FREE SMS messaging service for India only that may prove to be incredibly useful for citizen groups and NGOs. The service allows anyone to set up a group of mobile subscribers to message to, or for a group to message each other many-to-many. A user can receive news alerts and blog updates via SMS, for example; or a group can group-text message to each other.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Now, SMS alerts to help you track car registration

Mumbai: Close on the heels of a car dealer delivering an unregistered Audi 6 to the Pedder Road accident victim recently, state transport commissioner V N More has decided to introduce a four-level text message alert for all car registrations in Mumbai. 
    The alerts will help citizens track the status of his/her car registrations, and whether the registration number has been allotted by the RTO or not. This will be for the first time that the RTO will be informing citizens through text alerts. 
    The alerts will be at four different stages—car registration fees 
paid, inspection of vehicle done, road taxes paid and car number/ registration allotted, sources said.In the case of Peddar Road accident victim Phorum Ruparel, 
the new Audi 6 was delivered to 
her residence on Tuesday. But little did the family realize that the car was unregistered and the number plate on it was, therefore, illegal. This was highlighted by TOI, following which the Wadala RTO took suo motu cognizance of the case and had imposed a compounding fine of Rs 2,000 besides charging a penalty interest of Rs 13,220 for road tax not being paid by the dealer. 
    "Though the family claims that it had paid the tax, the car dealer had failed to deposit it with the RTO. This attracted the penalty interest charges. Besides, the dealer had also failed to get the car inspected and the registration number was not allotted, causing embarrassment to the car owner," an RTO official said. 
    More now wants every car 
owner to be on alert and keep tabs on the registration process. "From next week, we will introduce the SMS service not only in Mumbai, but in other districts of Maharashtra," he said. For example, once the car is inspected and the taxes paid, there will be SMSalerts. The moment the dealer deposits the registration fee, there will be another text message forwarded to the mobile number of the car owner. 
    The SMS alerts will also be introduced for licences sent by speedpost. "The moment your licence or RC smartcard is ready for dispatch, you will receive a text message on your mobile," More added. 


The moment one buys a car, the dealer will ask the RTO for an inspection. Once inspection is done, he/she will receive a message 
    The dealer will have to deposit the road tax with the RTO. Once the 
money is credited to the RTO account, the owner will get a text message 
Payment of registration fee will also be confirmed through a text message 
Once the registration number is allotted, the owner will get an SMS, after which he can affix a numberplate on the car 
    The Mishras from Thane whose Elantra car was hit by the speeding Aston Martin on Pedder Road on December 9 say they have no clue about any new car being registered in the name of Smriti Mishra at the Thane RTO this week. However, the family has expressed anguish over different versions 
being presented by media about the incident. "Even the model of our car was wrongly reported. It was not a Corolla but an Elantra," Smriti told TOI. — Manoj Badgeri

TOI report on Jan 27

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Your vehicle insurance details will soon be just an SMS away


Soon, when a traffic policeman asks for your car or bike insurance, you won't have to worry if you do not have the papers with you. A simple text message from your mobile phone will retrieve the details instantly, thanks to an IRDA initiative.

"We will be providing vehicle insurance information to all the stakeholders through Short Messaging Service (SMS) and web-based applications of the Insurance Information Bureau,'' said M. Ramaprasad, Member (Non-Life), Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA), speaking to Business Line on Wednesday.

The beta version of the service has already been launched while the web-based application can be accessed anytime on the portal of the Insurance Information Bureau.

The database of all insured vehicles across the country is now available in digitised form and regularly updated. Until now, verification was done only by checking a hard copy of the insurance policy.

The digital service is beneficial to all the stakeholders. . "In case of an accident, victims can get to know the insurance company details if they know the number of the vehicle,'' said the IRDA official.

"We are talking to Road Transport Authorities and police in different States to share data so it will be easy to track down uninsured vehicles,'' he said. Some components of motor insurance, such as third-party insurance, are mandatory.

It would also help insurers, which sometimes have to grapple with multiple claims in damage and theft cases. This can be brought down if data on claims are available.


