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The US may be leading in the use of mobile phones. But it is second only to South Africa when it comes to the number of women using the mobile to access internet. South Africa leads the world in the category with 43.4%. It is followed by the US with 35.6%, Russia with 32.4% and the UK with 31.5%.

The number of women world over using mobile web has gone up steeply — a whopping 575% in two years, says the latest Opera’s State of the Mobile Web Report released this week.

India has the least number of women mobile web users, 4%, behind Nigeria (5.4%), China (11.6%) and Vietnam (17.9%). Ukraine and Vietnam have the most users under 18 (34.8% and 23.7%, respectively), while the US and and the UK have a lot of users who are 38 and older (26% and 21%, respectively).

To the question, "Do you have online friends you’ve never met in real life?", the most number of "yes" came from Nigeria (87.3%), Indonesia (83.7%), and Ukraine (83.1%). And the least number of "yes" came from United Kingdom (64.6%), United States (65.6%).
Google and Facebook compete for the top spot in several Southeast Asian countries. Opera Mini users in Southeast Asia tend to prefer Nokia handsets, while the Apple iPhone is the most popular handset used by Opera Mini users in both Singapore and Myanmar.

Commenting on the survey, co-founder, Opera Software, Jon von Tetzchner, said, "Mobile web is all about breaking down barriers to access. Seeing more women on the mobile web is important to ensuring the mobile web remains the rich tapestry of ideas it is. Further diversity can only improve things for everyone."

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Bangalore-based former students of Sainik School, Kazhakootam, Kerala, will have a get-together at the Officers’ Mess of 147 AD Regiment (Jet Busters) located near Ayyappa Temple, Banaswadi, Bangalore, from 11 am tomorrow, that is Sunday, July 11. Contact Babu C K on 9342816828.

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Yesterday’s world cup matches were simply among the best so far. The Germany-Argentina one was billed the final before the final. If it was disappointing it was only because it didn’t turn out to be as nail-biting a cliffhanger as many thought it would be.

The popular wisdom was Argentina will win. But I have been swimming against the current and as of now I am floating!

The German goal in the opening minutes was a shocker to many, but set my heart aglow. And quite surprisingly for even German supporters there was a goal rush after that. Not that Argentinians didn’t play well, but simply it was not their day. Poor Maradona. And, I didn’t like the hype around Argentina.

I thought Germany played to a plan. Their tackling and passes stood out and they seemed to be more in control of the wayward Jabulani. Perhaps the only moments of concern for the Germans were in the early part of the second half. May be goal difference might have been narrower, but Germany was the clear winner over Argentina.

Spain just managed to end match decisively against Paraguay, who must have been left cursing that brief moment when the ball found the post. And what a goal that was! That match was more evenly poised than the previous one.

More fun to follow.

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Twitter was conceptualised as the web equivalent of SMS.  But in its four years of existence, the microblog has grown way beyond even what its founders imagined. Millions of people use it in some way: to follow breaking news, to keep in touch with friends or to give expression to their emotions and opinions.

When a few Londoners in 2008 decided to leverage the power of online networking to steer social projects, they were breaking new ground. The thought was elementary: if a million people could network online, why can’t a few of them get together offline? And, thus was born the idea of Twestival or twitter festival. (more…)

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A proposal is doing the rounds among the cricket bigwigs on holding more than one IPL in a year. The idea is to take it abroad to places like the US and the Gulf, where there is a huge concentration of Indians.

There is no doubt IPL — the 20 over-a-side, eight-team Indian Premier League Championship — is a roaring success. It has now come to symbolise cricket, eclipsing not just the sedate 5-day Test version but even the shorter 50-over-a-side One-Day Internationals or the ODIs.

Success begets success. It’s also said we shouldn’t sleep over success, but look far ahead to reap more out of success. It all sounds good, ambitious, enterprising and what not!

But the plan overlooks an aspect of IPL that’s so crucial — the players. Did anyone consult them, before publicing the ‘more of IPL’ plan?

It’s players, coaches, managers, umpires and a whole lot of support staff who have made what cricket, or rather IPL, what it’s today. They are all under tremendous pressure to perform round the year. Their body and mind are stretched to the maximum. They have little time for relaxation or for their personal and family lives.

What about all of us who watch cricket and enjoy it. Already I have heard of many people who are sick and tired of their favourite sport and pastime. Strange, is it not, if one has to be fed up of something that he or she likes!

