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Synchronized | Calendar | Outlook <-> Google <-> Mobile

Synchronized!

Synchronized!

For a long time I was using Outlook to track my meetings and tasks using the default calendar.  Then I started using the Google calendar as well, mostly to track personal items. And then some birthdays and reminders on my mobile. While all this worked, there were obvious limitations:

  1. I couldn’t access all my calendar items at one place.
  2. The only thing I always had access to was my Mobile.

So the goal was to at least have everything on my Mobile, irrespective of where they were created. Of course the wish was to have all three synchronized.

The task was 10 times easier than it sounds. The fact that the Outlook and the Mobile calendar were localized to the devices (the laptop and the mobile), I just needed a hinge to link the two.  And as always, Google came to the rescue.

Outlook <-> Google

Google have released the Google Calendar Sync which performs a two way sync between Outlook and a Google calendar. It installs in seconds and synchronizes in seconds as well.  So one step conquered !

Google <-> Mobile

Now I needed to sync my Google online calendar with the Mobile. Since I have a Nokia E series which supports Mail for Exchange it was quite a easy task. Thanks to this link for the additional help.

Note that you can actually synchronize other stuff like contacts etc. using Mail for Exchange. But I need to organize my contacts first, which I am too lazy to do now. May be next time.

We’ll that was just one of the numerous solutions which exist. Following are some additional links which will help achieve the same on a wide variety/platform of Mobiles:

Another useful article for the entire process:

How to Automatically Sync Your Contacts & Calendar Between a Nokia Phone, iPhone, Gmail and Outlook / Mac iCalendar / Address Book on multiple computers

There are tons of other options available. Just Google!

22

Cool off at Lansdowne!

It has been some time since I traveled to a place for the sole purpose of relaxing. Finally the wait was over and I had a great weekend at an unheard (just came to know about it 2-3 days before I decided to explore it) place called Lansdowne. Precisely it’s a hill station in Uttarakhand which not many of us would have heard of. I am putting this down for a couple of reasons:

  • Share my experience
  • Serve as a guide to anyone planning to give it a shot

Some history and geography of Lansdowne before we move ahead (collated from the web):

Lansdowne is the one of the closest hill station from Delhi, just 260 kms away.

Unspoilt nature, bracing air and a magnificent view of the snow-covered peaks inspire peace and tranquility. If you dream of the romance of the mountains then Lansdowne is the perfect place.

Surrounded with the world’s highest and most beautiful mountain ranges – the Himalayas, naturally Uttaranchal Hills are endowed with extraordinary beauty and most of it is unseen in the outside world. This makes Lansdowne an ideal location for eco-tourism. A clean fresh and invigorating environment makes Lansdowne a preferred destination to relax and unwind and it is a truly rejuvenating experience.

Lansdowne was originally a popular hill station with the Britishers. Attracted by its salubrious climate and natural beauty, they established a cantonment here. It was founded by Lord Lansdowne in 1887 A.D., thus the place has been named after him. The famous Garhwal Rifles of the Indian Army also has its command office here.

Lansdowne is situated at an altitude of 1,706 m enroute Kotdwar-Pauri road, 45 km from Kotdwar, engulfed by thick oak and blue pine forests. It is a very charming place for a quiet holiday as it is devoid of the usual hustle and bustle of hill stations.”

Getting there:

The route is very simple. Delhi-Meerut-Bijnor-Najibabad-Kotdwar-Dugadda-Lansdowne. After reaching Begum pul in Meerut, take a right turn to Bijnor, state highway starts from here. From Kotdwar, the hilly drive starts for around 45 km. After 30 km uphill once you reach Dugadda, the journey becomes more beautiful and views more breathtaking and memorable. You will be literally driving in Pine forests.

Nearest railway station is Kotdwar. Trains are easily available from Delhi. The best option is to take Mussoorie exp. from Delhi at around 2300 hrs, it will drop you to Kotdwar at around 0600 hrs in morning. From there, you can hire a cab for 400-500 rupees to Lansdowne, just a two-hour journey.

