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Monday, July 30, 2012

The fast and efficient Opera Mini mobile browser

Have you ever cared what browser you’re using on your phone? Most of us would usually stick to whatever default browser the phone came with and use that for all our browsing. Did you know your browser could have played a key role in reducing your phone’s data usage and thereby reducing your bill?

I too didn’t care much about the mobile browsers till recent times. I was using blackberry’s built in browser earlier, when I was using a bb. Eventually, my need for mobile browsing came down heavily as I was not on the move much. So I discontinued blackberry and shifted to a cheaper phone. Recently I had an opportunity of learning a bit more about mobile browsers, from none other than the leaders in the space- Opera Software.

Unless you’re a geek, you might not have used Opera’s web browser on your desktop/notebook. But then, you would have heard of Opera Mini browser for mobile phones. Opera Mini is a popular mobile browser you should try if you haven’t.

There’re two prime reasons why it is worth using Opera Mini. First and foremost reason is its ability to compress data and thereby saving money on internet bill. Native browsers download a web page as it is. (opening facebook.com consumes 450-600KB under normal circumstances). Just calculate the amount you’ll have to cough up for this kind of usage. Opera mini compresses the site heavily (under 100kb for facebook.com). Compression happens at Opera’s server side and hence the pages load faster, consume less data and thus you pay less. The savings may not be significant if you have an unlimited package back home, but they are phenomenal if you’re on international roaming. You won’t have to spend a bomb just to locate nearest ATM or restaurant. Browser comes with a  meter which tells us how much data is compressed.

The secondary advantage of faster browser is reduced usage of your phone’s processor and thereby longer battery life. Most of the smartphones consume lot of power and can’t survive for couple of days without recharge. While on travel, you don’t want your smart phone to go dry by noon.

Opera mini is platform independent. It will work on your BB, iPhone, android and even the java based mobiles. I tried Opera mini on my Samsung phone, it appeared to be well organized. Saving a page, bookmarking etc were easier than what I was used to in the blackberry.

Unless facebook or google, opera doesn’t capture your personal data for commercial exploitation. User needn’t sign in to use a browser, so Opera won’t know your age, gender, email ID and half a dozen other things which you’d disclose to other browsers/apps when you register and sign in. Opera’s advertising will be based on location and devise alone. Also opera doesn’t have any motive to keep you restricted into specific platform etc.

Opera is a Oslo (Norway) based company and has a presence in India. They are taking feedback from Indian users and will incorporate into the product as appropriate. I had a big question how browser companies make money. (For Microsoft or Google browsers needn’t make money, since they serve as a platform for other services offered  by these giants. But opera software is focused primarily on  browser and their revenue comes from advertising and partnerships. Opera is also setting up an app store. At present mobile internet market may not be too matured and profitable, but in the years to come, internet on mobile could be the prime source of connectivity. With a strong foundation, Opera appears to be well positioned to cater the market as it grows. Lots of smartphones now come with Opera mini pre-installed, operators like Airtel have tied up with Opera for mutual benefits.

Now you know it is not without reason that over 200 million peope use Opera worldwide. Do try it out if you haven’t. Opera has its own Appstore. Check www.opera.com/travel. for travel related tips, go to m.opera.com to download the mobile browser

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cars in Singapore: My observation/clicks

Owning a car in Singapore is pretty expensive affair I learnt. Public transport is made cheap and efficient here and owning private cars is made expensive. Getting a permit to own a car is not easy and not cheap.

Car prices are relatively high. To give you an idea, Mazda 2, a 1.5L hatchback, AT is priced at SGD 106000 or 50 lakhs INR. Mazda 5, an innova equivalent, is priced at SGD 160000 or INR 72 lakhs. Volvo XC60 costs 36 lakhs onwards in India, while they cost 3 times that amount in Singapore. Jaguar XJ costs 83 lakhs in India, 330 k SGD in Singapore.

Weekend/Off peak hour cars
One interesting aspect I could note about cars in Singapore is the weekend cars or Off peak hour cars. When I saw some cars with white on red registration, I asked our cab driver what they meant. He said that these are weekend cars of off peak hour cars. This kind of registration costs much less than normal registration but these are to be used from 7PM to 7AM and during weekend/public holidays only. If found using during peak hours, additional tax and penalty will be levied. This looks like good idea for your second car, which you might intend to use only for weekend trips. However, I learnt not many prefer this concept and go for full registration.
Will such a concept work in India?
Neither people are honest to pay extra tax if they use it during week day, nor we have systems to track peak hour usage of such vehicles

Tata Aria is a copy cat from Honda Stream?
I found several Honda Stream crossovers. It looked very similar in design to Tata Aria (sharing 2 pics of Tata aria from my collection to show comparison)



No Tata and Mahindra in Singapore
I didn't notice any Tata or Mahindra cars in Singapore. Had seen Scorpios in Malaysia. Spotted old version of Swift and Swift sports, not the new swift that we have in India

Luxury cars:
Some pics of few luxury car I could photograph

Audi A1: If brought to India, can be a good bet against the newly launched Merc B class
 
 Inside the cab:
 An old Jaguar
 A Porsche convertible
Didn't see Toyota Etios there but Toyota Yaris, Wish, Prius hatchback and many other models can be seen in plenty. Kia, Mazda, Nissan, Citroen and Hyundai have strong presence there.

