Sunday, December 1, 2013

A week with the Lenovo Horizon

I first heard of  the Horizon PC when Lenovo announced it in CES this year. But what made it to gain recognition from the rest of the products was something which fascinated me. Because this is a family of PC's which no other company out there had ever attempted to set their foot in. Rightly called as table PC due to its form factor and usage, Lenovo has rolled the ball which has allowed other PC manufacturers to follow suite.

Luckily for me, I've finally got the opportunity to share my thoughts about this amazing machine which brings in  a whole new breed of PC's in the market. 

For starters,the horizon looks like a big tablet albeit till you understand the exact form factor. While it's an all  in one PC in purpose, the main intention of the horizon has been to bring people together to spend some quality time be it for multi user gaming or as a  weekend entertainment hotspot. 

The Horizon which  I got came with the following specifications 

                 Operating System : Windows 8 64bits 
               CPU                    : Intel Core i7 3667U @ 2.00GHz
               RAM                   : 8.00GB Dual-Channel DDR3
               Graphics              :Intel HD Graphics 4000 and NVIDIA GeForce GT620M
                Storage               : 1 TB segate HDD

Depending on what model of Horizon you get, there might be variations in CPU make  and the graphics processing unit. The display of the Horizon is approximately 27 inches - making it a perfect instrument for your multimedia and  multi user gaming. I upgraded mine to windows 8.1 and I do feel the fluidness of the OS throughout the UI and in the desktop mode as well. The screen comes with a resolution of  1920 x 1080 (Full HD) . If you have a switchable graphics model,there is the advantage of taking the help of both the GPU's depending on your power management mode. 

It was a delight to watch the colors come to life when I started using the desktop backgrounds which come with windows8/8.1 . I've actually found some wonderful wallpapers some having panoramic views - which bring a sense of liveliness to the horizon! It is one thing to experience them on a regular desktop but when you have such a system it is sometimes hard to choose the right wallpaper too! Another good thing of using a big screen AIO would be the full screen experience which you get with the metro apps in windows 8. It feels intuitive when you open them for the first time and there is natural interaction between you and the system. 

Watching movies or playing multi user games is what the Horizon has been designed apart from saving space in our homes.The system comes with built in support for Dolby home theater .Watching movies has been a delight on the horizon. You will get to know the full potential of the pc when running a high definition movie. I was watching Life of Pi on it the other day and the presence of the tiger on the screen was thrilling experience. 

With one of the main purpose being to save space, the horizon comes with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.It reduces the overall clutter on your desk which also helps you to concentrate on your work rather than messing around with wires which happens on a conventional desktop. The keyboard is of an accutype one but I haven't really found as comfortable as a traditional one. So I keep using my Microsoft ergonomic keyboard at times.The mouse is my favorite though .You will always feel that things are in control as long as you are using it because it is a big screen and once again requires a clutter free environment.You need to rotate the mouse to 180 degrees to switch it on and vice versa. I never saw these kind of devices but that could be just me 

One of the other main features of the horizon is the ability to play multi user games. It comes pre loaded with variety of games like Roulette, Monopoly,Tycoon and Air hockey and many other which are available in the Lenovo app shop. There also a number of education based titles which can be useful to parents who might want to teach to their kids.Whether playing a multi user game or working on your photos or education,the table mode brings in people together which also creates more interaction between people on a same thing. Lenovo has made this possible though an interface called "Aura" which kicks into action once you lay down the horizon. 

  While I have enjoyed this PC for a week,there are certain hiccups which I have faced and I hope lenovo takes note of them for the future versions. There are only two USB ports which are not really enough when one of the port taken up by the wireless keyboard and mouse. While there is an option to increase and decrease the volume via the capacitive touch buttons,it is not in the case of screen brightness - where only a single button has been given to increase/decrease the brightness value.This means if you want to decrease to the lowest level or next, you need to increase it to the full level before decreasing it down. The included battery has lasted for 3 hours This has been a noble attempt from Lenovo to produce a new breed of PC's. If you are looking to fill the gap between your multimedia centers and your conventional TV this would help you do that.It would also be a great way to spend some time with your family with the level of interactive features that this PC has to offer. Disclosure : - I am a member of the Lenovo Influencer network. Been lucky to be a part of the group which allows me to share my experiences and stories of the tech side of my life.