As the system will have a database of insurance claims made/honoured, cases of bad or negligent driving can be ascertained by the insurers before deciding on the premium to be charged.

IRDA is monitoring the submission of data by each underwriting office on a daily basis to ensure the smooth functioning of the system.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Govt to gift 2.5cr mobiles, 90 lakh tablets

New Delhi: In another mega scheme to woo the poor, the Centre proposes to spend Rs 9,822 crore distributing 2.5 crore mobile phones and 90 lakh tablets virtually free of cost to targeted beneficiaries over four years starting 2014-15. 

    The move is reportedly aimed at bridging the digital divide in the country. 
    The government's mobile phones will come bundled with free connection charges for two years. 
States will give lists for mobiles, tablets 
New Delhi: The users of the mobile phones that the Centre is planning to distribute will have to pay a one-time charge of Rs 300. They will get 30 minutes of talk time, 30 text messages and 30 Mb of data usage free per month. 
    This scheme will be restricted to the rural population.Similarly, 90 lakh tablets that will be given away to students of classes XI and XII, both in rural and urban areas, will have free data card connection for two years. The proposal has been sent to the Telecom 
Commission by the department of telecommunication (DoT). After it is approved by the commission, the plan will be sent to the Union Cabinet. 
    The programme will be implemented by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd on behalf of the government. In the first year, 25 lakh mobile phones and 15 lakh tablets are proposed to be distributed at a cost of Rs 395 crore and Rs 772.5 crore, respectively. In the second year, the department aims to give away 50 lakh phones and 35 lakh tablets at a cost of Rs 880 crore and Rs 1,858.75 crore, respectively. In the third year, 75 
lakh people will get phones at an expenditure of Rs 1,365 crore and 40 lakh students will be given free tablets at a cost of Rs 2,191.25 crore.
    In the fourth year, the free tablets program will end but will still cost the department Rs 150 crore in providing services for the data card connections. The department will spend Rs 1,850 crore in distributing the remaining handsets. 
    While the administrative and distribution charges for each mobile phone will be Rs 320, for tablets this cost will come to Rs 900. 
    In the case of tablets, the 
beneficiaries will get device and data connectivity for a maximum period of 2 years or his/her duration of study at school, whichever is less. The service provider will give a free package of 75 minutes talk time, 75 SMSs and 500MB data usage every month. 
    The proposal says selection of beneficiaries for the programme will be done by state governments. But they will have to meet broad guidelines fixed by the department—only one beneficiary from each family covered under MGNREGA and 30% 'open' beneficiaries for mobile phones. 

    For tablets, the government will target students of classes XI and XII studying in government schools who are not covered by other similar schemes. The list of eligible students would be provided by school authorities and authenticated by state governments. 
    Funding for the programmes will from the Universal Service Obligation Fund, which is being realized through a levy of 5% on telecom services revenues from operators. Till March 31, 2013, this kitty had nearly Rs 28,000 crore and Rs 6,500 crore was being added every year.

Monday, July 22, 2013

SOFT TARGET A mobile can be hacked in 2 min via SMS

Outdated Tech Used In SIM Cards Renders Cellphones Vulnerable To Spying, Says Expert

