Rohit's nukkad

Sunday, June 24, 2007

AT&T becomes Cingular or Cingular becomes AT&T

In this ever changing world of business, mergers, takeover are everyday stories. But Cingular and AT&T(American Telephone and Telegraph company) fiasco is one story you won't want to miss out.
Those not familiar with Cingular, it is one of US major cellphone service provider company along with Verizon, T-Mobile etc while AT&T is a telecom giant. In 2004, Cingular acquired AT&T mobile services for $41 billion. To announce the major purchase there were series of advertisements explaining how Cingular is now the largest wireless network in the US. However in late 2006, it was announced that AT&T is taking over Cingular and changing all Cingular customers to AT&T, with ads having a tag line as "Cingular now the new AT&T". So isn't it a little weird that a company (AT&T in this case) whose wireless division becomes part of a big cellphone company and just two years down the line the cellphone company gets accuired by the same company.
Well to know more about this acquisition we need some history lessons. In 1984 the US justice department forced AT&T to split into different regional companies since till then it had a monopoly over the telecom industry. Hence AT&T was broken into several regional bells or "Baby Bells", while AT&T took care of the international calling services. The original Baby bells were
  • Ameritech
  • Bell Atlantic (changed later to Verizon),
  • BellSouth,
  • NYNEW,
  • Pacific Telesis,
  • Southwestern Bell
  • US West.
Among the Baby bells, Southestern Bell, based in San Antonio, Texas acquired Pacific Telesis, Ameritech and couple of other regional companies in the late nineties and in 2002 changed its name to SBC, mind you this is not an acronym for Southwestern Bell Corp. it doesn't stand for anything.
In 2000 Southwestern Bell(SBC) combined its cellular services with BellSouth (another Baby bell) to form a company Cingular with SBC having 60% hold in this new company. Then in 2004 Cingular purchases the wireless division of AT&T which was started in 2000 for $41 billion. However AT&T wanted to keep the brand name hence Cingular has to change all the new and existing customers of AT&T cellphone service to Cingular. Then in 2005, SBC purchases it former parent AT&T for $16 billion. So now SBC which has a major share in Cingular which, purchased AT&T wireless division and now has also purchased AT&T. After the merger was approved SBC again rebrands to AT&T.
But wait AT&T had the AT&T wireless brand name so now SBC and BellSouth decide to market the AT&T as the cellphone service rather than Cingular (making sense) in some markets.
Then to add to this fiasco, in 2006 new AT&T ( former SBC) announces the purchase of BellSouth for $67 billion, so now it has total control of the Cingular brand name and decides to phase out the Cingular brand completely and change it to AT&T.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Zen V Plus - review

I recently purchased Zen V plus (2GB)- mp3 player. The following is my review about the player.
  • Size - the image on the left is the actual size of this player. It is smaller than ones palm size, though a little thick about an inch.
  • Great battery life - the player uses lithium-ion rechargeable battery with charging time about 6 hours (though it gets done much faster in 5 hours or so) and one full charge lasts for 15-20 hours depending upon use.
  • the joy stick (center button) is the main button with five way navigation movement, though it looks small and uncomfortable to some people I found it very convenient and easy to use
  • The Zen V plus comes along with features like playing videos and radio (though they are not available with Zen V player). It has preset 32 FM channels for radio
  • It is one of the cheapest mp3 player available for the features and the quality
On the flip side of the player
  • Creative brand is not as popular as Apply Ipod hence not a lot of accessories are available. Though one can get couple of them from the creative store things like armband or car charger are not easily available in store. Ebay is a good resource for getting these accessories.
  • Online reviews like CNET and other places give it a high editor and user ratings to the player, however forums have people complaining with the player running into problems like dead pixel, to the player getting stuck and most common being the player just stops working soon after one year warranty. I guess in my case I will have to wait and watch for the warranty issue.
  • Though the player has a factory set time and date - changing it might be difficult (user manual gives no information about this). I found out by playing around with the player. I would recommend couple of things to do so that the player runs smoothly and help you change date/time.
      • Get the latest firmware for the player ( this takes care of minor issues and bugs like the player getting stuck) from the creative website
      • To change date/time
        • navigate to Extras - Date & Time from the main menu
        • hold the back button for couple of seconds and menu should pop up giving the flexibility to change date and time, set alarm etc

  • The video quality is not too great probably due to two reasons, one the screen is OLED based display which gives better battery life in the bargain of loosing the picture quality and second the screen size is 1.5 inches so whatever the video is it won't look all that great because it is simply too small.
  • Organizing music might be a hassle. I guess this goes for other players too having to download particular software for transferring files on the device (like V plus has Creative Media Explorer) , arranging the files in particular folders etc (isn't the DRM issue all about this). If you just want to dump files on the player without any particular folders then V plus works just fine.
To conclude, if you are looking for a budget small capacity mp3 player you might want to give Zen V plus a thought

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Basics of Indian Classical music

Couple of days back I had the opportunity to explore a wonderful music software - Swarshala.
The software is complete tool for learning Indian classical music, it not only gives theoretical knowledge about learning various raagas and taal, but provides means to practice it too. One of the best and probably the most widely used feature of the software is creating your own music piece by using the various instruments provided in the software database. Though I am novice to music, my idea of exploring the software was to get some basic information about Indian classical music. Let me share some of my learning.
First and foremost Indian classical music is one of the most complex and complete music system ever developed. It consists of basic notes - Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ne Sa which is similar to Western classical music notes - Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Si Do.
There are two streams of Indian classical music
1. Hindustani music -North Indian music
2. Carnatic music - South Indian music also known as Karnataka Sangeet
Both are similar in a lot of ways they use one raaga and one tala in one song. Usually not always songs are preceeded by improvised prelude called alap. But Carnatic music lays more emphasis on vocals, raagas are much faster and shorter in tempo as compared to Hindustani music. On the other hand Hindustani music is more influenced by Persian music with instruments like tabla, sitar, sarod, basuri, shenai more prominently use. In Hindustani music the tabla provides the rhythm while the tanpura is played with a steady tone throughout the performance of a raaga.In Carnatic music veena (similar to sitar), mridangam (similar to tabla), kanjira and violin are the commonly used instruments.
Raaga in Indian classical music is the equivalent to what Western music would call a scale or mode. However, in ragas, the actual tonal distance between the notes may be completely different than "Do, Re, Mi". Taal which means "clap", is a rhythmical pattern which determines the rhythmical structure of a composition. It is similar to metre in Western music.

Useful resources for Indian classical music:
  • Musical Nirvana is a great website giving complete information about Indian classical music.
  • Music india online, a music website has a great collection for Indian classical music.
  • Sunil Mukhi, a physicist at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and an Indian classical music lover gives some wonderful information about Indian classical music and good list of commercial and non-commercial websites.