I recently needed to get some large format documents scanned. However the DTP shop kind of messed up the scan order of the documents. So here I was, left with a series of images scanned into PDF files with no real way to edit them into the right order (short of buying a PDF editor like Acrobat). Luckily Ubuntu came with a variety of available free tools to edit PDF files. The one I ended up using was something called PDF Chain. PDF Chain lets you do a variety of operations on PDF files, including merging, splitting etc. So I used PDF Chain to split all the PDF files into individual pages. Then I opened each individual page in GIMP and exported it to PNG, after correcting some scan errors. But then I hit a problem. How do I convert the newly ordered PNG files into PDF files? Well this handy hint helped saved the day. Seems you can convert a set of image files into a PDF using the convert command in Ubuntu. Here is how it works:

  1. Put the images you want to convert in some location. The convert command will take into account alphabetical order into account while creating pages. So keep this mind when you want the pages in a specific order.
  2. Fire up terminal from “Applications > Accessories”
  3. Navigate to the folder or location with your images so that your working directory is that location
  4. Then for some magic use the following:
    convert *.png myPDF.pdf

That’s it !! You should now have a shiny new PDF named myPDF in the location you saved the images in. The original tutorial seems to indicate that this will only work on the Desktop, but rest assured that this works in any location. Sure saved me a ton of time :)

 

Did you like this? Share it:

So, I have been looking for a replacement for my aging Samsung Galaxy Spica for sometime now. Having enjoyed the splendid benefits of using stock Android on my Nexus 7 tablet, I wanted to have the same experience on my phone. However, barring the relatively high priced (INR 29,000 or USD 475 approx in India) Nexus 5, there were no real alternatives for a stock android phone. Most other “budget” phones that were available (Samsung, LG etc.) didn’t really cut it in the specifications department, while the phones from Xolo, MicroMax etc looked very promising on paper. Then in December, out of the blue, Motorola finally announced the Moto G, which seemed to tick most of the features I wanted, at a relatively low price point. Motorola then promised a January release for the Moto G in India and I figured might as well wait the extra month.
However, the release date kept being postponed and from early January, the date slipped to mid-Jan and then early February. Finally, the Moto G was available in India sometime in early February (February 6th to be precise). I actually stayed awake till midnight to be one of the first people to order one on Flipkart (the only way to get a Moto G in India currently), but getting hold of a Moto G (16 GB Black) seemed to be almost impossible. I had added a Moto G to my cart at about 00:13 AM and by the time I proceeded to check out 00:17 AM it was sold out !!!
Flipkart got in fresh stock at 12:00 PM the same day, and this time round I pressed pay as soon as I could. About 02 days later the phone was delivered.


The Moto G came in a small little white box. I fully expected the box to only contain the phone and an USB cable (seems the US model ships with only this), but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it contained an AC charger and a hands-free kit.
My initial impression of the phone was – Whoa!!! – this is much slimmer and lighter than I expected. It also had a nice feel in the hand with it’s slightly curved back. Since the phone needed a micro-sim it took me a couple of days to get my regular SIM switched to one. I decided to actually use the phone for about a month or so before writing about it. And boy has it been a fabulous experience. Here is a rundown of the hits and misses: Continue reading ‘MotoG Review’ »

Did you like this? Share it:

DIY Signal BoosterSaw this DIY “Signal Booster” made out of an old coca-cola bottle, at a village during my recent trek to Harishchandragad. The cell phone kept in the contraption surprisingly was able to get reception in an otherwise “dead-signal” area.  Must work I guess…

Did you like this? Share it:

The e-commerce scene in India is pretty much booming with a gazillion “Flipkart” clones and seemingly endless hordes of VC/PE money. But how much do these firms actually make, in terms of revenue? To answer this question, I’ve been wondering if its possible to estimate revenue for some of the more leading firms in the space. To do this, I chose Flipkart, mainly for its prominence and the fact that they recently announced a ballpark figure for their revenue.