Friday, November 8, 2013

400 Miles of Bliss and Green -- A Life changing experience

There are some journeys in our life which only happen if  we are meant to have it. This one was something on a similar terms as   I  never expected it to happen in the first place. It was a firm determination of my friend  Suresh which made this incredible journey into a reality.

For days my friend would ask me to come visit his native town so that we could traverse the length of coastal Andhra Pradesh to complete a sacred journey of all the major Shiva temples in the region. Belief has it that if one could visit all the 5 major temples scattered along the eastern coast,our long cherished wishes would become a reality.

We had to start at 3 AM in the morning in order to cover the entire journey. As the darkness turned to light,the sights around  me we full of green.There was so much green that I could not find a small part of barren land anywhere.No wonder that coastal AP is called the rice bowl of India.

Vast green lands were rushing past for hours and hours. Our first stop was the historic 1200  year old temple at Samarlakota. Built by the chola dynasity during the early 800 AD, the temple is one of the few in India which is actually double storied. As we were exploring the temple complex, ancient vedic hyms were reveberating everywhere. The very sound of them gives you some of sort of mental stimulus. Once inside the temple complex, we has to go through an labyrinth of stair cases to reach the top where the actual cerimonies where being performed on Lord Shiva.  The Shiva lingam itself is one the of center of attraction - 14 feet in height and made of  limestone

The Lotus pond behind the temple

After an hour long prayer ceremony we came out and  started for our second destination - Draksharamam.  I have been told that these five famous temples are scattered  across the either sides of the river Godavari. They are seperated by at least a hundred kilometers each and it seemed covering all the temples in a day was quite strenuous. The journey itself was demanding and we  had to race against time to see all of them. 

The journey to Draksharamam  had been more than memorable.Every village through which we were passing had an impact of Godavari. I could see naturally made canals which were  running parallel to the fields where farmers would cool off in the evening by taking a plunge. There were also plenty of coconut plantations along the coast and it seemed a lot to take in for the day!  There was this one place on the way which did not seem to look like a typical Indian village. Most of the people there seemed to be millionaires and they  became so due to hundreds of acres of paddy fields which they own. The Village had beautiful lotus ponds and lake side villas - quite un common in a rural area. The rama temple in the midst   of the village remains the center of attraction. Although we were running out of time and had no business to do there,we stopped the car for a while and started taking some snaps.

After a quick bite at Yanam,we set out towards east Godavari  to cover two more temples. what amazed me was the scale at which the fertile lands were being utilized to raise and maintain fisheries apart from the lush paddy fields. While it was almost night fall by the time we covered the entire journey of 660 kms, there was a sense of satisfaction that we achieved what we started out for - and finishing the journey also meant that everything went well without any hiccups throughout. This was one the first sacred journeys which I took and perhaps much more will be covered in the future when time permits. While there was nothing special which I took in terms of  camera gear with me apart from my phone, a fully charged thinkpad x220T helped me in the form of an alternative phone charging source . Google Maps came to our rescue in a number of occasions and I wonder how this tedious journey would have been possible without leveraging on modern technology to traverse the length of ancient India. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Evolution of Ideapads

I've always had a liking of the IdeaPad range from Lenovo from my very first S10-2 to the very latest Z500 which I got very recently . While people think they are inferior in nature to the ThinkPads,I believe they fill the void in the entertainment space since the other range is mostly buisiness centric. From my personal experience and usage of many of the Idea series from 2009 to present, I've seen them evolve over time from design and usage perspective. This time I am sharing some of my personal thoughts about the Z500 from the IdeaPad range.

