December 30, 2013

A Next Page button can make Kindle Paperwhite 10x more fun

Kindle Paperwhite is small: it has a 6-inch screen while Nexus 7 has a 7-inch screen and iPad Mini has a 7.9-inch screen. The Kindle is lighter too: it weighs 206 grams while Nexus 7 and iPad Mini weigh 290 grams and 331 grams respectively.

Despite being small and light, the Kindle is hard to use single-handedly. I can hold the reader by wrapping my hand around its back, but then I can’t use any of my fingers to turn pages. (It’s also a bit uncomfortable to hold it that way, actually.)
I can hold it on just one side, but turning pages will still be impossible with one hand. Turning pages will require me to move my thumb onto the screen.
Adding a hardware Next Page button right where my thumb is will make it easy to use the Kindle with just one hand. Why didn’t you think of that, +Amazon.com?

December 29, 2013

Kindle: Season 2

My relationship with the Kindle has been a bit unstable. I bought my first Kindle in June 2010. There were certain things that irked me about it, but in general I liked it. Overall, the number of books I read went up because it made reading easier.

After I got myself an Android tablet, I started reading on the tablet most of the time because the Kindle was very slow. As time went by, the Kindle started to simply gather dust at home, so I sold it off in May 2012. One and a half year later, I find myself not reading any books. Whenever I try to read on my Nexus 10, the experience isn’t fun because the device is so heavy it’s not at all comfortable to read on. Naturally, I give up reading and move on to doing something fun... like watching videos.


Not reading anything has been bothering me for a while, and today I decided to give Kindle another try. The new paperwhite is a lot superior (and seems a bit faster) than the 2nd generation Kindle I had before. Hopefully, this Kindle will put me back on track and I’ll read a few books every year. Happy 2014, everyone!

October 14, 2013

Morale meter

It’s a custom at work. At the beginning of every week, we write what we call ‘weekly snippets’. Snippets summarise what we did the previous week and what we plan to do in the week that has just started. Over time, writing weekly snippets has become my morale meter. When I am happy with the work, I have no issues writing my snippets. When I am not so thrilled about the work, I don’t even want to think about snippets.

What should I do when I find that morale is low? That, I am yet to figure out.

August 25, 2013

Going home again!

We’re going home in about 4 days. Many things to look forward to, but these are on the top of my mind.
  • Seeing the family again, after about 15 months.
  • Food! From Tamil Nadu/Kerala style parotta to mom’s mochai kuzhambu to gooseberries, Sattur cucumbers, and what not. The dosa mom makes is awesome too.
  • Indian roads. Oh, how I miss them! This picture I took during our road trip to Kodaikanal is a favourite, and makes me homesick almost every time I see it.
  • Seeing extended family and friends. There is a ton of sweet people there. Hoping to meet at least a few of them.
  • Did I mention food?

August 18, 2013

Tests and scores

When my friends used to fear and despise tests and exams in school, I wasn’t so negative about tests. Most likely because I had no issues excelling in those tests. After years of going through tests, one day I realised something. Tests are tools for evaluating one’s own progress. Fussing about grades and ranks is besides the point. The main benefit of taking a test is that when the results come out you would know if you have learned well enough. (This is assuming you believe what the test measures is important.)

I had a similar revelation again today. I have been doing vision training exercises for the past few weeks. Vision training computer program gives you a series of challenges and gives you a score for each challenge based on how well you tackled it. These challenges are designed in such a way that they stretch your eyes’ focusing muscles increasing the efficiency of your eyes. Once you score above a certain threshold in a challenge, you are taken to the next level where the challenge gets a little harder.

At some point, pride took over and I got too fixated on the score. All I had in mind when sitting for the training was that I should score above the threshold and move to next level. By blindly focusing on getting to higher levels, I failed to notice what the vision training was meant to accomplish: to train your eyes to perform well in different scenarios. Like how physical exercises train your body to do well in different scenarios.

In hindsight this is obvious, but I didn’t know this was a mistake I was making. My mad attempts to push through the levels in the training programme actually made it harder for me to make any progress. Once I knew what’s the essence of the training, I could consciously focus on what my eyes were doing rather than the score I’d be earning. I did the training the “right way” today. Though I didn’t score enough to move to the next level, I am confident I am on the right track.

August 17, 2013

Relocating again

I liked Bangalore, but my job there was less than exciting. Because of my friends there, I started to see life in a new way. I’m sure it freaked my family out when it was happening, but that life in Bangalore was crucial to what I have become now. When I left Bangalore, I left with an apprehension for leaving a good city.

I hated Hyderabad from day 1. Work was good, and I found some very good friends. Over years I managed to tolerate Hyderabad -- especially with the help of this blog -- and it wasn't a pain having to live there. But when I did relocate, I was apprehensive about leaving all these friends behind.

Sydney improved the quality of my work life greatly. I started feeling like I was back in college. I learned many new things. Got my first promotion after years. And I liked the city from beginning. Even today, my desire to travel Australia is mostly unfulfilled. I could happily continue to live here for 5 more years with so many more places to see. Work is also great, which is a huge bonus.