In August, Flipkart digital VP Sameer Nigam indicated that, Flipkart crossed Rs 1 billion in revenue in July. This is Rs 100 crore in revenue for the month, or in USD terms is about USD 18 million (taking 1 USD = 55.1948 INR, average for the month).
Now popular site, Trafficestimate.com, gives traffic estimates for popular web-sites on the net. The graph below shows traffic estimates for Flipkart.
Traffic to Flipkart
We see that Flipkart did approximately 33.11 million visitors in the month of July. Now most e-commerce sites have a 1-2% conversion rate (traffic to customers). Assuming a 1.5% conversion rate we get the estimate that Flipkart had 33.11 million X 1.5% = 0.5 million customers (approx), who bought something at the website.
So how much does the average customer at Flipkart spend ? According to the comScore- ASSOCHAM report on the State of E-Commerce in India (2012), this figure stands at $35 per transaction. This means that the estimate for Flipkart’s revenue in the month of July is approximately 0.5 million X $35 = 17.5 USD million
As we can see this is pretty close to reported revenues. Further, plotting revenue estimates by this method for the last 12 months, we get the following graph
Flipkart Revenue
It’s interesting to note that Flipkart’s revenues have been pretty much between USD 10 – 11 million per month between November 2011 and March 2012. After March 2012, there has been an steady and somewhat steep increase in revenue. This raises some interesting questions:
  • Is this an effect of Flyte being launched? Unlikely, since by FlipKart’s own assertion Flyte currently represents only 1% of overall sales. Also Flyte retails digital music at approximately Rs 10 per track (approx. 20 cents). Combining, these two figures it definitely seems highly unlikely that the increase is because of Flyte.
  • Is Flipkart’s foray into multiple categories finally paying off? Possibly. They definitely seem to have helped Flipkart raise the average transaction size to $35
  • Is this the effect of Flipkart’s recent media campaign? Considering that the new campaign launched around the same time that sales started picking up, this might be a possible cause. However, I would definitely need more data before judging on the causality and I guess there is only so much one can do with public sources.
Overall, this little thought experiment was definitely an interesting one and in the coming months I will try and see what else can be deduced by seemingly public sources of information.
Notes:
  1. The traffic estimates website does not clearly indicate what the figures are. For the sake of convenience I assumed that the figures represent visits by potential buyers and not unique customers
  2. Biggest assumption – Trafficestimate.com gives fairly OK estimates :)
Did you like this? Share it:

Much has been made of the recent “censorship” by the Indian government and the spurt in “takedown” notices from India over the year. Granted that this is indeed deplorable, a quick look at the data published over at the Google Transparency Report website reveals some interesting stats about the state of affairs in other “free” countries. (Data is for 2011) (Click on the image for an interactive view)

Google Take Down requests

Did you like this? Share it:

Amazon finally released Kindle in India (you can currently buy it from Croma in India) along with the Kindle Store. The Kindle store was a pleasant surprise, since it showed the price of books in INR. Also I found that a number of Indian titles were also present, including everyone’s favorite author – Chetan Bhagat !!!
This got me thinking on whether the skewed pricing that is often seen in e-book titles in the US also holds good here. To test this hypothesis, I chose a sample of 50 books from the bestseller list on Flipkart for both fiction and non-fiction titles. I noted the price for these titles for both Flipkart and Kindle. The idea was to see if the e-books were substantially cheaper than their dead tree counterparts. The summary of that analysis can be seen below:

Flipkart Vs Amazon

Flipkart Vs Amazon

The chart plots the difference in price between Flipkart and Amazon Kindle. The Flipkart price is taken as the base and so a negative difference indicates that the Amazon price is more expensive than the Flipkart one. Click on the image above to open an interactive view. You can hover your mouse over each point to see details or select some points using the mouse and only see them to kind of zoom into the details.

What I noticed was that

  • On an average, e-books were about 20% cheaper than the dead-tree counterparts
  • The average savings that one would make by going the e-book route would be about INR 52
  • The savings for a significant number of books, about 46% of the total, is negligible (INR 30 or less)
  • There are outliers where the Kindle copy is substantially more expensive than the physical copy
  • These outliers seem to be more prominent in case on Non-Fiction books
  • A number of books, including popular ones like Ascent of Money, are not available on Kindle. Also a number of Indian authors were not to be found on the Amazon Kindle store.

So does buying e-books make sense, given that they are 20% cheaper on an average? I don’t think so, mainly because of the fact that the cost savings for a number of titles are not substantial, with the title being only a few rupees cheaper or in some case more expensive. Also given that one can’t lend or re-sell the e-book as yet like a physical copy, it does seem like a raw end of the deal to buy an e-book.
However, it’s great to note that the Kindle store seems to have a decent collection of Indian titles and might just make sense to use the Kindle for one-time reads.

Did you like this? Share it:

Not too long ago, in a galaxy not too far away, a towing ship carrying mineral ore came across a “distress” beacon and decided to investigate. What they found became cinematic sci-fi history – a movie called “Alien”. The movie with its claustrophobic environment and acid-bleeding aliens became the rare blend of sci-fi and horror that actually worked on the big screen.
Since then the original has spawned many sequels, many of which just capitalized on the “Alien” franchise rather than adding anything new to the mix.

