying a bottle of coke/Pepsi. Unlike coke/pepsi products these natural alternatives may not be available at all places all the time, but I am at least few of them will be available near your place and you might like them. you'll save some money and earn an iota of good health too.

Related: Travel writer Arun Bhat has a comprehensive collection of Summer destinations you may wish to visit this summer.

Friday, March 06, 2009

New Template for eNidhi India

As some of you have noticed and have already commented with your feedback, this blog now has a new theme. Changing from one of the blogger default templates was a long pending task and was finally accomplished successfully.

For some time I was considering different templates, but most of them didn’t have anything unique to offer other than colour schemes. I finally decided on the Digg theme you are seeing now, which looked decent, professional and more importantly had provision for the drop down menu below the header.
One of the major drawback of my blog, according to me, was that I wrote on wide range of topics and for a first time visitor landing here through a search engine it was difficult to comprehend what this blog is all about, in a single look. In my earlier template I had several posts categorized appropriately under various groups (product reviews, Humor, most commented etc), so that a visitor should be able to locate some posts of his interest and read them. But it was a failure, as people seldom cared to have a serious look at the sidebar contents.

The new theme aims to overcome this drawback, by listing some key posts under the drop down menu below the header. A first timer can get an idea of what kind of contents he can find in this blog by just spending few seconds hovering over the menu and I hope he/she will probably find few posts of his/her interest and stay on the blog a little longer, reading those posts. Effectiveness of this is yet to be verified, but if this can increase average time a visitor spends on this blog or number of page views per visitor, then I’ll be happy. Also if you have any suggestions for the drop down menu (some important posts you feel missing/ another category or something like that), please let me know.

Tested the new theme successfully in different browsers. Thanks to Kenny, Mohan, Raveesh, Partho, Hari, Supreetha and Sandesh for initial feedbacks. It is working fine in IE7, IE8, Firefox 3 and Safari. But in IE6 the drop down menu is not appearing and it doesn’t seem there’s anything I can do about that. Unfortunately IE6 is still widely used by majority of my readers (35% or one third). Upgrade people…
Enjoyed tweaking RSS and HTML a bit after long time… Some more work (like adding appropriate side bar content etc) still pending.

The template is sourced from btemplates.com. Further, I feel blogger has a long way to go before it can ever catchup with Wordpress in-terms of templates, customizations and utilities.

Another new feature is reactions widget. You may not have time (or content) to write a comment. But you can always spare an additional second to click on that rating line and select how useful/interesting/good you find a particular post. 
It is a blogger built in utility and you can enable it for your blogger hosted blogs, if you wish. Details here, tip off- Sandesh.


Also let me use this post to announce that this blog has regained PageRank 4
PageRank Checking Icon My earlier enidhispeaks.blogspot.com had just secured PR4 before it was decomissioned and blog migrated to enidhi.net. The new URL took little more than an year to regain the earlier PR, from scratch. Thanks to each one of you who made this possible.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

AWPT Petcare centre in Chennai

AWPT article in ErgoThe month of Feb 2009 began and ended with couple of my small write-ups making into print.

Myself and a colleague visited a pet care centre in Chennai, called Animal Welfare and Protection Trust (AWPT). Since I don’t have pets at my place of stay it was more convenient to visit someone else’s pets and spend time with them. A brief write-up about our visit, which I later sent to Ergo, can be read in the adjacent article.

Couple of lines I can add to above write-up:

Running a pet care centre has its own pros and cons- said Mr Narasimhamoorthy-“neighbors don’t like us having so many cats and dogs around, though they’re very much benefited by the dogs which guard the locality during night time”. “Knowing that we run a pet care centre people bring pups and kittens and leave them in our premises without our knowledge”. – he continued.
all white magnolian cat
They were housing all the kittens and few dogs at their home while operating another shelter where several other dogs and other animals (monkeys, cows etc) were accommodated. After spending an hour or so at their home, we went to the other shelter. Lots of dogs greeted us, including a baby monkey. The only thing I didn’t like was the staff forcefully pulling (dragging) a handicapped dog to where I was and telling me “Sir sir… see…its leg is broken… take photographs”. May be they thought more sympathetic image they create more will be the donations.

AWPT is funded partially from government grants and rest by donations and personal money of Mr Narasimhamoorthy and Mrs Padmavathi. They told me monthly expense would touch a lakh and per day expense on food for all these animals alone crosses Rs 1000. Medicine, transportation, rentals, staff salary, utilities are the other major expenses.
cats lined up for lunch
Contributions made to AWPT are exempted from Income Tax. In case you’re interested in visiting them or willing to contribute any small amount below are the contact details:

Animal Welfare And Protection Trust (Regd.), 788 (New No. 3/140), Kalaignar Karunanidhi Street, Santhoshapuram, (Velacheri-Tambaram Road),Chennai 601302

Ph: 044 22781381, awptrust@yahoo.com