Lansdowne on the map.

Activities

There are amazing mountain views of the Western Himalayas from a number of vantage points in Lansdowne like Snow View and Tiffin Top. Like other hill stations in north India, Lansdowne too has its fair share of temples and shrines, most of them devoted to the various forms of the Mother Goddess. While you are in Lansdowne, make a wish at Jwalpa Devi, 47 km from Lansdowne on the Pauri-Kotdwar Road, or visit the Durga Devi temple (24 km from Lansdowne) and the Tarkeshwar Mahadev (30 km) with its special Shivlinga. This temple is one of the oldest Sidhpeeths in India.

Things to pack:

Light woolen clothing for summer and heavy woolen garments for winter. Carry rain protection gear in all seasons.

Accomodation:

Some of the places to stay:

  • Retreat Anand
  • Fairydale Resort
  • GMVN Tourist Bungalow

I stayed at Fairydale resort. The location and ambiance is superb. Rooms are decent, however, a bit damp. Food was nice. Hospitality was great. It was not very expensive. The overall experience was good and I would recommend it.

Personal Experience:

While the above should serve as a guide to plan a trip, I would highly recommend one to consider Lansdowne for a cool and relaxing break. What I loved was the drive from Kotdwar to Lansdowne. I witnessed all types of weather in a couple of hours! Sunshine, rains, fog, clouds, mist…you name it and it is highly likely that you will encounter all of this during the visit. Most importantly Lansdowne is not yet commercialized. There is a very relaxing aura about the place. It feels untouched, unexplored. You are bound to forget the everyday work hassles. I didn’t go for any activities like trekking etc. Still I could appreciate the place.

Interestingly my mobile connection (Vodafone) didn’t seem to work there! It was a pleasant change not to receive any calls and SMSes for a couple of days! I realized how intruding mobiles have become to us. Airtel works intermittently. Not sure if anything else works over there. So be prepared for this.

Also, there is no fuel station at Lansdowne! So if you are driving down, ensure that you get your vehicle refueled at Kotdwar. In case you run out of fuel, ask for ‘Chakki ki dukan’ in the ‘market’ at Landowne. You can buy petrol/diesel at a premium (not sure about the purity). However, try to avoid this at all costs.

Once again, apart from the stay at Lansdowne, what was so refreshing was the drive to and around the place. It was just out of the world. The only thing which was a bit irritating was a landslide which held us back for about 4 hours while returning. On the positive side, that gave me an opportunity to capture some breathtaking surroundings through my new camera.

Seeing is believing:

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” Lansdowne is a photographer’s delight. Look for some of the ones I captured over here.

293

The Home UPS/Inverter Buying Guide

Enough of power cuts in the region I live and it became inevitable to buy an inverter/home UPS system. So I went ahead and did some very basic research before deciding upon buying the same. I am sharing the same over here in anticipation that it would help someone 🙂

With loads of power backup options available in the market, it becomes quite a bit of an exercise to get to the right product. More so because of the aggressive marketing of the products, which may be misleading. Before even getting into the options, one needs to figure out the needs. For example, in my case I wanted a solution which would give a back-up of 2-3 hours for the following:

S. No. Equipment No. of Units Approx. Wattage / Unit Total Wattage
1. Fan 3 70 70*3 = 210
2. CFL 4 25 25*4 = 100
3.. Notebook 2 75 75*2 = 150
4. TV 1 120 120*1 = 120
5. Miscellaneous (Modem, Router etc.) NA 50 50*1 = 50
Total 630 W

So, I need a solution which can give me 630 W of power for 3 hours at a stretch (assuming I run all of the above for 3 hours). Now let’s do some high school physics calculations:

P (Power in Watts) = V (Voltage in Volts) * I (Current in Amperes)

Before we move ahead into the calculations, let’s clarify a couple of points:

What is the difference between an inverter and a UPS?

