Windows 8 enable autorun (for real)

I recently had an awful time configuring my system to auto-run files from a USB drive. Problem was, no matter how many settings I changed, my executable just wouldn’t auto launch off my USB drive upon connecting the drive to my PC.

I tried the usual ‘AutoPlay’ settings from the control panel and checked the “Use AutoPlay for all media and devices” –

Use AutoPlay

The above didn’t work and I still kept getting the ‘What action would you like to take’ popup. I also tried changing the “Software and games” section to “Install or run program from your media” –


The above didn’t work either. This was both frustrating and confusing. Here I was using the control panel and selecting the right options but nothing seemed to work. I started scouring through some forums and realised that a lot of other people were facing issues with Windows 8 auto-runs as well. As a side note, I noticed that Windows 7 and below had absolutely no problem running an executable off a USB drive via auto-run. I was starting to believe this was some sort of ploy by Microsoft to secure Windows and prevent infections / malware that targeted auto-run.

After some more digging, I came across this article –

just for kicks, I fired up the Group Policy Editor (gpedit.msc) and changed “Turn off Autoplay” under “Autoplay Policies” to disabled. Voila! It worked!

Then I noticed on my friends computer he did not have gpedit.msc as he was using the Home Premium edition of Windows 8. For operating systems that do not include Gpedit.msc and for an optional resolution, you can directly check and change the NoDriveTypeAutoRun entry value in the following registry key other than 0xFF.



The Kick: Trying this on another friends PC, I noticed the control panel steps mentioned above worked! No registry editing required. The only difference between the two PCs? He ran Windows 8 while I ran Windows 8.1. I have concluded that this is some sort of bug or a step taken on purpose to keep auto-run disabled by default by Microsoft. If it is that, I think its a bit unfair to assume that nobody will want to auto launch files from their drives upon connection. I tested on another Windows 8 machine and it worked fine on that one too. Windows 8.1 is where this problem lies!


Turn off notifications for specific apps on Android

Android Kitkat

Android Kitkat

Android allows you to turn off notifications for specific apps. However, the way to do this is not very obvious. I have an account on Flickr, however, did not want to continuously receive notifications on photos I commented on!

To turn off notifications, goto –

Settings -> Apps -> Select App -> Uncheck Show Notifications

Its a bit cumbersome but gets the job done. I’m not sure if this affects battery life in any way but if you aren’t being notified all the time, I’m guessing it saves you battery.

The tablet dilemma – Google Nexus 7 vs the new iPad / iPad Mini

I first got into the world of tablets with the original Apple iPad. I remember using the BBC News App on an iPad on display and I said to myself this is how I want to read my news. On a beautiful screen in a tablet form factor. It seemed perfect to me.

At the time it seemed like a luxury and impulse buy because everyone said I had wasted a lot of money and it was basically just an oversized iPod touch. There were many parodies on Youtube even a Hitler spin off and basically everyone was making fun of the name iPad. Ultimately things caught on, and everyone realized what a ‘magical’ device this really was. Apple had a huge lead over their competitors. At the time I picked my 32gb iPad in Japan, no such device existed. It was like there was a new market no one was wary of except Apple.

Fast forward to today and the entire mobile industry has changed (for the better). You now have a major competitor to the Apple iPad and iOS in the form of Android and Nexus 7. Yes, there were other tablets by manufacturers like Samsung, Asus, Toshiba, Acer etc. But none of them come close to the polish exhibited by the Nexus 7. I used a Nexus 7 for 2 weeks and presently own an iPad 3. To be honest, if money and my wife were not a concern, I would simply buy both and call it a day.

