Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Living with multiple identities

Recently I got a Facebook request from Roby S, my schoolmate. I was surprised, because he is already my friend. Why was adding me again? The profile photo was similar. The ‘About’ column too matched. Was it someone else who had stolen Roby’s identity and playing mischief?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mobile phone radiation alert

We have praised the ubiquitous mobile phone enough for its innumerable benefits. But how much have we thought about the danger it poses to our health by way of radiation? Are we safe while talking on the cellphone?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Handhold kids online

Children are savvy with gadgets and technology. The way they play around with hand-held devices, wearing a geek-like air around themselves, giving one an impression that they have already set eyes on Silicon Valley, is oftentimes awe-inspiring.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Build your family tree on web

Online networking platforms, like Facebook and Google Plus, have expanded not only our friends’ circle; but also our family circle. There have been instances when the friend request was actually from a long-lost distant cousin, with whom you had indulged in many a childhood prank during your summer-holiday visits to his house!

Knowing 50 family members is not the same as knowing 50 friends, because, unlike the latter, we also need to know how they are related to us. And that’s no easy task: one, because of the large number of relatives we have got to know through networking sites, and two, it’s simply impossible to remember how someone is related, especially if it goes something like: “she is my father’s brother’s son’s wife’s mother’s sister’s daughter”!

The web, as always, has the solution. Make a family tree, of not just 50 members but even 200 or more. It was in late 1990s that attempts were first made to draw on the power of internet to help people trace their family lineage. Ancestry.com, which owns many related sites, is said to be the world’s largest genealogy company in the world. It’s a paid site.

However, there are now many free online family tree websites that are very user-friendly. Geni.com, Myheritage.com, Tribalpages.com and Familyecho.com are a few. Some of them become paid if you have to add beyond a specific number of members.

Most of these have similar features. Begin by opening an account either with a dedicated login and password or by using your Facebook account. Enter names of your parents, siblings, spouse, and keep adding to make the tree bigger and bigger.

There are many attractive features that make these sites interesting to work on. You can add photos and personal details like date of birth, wedding date, email ID etc. You can create a family newsletter so that everyone is updated about all the family events. You can indicate if the person is alive or deceased.

You can invite family members to open their own account and you can merge their trees with your tree. When trees are merged, there could be “conflicts”, meaning, the same person could be referred to by different names or have different spellings. In such cases, the software will identify and suggest you to resolve the conflict by picking one name that you like.

You can search people in your family tree; and the best part is, the software figures out how you two are related, and shows the names and relationship of everyone who is in the chain. For example, your relationship with E will be shown as: “You →  A your father →  B his mother →  C her sister →  D her daughter → E her daughter.”

Such sites are useful in these times, when families are nuclear and scattered; and the newer generations have lesser and lesser knowledge about family lineage and relationships.

(This article appeared in Wireless World column of The Times of India, Bangalore, today)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cloud gets a new Drive

The much-talked about Google Drive is here. If you have a Gmail account, you can request your Drive to be activated by going to drive.google.com. It’s roughly the same as Dropbox, as a storage platform. But Drive has, obviously, many Google features embedded in it.

Drive is one place where you can create, share, collaborate and store documents, worksheets, presentations, tables, etc. That’s pretty much like Google Doc. It has all the features of Microsoft Office as well. So, whether it’s an official team project, or planning out a vacation with friends, Drive comes handy.

All files like videos, photos, music, Google Docs and PDFs can be uploaded to Drive and stored. You can instal Drive on desktops and mobile devices, and all can be synced. This means, the contents of the Drive are accessible anywhere, at any time. If you change a file on one device, it gets changed on all devices.

There are some clear advantages, like you don’t need to send attachments: a video can be put on Drive shared with others. Another is that Search works for scanned documents as well. For example, if you scan a hotel menu and put it up in the Drive, you can retrieve it later by searching for one of the items in the menu. Google is also working on enabling image recognition for search, so that you can, for example, retrieve a photos of Taj Mahal, even though the photo isn’t named so.

Sharing options can be controlled by the owner of the account. For increased security, there’s an option for 2-step verification. Once enabled, the account holder will have to not only key in the password but also a code that’s sent to his or her mobile phone. There’s some talk about privacy and IP issues, but the debate goes on.

Up to 5GB storage is free, which Google says is “enough to store the high-res photos of your trip to the Mt. Everest, scanned copies of your grandparents’ love letters or a career’s worth of business proposals, and still have space for the novel you’re working on”.

Interestingly there’s an India link to Drive -- the management tools, security features and billing systems were conceptualized and built by Google's engineering team in Bangalore and Hyderabad.

Is Google Drive the first of its kind? Well the concept is nothing new. It has existed for many years. Microsoft has a good a platform called Skydrive that’s quite similar to the Google product. Dropbox is a hugely popular one. For Apple fans, there is iCloud. In fact, Google Drive has entered a segment that is crowded. The advantage is its seamless integration of all Google products.

But then, storage is never a problem in India. With our poor broadband connectivity and very few public wi-fi hotspots, success of all cloud-based platforms depends solely on easy accessibility.

(This article appeared in Wireless World column of The Times of India, Bangalore, today)