by May 1, 1999 0 comments

This TV set-top box (Rs 15,000 from Kayz Disktech, 40-7816979) dials up when you power it on, and gives you e-mail and Web access This little black box sits on your TV set, and gives
you basic e-mail and Internet access. Not through cable, but through a regular phone line.
Nice for families who don’t want the complexity of a full-fledged computer, but
simply want a way to stay in touch on e-mail, and occasionally browse the Web.

The Eye-Net is
from Kayz Disktech of Hyderabad, AP. Using it is easy: once it’s connected to your TV
and phone line, you power it up and it starts dialing. You can check your mail, or go to
the browser and enter a Web URL. You can save up to 30 e-mails in flash memory, and a few
Web pages. You can also print out a mail or Web page, if you have a printer (there’s
a parallel port).

As with most
set-top boxes, this is not an Intel-based PC. It uses a 33 MHz 32-bit PA-RISC processor,
with 8 MB of main memory (upgradeable to 64 MB) and 512 MB video RAM. Inside is a 33.6
kbps Rockwell-based modem. An infra-red keyboard has a number of shortcut keys, for mail,
Web browser, Setup, Power, etc (with a couple of dummy “Windows” keys). Like the
Philips infra-red keyboard, there’s a thumb control for the mouse; this takes some
getting used to. A remote control option mentioned in the manual is not being sold for
now, but you can use a “soft keyboard” that pops up on the screen display.

The e-mail
software’s easy enough to use, though navigating with the thumb-control
“mouse” isn’t much fun. The Web browser’s nearly as intuitive, except
that we needed tech support to learn how to “enter” a URL after typing it in
(the manual is inadequate). The browser is a proprietary one, without scripts or Java
support, so many sites (including PC Quest’s) aren’t really readable on it. Nor
is there multimedia, though the company says it’s being added.

Setup takes a
while, because you have to enter all the ISP and mail settings. Setting it up for a PAP
(auto-authentication) system like Satyam’s is easier, but we couldn’t get it to
work with VSNL (for which you need a script) because we couldn’t get the script
dialog to accept any entry. The vendor says the box may be packaged with a Satyam Internet
account (for an additional Rs 500); selling it pre-configured and ready to run would be a
big plus.

The heavy power
adapter strains the wall outlet somewhat; even though the Eye-net has a power-save
standby, the adapter continues to draw power. An SMPS power adapter would have been more
compact and efficient.

Is it worth it?
For those who need computer functions — even word processing — no.
Computer-phobic families will really appreciate the plug-and-power-on simplicity, but we
suspect this may not sell like hot cakes unless it drops below Rs 10,000. Consider that if
you add a monitor (there’s a VGA port, and you get a much better picture than on the
TV) your cost goes up to over Rs 21,000–close to that of a low-end PC.

Kayz Disktech
says it has conceived this product and is getting it made in Singapore, and will later
have it made in India. It’s distributed by Celcorp, Mumbai. Information: members.
rediff.com/eyenet, or mail viraf@satyam.net.in.

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