Nexus 7 @ $199 for 16gb – My first impression about this device when I unboxed it was that it was surprisingly well built for a device at this price point. Don’t get me wrong. Its not the iPad level of fit and finish, but at a price point of $199 (starting today 29th Oct, the 16gb is selling for $199) its as good as it gets. Through careful design, they’ve actually managed to give the plastic cover at the back of the device a nice rubbery feel, almost leather like. This immediately gives a good impression. Then the screen, an IPS 7 inch display which is not only gorgeous, but also has an extremely high resolution display at 1280 X 800. Before you throw curse words, note that this is a 7inch panel which gives it an effective resolution of 216 PPI (pixels per inch). What this means is you get an extremely sharp display with excellent viewing angles with almost indistinguishable pixels. If I hadn’t been spoiled by the retina display of the 3rd Gen iPad, I would say it was one of the best panels I had come across. Asus has really done an excellent job manufacturing such a beautiful tablet at such a low price point. When we look at the ports, we have a micro usb charge port that can also be used as a data transfer port. Rooting and bootloader unlocking on the Nexus is ridiculously easy, which means you can easily add more storage using a simple USB OTG cable that costs $2 from Ebay. There’s a standard headphone jack but sadly no micro HDMI or a micro SD expansion slot. As of this writing, the 32gb was not available but Google has priced it at $249 which is still an awesome price point. The tablet does not have a back camera. Its something that I am not particularly fond of I think its ridiculous using a tablet to click photos. However, it maybe a deal breaker for some. The front facing camera does a decent job for video chatting in Google Video Chat and Skype. I did notice that video chatting using Facetime on the iPad was noticeably better, smoother and overall a much better experience. This is a software related issue though if video chatting is one of the primary reasons you are purchasing a tablet, then you maybe better off with an iPad. Coming to the OS, the Nexus 7 comes with Jelly Bean. The difference in performance between Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean is astonishing. Project Butter has really come into its own and has given Android that boost it was sorely lacking. Another excellent feature is Google Now. It monitors your search history and user data and gives you options in realtime. As an example, a friend of mine was to travel to Massachusetts via air and I had searched his flight details a week earlier. On the day he was supposed to arrive, Google Now very intelligently stacked up cards showing details of his flight and the fact that his flight was delayed by 30 mins. It even showed details like the terminal his flight was arriving at in Boston Logan Airport along with traffic and weather. I was impressed! It actually took me a while to figure out how Google Now had managed to get this information. Spooky!

The Google Play store is nowhere as polished as the Apple store but the ecosystem gap is narrowing by the day. Already all the major news apps, social apps and others like Flipboard etc. are available on both platforms. The ecosystem advantage that Apple enjoys at the moment will soon disappear. Overall, I was really happy with the Nexus. The only reason why I returned mine was because I received a faulty unit the lower bottom portion of the screen was squeaking. It wasn’t a dealbreaker but even $199 dollars is hard earned money and I will not settle for anything less. Another reason was that the 7inch form factor wasn’t large enough to read magazines and technical PDF’s on. However, this was more a personal reason and anyone who opts for a 7inch tablet knows this well before jumping in.

iPad 3rd Generation 16gb @499 – The biggest problem of the iPad after the initial solo limelight it enjoyed in the yesteryears is the price. I feel that the time that it was an exclusive one of a kind device is over and the premium is not justified. I am not asking for a 199 pricepoint but I really think Apple needs to rethink its pricing policy. I agree that the quality and workmanship of an Apple device is pretty much the best out there, but Apple makes huge profit margins over the iPad and it can easily afford to drop prices. I also agree that their ecosystem is still the best with the largest number of tablet optimized apps. However, the lead it has been enjoying is getting narrower by the day and it is soon going to have some serious competition (read the Nexus 10 which was launched today. It has a much higher resolution of 300 PPI vs the iPad’s 264). So what made me return the Nexus 7 and pick up the 3rd gen iPad? The screen. The lovely screen. It just spoils you. I click photos as a hobby and boy do your high res photos pop on the screen. Its such a fantastic experience. The text on web pages looks crisp and no jaggies even if you zoom and try hard to look for them. Then there are the apps. Tablet optimized apps for the Apple iPad simply blow others out of the water. One that I was particularly impressed by is iTunes U which is, obviously, exclusive to the iPad. It’s a collection of all online courses offered by universities like Stanford, MIT, Harvard among other top names. It just shows how useful and versatile the iPad can really be. Even the battery life just seems to squeeze out that much more and you seem to charge it that much more often. With Android, you may get a decent battery life but its easy to install an app that starts eating up battery, With iOS I’ve noticed its much less likely to happen. The OS does a great job of background and battery intensive tasks.