So when Ridley Scott, the director of the original Alien series, announced that he was returning to the Alien universe, fans around the globe rejoiced. At last we will have the answers that we wanted, like what on earth were those “Space Jockeys” in Alien, they said. Continue reading ‘Prometheus or why the movie is aptly titled’ »

Did you like this? Share it:

Mt. Pulag

Mt. Pulag

It had been almost a month since my last trekking trip and I was itching to go on another trek. A chance meeting with an old pal in Manila, put me onto a number of websites and groups based in Philippines that covered trekking and trails. One of these groups was Trail Adventours which happened to be doing an overnight camping trip to Mt. Pulag that weekend.
Mt. Pulag, at 2922m above sea level, is the highest peak in Luzon and the third highest in the Philippines. The climb to Mt. Pulag passes through some amazing trails that cut through the rainforest. Generally the dry months of March to May are the best time to go there, though the trails are open all year round.
Trail Adventours is one of the few groups that organize regular monthly trips up Mt. Pulag. Generally due to the time taken to get there, the trip is done with an overnight stay at one of the camp sites on the mountain.
We needed to actually get a lot of gear for the trip. I had unfortunately left a lot of my trekking gear back in India (bags, hydration bags, sleeping bags, trekking poles, mess kit etc) and so was faced with the prospect of buying everything anew here. Luckily however we could rent out most of stuff and we ended up renting sleeping bags and a tent for the trip. A second expense was getting some warm clothing for the cold up there. Since I had assumed that the climate in the Philippines would generally not be too cold, I hadn’t packed any warm clothes. So I ended up buying a few gloves, warm jacket etc for the trip. (Though word of advice, if you intend to go up Mt. Pulag you can buy all this at quite reasonable prices at the DENR centre)
So with all our gear bought and rented, we set off to the meeting point at the Pasay Victory Liner Station. There we met Ace, who would be one of our guides on the trip. The bus left from Manila for Baguio at about 10:30 PM. We reached Baguio at about 05:30 in the morning on Saturday. Here we met the rest of our group and our second guide for the trip, Bianca.
Continue reading ‘Of high mountains, cloud rats and freezing nights: Mt. Pulag’ »

Did you like this? Share it:

Crater Lake at Mt. Pinatubo

Crater Lake at Mt. Pinatubo

I learned about Mt. Pinatubo soon after coming to the Philippines; however I couldn’t figure out how to get there easily. Mt. Pinatubo is one of the many active volcanoes in the Philippines that last erupted in a climatic eruption on June 15th 1991. The resulting eruption was the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th Century and resulted in the ejection of 10 cubic Km of magma. The eruption resulted in the formation of an enormous crater that soon filled with rain water forming a large crater lake. The lake has brilliant blue waters and is one of the tourist attractions of the region.
After much hunting online, we narrowed down on a travel group called Tripinas that did public group tours of Pinatubo. Most of the other groups did private tours which were quite unaffordable as it was just me and a colleague of mine on the trip. We paid the initial advance and got our instructions for the trip.
The trip began at about 02:00 AM early Saturday morning when we assembled at the McDonalds close to the Quezon Avenue MRT station. Here the balance amount was settled and we were allocated our vehicle for the trip. As planned we left at about 03:00 AM for the base camp. The journey took about 3 odd hours and by 6:00 in the morning we were at the base camp.

Continue reading ‘Of Ancient Volcanoes and desolate landscapes: Mt. Pinatubo’ »

Did you like this? Share it:

Sometime back I came across promotions on Facebook for a new horror book called “The Mine” by Arnab Ray. For those who don’t know, Arnab writes the fabulous blog – “Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind” and has also authored the sublimely superb “May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss”.

Since Arnab or Great Bong (as he is more popularly known) usually writes humor and satire, a horror novel written by him seemed like a huge deviation from the usual fare. Besides this the general plot of the book – “Experts/ Team sent in to a remote expedition to find out what went/ is going wrong” is pretty much my favorite kind of plot. Variations of the plot have given us such superb pieces like Jurassic Park, Sphere, Deep Storm and movies like Alien. So with somewhat tempered expectations I started reading the book.

The book follows a group of experts that are assembled in a highly secret mining facility under the Thar desert. The mine has uncovered an ancient structure with some disturbing carvings, deep underground. The experts are called in to make sense of this and the many maladies afflicting the miners. As usual things go wrong shortly after and that’s when the fun starts.

The book is fairly well written and the pace picks up after the initial slow start. It builds quite nicely on the claustrophobia of being trapped several kilometers under the surface of the earth. While there are number of gory scenes in the book, regular horror fans might find them a bit pedestrian. In addition to this while there are a number of innovative twists and turns in the book, most of them seem a bit derivative (Either that or I’ve seen / read way too much in that genre). Fans of other horror series like Saw, Hostel etc may be left with a sense of deja vu. In spite of these (imagined ??) shortcomings though, the author manages to keep the plot fairly taut and interesting.

While personally I was a tad disappointed (mainly cause it had a “been there done that” kind of feel to it), I would think its an excellent stab at the horror genre. If nothing else, its a welcome relief from the legions of “Chetan Bhagat” clones that have popped up all over. Definitely worth a try.

Did you like this? Share it: