First Impressions of Taiwan

Reached Taipei today for presenting my paper on Tactical Networks, in IEEE-VTC 2010 Spring.  After arriving Taoyuan International Airport about 3:30 pm (Local Time), I was took a TowardYou Airbus to reach the place where I would be staying for the next week. This time, inspired by other travelers, instead of checking into a hotel, I thought of staying at a hostel. The airbus took me to Far Eastern Plaza Hotel from where I reached the hostel on foot.

All through my journey in the bus and on foot, I was trying to observe and absorb as much as I can about Taipei. Being popular as a safe city (apparently safer than Seoul), I was looking forward to meet the local people and taste the local food. After quite a few traveling experiences, I have came to believe that, in order to taste authentic local food, street food is the way to go..  Though I spent today for rest and recharge before I go for the conference registration tomorrow, I plan to delve into the vastness of Taipei Night Markets after that.

I must admit that the hostel which I had checked in to, is much better that what I had thought.. Located next to Taipei 101 (The ex-tallest building in the world in terms of occupiable floors, a record recently broken by Burj Khalifa) this hostel is in fact located next to a night market. Though I admit that the facilities are fewer when compared to expensive hotels, I have already found three things which is unique to such places.

  1. Friendly host: If you do your research right, you can choose a hostel with a very helpful host. In my case, thanks to the reviews from hostels.com, I was not disappointed. Vanessa is a very friendly person, who waited for me for about 3 hours (Thanks to the delayed flight). She lives in the building and is incredibly friendly.. First thing what she did was to introduce me to the facilities and was more than willing to help me plan the rest of my trip. And most importantly of all, her English was flawless.
  2. Common room activity: The hostel has a common room where the people who stay here come for meeting others. Today, there were so many university students who had come for an overnight stay as a part of their club. I found that Taiwan stresses on English education and as a result, I found that 100% of them spoke English, something rare in the Asian countries. I also heard from Vanessa that another Indian is going to check in tomorrow. Eager to meet him.
  3. Cheap Washing ‘n Drying: For as low as $1.5, I can wash and dry all my clothes at one go.  This is something I have missed in all the hotels I have stayed, each time I traveled abroad. Most of them charged me $5 upwards for a shirt/trousers.

On my way from the airport, while turning around a corner, I found something like an outdoor fashion show with models wearing “strange” (I fail to appreciate the FTV-type hairdoes!!) hairt syles standing in front of a COACH showroom with lost of people photographing them.  While walking along the streets, I saw a woman (in her late 20s) pushing a buggy. Familiar with the sight in Korea, I looked for the cute baby sleeping comfortably inside. There was a baby alright, but it was a puppy. Resting comfortable on the cushions, there it was.. Small and cute..  Dog Walking.. Taiwan style??

With a growing interest in cars these days, I also observed the trends of car brands.. As expected, Toyota and Nissan were the majority with a speck of VW, Benz and Lexus here and there.. There was even a KIA but not a single Hyundai.. Quite Surprising for someone coming from Korea..  There was also a Samsung Anycall showroom (did not know that they used the anycall brand outside Korea)..  The most striking this about Taipei roads was the cleanliness and the thick lush of green trees separating the lines. Though the traffic density was quite high on the roads, the breeze smelled fresh, probably due to this green magic. There was a really large number of motorcycles on the road (A sight common to India, but quite rare in Korea).  The apartments  crowded the street sides, but were not very tall though. The people were quite kind when I was asking for directions.. On the whole.. The first impression is quite good and I cant wait for delving more deep  into this vibrant city in the coming days..

Tomorrow, I plan to board the Taipei Metro for the first time and go to the most popular attraction in the city: The National Palace Museum (with 677,687 artifacts, it is one of the largest museums in the world). Then I would go to the conference site for registration and welcome reception followed by a visit to the local night markets for a taste of Taipei night life.

Chao..

Kiran

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Yet another year has passed!!

Yet another year has passed..

Some might have realized their dreams while some others might have painfully seen theirs being shattered

Some might have found love while some others might have just lost it

Some might have earned plenty money while some others might have lost a lot

Some might have traveled to new places while some others have sat at home working

But…

All of us have grown older by yet another year,

We have had yet another year mixed with joy and pain

Learning a lot through the experiences we have had over the last year

Forgetting the pains and failures in 2008, hoping that everything will just magically fall into its places in 2009..

At the turn of every new year, we constantly await the best year ever in our lives (a dream which is renewed with a period of one year sharp)

Happy New Year to you ol’ pal.. May you savor nothing but success in the coming days… 🙂

Malayalam: നവവത്സര ആശംസകള്‍ 🙂

Korean: 새해 복 많이 받으세용 … ㅋㅋ

Hindi: नये साल की हार्दिक शुभकामनायें 🙂

Telugu: నూతన సంవత్సర శుభాకాంక్షలు 🙂

Tamil: புத்தாண்டு வாழ்த்துக்கள்

PS: I really have no idea why I had written this post!! 🙂

Why on earth do they do this?

Merry Christmas to you .. 🙂 It has become chilly these days in Seoul.. The winter has come but not with much snow when compared to last year’s…

Went Skiing to the largest ski resort in Korea.. Was pretty much incident-less but for a small muscle sprain on my knee. Nothing serious 🙂 .. Visiting an acupuncture clinic these days..

Spent my christmas with my favorite person.. We met over dinner and a coffee from Starbucks… Was quite fun.. I was given “BVLGARI Pour Homme Travel Trio” as my Christmas gift (For the unawares, BULGARI a.k.a. BVLGARI is an Italian jeweler and luxury goods retailer, founded way back in 1884)..

Anyhoo.. Coming to the post.. While i was coming back from the hospital today, I decided to buy some snacks and fruits. I went to the street seller and asked me to give me the snacks worth $2. I should have actually got 6 of them, but he gave me 7 with a smile.. After that, I went to a fruit store to buy apples. The apples were pretty big and costed $1 per apple. I asked the good lady there to give me apples for $10. She asked her husband to help get the apples and they gave me 11 of them with the 11th one costing not an additional $1 but nothing more than a smile and a thank you..

This is not the fist time I am experiencing such noble actions. While I agree that NOT everyone here in Korea do that, I have met with this kind of generosity very frequently. There is no relation between me and the seller and all that he needed to have given me was what I had paid for.. These instances really make your introspect…

There have also been instances where I was crossing the road and was waiting for the next car to pass me before I cross the road. The car which was coming pretty quick (which is the case with the vehicles here, where the average speed is quite high), saw me wanting to cross (but waiting for him to pass), stopped the car, let me cross and only then continued his journey…

There was also an incident right here, where the restaurant lady gave us an extra portion of food (worth about $4) for free, asking us like our own grand mom, “Eat more my dear children and stay healthy“… She gave away the food for free with a smile..

I am sure that some of my readers would find these actions/this post silly, but I for one really respect such an attitude that and I wish more and more people would be like them…

Good Day…

Best(est) Mobile Phone the World has EVER Seen!

First things first… let’s see what this fuss is all about.. Shall We ??? 🙂 Here you go without much more of a suspense…


By the end of this post.. You will understand why the title is so…

Hmm .. So you are here to know why is Haptic2 the best mobile phone anyone could ever have ?? 🙂 Bought today, the Samsung Haptic2 (A Computer/Mobile Phone/Television/Video and Music Player that fits in your palm) is the best mobile phone(?) ever produced by ANY COMPANY (Yes including Apple’s iPhone, which should be history thanks to Haptic2, and supposed to be a revolution because of which it is used as a benchmark)..

You will ask why ??? Here goes the answer…

Green => This feature is better than (or absent in) iPhone

Red => This feature is better in Apple iPhone

Here comes an incomplete overview of the some of the wonderful features in this “small” package called Haptic2:

Cost: 30% Cheaper than Apple iPhone 8GB Model

Screen: 3.2 Inch (240 x 400 resolution) 262K Color TFT LCD Touchscreen Display. (Touchscreen: Use your hand or use a stylus, choice is up to you, Size: Slightly smaller that of IPhone which stands @ 3.5 inches)

Design: Slim and Sleek Design boasting levels of elegance never seen before (See for yourself with more pictures coming in my next post)

3G Enabled: Yes with HSDPA Support with 7.2 Mbps max. download speed (Refer Wiki for more Details 🙂 .. )

Wireless: Bluetooth 2.0, No WiFi (but supports internet via 3G.. I have been using it and its pretty good as well)

Camera: 5 Mega Pixel Auto-focus Camera with Flash and Image Stabilization

Memory: 4GB internal Memory in SCH-W550 and 16GB Flash memory in SCH-W555 model (Expandable by a maximum of 8 GB by a Micro SDHC Card by spending about another $25)

Mobile Telivision: T-DMB with TV recording (For the uninformed – This enables us to watch and record the regular TV channels on the phone)

Radio: FM Radio, DAB with recording (I fail to understand why Apple doesnt include such a trivial feature as FM, in their products)

Music: MP3 playback

Recording: Voice, Video and TV Recording

Video Support: Support for all major kinds of video formats.

Input Specialities: Handwriting Recognition for SMS, MMS and Dictionary

Widget Support for customizable desktop about 50 widget applications supported (Can be seen in the video in my next post)

G Sensor (Gravity Sensor) – Senses the orientation of the phone. This feature is pretty useful, for example you want to browse through a list of pictures, instead of dragging, just ttil the phone in the desired direction and the pics will automatically scroll. Suppose you want to play a game of dice, Just shake the mobile phone, the dice get randomized (See examples in the videos below). The g-response is much better than iPhone (I have used both and tested them for this feature)

Personalized Vibration : Touch feedback makes the mobile phone user experience more sensory, intuitive, useful, and fun. With this feature, users feel exhilarating force feedback in mobile games, similar to that found in console games, unmistakable confirmation in response to touchscreen, keypad, and button presses, as well as unique caller IDs with distinct vibrations that reveal who is calling even when the sound is turned off.

From its “My own haptic” menu, Haptic 2 allows users to create personalized haptic effects through a graphical user interface based on the conventions of Immersion’s VibeTonz Studio authoring tool for developers. Users can touch and drag icons representing wave shape, duration, and intensity to create distinctive vibrational patterns. These creations allow them to personalize their phones with unique haptic experiences, such as assigning them as non-audible ring tones that signal incoming calls. (Quoted from: http://news.softpedia.com/news/Samsung-Haptic-2-Is-the-First-Phone-to-Use-VibeTonz-System-96336.shtml)

On-Demand Speak Out Translation: The mobile can speak for you when you go to other countries. Select the conversation you want to be translated from a huge list of possibilities, then select the target language and press a button.. The phone speaks for you .. It cant decode the reply yet.. Probably a firmware upgrade would fix that as well ..

Others: GSM/CDMA/3G (with USIM) equipped, Video Call, Multi-touch Touch Screen, Dictionary, 125g weight, VOD, MOD, Subway Map search (Really useful, finds out who to go between two points, where to transfer, shortest door to transfer, time taken for journey, cost … ), Mobile Banking, Mobile Printing, 3.5mm Headset Jack (Now on.. You can use your fav headset with this phone and not depend on the ridiculously expensive and flimsy ones that should be bought from the same company)

Now you know why .. I have tried to be as fair as possible in listing the features.. If you think any of the wonderful features of iPhone has not been included, then thats because I did not know it. Write it as a comment and I will include it appropriately…

I will post some pictures and videos with UI in the next post so that you could see Haptic2 in action .. 🙂

Signing off as the happiest man on earth … 🙂

Kiran

Acquiring a Korean Driver’s License

The day before yesterday I received my Korean Driver’s License Class Two. It means that I can drive cars and bikes and almost any vehicle except those the bus and truck types..

This post is meant to be a guideline for an Indian in Korea who wants to get a Drivers License. Since India has an agreement with Korea, the whole process of getting a Korean Drivers License (valid for 10 years) is really simple and would take not more than 3-4 hours including the transportation involved..

  1. Preparation: You would need to take your Passport, Alien Registration Card, Original Indian Drivers License and three Passport Size Photographs.
  2. Take two photostat copies of the Indian license and one each of your passport (first and last pages) and your alien registration card.
  3. Go to Indian Embassy, Seoul located in Hannam. This station is Located in Line 1 just above the Han river (positioned near the central region of the subway map)
    • Better plan this visit so that you reach the embassy any weekday before 12:30 pm.
    • Exit from Hannam Station, take a taxi and ask them to take you to Indian Embassy (인도 대서관, Indo Dae Seo Kwan in Korean).
  4. After getting a from from the embassy, Submit KRW 16,000 to the account specified, at the Korea Exchange Bank located down the road.
  5. Get one copy of your license attested from the Embassy.
  6. Go to the nearest Drivers License Agency (운전면허시험장, Un Cheon Myeong Heo Si Heom Chang in Korean)
    • If you are a SNU student, the nearest one is at a walking distance from Samseong Station, Exit 1.
    • If you are not, here is a complete list of locations in Seoul.
      Gangnam Driver’s Licence Test Site Subway Line 2. Samseong Station(Exit. 1)
      Seobu (west) Driver’s Licence Test Site Subway Line 2. Hongik Univ. Station(Exit. 2)
      – Green Bus 7016
      Gangso Driver’s Licence Test Site Subway Line 5. Songjeong Station(Exit. 4)
      – Green Bus 6647
      Dobong Driver’s Licence Test Site Subway Line 4. Nowon Station(Exit. 9)
  7. If you are going to the Driver License office in Gangnam, go to the second floor of the office and submit and application.
  8. You need to get an application filled from there and then go down to test your Eye (takes about 60 seconds literally) and then get a seal stamped on your application. You have to pay KRW 11, 000 (6, 000 for the license and 5,000 for the Eye test)  in this process.
  9. Go back to the second floor, submit the test reports, wait for 10 minutes.
  10. Voila!! You’ve got your new license with 10 years validity.

Note: You have to surrender your Indian License when you get your Korean License. But you can get it back when you go to India the next time by showing your Air Ticket, Passport and the Korean License (which need NOT be surrendered) . From that time forth you can have both the licenses with you.

For more details :
http://www.dla.go.kr/english/index.jsp
http://english.seoul.go.kr/residents/transport/trans_07driv_01.html

Enjoy driving in Korea!!!

Obeying the Rules ??

A picture is worth a thousand words. I was just browsing through my photographs yesterday, when I came across the one shown below. It was taken near Seon Yu Do Park, Han Riverside, Seoul. You can know why it is a little interesting, if you observe that in spite of the traffic pattern, which is really heavy with  line sof cars going as back as your eyes can see, on each of the lanes, there still is another lane to the leftmost side which is absolutely emtpy. Obviously intrigued, I asked my friend why it was so. His reply was that, the l eftmost lane was for emergency purposes only. It is meant for granting fast access to police and ambulances when there is an emergency situation and hence people leave it empty even if it means that they have to wait for a lot more time driving in the busy lanes. Moreover, this scene was not  a rare one around here it seems. HIs words literally took me off guard and caught me thinking..

If you know what I mean, I hope you would be impressed as well. If you have no idea of what i am talking about, then i guess you are better off not knowing it.

Adieu,

Kiran

Google and Our Daily Life

Update (16th July 2008 ): The Answer to Life the Universe and Everything (Thanks Wooster)

Technology had definitely redefined our lives. And in my personal opinion (no I am not an employee of Google), Google is one of the best things that could happen to you. From aiding you with lightning fast search, Google also lets you browse through the skies (Google Earth’s Sky Feature), get a birds eye view of any part of the globe right from your home (Google earth). There is a plethora of useful inventions from Google and you can find a comprehensive list over here.

This post is to list some of the features of our dear ol’ Google Search that you might or might not know. Just click on the links below to see the results. No explanations needed. 🙂 The words following the colon are the search terms in google search. You can replace them with your choices.

Hope this post helps you make your life a li’l bit easier 🙂

Adios,

Kiran


(References : http://www.google.com/help/features.html, http://iisc.wordpress.com/2008/06/22/googling/)