So what has raised the question in my mind again? If I am so happy with my 3rd Gen iPad, what went wrong? A couple of things. I love the open nature of Android. I hate iTunes. I hate how it ties you down to all its rules, 5 device activations etc. Ever tried watching a movie on your iPad? You’d have to convert it to a suitable format, fire up iTunes and then copy it over. If you don’t have a device with iTunes around – forget it. With Android, you drag drop boom you can watch your movie any format anytime. All you need is your USB cable. Same goes with music and movies. Then there was the Apple announcement recently. They basically screwed over all Apple early adopters by refreshing the iPad’s processor, connector, wifi. They launch a new model in just 7 months. I still get it. Price to pay to be an early adopter. Then they simply discontinue the iPad 3. What the @#$%? I paid 500 bucks for something that is no longer even available in the Apple store anymore. This pissed me off and a lot of other early adopters. Apple is already selling the iPad 3 for $379 refurb. Something tells me these arent refurbs, but just Apples way of clearing out old stock. Then there was a price drop on the Nexus. The 16gb gets dropped by 50 dollars and a new 32gb is launched for $250! This is an amazing pricepoint for a device of the Nexus 7’s caliber. All of a sudden it made me regret returning it in the first place. I haven’t gotten into the other advantages of the Nexus such as Tegra optimized apps and the fact that you can use an external controller for running games. This advantage is huge IMO and something Apple should seriously consider. There are other issues I must talk about. WTF was Apple thinking when they launched Maps. Google is the king when it comes to maps. I know it. Apple knows it. Google knows it. These tablet wars are hitting consumers in the end. Then they get rid of the Youtube app. Jeez. I am still on iOS 5.1.1 for this very reason. There are alternatives like Jasmine but isn’t app compatibility and advantage what you’re paying the price premium for in the first place?

iPad Mini16gb @329 – I don’t own this device, its not even available yet. So its unfair to say stuff about something that hasn’t been fully used by anyone. All I can say (from Apple’s event) is that the Mini seems like a shrunken down version of the iPad 2. Same processor, same resolution. I was disappointed it did not have a retina display. Something tells me that Apple will launch a new version of the Mini 4-5 months from now. It will burn early adopters. Again. As Gizmodo said –

“… you [Apple’s[ 7.9 inch tablet has far fewer pixels that competing 7 inch tablets! You’re cramming a worse screen in there, charging more, and accusing others of compromise? Ballsy.”

What I really didn’t like was Apple’s distasteful way of comparing the Nexus 7 and the iPad Mini at their event. Why didn’t Apple talk about price? Why didn’t they talk about pixel density? It wasn’t like Apple to throw bricks on another competitor just to look superior. It just wasn’t Apple.

One thing is for sure. Apple feels threatened. The early mover advantage it had is over. For now, the tablet dilemma continues. Even though I own the 3rd gen iPad (the so called best tablet), I no longer feel like I’ve got my money’s worth.

Force your Google Nexus 7 to receive an OTA update

I bought a Google Nexus 7 tablet recently and it is fantastic. Since it is a ‘Nexus’ branded tablet, it also means that it receives regular updates much earlier than other tablets. However, I noticed that everytime Google released an OTA (over the air) udpate, I would not get the update immediately.

Recently, it was all over the internet that Google had released version 4.1.2 of their Jelly Bean operating system. However, my tablet was still at version 4.1.1. I tried the usual trick, going to Settings -> About -> System Updates -> Check Now but it kept saying my tablet was the latest version. This was obviously not the case. After searching around I finally found the solution to get a firmware update at the same time as others –

1. Goto Settings -> Applications

2. Select the “All” tab on top of the screen

3. Find ‘Google Framework Services’. Select it.

4. Click the ‘Force Stop’ button. Don’t worry, it wont cause any problems (atleast mine didn’t :P)

5. Click ‘Clear Data’

6. Go back to Settings-> System Updates -> Check Now. You should see the date in the 1960’s. Ignore this for now. 

7. You should see the update once you click Check All!

If the above does not work try repeating Steps 3-6 a few times. Some people have reported success after trying the above steps a few times. Don’t give up! Enjoy your spanking new version of Jelly Bean 😉

Display profile picture in Google search by adding Author Code to your blog – the easy way!

The process for getting your links to show up in Google search with your profile picture at the side as shown below is not an easy –

After multiple tries using different types of methods I finally found a simple and straighforward way to do this. It works great for WordPress blogs and theoretically should work the same way for Blogger as well.

  • Visit this badge generation link. Visit your Google+ profile page to get your Google+ Profile ID.
  • Select the “Icon” option button for the Type setting.
  • Once you have your Google badge code, right-click and copy it as shown below –

  • Under your WordPress dashboard, goto Appearance->Widgets. Add a text widget to your sidebar by dragging it onto the sidebar as shown below –

  • Add the Badge Author Code you had copied earlier and paste it into the Text Wwidget as shown below –

  • Click Save.

