HashOut: 2007.01
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How to grab the attention of A-list bloggers

I just read a post about the benefits of getting noticed by A-list bloggers over getting to the Front Pages of Digg on Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal, a highly successful and popular A-list blogger.

After reading his post one would surely want to grab the attention of some of the A-list bloggers, but how? Read this post by Darren Rowse of Problogger, another A-list blogger.

Interestingly, I just noticed a new innovative way of grabbing attention of A-list bloggers on both the above blogs, i.e. displaying AdSense ads on the A-list bloggers blog congratulating them and wishing them luck or telling them how much you love them. If you need to see how? take a look at the screen-shot of Amit's blog below.

And here is a screenshot from Darren's Problogger.

Although this method might cost you a bit, it could serve two purposes.

  1. Grab the attention of the A-list blogger.
  2. Bring other visitors from the A-list blogger's blog to your website or blog.

I wonder if that really works, but you could give it a try and do let me know about the results!
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Key to professional photography with your mobile phone

You might have the latest mobile phone with a 10 mega pixel camera, but do you have the skill to shoot great pictures? Having a good camera phone is just half way to taking good professional photos, the rest depends on how you use it and it's pro features.

Snap It! by Doug Harman - Take great pictures with your mobile phoneSnap It! by Doug Harman will guide you in taking great pictures with your mobile phone, developing an eye for detail and working within the limitations of your camera phone. It does not only cover the basics of photography, but also teaches you to make optimum use of your gadget. Not just that! It easily slips in to your pocket just like your camera phone so that it is handy just when you need it.

The book begins with Camera phone features and composition to ensure that you get your basics right. Doug Harman then highlights other essential features such as zoom lenses, sensors, pixel count, etc. that will aid you in achieving professional-looking images. He packs hundreds of simple tricks like shooting indoors & outdoors, composition tips etc., which are explained through sections like Basics. The fun chapters to read are the ideas on capturing parties, people, holidays, pets and arty shots. The information on transferring your photos using Infrared technology, Bluetooth or WiFi proves to be extremely beneficial too.

The book is well balanced in terms of text and visuals. Though at times the text seems to get repetitive, for example in topics like macro photography and beaming. And talking about images, not all do justice to photography. Photos are not at their best, especially while addressing topics like landscape photography, shooting animals and portraits. But the commendable aspect about the book is that every featured photograph has an explanation, which helps gain a better understanding of the subject and the situation it was taken.

Remember, camera phones too can be an equally authentic means of visual documentation. So, whether you are an advanced photographer or a novice, following the simple guidelines in Snap It! will help you take better pictures. You will not get the detail and high quality prints like digital camera, but they will help you capture those candid moments and share them instantly with family or friends. So, grab this book as soon as possible and start experimenting with your camera phones.

Buy Snap It! at Amazon.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Amazon, Doug Harman or his Publisher at the time of writing this article and will not get a penny for the sales of this book.
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How much TV do you need?

As new sets become home theaters, you have questions

What is stereo in/out?
It's a must if you plan to hook up the set to your stereo or home-theatre speakers.

What's an S-Video input?
It delivers a better picture than the older "video input." It's key if you plan to plug a DVD player or game console into the set.

What are component-video inputs?
They produce a clearer picture than S-Video -- worth it only if you're going to use a DVD that has a component-video output. Component video splits colour and brightness signals, a process that makes the picture more vivid.

What's a comb filter?
It keeps a picture crisp by separating brightness and colour portions of a video signal. Older sets use glass comb filters. New, pricier models come with 3-D digital comb filters.
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How to check Internet connection speed? Using Bandwidth meters!

Today I was checking out the Airtel Mobile Office GPRS Internet Connection and even though the actual browsing speed seemed to be good on my laptop, I decided to check out the speed at which data was actually transfered (the connection status showed 115.2 Kbps). I usually use CNET Bandwidth meter Speed Test, but today I decided to do a research and find out about other Bandwidth meters to check internet connection speed.

I did a Google search for bandwidth meter and CNET Bandwidth meter appeared on top of the search results (Sponsored Link not included). Others following CNET Bandwidth meter were gambitdesign.com, 2wire.com, Club Polycom, ZDNet Internet Services. While gambitdesign.com and 2wire.com took ages to load the initialmeter page itself, ZDNet uses CNET Internet Services Bandwidth Meter hence not much difference between the two.

I tried the CNET Bandwidth meter speed test from both the US and CNET Asia (Singapore based) site and was shocked to see the difference between the two results. The tests were conducted in immediate succession but showed a difference of almost 60%!

Interestingly I found two Bandwidth meter add-on extensions for Mozilla Firefox from GoToMyHelp.

One of them called "Bandwidth Meter" runs on any operating system whereas the other called "Broadband Speed Test and Diagnostics" runs only on Windows but has advanced diagnostics features. Once you install these add-ons, you can check your public ip, domain, download and upload speeds anytime by selecting Bandwidth Meter or Broadband Speed Test and Diagnostics from the Tools menu.

Screenshot of Broadband Meter
Broadband Speed Test and Diagnostics additionally provides a couple of diagnostic tests to troubleshoot and isolate problems with the NIC card, local gateway, DHCP server, DNS server or a web site. It also displays information like private IP address, MAC address, default gateway, DNS server, DHCP server, routing table, ARP table and active connections from right within the Mozilla Firefox browser which would otherwise be available only through the command prompt.

