TechLahore

Musings on technology, startups and software

Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet: Five pros and five cons

Microsoft's Surface RT: Tablet or more of an Ultrabook?

Microsoft’s Surface RT: Tablet or more of an Ultrabook?

Here I am back again after the longest absence I’ve clocked yet since this site was launched almost 6 years ago!

So how about that Microsoft Surface RT? I played around with it at the Microsoft Store and here are my initial thoughts:

Pros:

1) It’s pretty responsive. I like the very smooth and fluid UI and rapid touch response. There’s hardly much latency.

2) There’s plenty of refinement in the UI; I personally like just being able to start typing the name of the application I want to run to have it show up in a real-time search. Very useful for a short-cut way of navigating around the device.

3) I don’t necessarily like Metro for phone-sized screens, but with the Surface tablet, it looks pretty decent. There’s enough room for live tiles to provide useful information without the user feeling like screen real estate is being wasted.

4) The touch cover I don’t care for, but the type cover is amazing! The keyboard is as good as a Macbook Pro. I didn’t feel any slowdown as my fingers raced across the satisfying keys. [Read the rest of this entry...]

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Internet censorship and content filtering in Pakistan?

And no government can hide the reality of the world from its citizens any longer... (Image credit: prisonplanet.com)

And no government can hide the reality of the world from its citizens any longer... (Image credit: prisonplanet.com)

The Government of Pakistan, through the Ministry of Information Technology recently placed ads in local newspapers asking for proposals to establish an internet content filtering system in the country. There have been lots of concerns recently that content which is not compatible with Pakistan’s “cultural norms” is being viewed and accessed. At the moment, Pakistan has a completely open and free access policy. You can get to any kind of content, at any time.

Internet filtering and censorship is not new, nor is it unique to Pakistan. In many European countries, certain websites are banned because they feature Aryan supremacist, racist or Nazi propaganda. Others are banned because they violate copyright laws specific to a country. In China, the “Great Firewall” is a legendary piece of internet infrastructure that appears to be ever present and ever watchful. In the UAE – Dubai included – pornographic websites are blocked, with a message informing the user that access to the destination website is curtailed due to its content not being in accordance with the culture of the UAE. As the Arab Spring has unfolded, we’ve discovered that Egypt and other Arab states have been implementing content filtering, blocking and eavesdropping. US companies like Bluecoat systems, in fact, have been providing the Syrian regime with content filtering and censorship technology. [Read the rest of this entry...]

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The World is catching up to the West

The magical Prof. Rosling forecasts health and prosperity for the developing world

The magical Prof. Rosling forecasts health and prosperity for the developing world

For many hundreds of years, the West has symbolized development, prosperity and riches, while the rest of the world – the horrendously named, “Third World” in particular – has been synonymous with backwardness, disease and hunger. Let us, for the moment, forget that much of this disparity was actually a result of exploitation by colonialists from the West, and let us also ignore the fact that to this day, all too frequently, Western influence is exerted in most developing countries to the detriment of the local society. Despite the miserable history behind the exploitative abuse of the Rest of the World, the good news is that in the 21st century almost all countries will catch up with the wellness, HDI and wealth indicators of the West.

We’ve covered the case of Pakistan numerous times in the past. As the seventh largest country in the world, blessed with trillions of dollars of natural resources, there is no question that Pakistan will emerge as a power on the global stage. This will happen despite shortcomings in political leadership. The fundamental trends propelling Pakistan toward a developed future are far more powerful and basic than temporary considerations such as who occupies the Prime Minister’s house in a given term.  [Read the rest of this entry...]

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Newt Gingrich says US should make Moon 51st state – Neil DeGrasse Tyson questions how

Will Newt Gingrich's dream of a moon base by 2020 come true? Will it be American or Chinese? (Image credit: Dynamic Science)

Will Newt Gingrich's dream of a moon base by 2020 come true? Will it be American or Chinese? (Image credit: Dynamic Science)

The Republican primaries have certainly ejected a lot of muck into the political atmosphere, much like a large, destructive asteroid would throw up debris and dust for miles if it were to strike terra firma. For what is to follow, the space analogy seems particularly appropriate. Mr. Gingrich, who is hoping to unseat Mitt Romney as the Republican favourite, recently visited Florida, home of the NASA Shuttle Program, where he declared that by the end of his second term, he would establish a permanent US base on the Moon. Further, once there is a large enough number of people occupying such a Moon base complex, the Moon could then be “ceded” to the US as its 51st state.

Ridiculous or not, you be the judge of that. Perhaps today it is, but maybe in 20 or 50 years it won’t be. The fact that the major powers will rekindle a space race is almost a certain proposition. China has announced that it will be launching a large number of satellites in the next 2 years and its plans for a permanent space station have also been made public. Private companies, such as SpaceX in the US, have been working diligently on making launches less expensive. There will certainly be a push to tap into the vast riches of space at some point in the not too distant future. Whether it will be as soon as Newt promises, or whether private enterprise will even be the catalyst, remains to be seen. [Read the rest of this entry...]

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TechLahore’s Predictions for 2012

Lots of stuff will happen in 2012, but the world will not end. Sorry Mayans!

Lots of stuff will happen in 2012, but the world will not end. Sorry Mayans! (Image credit: TheAtlanticWire)

2012 is going to be a very interesting year. Elections are coming up in two very important countries, Pakistan (in early 2013) and the United States (2012). The US’ confrontation with Iran has both countries making threats and accusations and heading in a direction that seems to be escalatory. Further, the US has retreated from Iraq and violence there seems to be at an upswing. As someone said, the US-Iraq war is over. Iran won. Then, we also have the NATO drawdown in Afghanistan which has led to much drama and desperation on the part of the ISAF and NATO forces; as we predicted last year, the US is now openly saying that the Taliban are not a US enemy, the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, has been removed from the FBI’s most wanted list and US diplomats are now negotiating with the Taliban with no preconditions. In that the Taliban have not laid down their weapons and continue to control over 75% of Afghan territory, these negotiations appear to be more about NATO giving in to the Taliban position and figuring out how to withdraw in haste than the opposite.

And that’s just the geo-strategic picture. Lots of exciting technology is going to be introduced also this year, and all eyes are on Europe and America as the economic troubles enter their fifth year. Will this finally be the bottom and will we start heading in the right direction? I thought this would have happened in 2011, but I was wrong. So, what happens in 2012? Read on to find out. [Read the rest of this entry...]

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Send all of Pakistan to MIT!

MIT's famed dome... coming to a PC, laptop or tablet near you! (Image credit: Bustachange.com)

MIT's famed dome... coming to a PC, laptop or tablet near you! (Image credit: Bustachange.com)

Someday, someone in an appropriately empowered government position in Pakistan needs to take a bold step forward and break through the bureaucracy and red tape government is despised for. There are so many incredibly high value, low cost initiatives to take up in areas as diverse as agriculture, education, energy and information technology that the shortage is not one of ideas, but simply that of initiative and vision.

Here at TechLahore, we’ve discussed some of these ideas before. Today, an announcement made by MIT compels us to talk of another…

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as one of the world’s foremost technology and engineering schools, needs no introduction. It is nothing less than one of America’s greatest strategic assets. MIT has produced graduates who have gone on to conduct pioneering research in defence, space technology, IT, material sciences, genetics and numerous other areas, advancing the state of the art for their country and the world at large. By some estimates, MIT graduates have contributed almost one trillion dollars worth of market capitalization to the US bourses. But as you may have heard, it’s not easy to get into MIT. Seats are limited, competition is tough and most of all, it’s expensive and remote for most of the citizens of the world. But what if the MIT experience could be bottled up and shipped across the internet to anyone who wanted to benefit from it? While it wouldn’t be exactly akin to attending classes at MIT physically – certainly the environment and some measure of interactivity would be lacking – it would, nonetheless, be a giant step forward. [Read the rest of this entry...]

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Evaluating TechLahore’s Predictions for 2011

TechLahore's 2011 predictions turned out to be the least accurate EVER! Hmph!