You’re all set! Give it a day or so let the Google Spiders crawl your website / blog for the changes. Once you are verified as the author of the blog, a link to your profile and your profile picture will begin appearing in Google Search results. It will make your blog posts look more professional! Note: Google likes high resolution profile pictures that are evenly sized. Make sure your profile picture set in Google+ is a decent image which has a resolution of atleast 250×250 pixels.

You can also use the official Google Rich Snippet Testing Tool to ensure your changes above are working.

Save brightness setting on reboot in Debian Squeeze / Wheezy

I recently installed Debian Wheezy (testing version of Debian 6) on my laptop. Most of the things went smoothly except for a few minor quirks. I eventually switched to XFCE desktop because I wasn’t too big a fan of the new Unity Gnome look.

XFCE was great for speed and it got everything I needed done really well. There was, however, one very annoying issue. Everytime I set my laptop brightness it was lost after a reboot. After reading up online and scouring forums, I finally found the location where the brightness setting is saved.



There were multiple entries under this directory and changing one of them wasn’t enough for my case. Your case maybe different. To try out a setting before making it permanent, try the following command (as root)

echo 5 > /sys/class/backlight/acpi_video0/brightness

If the above command brings a change in your screen brightness, then you are on the right track. To save the brightness across reboots, we make a change to our /etc/rc.local file using the following commands as root –

cd /etc

gedit rc.local

Just above "exit" statement in the file, add the following lines –

echo 950 > /sys/class/backlight/intel_backlight/brightness

echo 5 > /sys/class/backlight/acpi_video0/brightness

echo 5 > /sys/class/backlight/acpi_video1/brightness

I added the above three lines as I had the entries acpi_video0, acpi_video1, and intel_backlight under my /sys/class/backlight folder. If you have different entries, then make appropriate substitutions above.

That’s it! Save the file and reboot. You should now have your brightness to the same level as you had left if before you rebooted.


Enabling the status bar / line number indicator for Notepad in Windows

Notepad is one of the most commonly used application in Windows. Recently I was doing some code reviews and since Notepad wasn’t showing me line numbers, I had to load up another bulky editor which was a real pain.

In order to enable line number indication and to enable the status bar in Notepad, we need to do some simple registry editing –

1. Start the registry editor (Start > Run, type regedit.exe and press enter)

2. Goto the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Notepad section

3. For the “StatusBar” key, change the REG_DWORD value to 1 (Double click, type “1”, Click OK)

Close the registry editor, and your Notepad should now be able to display the status bar along with the line/column count. Pretty cool.

Notepad - Status-bar enabled

If editing the registry seems like a scary proposition to you, click here to download a registry script. Run it by double clicking.

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Cameras and sensor sizes

I bought a 5D Mark II recently. While I love this camera (not just for its sentimental value), there are times when I wish I had something a little less bulkier to lug around. The image quality of a full frame sensor cannot be beat. I love the bokeh a FF sensor produces because of increased sensor size and shallower depth of field. Its the primary reason why I have such an expensive camera. It’s image quality is second to none. Well, we have medium format cameras but lets keep this discussion to the more “commonly” used formats.

In this article I wanted to talk about sensor sizes available today and how they affect image quality, bokeh etc. In the days of film we had 35mm sensors. Focal length was simple. 50mm meant 50mm (50mm is considered the nearest focal length to normal human vision). Then we went digital and we started having different sensor sizes for different types of cameras. The different categories (based on sensor sizes) are –

  1. Crop Cameras also known as APS-C (Crop factor 1.6x). Canon follows this and Nikon calls it their “DX” range.
  2. Micro 4/3rd format (Crop factor of 2x)
  3. Full frame (No crop factor. Same as 35mm). Nikon calls it their “FX” range
  4. Canon’s 1DX series like the 1DMarkIII (Crop factor 1.3x)
  5. Newer entrants like Nikon V1, J1 etc (Crop factor 2.7x)

So what do all these crop factors and sensor sizes mean? It means that a focal length will give a different field of view for each of these sensor sizes. 50mm on a Full Frame format camera such as the 5D Mark II or the Nikon D700 is roughly equivalent to 35mm on a crop sensor camera such as the Canon 7D or the Nikon D7000. Here is the same example with some calculations to make it easier


50mm, the magic focal length (multiply by crop factors)

Full Frame Camera = 50mm (50mm X 1 = 50mm)

Crop (APS-C / DX) = 35mm (35mm X 1.6 = 50mm)

Micro 4/3 = 25mm (25mm X 2 = 50mm)

and so on…

So how does all this numerical funk affect the end user? Should you be worrying about the sensor size? Before answering this, read the following information about the relation between sensor size and image quality –


Sensor Size is directly proportional to Image Quality

Although there are other factors involved, to keep things simple lets just go with the above statement. The reason behind this is straight. A larger sensor obviously means more light absorption. This in turn means better resolution and more information capture. If I have a larger bucket it is bound to hold more water. Another factor that inadvertently affects image noise in megapixels (resolution). If two sensors of the same size are rated at different megapixel values, the sensor with more megapixels will generate more noise. Advances in technology such as gapless microlenses defy this rule but it still is largely true. This rule is the reason why you should never opt for a higher resolution if you do not plan on using it.


