Windows vs MacBook

I’ve been a Windows user for… well, all my life. I started with those little DOS systems where you’d to enter C: prompt commands to login. Then there were some laptops and some computers that seem tortoise-level slow today. Some worked great. Some were bad. But they were all, without fail, Windows.

In 2017, however, I switched to MacBook. It wasn’t a brand preference so much as the fact that the config I wanted was the cheapest in MacBook compared to other Windows-OS systems. About 50% cheaper.

Disclaimer: Now, before I go ahead, this has been the most powerful laptop I’ve ever owned, with SSD and all that. I’ve used great desktops but laptops were more functional and everyday.

The first week was pure hell. Apple does everything backward. Including the mouse scroll. I told myself to be patient. Any new system needs time to get adjusted.

#Con: The most annoying then was the placement of the Cmd, Option and Ctrl buttons. Awkward.

#Con: Pages app was designed by someone who obviously doesn’t do much writing. Of course, I was yet to learn the keyboard commands but a lot of things I took for granted in Microsoft Office were missing – in Pages, in Numbers. I figured out some customisations after a week (and this was why I would never go for Macs earlier – they really aren’t fans of customisations of any sort, even internally).

#Pro: But KeyNote – that was pure pleasure. As a design lover, it was wonderful designing presentations with ease. A lot of the design was instinctual and the new update has taken it to a new level.

#Con: Of course, that lasted till I made something, converted to powerpoint and sent it to a Windows user. The file was 65 MB. Needless to say, the recipient was not too happy.

MacBook, like everything in the Apple universe, works great within the universe they have designed. This universe does not even begin to acknowledge the existence of another world out there, a bigger world.

For someone who is a true fan of open source and customisation, I found it hard to work within the Mac’s ecosystem.

#Pro: While the MacBook works great for photo editing, creating powerpoint presentations. However, for other basic work, I really miss my customisation options.

#Pro: On the positives again, I do love the speed of the laptop, attributable to SSD; and of course, the battery life. I do know that Jobs’ ethos was about integrating software and hardware in a manner that it functions optimally, hence, he wasn’t really a fan of allowing people to do what they wanted. But I really do wish we could customise a little more than what’s possible right now.

#Con: The last grouse I had was about having to pay for all apps! Guys, it is 2017. I shouldn’t have to pay for a basic notepad app!

#Pro: But at the price what I paid, the laptop does work great and does everything it is supposed to. Additionally, unlike Windows systems, I get system updates consistently and do not have scrounge the internet for drivers after a couple of years. Bugs are minimal, and there hasn’t been a time that my computer has hung.

#Meh: Of course, I don’t really like the prompt asking me to create and sign in to an iCloud account, but well, Google & Windows are getting there as well.

#Meh: And then there’s the snob factor. The MacBook instantly creates a “Ooh” moment when you pull it out. And the weight factor is definitely a plus, when you are lugging around the laptop all day.

Would I have gone for a MacBook if not for the price? Nope. Do I regret buying it? Nope.

 

Books on Indian Startups

I’ve been reading about startups… Or tech companies that were once startups.

So far I’ve read about Twitter (a couple of books), Amazon, Facebook, WordPress (in progress) and a few others.

Midway through this process I began wondering about the “inside story” of Indian startups. We’ve got some good ones. We have a few in the top 10 unicorns as well. So where are their stories? Considering some of them have been around for nearly a decade, hasn’t it been long enough for some books to surface? Or is it too early?

I found one book about Alma Mater. An autobiography. That’s it. There are bibles mentioning a ton of them but where are individual books?

It is the world of click button publishing. An authorized bio, no matter how white washed, could be out in a matter of a few weeks. Haven’t any of the PR Gurus thought of this for their clients?!

The Delights of A “Non Smart” Phone

Being without social networks has its perks. The phone size gets a lot smaller.

The texts are not in a series for you to scroll through it and remind yourself about all the things you were supposed to do and have not done.

You do not get constantly woken up by the sounds of beeps – Text messages, Whatsapp, Facebook messages, Facebook notifications, mails, tweets and whatever else you are subscribed to.

You do not feel compelled to start your day by reaching out to your phone as soon as your eyes are open and scroll through all the messages received, allowing that to set your mood for the day.

Your phone remains silent a lot more. Most people don’t bother calling and prefer messaging, so you might have missed that important meeting notifications. But you didn’t know about it, so you cannot stress about it. Right now.

Logging onto Facebook has a novelty value. You actually go “hmm” on all the posts. You do not get annoyed by photographs and videos of everyone’s kids and might even decide to view one of them when you log on from your computer.

You get distracted a lot less. That is, once you get over the habit of automatically reaching for the phone when your mind goes blank every other minute.

You learn to listen to the voices in your head.

You finally pick up those books you bought in the strong hope of wanting to read them.