Yet, I’m moving out in a few more months. I feel this move makes no sense now. I’m moving mostly for the sake of moving. But a dark nook of my mind says that some day I'll recount this as a good decision.

You’ve been awesome, Australia. I’ll miss you.

August 11, 2013

Being locked up

What does it mean to be locked up in a jail or a mental hospital? Being Bi-Bi shows a glimpse into such a locked-up world:
My hand hurts. To just write (this was originally handwritten) in here I have to borrow a pen. And then hand it back when I'm done. I have no internet, no phone and no music.
Imagine having to live for a year with no access to music!

August 09, 2013

Some life lessons

Some life lessons I have learned over time:
  • The world doesn’t revolve around you.
  • Life is not a courtroom.
  • Don’t leave something because you hate it.
  • Happiness of people around you is essential to your own happiness.
  • Taking the easy route is not shameful.
  • Be honest to yourself.
  • Accept yourself; accept your family and friends; accept your duties; accept your life.
  • Avoid fear.
  • Self-pity is a plague that will eat you alive.
  • Don’t stop living, even temporarily.

July 10, 2013

Behavioural optometry

When I was looking for an optometrist a few months ago, I wasn’t specifically looking for a behavioural optometrist. In fact, I didn’t even know there was such a things as behavioural optometry. I found Smart Vision Optometry through Google search. Their web site didn’t quite convince me to visit them, but somehow I decided to go check them out. In hindsight, that was a good decision.

This is what I have understood from my treatment so far. Eyesight and vision are two related but different things. Eyesight is the ability of your eyes to see things. Vision is your ability to make use of visual information to make decisions. For example, seeing the other side of the road and an approaching car is eyesight. Gauging the width of the road, distance of the approaching car, and the car’s speed to determine if it’s safe to cross the road is vision. Having a good eyesight is necessary, but not sufficient, to having a good vision.

A conventional optometrist is solely focused on improving your eyesight, while a behavioural optometrist tries to improve both your eyesight and vision.

My doctor (Gary Rodney) recommended that I try orthokeratology instead of wearing glasses. I don’t wear glasses during the day anymore; I wear contacts at night while sleeping. I am also taking vision training exercises every day to improve my vision. In addition to helping me see better, the vision training is supposed to keep my myopia from worsening. It’s definitely more work than just getting a new pair of glasses, but the payoff makes the effort well worth it.

When your next optometrist visit is due, try to find a behavioural optometrist. Maybe then you won’t have to keep changing your glasses every few years.

June 22, 2013

Solving problems

Sometimes people solve problems. Sometimes problems possess people, and solve themselves using the possessed. For some reason, participating in the latter is a more satisfying experience.

June 17, 2013

“Seeing” gods

Every believer defines god to be supernatural. Assuming that is indeed true... if a god walks in front of us, would our limited senses and intelligence be able to “see” the god? It’ll be like measuring pressure with a ruler. We just won’t have what it takes to see a god!

Given we have no way of really seeing gods, can it be that gods do really walk around right here on earth, among us?

April 04, 2013

Possessiveness

Possessiveness is dominating in the name of love.

March 17, 2013

The world keeps changing

Chanced upon this picture by todayshow on Instagram:
First thing that came to mind was a disapproval for the change the world has gone through.  But soon I realised I am not here to judge anything/anyone.  The world has changed, for better or worse.  And it’s the nature of the world to keep changing in its every living moment.  Just acknowledge the change and go on.

March 09, 2013

Competing by creating value

I started using Dropbox three years ago.  I really liked Dropbox because they were the only cloud storage service to support Linux.  They have a very good web interface; their UI is pretty good; their service is very reliable; their security is pretty good too, in my view.

Google launched Drive last year.  Their web UI is much inferior to Dropbox’s.  They don’t support Linux.  It’s uncertain if they’ll ever support Linux; even if they did, they may soon decide to withdraw.  Despite all this, I will be seriously considering a switch to Drive if/when there is a Linux client for it.

Dropbox has been in the business since 2008.  They have done an excellent job of building a reliable cloud storage service that people want to use.  With their APIs, they have built an ecosystem around their service with noticeable success.  But now Google comes along trying to build a much richer ecosystem of web apps.  If Dropbox is a bridge for aspiring apps to connect to the future, Drive wants to be a building block of that future.

One way to think about Drive is as a personalised office suite with apps from different vendors.  You can use LucidChart for creating diagrams; UJAM for creating music; Google Docs for creating documents — all from within drive.google.com!  All these apps store the data in your Google Drive so your data is always with you on all your devices.  It’s clearly a better model than Dropbox’s; and more ambitious and risky at the same time.  If Drive’s aspirations work out well, Dropbox and other competitors will have a tough time catching up.
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This is something I like to learn from Google.  They know how to compete with players who are already dominant in a field.  When Google launched Chrome, everyone said “we don’t need another browser”.  Chrome today has captured an enormous share of the market.  Chrome did not try to do things that people loved about Firefox or Safari or Opera.  Instead, Chrome has been focusing on things that are useful and unique.  (Syncing profile data, supporting bundled apps, etc. are some examples that come to mind.)