Screenshot of Broadband Speed Test and Diagnostics
There wasn't much difference between the results of CNET Bandwidth meters' speed test and the Firefox add-ons'; however, they were not very similar too. It can actually never be the same over time due to fluctuations in traffic. All you have to do is take the test a few times and average out the speed or just take the test at different times of the day for a few days and analyze your connection speed.

Update: Oookla.com provides a very attractive and user friendly speed test that you can integrate into your website. You can try out the speed test here.
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Hello & Welcome to HashOut!

After weeks of sleepless nights, stressing my brains and butts in conceptualizing and designing this blog, I have been able to put together this dirty little thing you see. It is all about hashing out (definition) opinions, views, reviews, rants, expert advice and general discussions on various subjects. I also invite bright minded people with a fire inside to co-author this blog and initiate topics.

Since I am expecting to have a wide variety of topics here on this blog, I will maintain a page with links to the feeds for each category so that you can subscribe to the category of your interest.

So hope to see you around here often, hashing out your mind!

Special thanks to Darren Rowse for valuable tips on his blog Problogger.net » Continue reading


Indian Immigration Conspiracy - scam or a hoax?

Recently I received an email forward from a friend about this conspiracy by Indian Immigration, Police, Customs and Air India staff to sack international passengers. Here is the message, verbatim.

This is a well organized conspiracy by Indian Immigration, Police, Customs and Air India staff with networking at all the Indian International Airports. Be watchful when ever you give your passport to Immigration/Customs/Air India staff. The pass port can be easily tampered and can create trouble to you. They have found easy way of making money from NRIs. This is the way it works:

At the time of the passenger's departure, if the passenger is not looking at the officer while he is stamping the exit, the officer very cleverly tears away one of the page from the passport.

When the passenger leaves the immigration counter, the case is reported on his computer terminal with full details. Now all over India they have got full details of the passenger with Red Flag flashing on the Passport number entered by the departure immigration officer. They have made their money by doing above. On arrival next time, he is interrogated. Subject to the passenger's period of stay abroad, his income and standing etc., the price to get rid of the problem is settled by the Police and Immigration people. If someone argues, his future is spoiled because there are always some innocent fellows who think the honesty is the basis of getting justice in India.

Please advise every passenger to be careful at the airport. Whenever they hand over the passport to the counters of Air India , or immigration or the customs, they must be vigilant, should not remove eyes from the passport even if the officer in front tries to divert their attention.

Also, please pass this information to all friends, media men and important politicians. Every month 20-30 cases are happening all over India to rob the NRIs the minute he lands. Similar case has happened with Aramco's Arifuddin. He was traveling with his family. They had six passports. They got the visa of America and decided to go via Hyderabad from Jeddah. They reached Hyderabad. Stayed about a month and left for the States. When they reached the States, the page of the American visa on his wife's passport was missing. At the time of departure from Hyderabad it was there, the whole family had to return to Hyderabad helplessly. On arrival at Bombay back, they were caught by the police and now it is over 2 months, they are running after the Police, Immigration officers and the Courts. On going in to details with him, he found out the following.

One cannot imagine, neither can believe, that the Indian Immigration dept can play such a nasty game to harass the innocent passengers. All the passengers traveling to & fro India via Bombay and Hyderabad must be aware of this conspiracy. Every month 15 to 20 cases are taking place, at each mentioned airport, of holding the passengers in the crime of tearing away the passport pages. On interviewing some of them, none of them was aware of what had happened. They don't know why, when and who tore away the page from the middle of the passport.

One can imagine the sufferings of such people at the hands of the immigration, police and the court procedures in India after that. The number of cases is increasing in the last 2-3 years. People who are arriving at the immigration, they are questioned and their passports are being held and they have to go in interrogations. Obviously, the conspiracy started about 2 to 3 years ago, now the results are coming. Some of the Air India counter staff too is involved in this conspiracy.

In order to check its validity I google searched part of the email content and found N number of blogs with the same message text verbatim. However one thing is still unclear - is it true or just a hoax? If you have more information on this please do hash out (comment). And in the meanwhile if you happen to visit abroad or transit through any Indian airports, it would be wise to be extra vigilant at the immigration counter.
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You can also listen to all posts on HashOut using the following podcast.

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What is RSS / Atom?

RSS, short for "really simple syndication," and Atom are a family of web feed formats used to keep tabs on what your favorite Web sites or blogs are publishing.

Users of digital content 'subscribe' to a feed by supplying a link to the (RSS / Atom) feed to programs called feed 'readers' or 'aggregators'; the program then checks the user's subscribed feeds to see if any of those feeds have new content since the last time it checked, and if so, retrieve that content and present it to the user. The advantage? Instead of wasting time refreshing your countless bookmarked Web sites and blogs, new content on those sites comes directly to you.

The initials "RSS" are variously used to refer to the following standards:
  • Really Simple Syndication (RSS 2.0)
  • Rich Site Summary (RSS 0.91, RSS 1.0)
  • RDF Site Summary (RSS 0.9 and 1.0)
The development of Atom was motivated by the existence of many incompatible versions of the RSS syndication format, all of which had shortcomings.

For more information on RSS, visit WhatisRSS.com » Continue reading