The first thing when I opened up the box was to see how the thickness of the Z500 had reduced.Also outer part of the screen has a clean design rather than having a pattern which the previous laptops had. Mine was a dark chocolate coloured laptop with clean looking matte finish on the top. 
Photo courtesy -- Lenovo India

The Z500 is 25% slimmer than a standard notebook. While that might be true,the weight factor doesn't change much when compared to my older Y560. Lenovo says it is slim and light but being a desktop replacement and a mainstream Multimedia notebook, I am not so sure if its "light" enough. Having said that - I have been happily using it as my primary computer for sometime from running Virtual machines,watching movies and sometimes exploring the features of Windows 8 ( Mine was a touch model) so the kind of interaction you have with the system via touch is quite amazing. While the 15.6 inches HD screen is a boon in the making, the choice of switching between Discreet and Integrated graphics gives us the advantage of  not sacrificing the battery life at the cost of the performance. 

Keyboards have also evolved in the IdeaPads.My previous Y560's keyboard was a delight to type on for long hours. The tactile feedback was good and I feel the same about the Z500 whose keyboard style has changed to island style which are slightly raised. Its a different experience when coming from the older keyboard type but you do get used to it over time. Another surprise was the full size keyboard with the dedicated number pad. Yay! Great job there Lenovo! . Oh and to mention that it comes with a backlight option just made some of my friends feel envy towards me ;) .

Having Windows 8 with a slimmer desktop replacement like this feels good . I am waiting for Windows 8.1 to comeout since it is a more polished version and hopefully that would complete some of the void that are present in Windows 8 .

Monday, May 13, 2013

Thinkpad Fan Replacement --- A Noob's perspective

Today I finally feel like I know a bit about Thinkpads atleast about the model which I am using - inside and out. Of the three ThinkPads  which I use, The T410 was the one which was acting desktop replacement. Some time back I faced a "Fan Errror" when  I tried to boot into the laptop.While I googled for a solution, I came across the same situations on the online forums at Lenovo. Suggestions ranged from fan replacement to using compressed air. Ultimately It turns out that the bearings had  worn out leading to the failure of the fan.

Now it was one thing where the fan failed and the laptop refused to boot. The other thing was to change the fan myself. Me being a Noob when it comes to thinkpads made the matter more complicated. I had a replacement part with me but was still  tinkering with the Idea about getting it serviced where ever it was possible. One of my friend even suggested that I take it to an HP service center to get it repaired which sounded so silly to me.To get rid of all these impediments, I decided to take the plunge myself wondering whether I could fix this issue at the earliest. 

The first place for me to go and do some reading was the Lenovo support site where I could not  only find some training videos which were giving some hands on examples but also a step by step based document which can be very essential to people who are still not adept at opening up the laptop.For a regular Thinkpadder, dealing with these kind of situations might be a breeze but doing it for the first time in my case wasnt all nice. The frst steps seemed to be pretty rudimentary for thinkpads i.e to open up the access panel and the and access the inside. Pulling out the keyboard was also an easy part as it needed only a single screw to be removed from the access panel

There were moments where I was apprehensive in dealing with the internal guiding wires which provided connectivity for the Thinklight, the trackpad,speakers and and the CPU/Heatsink. The wires seemed very delicate to deal with my hands but I started to remove them quite slowly according to the service training videos. Before I could remove the keyboard, I had to open up the track pad,the speaker assembly and the surrounding Bezel. After all this I  was able to look into the inner workings of the thinkpad once  removed the above mentioned parts.

Now came the critical part of opening up the LCD assembly. Critical for me because I had to use a bit of force to remove the LCD when it didn't work out the gentle way.Perhaps I need to be more careful here in the future when dealing with such a situation. Once the LCD unit was detached, I was finally able to see the complete roll cage which was supposed to protect the thinkpad from Accidental falls.It was an Aha moment for me as  I was very close to achieving what I was supposed to do. 

The previous place where the Fan was present was filled with a lot of dust. Visual proof of the situations in which I was using the ThinkPad be it dusty conditions or high tropical climate changes which are common in  India in most of the places. 

Removing the Fan was an easy part again and after applying what they specified as 0.2gms of thermal paste on the dedicated places,I placed it back and started to assemble the units in the reverse order. I also learnt here that the Fan model might vary depening whether you have a discrete or a Dedicated graphics unit. I can now proudly say that I am a tinkerer and a thinkpadder!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Food for thought -- Would a quick bite bring you that much needed stimulus?

So I realized this when I went to Mc Donald's last week with my roomie . It was not about going only to Mc D's for a quick-lunch but there was something happening to me before I even had the thought. As life is not a bed of roses and it gives you lemons when you don't even expect -- My mind was blurry for a while and I had to resort to a lot of things to sense  the physical world around me . These kind of things happen sometime in life and are very good lessons for us.

And back to where I started .. I don't know if some form of depression was the catalyst behind me craving for something spicy or was it my brain which was signalling me to do it? The human brain is so amazing that you get many mixed thoughts out of know where - sometimes getting derived thoughts from various experiences or incidents we faced. Long time ago I was at a local Mc D's restaurant in Abid's when my friend suggested I try an item called piri pir . So piri piri is basically a spicy power which as can  used along with the french fries to get that tingling taste. But I think the magic lies in the small packet.

If you haven't tried this stuff see how it works on your taste buds.I think the spices in the piri piri acted as as a relaxant of sorts on my mind by making me sane when I was not responding properly to the world around me for sometime. It might not only be this thing..... It might be anything whether 10rs worth of pani puri or just horlicks.Yes Horlicks! I love it to bits and you will know what I mean if you ever had it . Another thing which I found since I started working was about home-made food.3 days a week I make it a point to come back to my home town to relish my Mother's dishes -- much to the envy of my brother who is the US.Being pampered at home makes you a spoilt brat perhaps but it still brings the inner peace you would like to have. So you ain't feeling well and want to have some inner peace go eat something which will rejuvenate your senses .Even if it is extreme in terms of taste. It might help.If life is giving you lemons fret not Eat Pray Sleep!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Li of Pi -- A Visual Spectacle

This would be quite late about the cinematic experience I had with this film,there were many constraints which did not let me to blog for a while.But I have decided that it is time to come back here again and share some stuff so here goes..

In the last week of December, I took an impromptu decision to go and watch Yann Martel's book come to life in the form of "Life of Pi". I had watched the promos for some time on the TV before I took the decision  to go and watch it on the big screen. There were many factors which prompted me to go watch the film.The first one was obviously Ang Lee's direction. Both Crouching tiger and Broke back mountain were sensible films which I saw earlier and my curiosity about the way he would portray the Indian subcontinent prompted me to watch it.

I say this because Slum dog Millionaire's portrayal of the country was typical Hollywood - where stereotypical directors would show India as if it was the land of snake charmers.I pity them! . Ang Lee's adaption was a pleasant surprise for me. Had I read the book earlier, I would really wonder the way in which they would portray  this ancient and chaotic country. But being  Ang lee he truly made justice to the script.
I cannot but appreciate the way he showed how festivals are celebrated  here which reflects the real.One of the best scenes for me was the procession of  lord Vishnu in all his glory inside the temple ghats.. Magnificent way of introducing one of the lead character - Tabu

As the film progressed, I understood that Ang Lee's projection of multicultural India was apt and to the point. I am not sure if any other director who were not from this part of the world would be able show so much diversity and still make the story line which appeals to the international audience. I just loved the way he showed the french Riviera  on one  side and all the three beliefs on the other.But some how all of this converges into a beautiful flow of color,textures,art and fascination

The essence of  Incredible India was visible every where right to the dance classes which introduce one of the main characters, to the french colonies and towns in which the protagonist had grown up. The film has a human touch which is unique to itself.
Coming to the other part of the story,the way in which they projected the sea and sky being mirror images of each other,or the island which would glow during the dark,or the gigantic blue whale which comes down splashing near by pi's boat are just some of the spectacular scenes which are worth watching. There are many more. I watched it twice - something which I do very rarely. 

If you haven't watched the film till now,go watch it while you can - It's worth the money and time to enjoy such a visually appealing film. I hope they take home the oscars for which they were nominated for!!