Houston: Millions of mobile phones may be vulnerable to spying due to the use of an outdated 1970-era cryptography technique, according to a new research. The research, due to be presented at an upcoming Black Hat security conference in US, cites phones running the risk of their security being breached due to use of the old cryptography technique. 
    Cryptography allows communication to take place securely over a mobile network. 
    Karsten Nohl, an expert cryptographer with Security Research Labs, has found a way to trick mobile phones into granting access to the de
vice's location, SMS functions and allow changes to a person's voicemail number. 
    Nohl's presentation, "Rooting SIM cards," will take place at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas on July 31. His research looked at a mobile phone's SIM (Subscriber Identification Module), the small card inserted into a device that ties it to a phone number and authenticates software updates and commands sent over-the-air from an operator. To ensure privacy and security, SIM cards use encryption when communicating with an operator, but the encryption stan
dards use vary widely. 
    Nohl's research found that many SIMs use a weak encryption standard dating from the 1970s called DES (Data Encryption Standard), according to a preview posted on his company's blog. DES has long been considered a weak form of encryption, and many mobile operators have upgraded now to more secure forms. It is relatively easy to discover the private key used to sign content encrypted with DES. In its experiment, Security Research Labs sent a binary code over SMS to a device using a SIM with DES. 
    Since the binary code 
wasn't properly cryptographically signed, it would not run on the device. But while rejecting the code, the phone's SIM makes a crucial mistake: it sends back over SMS an error code that carries its own encrypted 56-bit private key. 
    Owing to DES' weakness, it is also possible to decrypt the private key using known cracking techniques. 
    Security Research Labs did it in about two minutes on a regular computer with the help of a rainbow table, a mathematical chart that helps convert an encrypted private key or password hash into its original form faster. 

    With the private DES key in hand, it is then possible to "sign" malicious software updates with the key, and send those updates to the device. 
    The device believes the software comes from a legitimate source and then grants access to sensitive data. 
    Using the SIM's private key, an attacker could force the SIM to download Java applets, which are essentially very small programs that perform some function. Those applets would be "allowed to send SMS, change voicemail numbers, and query phone location among other things," the company wrote. PTI

Sunday, June 16, 2013

IMD warns of extreme rain, BMC urges people not to leave home

Mumbaikars, especially in the island city, woke up to very heavy rainfall on Sunday. From 8:30am to 11:30am, Colaba recorded 122mm and Santa Cruz 35mm, causing floods in several areas. Though it continued to rain thereafter, the intensity became a lot less, with Colaba recording 147.2mm from morning till evening. Santa Cruz recorded 115.4mm in the same period.
    Rainfall intensity is likely to be more on Monday. The weather bureau has warned of very heavy to extremely heavy rainfall, accompanied by strong winds gusting up to 50kmph in the city and the suburbs. As per the bureau's glossary, 64.5-124mm rainfall is 'heavy', 124.5-244.5mm 'very heavy', and above 244.5mm 'extremely heavy'. Also, high tides up to 3.68 metres are to occur at 6.12pm. If high-intensity rainfall continues in the evening, people may get into trouble finding transport for heading home from work.
    Taking note of the forecast, the BMC has issued a warning: "We appeal to citizens to leave home only after consulting various media on the amount of rainfall and waterlogging in their areas. Citizens should not leave home unless necessary." It has also cautioned people against venturing into sea.
    Monday's rainfall was caused by two weather systems: an active offshore trough running from the Gujarat to the Kerala coast and an upper air cyclonic circulation over Gujarat. "Together, these systems are causing rainfall over the Konkan and Goa region, including Mumbai," said V K Rajeev, director of weather forecast, IMD, Mumbai.
    Moreover, very strong south-westerly winds are blowing along the west coast. For Mumbai, this means heavy rainfall with strong gusts of wind.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Free Online Alternatives To Expensive Software

Almost every piece of expensive software that you buy for a computer has a free and capable online version. Not only will you save money, but you'll also free up some vauable hard drive space, 

Google Docs/Drive 
Google Drive provides a feature-rich interface for text, spreadsheets and presentations. You can open documents saved in your Gmail inbox or create a new one online. You can also collaborate real-time with colleagues on a document. All documents are automatically saved in your Google Drive cloud storage space. 

Microsoft Office Web Apps 
Microsoft also offers a free online office suite for SkyDrive users — the interface will be familiar to users of MS Office. You get 7GB of free cloud storage to store your documents. You can create or upload Word, Excel, PowerPoint as well as OneNote files to SkyDrive and edit them. Documents can be shared and you can select which users can edit the document and if it is mandatory for users to sign into their Microsoft account to access the document or not. 