Well some think that these two are competing concepts, however the bottom line is that an ‘inverter’ is an equipment to convert Direct Current (D.C.) into Alternating Current (A.C.) where as an UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) is a circuitry which allows an instantaneous switch to the backup power source in case of a power failure thereby ensuring an uninterrupted power supply to sensitive equipments like a computer.

Now the only thing which needs an uninterrupted power supply in my list of equipments is the notebook, but that is anyway ensured by the notebook battery. So do I need a UPS? Well yes, I would want an uninterrupted internet connection in case of a power failure so I need the modem and router running in continuum.

Now that I know I need an inverter with UPS, do I need to look into anything else? Well yes, there are different types of inverters available in the market:

Square Wave Inverters: Popularly known as ‘Digital Inverters’ produce a Square Wave AC output which is not so great to run appliances as all the appliances are designed to run on a Sine Wave Alternating Current Pattern. Also, you would notice a humming sound in some of the appliances. Though electrical appliances would bear this, running electronic appliances over Square Wave is not at all recommended.

Sine Wave Inverters: These inverters produce the right wave pattern (Sine Wave) for which the appliances are designed. One can safely run most of the appliances on such current output.

Quasi Sine Wave Inverters: These fall somewhere in-between the above. I am not too sure about the internals. Also, didn’t find them in the market. But apparently they offer a low cost solution to run PCs and other electronic equipments on inverters.

Now what remains is the power storage medium, which, of course, is the battery. Again loads of options available which only confuse you. I didn’t think a lot over this and decided to go with an Exide Tubular Battery. Let’s have a real quick glance at the main options available relevant to inverters:

Standard Batteries: Loads of them available in the market. But they need maintenance i.e. putting in the distilled water on an ongoing basis.

Maintenance Free Batteries: While some claim they don’t need maintenance throughout their life-time, most of the maintenance free batteries need maintenance once a year or so.

Tubular Batteries: These batteries are superior in technology, construction and the quality of material used within. While you can figure out some nitty gritty here and here, they offer the following advantage:

  • They are maintenance free.
  • Long life (5+ years)
  • Faster Charging
  • More efficient

Though tubular batteries are a bit expensive, but considering their advantages I concluded that in the long-run, they actually turn out cheaper.

To wrap this up, let’s quickly get back to the calculations. So I needed a solution which could provide me with 630 Watts of power for 3 hours. Inverters available in the market are generally rated in VA/KVA.

Since, V*A=P, I need a 630 VA inverter. A very important point to keep in mind is the power factor. You would never get the rating mentioned in the inverter specifications. Considering a power factor of 0.8 (again figured out with some research) I would need an inverter with the following rating:

xVA * 0.8 = 630 VA

=> x= 630/0.8 = 787 VA

Luckily, for me we have 800 VA inverters available in the market, which perfectly fit to my needs. Note that this is a limiting factor w.r.t. the total wattage of appliances you can use. For instance I can’t run a 1000 watt appliance on an 800 VA inverter!

Now the battery. Inverter batteries are usually available in 12 V and are rated in Ampere Hours (AH). Since P=V*I and I need a backup for 3 hours,

630 W * 3 Hours = 12V * x (Ampere Hours)

=> x = (630 * 3)/12 = 157.5 AH

Again, luckily I discovered that we have batteries rated 165 AH in the market. So I decided to go with it.

Bingo! I have the details now. I need an 800VA inverter and a 165 AH battery for my needs. I just need to decide upon a brand based on the reviews.

Also, note that the above calculations are indicative. To quickly figure out how much back-up you would get while running a subset of the wattage considered at the time of buying, use the following:

Backup Time (Hours) = (Battery Voltage * Rating (in AH))/ Wattage required.

So if I just run 3 fans, i.e. 210 Watts, I would get a backup time of (on a fully charged battery):

12*165/210 = 9.4 hours

I can also run two moderate air coolers for about 7 hours. That’s sufficient for a night’s sleep 🙂