Nearby attractions: Singapore River Cruise * Reverse Bungee Jumping in Sigapore * Clarke Quay * Ministry of Information building * Hotel Peninsula Excelsior *

Also see: Gardens by the Bay * Marina Bay Sands * Singapore newspapers * Labrador Nature Reserve * National Gardens * Kinetic Rain at Changi Airport

Shopping Complex at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Shopping complex is another area open to tourists at Marina Bay Sands. Casino is also another attraction here. 


 The complex houses several popular brands, needless to say expensive ones. A necklace priced at SGD 50k was the most expensive I could see through window shopping.
A reasonably big pool is created artifically inside the complex. Tourists are taken on a small boat ride inside the same

Friday, July 27, 2012

Beautiful buildings of Singapore

You’ve seen the colourful building of Ministry of Information in an earlier post. Sharing few more nice buildings I spotted in Singapore…
Fire Station at North Bridge Road
Singapore Philatelic museum
 Novotel Building
 Peranakan museum
Nice housing complexes on the way to airport
Another colourful building and a church

Mridula’s adventures-Antarctic expedition

I’d met Mridula Dwivedi first during Club Mahindra travel bloggers’ meet at Coorg. An academician by profession, but she’s known for her adventures and travel tales.  Despite a day job, she’s managed to indulge in wide range of travel and adventure, including Himalaya Base camp, balloon rides, Skoda Yeti adventure drive and numerous other treks and travel.
Now she’s gearing up for a real big adventure- visiting the Antarctic. The place most of us can only manage to see in National geographic. Visiting Antarctic is not easy and certainly not cheap.

I also learnt about Robert Swan and mission 2041. A treaty between various nations is currently in force which ensure that there’ll be no drilling and mining in Antarctica till 2041. That’s 29 years from now. Most of today’s leaders may not be alive by then. Unless we educate today’s youth about the importance of preserving Antarctica, we won’t know what’ll happen in 2041 when the treaty expires. If the treaty is not continued and if all nations split Antarctica among themselves for exploitation, crucial eco balance will be lost. Robert Swan is on a mission to educate people, create awareness about this cause.  http://2041.com/ has all the details

Mridula got selected to be part of next expedition to Antarctica under Robert Swan. But she needs to raise a fund of USD 22000 towards expedition fee, air fare to Argentina and other expenses. The International Antarctic Expedition 2013 (IAE 2013) starts on 28th Feb 2013 from Ushuaia ,Argentina and will end on March 13 2013.
If you can donate something or can point her to someone/some company which can consider corporate sponsorship for such an adventure, pls get in touch with her (tweet her on twitter (@mridulad)or leave a comment on her blog or any other medium available) (The firstgiving.com link doesn't seem to be working)
I see many direct selling agents in front of my office trying to sell flyers offering “Personal loan of upto 15 lakhs” by various banks. I am wondering if any bank would give us the loan if we say “I plan to head to Antarctica with this money”
I remember working with Sandhosh kumar, who raised a part of the expense required for his climb Everest mission though corporate and individual contributions. Seeing the images and writings he used to send across and updating the same in his blog was a task I had enjoyed thoroughly 2 years ago. Sandosh carried a banner to Himalayas which had the logos of companies and people who funded him. He photographed this banner on top of mount Everest and that was his value proposition to sponsors
I wish all the success to Mridula

Also read: HT steals Mridula's picThe Borderline drive *

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gardens at Changi Airport, Singapore

Changi airport has about 5 gardens in its campus. About 2 of them (Sunflower and Cactus) are in open area and rest are indoors. All are real plants and not artificial ones which we find in other airports

Cactus Garden, T1

Butterfly Garden, T3
It was dark when we went there, so I don't have great photos of this garden. Did see few butterflies up close, but couldn't photograph them. Need to visit this garden one more time


 Fern Garden, T2
 Orchid Garden, T2


Sunflower Garden, T2

Real trees inside the airport
 Also check:
  1. Unique facilities at Changi Airport
  2. Kinetic Rain at Changi Airport
  3. Other posts on Singapore

A digest of all Singapore posts

This post is a digest of various posts published on Singapore. If you’d liked all my Singapore posts and wanted to bookmark, this is the link to use.