Zoho Docs 
Zoho's office suite includes support for MS Word, spreadsheets, presentations as well as databases and reports. Like the other two office suites mentioned above, this one also supports real-time collaboration but in addition offers various other integrated services. With a single account, you get access to mail, chat, calendar/planner, invoice generation, as well as a CRM (customer relationship management) system. 
Filelab products work better with Google Chrome and you need to download a free plugin first. Once you start, you get support for multiple video formats and HD resolution. It offers all the basic editing controls to trim, cut and merge. You can also add creativity to your video with multiple effects. There are over 50 transition effects available along with the option to overlay one video on top of the other. You can define transparency, add audio tracks and then watch a live preview right in your browser window. 

Video ToolBox 
This editor supports editing of the most common file formats and also lets you convert from one format to another. You can add watermarks, merge videos, extract audio, take screenshots or remove unwanted parts of a video. It also gives you 1GB of free cloud storage. 
YouTube Editor 
Youtube offers a powerful online editor that lets you trim videos, merge multiple videos into one, add transitions, stabilise video or add a soundtrack of your choice. It also automatically suggests corrections and effects if your videos are not up to the mark. 

Photoshop Express 
If you need to do just basic image adjustments and manipulation, Adobe's own online photo editor is great. You get basic editing (crop, resize, rotate) as well as a few adjustments (white balance, soft focus, highlight) options. Various effects to enhance the picture are also available. Once done, images can be saved to your computer or shared on Flickr, Facebook or Picasa. 

With this online editor, you can create a new image, upload one from your computer or open any image from a URL. The interface is similar to Adobe Photoshop and you get all the usual tools as well as support for layers. You also get various filter effects, levels, curves and exposure controls. Images can be saved to the computer or to online services like Flickr/Picasa. 

Splashup has a similar interface to Photoshop. Apart from your PC and from a URL, it also supports importing images from Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket and can capture an image from a webcam. Like Pixlr, it lets you work with layers to add various filters. However, it does not have advanced editing options such as levels and exposure control. 
Music Creation 
SOUNDATION STUDIO (www.soundation. com) offers advanced tools and effects that you would only get with professional music studio software. You launch the studio right inside your browser window and it also includes over 600 free audio loops and samples that you can start with. A free account lets you save and publish as many songs as you want, but if you want recording, you need one of the paid plans. 

3D House Planner 
HOMESTYLER ( is a free and easy-to-use house planner. You can use it if you are planning on building a new house or even just redecorating. Homestyler lets you easily create a layout, add furniture, landscaping and experiment with paints, textures and different lighting for your room. You can easily view in 3D and share with friends too. 

PDF Tools 
A SUITE of no-nonsense PDF tools can be found at (to remove restrictions from PDFs), www.pdfmerge. com (to merge multiple files into one), www. (split one file into multiple) and (add password protection). At www.pdfaid. com, you can choose from a variety of web tools for watermarking, image extraction, rotation, compression and conversion. Note that some of the tools imprint a small PDFAid logo on the final file. 

Speech To Text 
RATHER THAN use expensive dictation software, just head You need to download Google Chrome first because it doesn't work too well on other browsers. Make sure your microphone is working and click the green microphone button to start the dictation. It works pretty well if you speak clearly and the conversion to text is almost instantaneous. 

Optical Character Recognition 
AT, you can convert a scanned document, PDF file or an image (JPEG, TIFF, PNG, PDF) to an editable text file. First, complete a quick sign-up. If you are scanning, make sure to do it in 300dpi. Upload your document, select your preferred output format and you're done.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mobile bills set to rise as operators slash freebies