Well, there’s definitely an overkill of cricket. How many matches will one see? Cricket may actually be under threat of losing its entertainment value. Even now, during a T20 match many people, come to see the match only during the last 3 or five overs of each innings.

Cricket is much more than winning. It’s about style as much as strategy. Great innings. Great bowling spells. Great catches. Great stops. Great field placements. We have all enjoyed that as much as the winning shot of our favourite teams.

Let’s not dilute the significance of these fascinating facets of this great game.

IPL once year is more than enough. We would like to look forward to it once every year. Because what happens after a longer wait gives us unrivalled pleasure.

Let us not kill the goose that lays golden eggs.

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It has been quite a Buzz for Google during the past week, ever since they unveiled the new social networking platform on February 9. Some of the features — that Google introduced with the good intent of helping prospective users — backfired forcing it to launch a damage-limiting exercise. After poring over a barrage of criticism accusing Google of not taking care of privacy issues, it is now rolling out a number of changes in the settings.

Google has acknowledged that they “didn’t get everything quite right”. On the Gmail blog, it said, “We’re sorry for the concern we’ve caused and have been working hard to improve things based on your feedback.”

But to begin with, when Buzz was launched on February 9, among the first to hop on were the many who had been weighed down by the “heaviness” of Facebook or the “strangeness” of Twitter. One of them was Karthik Nagesh, a 35-year-old English lecturer, who has been shunning social network sites. “When I logged on to Gmail, I saw this Buzz thing. I just read the introduction, and said ok, and bingo, all the guys I was chatting with were right there on Buzz.”

What sets Buzz apart from sites like Twitter or Facebook is that it’s right inside Gmail, like chat. That Google thought of embedding Buzz within Gmail, is not surprise considering the fact that for most people email is the primary mode of communication and thereby they keep their Gmail open most of the time. And that has helped Buzz get a lot of users like Nagesh who were anyway using Gmail and chat a lot.

But just a few days into the launch, it turns out that most people who signed up were not like Nagesh. Ironically, it’s the feature of “followers”, made popular by Twitter, that has given Google the biggest headache. (Your X number of followers get updates about you, and you get the updates of the Y number of people you follow.)

Buzz was built in such a way that the moment you set it up, you had all the X number of people — you frequently emailed or chatted with — as your “followers” and they in turn were “following” you. Google didn’t give you a choice, with the noble intention of sparing you the bother of finding people to follow. Google assumed that you would be interested in following everyone you frequently emailed or chatted with.

But most people felt outraged at the way Google took a decision on their behalf. Now onwards, Google said there would be no auto-following, but Google will merely suggest people you could follow, what it calls auto-suggest.

The second point that raised a lot of concern is that the names of your followers and people you follow were getting displayed for everyone to see on the public profile. And the option “not to display” was hard to find. Acknowledging the concerns of its users, Google has now made the options more visible. Moreover, all initial users will now get a second chance to review their followers, whether to keep following them or unfollow them.

Another important change Google effected was that users’ public Picasa albums and shared content on Google Reader will no longer be automatically connected to Buzz.
A major complaint was that there was no link to make changes in the settings of Buzz. Google has fixed that now. It has provided a Buzz tab within the Gmail settings. To be fair to people who don’t like Buzz, Google has also provided two alternatives: ‘Do not show Buzz in Gmail’, and ‘Disable Google Buzz completely.’

Evidently, it has been a tumultuous first week for the web giant. Not all issues have been sorted out. Sandhya Rao, a software engineer, who has been “checking out Buzz”, feels it’s still not user-friendly. “Though it’s a good idea to embed Buzz in Gmail and notify the new Buzz arrivals, it’s difficult to locate the new comments. For example, a comment made today to yesterday’s posting will lie way below the subsequent postings. So you need to scroll through old postings and comments to locate the new comment!’

As more people use it, and as Google fine-tunes it, we will know in the coming days if Buzz will become roar to scare others on the field.

(This article appeared on page 18 of The Times of India, Bangalore, today)

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It’s an iPad!

World is getting to know the latest gizmo on offer, the much-hyped Apple tablet, called iPad. Looks impressive, no doubt.

At San Francisco, a couple of hours back Steve Jobs took the covers off the device that he described as ”more intimate than a laptop and it’s so much more capable than a smartphone.” It’s going to be priced from $499, and it will be available in 2 months.

This device falls between a smartphone and laptop, an area yet to be a rage among the public. Looks like Apple is trying to do a one up on Kindle, with lots of hope pinned on the all-in-one touchscreen.

The potential to hit it big in this category is enormous, when wireless is the definite way forward. You can browse, download and play music, videos and games; read and create text and images, and so much more. An upgraded and enlarged iPhone, if one could say so.

But will Apple be able to pull it off?

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It was a hectic pilgrimage to the abode of Lord Ayyappa. This was my 11th, but the first time I was spending such a short time at the hill, 6 hours. Every previous occasion, I spent the evening there and returned only the next day.

I am terribly deprived of sleep. Since Monday 8 am till now (Wed 8 pm), I have slept only for 7 hours in 4 instalments!

We reached Pampa at 2 am today. The crowd was moderate. The climb wasn’t very tiring: the fact that it was night helped.

We reached the foot of the sacred 18 steps at 4.30 am. We had to stand in the queue here (nadapandal) for a little over one hour, which is nothing by Sabarimala standards.

The queue was largely orderly and no one was pushing his way ahead. The odd man who showed some impatience was firmly brought in line by fellow pilgrims or the policemen.

Good crowd management by the police also helped; there were intervening gaps created at regular intervals in the long barricaded queue, so that the pilgrims could be better controlled. The ”police swamis” are extremely courteous and helpful.

We climbed the holy 18 steps around 5.45 am. After the hurried a-few-seconds-long darshan, we checked into Sabari guest house at 6.45 am. We arranged for abhishekam, prasadam; freshened up, had breakfast and went for another round of darshan.

We started back at 10.30 am and were at Pampa by 12.45 pm. Coming down the hill is at times harder than climbing up, and we felt more tired, probably also because of the heat.

The approach road to Sabarimala and facilities there have vastly improved. There are bright reflectors along the road divider, and barricades around the sharp hair-pin bends. Along the path up the hill, there are cardiac centres, supply of free medicated drinking water and free oxygen parlour.

But nothing has made the climb easier. The steep inclined uneven path at many places is paved with sharp stones. And it’s this that makes the pilgrimage unique and challenging.

The hard way is a great leveller too: every pilgrim irrespective of who he is, takes the same path. There are no separate queues for the privileged.

Climbing along with us was a pilgirim on crutches. The sight was as much moving as humbling.

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A year since 26/11

Is India safer today?

The very replacement of home minister Shivraj Patil by P Chidambaram itself brought in a qualitative change in our approach to the problem. Some institutional safeguards have no doubt been put in place.

But at the ground level yawning gaps remain. Squabbling politicians and their misplaced priorities do not give us any sense of security.

It’s the practise of patriotism rather than a show of it that will make India strong.

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There are often occasions when one finds oneself out of sync with the world around. One such for me was when after dinner I reached for my handkerchief while everyone else went for tissues.

My preference for the hanky is out of habit. I never felt a need to go for the tissue.

Of course, tissues are trendy while the hanky looks anachronistic (I don’t mind). It’s not without reason tissues have caught on. For one, they are not just clean but look more handy than the hanky. Two, when dirty, tissues can simply be trashed. Three, they are soft and easy on the skin.

But, mistake not, the good old humble hanky is no less convenient and useful than its new upmarket ‘cousin’. All said, hanky is another piece of cloth that we carry around, is it not? How can it be such a bother that it has to be dumped in favour of the tissue?

A hanky might get soiled at the end of a day. So do a pair of socks and other clothes, don’t they? They are all washed and reused, and why should we find fault with the little hanky?

Some people, especially when they have cold, find it repulsive to keep blowing their nose into their hanky and carry the nasal mucus all around.

Well, I agree, it’s not a pleasant state by any stetch of imagination, but the use of tissue doesn’t dramatically better the siituation either, does it? The soiled tissues would be dumped in the nearest trash bin, but a soiled hanky can be washed and used again. If there’sn’t a rest room facility, in such occasions, it helps to carry two hankies.

Ironically, the trendy tissue culture has run into an equally trendy modern concern — environment conservation. The tissues are made from what are called virgin fibre of trees. Manufacturers don’t use recycled paper because they say it doesn’t give the softness that a tissue supposedly requires. For the same reason, remember, a tissue used once and thrown, can’t be recycled and ends up in a landfill, unlike a cotton hanky that can be reused. Thus, manufacture of tissues does indeed result in loss of trees.

Secondly, strong bleaching agents are used to make tissues whiter and softer. These chemicals aren’t good for health or environment.

Three cheers to my humble hanky. I don’t think my habit is out of sync with what’s trendy and politically correct.

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