You might forget appointments since they are not listed in the calender, but then again, since the alarm didn’t go off, you continue with your peace blissfully (for the short duration at least).

You learn to recognize, if not memorize, more numbers given that your simple phone does not have the capacity to store your 3000 numbers and email IDs and all other relevant details.

You forget about Candy Crush and all those games and learn to enjoy the frustration of a small screen and a silly game.

Most importantly, the phone fits in your pocket, can fall a few times without any worry and even if it does break, all it costs is a couple of grand and a loss of 10 numbers that you probably remember anyway.

Is Facebook Hiding Your Posts?

For the past several weeks, I had not been receiving posts from some of my favorite pages. 

Someone suggested that I need to go back to these pages and click on “Add to Interest” tab under the “Like” tab to get these feeds. I found this a little irrelevant. Isn’t it is obvious that I want more information from these pages since I have chosen to like them? 

Being the owner of some such pages, I wondered why some of my pages were getting more responses than the others. The responses are from the same set of people who have liked my page and I interact with regularly. The best posts were getting far less responses, when much more mediocre ones had a better hit rate in the past few months. Shouldn’t the page be reaching at least 30 percent of the total number of people on my list? After all, these were people who signed up for the information, instead of being spammed with irrelevant ads simply because they visited a site. 

It turns out that Facebook’s new “Newsfeed” system shows you news based on “what would be most relevant to you”. 

Facebook defence – it isn’t ‘hiding’ anyone’s news feeds, but their ‘algorithm’ picks certain news feed pieces that it thinks might be more relevant to you, based on various things like interest level among your friends etc. 

This, as an individual and an artist, is disturbing. This  means someone or an obscure algorithm decides what I get to see, and it decides it based on what my friends are reading / seeing. So if one of my friends thinks a crappy photographs or video is awesome and shares it, I would get it see that and miss out on a better piece that probably not as many people have seen it.

There are also allegations that Facebook is suppressing information (algorithms again?) to get more ad sales. Which means if you pay for a post to promote it, it obviously gets more visibility. And Facebook’s ad systems have changed as well. The same ad that I did about 6 months ago, with the same target group, now costs much more for the same duration. Why? They would probably give you generic answers that don’t really answer anything.

My Facebook time was because of the variety of articles and debates that we could indulge in over several issues. I got to read content that I would not have found otherwise. I discovered various photographers and projects because of sharing on Facebook. But when they begin to decide who I get to see and what I get to see, it isn’t just a infringement of privacy, it also violates my freedom.

Who is to say that they will completely shut out positive comments about Chavez? Or Julian Assange? Or something else… They are in the strongest position to shape perception and they are very aware of it. 

The changes in the past few months about Facebook’s policy, and their control over my usage and personal information is making me wish for an alternative for Facebook. A site that respects people’s privacy a lot more than Facebook does. A site that doesn’t force me to reveal where I am, who I am with, where I studied, what language I speak, where I went to school, who I went to school with, where I have my dinner, what my relationship status is; and if I don’t want to reveal it, they get my unsuspecting friend to reveal it. 

Perhaps it will soon be time to say adieu to Facebook. Why spend an entire day reading a company’s agenda instead of following my friends.

Alone In Cyber Space

It was perhaps 10 years ago. I got a mail saying I have an invite from something called ‘Gmail’ to open a new account. These invites were treasured. There were only a 100 given to each person and you had to be a real close pal before the person would accede to sending you one.

Of course, we didn’t know about test groups, collecting personal data and marketing strategies then. The world of internet was in its nascent stages. It was simply cool to have this.

I’m trying hard to remember how Gmail looked then. I simply cannot remember, or gmail hasn’t changed that much. Of course, they integrated their chat into the mail, leaving its competitors Yahoo and Hotmail in the dust. And there was that awesome search feature, with a conversation style mail chain that drove me nuts.

Being used to mailboxes with limited space, you felt compelled to clean out your inbox everyday.  The inbox figure had to read (0) with no bold items. There would probably be two mails on your screen on any given day. And then comes Gmail, with all the mails, right there in your face. People like me suffered. But like everything else, we got used to it. We even got used to the ads that were being thrown up every now and then, even if we did have strong discussions about how someone was reading our mail.

Then came Facebook, who prodded you to share more information and photographs and slowly made us think it was okay to share our crazy birthday photos with the entire world. Privacy was a word they did not want you to hear.

It was about then that I began thinking about the word ‘privacy’. Who were these people who would post ads for that book I was thinking about reading? They claimed Amazon was offering a discount on it. Who were these people who were suggesting I read about the French President’s latest antics? Were they reading my mail? Were they listening to my chats? Were they following me?

Yes, this was a wonderful time for paranoid people and the ones with OCD to be alive.

But we got used to that too. We got used to seeing 150 mails in our spam folder every day. We learnt not to break open a bottle of champagne anytime we got a mail from Nigeria.