Mumbai: Your mobile bill is set to rise with two leading telecom companies—Bharti Airtel and Idea—deciding to cut back on promotional offers such as free talk time across a majority of circles, setting the stage for other operators to follow suit. 
    Although the rise would vary depending on the circle and tariff plan for post-paid users or the usage pattern for pre-paid users, in some cases 

the increase in the monthly outgo may be as much as 25%. For instance, if you paid Rs 22 for 50 minutes of talk time as an Airtel customer, you will now get only 40 minutes. That translates into a 25% hike. Also, in some cases, the validity 
of the vouchers has been cut and the threshold of getting full talk time has been increased. So to avail of the full talk time benefit, a pre-paid user may now have to spend Rs 50-60 during a recharge, instead of getting the benefit during a Rs 30 recharge. 
Double gas price: Oil min to govt 
Power tariffs and public transport fares could soon go up across the country. The oil ministry has suggested that the government accept the Rangarajan panel's suggestion to double domestic gas price by linking it to an average of international hub prices and cost of imported liquid gas. P 25 
Bharti, Idea shares rise 3-4% 
Mumbai: Unlike Airtel, which went public with its move to reduce freebies in a bid to improve its margins, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular have not confirmed the price changes. Idea managing director Himanshu Kapania TOI that the company would evaluate price corrections after seeing Airtel's moves. 
    Vodafone indicated that it would follow other operators in pruning promotional offers. "We feel these were inevitable given the sharp input and energy price increases in the country. We are studying these moves individually across all our circles. We are inclined to follow to maintain consistency and competitive position though we haven't decided on our precise circle-wise moves," the compa
ny said in a statement. 
    The withdrawal of freebies has been done with the intent to improve the realized rate for the industry which varies between 27 paise per minute for new operators and 43 paise a minute for older players such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone. 

    Stiff competition has forced Indian telecom companies to offer among the cheapest call rates in the world. But they are finding it tough to sustain the tariffs, especially given the huge churn among users who tend to shift to an operator offering the lowest call rates. Portability is easy given that 95% of the mobile users in India are pre-paid customers. In recent months, however, companies have moved to raise rates and focus on profitability instead of blindly acquiring customer base. 
    The last big hike in tariffs happened in mid-2011 when customers had to pay 1.2 paise per second instead of 1 paise per second for voice calls. 

    Following Wednesday's moves, Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular shares rose 3-4%. "We have spent on new spectrum, there is one-time fee so we have to evaluate the situation. But a big hike is not possible considering there is still hyper competition and over capacity still exists. Volumes have been impacted earlier when corrections have been implemented," said Idea's Kapania.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Now, pay using mobile phone card reader

Mumbai:The current credit card point of sales (POS) terminals may soon go the way of the 'zip zap' machines that were used by merchants to generate receipts based on credit card impressions until early '90s. The Reserve Bank of India has given its nod for a card reader that costs Rs 1,500 and can, in conjunction with an android phone, do everything that a POS terminal can do.
    The cigarette box sized device, which records signatures on a touch screen from a stylus, does away with charge slips and works as well as any swipe machine. Citi
bank has been the first off the block to adopt this technology developed by Bangalore-based Ezetap Mobile Solutions and has obtained regulatory clearances for its launch. 
    The bank already has several merchants trying out this new technology. Shoppers Stop is testing this out as a queue buster by authorizing salespersons to receive payment on the spot. Others trying out this service are Vodafone and Bajaj Allianz. Citibank is also talking to a fleet cab company for accepting card payments. 
    "Besides replicating the job of the POS terminal, the mobile payment solution can be customized 
to specific business needs and also be integrated with the businesses back-end system, thereby making the process very efficient," said Muge Yuzuak, country head, cards and personal loans, Citibank India. 
    To function, the card reader needs to be connected to an android phone which needs to have the requisite app. The merchant can also fit the mobile with his own app that updates his systems about the payment. 
    Mobile-based card payment systems are by themselves not an innovation. The difference is that while earlier innovations involve a separate platform, this one replicates the card POS and somewhat blurs the lines between cred
it card and mobile payments. 
    "The device complies with the securities standards prescribed by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council. We have also got the necessary approvals from the Reserve Bank of India for card transactions through this mobile payment solution," Said Yuzak. 
    In theory, the mobile payments business could be bigger than cards because of the sheer number of mobile phones. However, because of the restrictions on the size and multiple entries required for making a remittances, few merchants accept payments from mobile.

OLD SCHOOL: RBI has cleared a card reader that can, along with an android phone, do everything that a POS terminal can do.

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