TechLahore's 2011 predictions turned out to be the least accurate EVER! Hmph!

We’ve been publishing since 2007 and TechLahore is hence not exactly a “new” blog. As institutions age, they accrue tradition, and TechLahore is no different. Our December evaluations of the past year’s predictions have been happening now for the past several years. In January, we’ll follow-up with a new set of predictions for 2012.

Here are the past evaluations, in case you’re interested:

1. Evaluating TechLahore’s predictions for 2010
2. Evaluating TechLahore’s predictions for 2009
3. Evaluating TechLahore’s predictions for 2008

So, without further ado, let’s see how we fared this year:

Political Predictions

The parliament is not going anywhere. This PM may or may not last, but the Parliament is well on its way to completing its 5 years. I think it will navigate 2011 in tact. And if that happens, with less than a year to go in 2012, term completion will be well within sight and all but certain.

Spot on. The parliament is here and if the Army Chief’s recent statements are to be believed, no coup is in the offing.

The Congress Government in India will continue to get less popular and Mr. Manmohan Singh’s “clean” image will become a thing of the past. Corruption is going to be a massive story for India in 2011.

The Congress government has become a symbol of inefficiency and corruption in India. India has actually fallen further on the Transparency corruption index. Manmohan has lost the Mr. Clean image for sure. I’ll claim full credit here. [Read the rest of this entry...]

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Five Hot Idea Memes for Startups in 2011

The best startup ideas from 2011 (Image credit: Blogsaays.com)

The best startup ideas from 2011 (Image credit: Blogsaays.com)

Rafe Needleman at C|net just published an interesting piece on the best startup ideas from 2011. Net-net, he says the following trends made it big through a variety of startups:

1) A focus on bringing technology to the physical world: Products that reach outside the digital realm and enable interactions with the physical world in interesting ways. Augmented reality anyone? Location awareness to tie the information experience with the physical? What about devices like medical monitors and other real world sensors that augment the digital experience?

2) Excellent design: This one is a no brainer. If Apple and Steve Jobs taught us anything it is that well designed trumps not well designed even if the more aesthetically appealing product lags behind on speeds and feeds. In 2012, we remain excited to see how some of Apple’s design philosophy gets “embraced and extended” with PC Ultrabooks. But Rafe’s point is not just about computer hardware. He makes a broader and completely accurate point about design now being super important for the success of a product – hardware or software. [Read the rest of this entry...]

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Mindstorm studios scores big with Whacksy Taxi

Whacksy Taxi is fun, well designed and another in a growing line of successful apps made in Pakistan

Whacksy Taxi is fun, well designed and another entrant in a growing line of successful apps made in Pakistan

Mindstorm Studios is a Lahore based gaming studio which rose to fame a couple of years ago with their brilliant Cricketing title for the PC, called “Cricket Revolution”. Their game, which we covered here at TechLahore, was so detailed and well crafted that they scored a contract with the International Cricket Council (ICC) to develop the official World Cup 2011 title. After these wins, Mindstorm decided to diversify beyond sports oriented games and launched some casual gaming apps for the Android and iOS platforms. Their current best seller is a well designed, fun to play title called “Whacksy Taxi”. This is a Breakout style game which plays at a dizzyingly fast pace and takes the gamer through a tour of various US cities, trying to avoid congested traffic in three lanes.

Here’s a video review by the popular gaming site, AppSpy: [Read the rest of this entry...]

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Pepper.pk rocking the Android marketplace with Hazardous Highway

Hazardous Highway for Android by Pepper.pk has clocked more than 50,000 downloads in under 30 days

Hazardous Highway for Android by Pepper.pk has clocked more than 50,000 downloads in under 30 days

After their numerous BlackBerry successes, Pepper.Pk is now in the process of scoring another hit with their Android game, “Hazardous Highway“. The app just won a “Best App Award” from the Android review site, BestAppsMarket, and installs are rocketing. Here’s the install graph from the Android marketplace, which shows adoption over the past month, since the app was released, and presents a very pretty picture: [Read the rest of this entry...]

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