The Changi Airport:
  1. Unique facilities at Changi Airport
  2. Kinetic Rain at Changi Airport
  3. Gardens at Changi Airport
  4. My first post on Changi Airport
Places of interest in Singapore
  1. Marina Bay Sands - An iconic hotel and shopping complex in Singapore
  2. Gardens by the bay - Launched in June 2012, this is Singapore're newest attraction featuring super trees
  3. View from top of Marina Bay Sands Photos clicked from top of Marina Bay Sands-view scenic beauty of Singapore's sky scrappers
  4. Marina Bay sands shopping complex
  5. Singapore Flyer images
  6. Star Cruise Libra, docked at Singapore
  7. Fort Canning Centre & Park is a nice little park in the heart of city, good for a morning walk
  8. Ministry of Information building A building with colourful windows
  9. Reverse Bungee jumping at Clarke Quay Try this once
  10. Labrador Nature Reserve A lesser known park by the sea
  11. Singapore River Cruise  A ride in Singapore river is another way to explore the city
  12. Sentosa Arial view (Coming up)
  13. Cable Car ride, Singapore between Mount Fabre and Sentosa- gives scenic view of city and a memorable experience
  14. Cars in Singapore (Coming up soon)
  15. Southern most point in Continental Asia? A debated topic
  16. Ifly Singapore Take flying lessons in an artificial environment
  17. Hotel Peninsula Excelsior  Review of the hotel which was my home in Singapore
  18. Panasonic Horse Riding Equipment Sourced from a newspaper Ad
  19. National Gaden Singapore (coming up)
  20. Newspapers in Singapore (my observations)
  21. Beautiful buildings of Singapore 
  22. Birds at Botanic Garden, Singapore
Older posts: (photos and write ups from my friends who’d experience Singapore earlier)
  1. Lifestyle in Singapore (Guest post)
  2. Jurong Bird Park (photos from a friend)
  3. Singapore flyer (photos from a friend)
Also see: Chile Posts Digest * Malaysian Posts Digest * Srilanka Posts Digest*

I-fly Singapore- learn flying


We got down at beach station in Sentosa and were debating where to go next. The giant video outside a building in front of us was highly inviting. 
It showed people floating freely in air inside a chamber.Watch the video below  
Curious to know what it is, we went closer. We saw a trainer training a trainee to fly. The trainee was just few inches above ground and struggling to stay afloat. Just like swimming, guess this takes some practice to fly freely as shown in the video. As one person was getting trained, we saw others queued up for their turn.
We looked around for pricing details, the rates were heart breaking, so we left the place. (Costs about 69 SGD onwards for a short flight in a super off peak season and advance booking is required to avoid waiting forever) Aren't Air Asia tickets cheaper?
 Check iFly Singapore website for details.

Things are getting added up to my to do list left and right. Not sure when I'll be able to tick them off. 

Nearby attractions: Singapore River Cruise * Reverse Bungee Jumping in Sigapore * Clarke Quay * Ministry of Information building * Hotel Peninsula Excelsior *

Also see: Gardens by the Bay * Marina Bay Sands * Singapore newspapers * Labrador Nature Reserve * National Gardens * Kinetic Rain at Changi Airport

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Southern most point of Continental asia?

When at Sentosa, we took a ropeway to reach a small islet (too small to be called an island) off Palawan beach. It was a beautiful location with two watch towers.



When we reached there following signage greeted us. For a moment I believed I should have reached southern most point. But once back, I tried to validate it on map and was in for a surprise. This location is obviously not the southern most point of Continental Asia
Below are two snapshot from google maps, which indicate geographical location of the place shown above. Obviously this point is NOT the southern most point of continental asia

Below is an embedded code from Google map. Not sure why that board was set up there. To mislead tourists? or thinking that tourists won't bother investigate further, will take a photo with it and feel good about visiting southern most point of continental asia?Or may be it was just set up purely for touristic purposes, without real logic or purpose.

View Larger Map

Few other internet publications seem to second my thought that this can't be southern most point of continental asia. What are your thoughts? Is it misleading? Am I missing something? Nevertheless, let us enjoy some more scenic photos of the venue

 

Nearby attractions: Singapore River Cruise * Reverse Bungee Jumping in Sigapore * Clarke Quay * Ministry of Information building * Hotel Peninsula Excelsior *

Also see: Gardens by the Bay * Marina Bay Sands * Singapore newspapers * Labrador Nature Reserve * National Gardens * Kinetic Rain at Changi Airport