Maybe winning is a byproduct of focusing on your strengths, bringing something new and useful to the table, and continuously improving your product.

February 26, 2013

Happiness and distraction

Happiness is inversely proportional to distraction.  The more you’re distracted, the less happy you are.

Related: Purpose, happiness, and Buddhism

February 01, 2013

Just how fast is USB 3.0?

USB 3.0 isn’t exactly new, and everyone knows how fast it is compared to USB 2.0.  I bought my first USB 3.0 device yesterday — an external hard disk — and I was curious how fast it really was.  I used hdparm as described in an Ask Ubuntu answer to compare the speeds of 3 different storage devices I had.

Fastest was, unsurprisingly, the internal mSATA SSD my laptop had, at about 180MBps.  The new USB 3.0 hard disk (a Western Digital one) managed to read data at 105MBps.  This number is very impressive when juxtaposed next to my old USB 2.0 drive (a Hitachi) which could read only at around 34MBps.

Raw numbers for the curious and for posterity:
% sudo hdparm -Tt /dev/sda    # Internal SSD
/dev/sda:
 Timing cached reads:   8624 MB in  2.00 seconds = 4314.43 MB/sec
 Timing buffered disk reads: 544 MB in  3.02 seconds = 179.89 MB/sec

% sudo hdparm -Tt /dev/sdb    # USB 3.0 external HDD
/dev/sdb:
 Timing cached reads:   8584 MB in  2.00 seconds = 4293.72 MB/sec
 Timing buffered disk reads: 318 MB in  3.01 seconds = 105.54 MB/sec

% sudo hdparm -Tt /dev/sdb    # USB 2.0 external HDD
/dev/sdb:
 Timing cached reads:   8434 MB in  2.00 seconds = 4219.40 MB/sec
 Timing buffered disk reads: 102 MB in  3.03 seconds =  33.69 MB/sec

January 07, 2013

Local discount

I walk through Darling Harbour to work everyday.  I’d often stop at Harbourside mall to grab something to eat or a cup of coffee.  It’s been a routine for almost two years now.  Today, as I was walking towards Gloria Jeans, a shop on the way attracted my attention with the sign “Best cappuccino in Darling Harbour”.  I thought I’d try their coffee today.  After ordering my flat white, I noticed that the price wasn’t exactly cheap.  It was $4.80 here, while it’d cost me only $4 in Gloria Jeans, or $3.5 in the shop right next to my home.

I like clearing out my wallet of all coins, and today I had $4.90 in coins in my wallet.  I paid $4.80 in coins, and the shopkeeper asked me, “Do you work here, sir?”.  “No, I work in Pyrmont.  I live in the city, so I walk through this way”, was my response.  He gave 80 cents back and told me that locals get a discount in all shops in the mall.  He said, “When you buy something in this mall, tell them you work here and get a discount.  Even if you’re just walking through, you are eligible.”

You have no idea how pleased I am!

January 01, 2013

Yearly review: 2012

As each year ends, I’d think “wow, this year was great”, and 2012 was no exception.  Contrary to last few years, I am extremely satisfied with how my work has improved.  Often, it feels like I am back in my MKU days.  I love going to work most days.

On the personal front things are a little bit different, though.  I am not reading as much as I used to; I am not writing as much as I used to; I am not thinking as much as I used to.  I probably don’t write as much code as I used to for my “hobby” projects.  But it’s understandable because I devote a lot of time for my work.  I sometimes even want to work during weekends, which is completely unlike me.  (I’d usually leave work behind when I leave office.)

I didn’t travel much this year, but I did do a few road trips, including a 1.5 weeks trip to (a part of) the Australian Outback.  I was super-active on Google+ for a few months, but I think my interest has been slowly waning like it does on any social networking platform.  That’s probably a good thing because I can use that time in doing things that are more meaningful — like reading books or writing code.

Earning in dollars makes many things possible, but like everything else in life that comes at a price, too.  Staying away from family has made me realise how much I identify myself as a part of my family rather than my own individual self.  The desire to do something meaningful to people of my town, my state, and my country, has been intensifying too.  Sadly, I just can’t figure out what it is that I can do.  Hopefully I would some day.

When I was in college, I had deep disrespect for a kind of people.  I can’t quite describe them in words, but they’re ambitious, they seem to work hard, they have habits that look very artificial (like consciously avoiding negative thoughts).  Over the past few years, I know I am slowly becoming one of that kind.  Only difference is, now I am seeing those despised characteristics from inside out and they don’t seem all that bad.

Overall, I enjoyed all of 2012.  Thinking about it, I think there wasn’t a single day when I wasn’t willing to die.  Quoting Dido here would be appropriate, I think.
Just this life, I need no other
Just this day, I need no more
Just this moment, let it all stop here
Let it all stop here I’ve had my fill.