More megapixels do not mean better pictures

Only go for higher megapixels if you want to heavily crop your image or if you want to print poster size prints. I can shoot better pictures with my old 6 megapixel Pentax K110D DSLR than most people with 15 megapixel digicams. 

Here is where the myth of megapixels becomes clear. It is a common notion that the higher the MP value of a camera, the better the “resolution” of the camera. The true resolution or resolving power of a camera is largely dependent not the lens that is used, not on how many pixels are crammed onto the sensor. The MP value of a camera is largely a marketing gimmick and is sadly still prevalent even today.


How to decide between Crop / Full Frame etc?

So just how does one decide what type of DSLR / Camera is suited for their need? There are many factors – money, type of photos, effect desired, end usage etc. From a financial point, Full Frame cameras are most expensive (as they are more expensive to manufacture). Full Frame cameras are best suited for portraits and landscape type of photography where depth of field and image quality are the deciding factors. APS-C or crop cameras are more suited for sports, birds etc. because of their 1.6 crop factor. A 250mm lens on a crop body will give an equivalent focal length of 400mm! The larger the focal length, the more expensive it is to manufacture a lens. This crop factor is very handy for sports, wildlife etc.



According to me, portability is one of the factors that influence the type of camera a person uses. What good is a $2000 camera which clicks images of the highest quality if it sits at home collecting dust? I know a lot of people who get onto the DSLR bandwagon as prices have dropped recently but do not end up making much use of their cameras.The number one excuse is that the DSLR is too bulky to carry around. Another excuse is its too complicated. By the time I have my settings ready, I’ve lost the image. Technological advances are begining to solve this problem though and we have the Micro 4/3rd format. The main idea behind the technology was getting the size of the camera down by (i) Getting rid of the mirror assembly (this is why they’re also called mirrorless cameras) and (ii) using a slightly smaller sensor than an APS-C DSLR. While the quality may not be as good as a regular DSLR, it is a whole lot better than most digicams which have tiny sensors.


If you’ve read this far, I hope this article gave you an idea about what sensor sizes mean and how they affect the ultimate images. All these technical details mean nothing if you aren’t out there shooting that image!

Google search is now instant search

nav_logo16 Google have just launched Google instant. So what is Google instant?

This morning when I launched Google (who doesn’t?), I noticed that links loaded as I typed my search query. This seemed really cool and just as I was about to say “What the…”, a small banner popped up below that said Google had launched Google instant and that it would be launched in the remaining parts of the world soon ( I am in Japan as of now )

Google say that it is going to revolutionize the way we search for information. I don’t know about revolutionize, but it is nifty as hell.

Google instant is basically predictive search. Google algorithms predict what you are about to type by matching commonly typed keywords and the search links start loading as you type. Not only is this faster and unique, it also gives you a peek into what sort of links are going to be returned by Google when you search for a particular phrase. This means you can avoid making mistakes since you see the links as you type. As I type “Apple iPod”, I see that I get links to generalized iPod articles but if I add “2010” , I immediately start seeing links to the new lineup of Apple’s iPods.

I am not sure right now how much time it will save you, but I can already see myself getting better at typing the right kind of search phrases. How useful this new feature is for the rest of the world, only time will tell.

Here’s a short video on Google instant –


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Searching for updates in realtime

realtime_logo_lg Google has a realtime search service that not many users are aware of –

It is a service that lets you see realtime social updates, news, blog posts and other information while its hot.

For example, if you search for “apple ipod touch 2010” you will get Facebook updates, twitter updates, blog posts, news articles and all sorts of realtime information. It even shows a nifty bar graph by which you can determine at what point of time the buzz around what you are searching for was at its peak.

Here’s a video on how to use Google realtime –


You can customize the information updates via options like “Update with images”, “Customize location” etc. by using the navi-bar on the left. Its a great way to get up to date information for just about anything out there. Do give it a try.