Today, when I look at my multiple email IDs, where much of the mail is all about newsletters I’ve signed up for and offers from a site I visited months ago, I wonder about the state of communication.

It is perhaps understandable that one gets overwhelmed by the sheer amount of junk in our lives. If we unsubscribed from all those newsletters we never read, if we mark everything else as spam except for official and personal mails, what do we have left? 5 emails a day?

Even as a person who needs to be constantly connected, I get overwhelmed with the number of platforms we are juggling. Facebook, Gmail, Skype, Whatsapp, Calls and text messages. I’m sure I’ve forgotten… oh yes, LinkedIn, Twitter.

And perhaps there is someone sitting out there thinking of how to ‘integrate’ all this into one platform. Except, that is no longer simple due to registered corporations, shareholders, advertisers and revenue policies.

Somehow, this is supposed to be making my life easier. Supposed to be helping me connect better. Instead, all it does is create the image of little green men running around in my head muttering about things I couldn’t care less about.

And now I hear there are more things coming up.

A friend asked me to sign up for 500px. Flickr is dying and this is the new future, he claimed.

Another asked me to sign up for Pinterest. Forget about del.i.cious and all those things. This is where you find everything you want, she said.

Another asked me to log into FourSquare. We can catch up if we are ever in the same area.

But maybe my curiosity is dying or I’m getting old.

I absolutely do not want to remember one more password.

The Smart Phone Bug

We all catch this bug every now and then… some of us fall victims several times a year.

I’ve slowly been leaning towards the touch-screen, smart phone genre for a while… and finally I got around to reading the reviews and comparisons between the HTC Sensation and the Samsung Galaxy S2.

I cannot decide which one is more awesome and which one I would like to own. In the interim, discussions began between my friends about which is awesome and why the iPhone is better/worse.

I’ve had this discussion several times and I was even an iPhone fan till I bought one and then, infamously (or is it infamously?) returned it in a few hours. I hated the experience of the iPhone… too smooth, too expensive and what annoyed me the most – I had no control over my phone.

If I pay close to half a lakh for a cellphone, shouldn’t I be expected to have complete control over it? But Apple is like a strict parent, censoring what I can download and what I cannot and what I can share.

True, they do have brilliant interfaces, a great screen and a good camera. But now that the others have learnt the art of smart-phone making, Apple needs to do something different.

In India particular (and pardon me if I am repeating myself), you buy a phone for about 40 grand, yet you cannot use it with any other network other than the one you buy it from. In other countries, where you buy the phone on a cap and hence get it a little cheaper, it makes a little sense to be ‘locked’ into the network for a particular duration.

How does that make sense in India when you are paying the full price of the phone? And yes, if you ‘unlock’ it, you lose the warranty. And the bluetooth… can someone please explain to me the purpose of having an atrophying bluetooth in the iPhone?

Anyway, back to the HTC-Samsung war… which one is better? I like Android… I like the fact that I have majority control over my phone. I can lock it, throw it, download any sort of nonsense and be solely responsible for it.

HTC Sensation
Samsung Galaxy S2

 

Google+ vs Facebook

My mind’s cluttered with a million things and what i really need is an organizer that can really sort everything out for me. Something that can read my mind and automatically classify things according to priority, deadlines, categories and even include cross-referencing and plot out the day according to my geographical location.

But no one is working on such a thing.

What they are working on is a new version of a ‘social’ network – Google+

And then they are spending more time talking about this so-called network and comparing it to Facebook and how FB got punched in the face.

To me, G+ is like a combination of Twitter and a bit of Facebook. So they took Tweets, removed the character limit, took friend’s list from FB and called it ‘circles’ and made cool interfaces and included their old chat stuff and ‘hangouts’ (which is chat again, if you think of it) and there was G+.

Kudos to Google for coming up with something like that. The best part about G+ is you can work it all from within your Gmail, which is something we all are hooked to anyway.

But if G+ Facebook’s rival? It could be… but Google has already had plenty of awesome projects that never really took off because it was way ahead of its time.

I love G+’s “Spark” feature and I hate that anyone can follow you.

But what else is new? How does it help me?

Now, can someone get started on that organizer?

Add Friend: Mom

I came online today to write about this important topic – Parents on Facebook. And I see that someone actually beat me to it and it has even been picked as the top posts of the day.

I guess that just shows how weirder it is getting to have your parents on Facebook and other such sites. My mom isn’t one for internet and such things and definitely would not waste time on Facebook. She actually remembers to call people now and then and ‘keep in touch’. But recently, a friend’s mother added me on Facebook. Followed by her dad. And I my mouse hovered in between ‘confirm’ and ‘not now’ while I wondered about the repercussions of adding the parents.

It isn’t only bosses that you have to be aware of now. Parents are worse. Because if you block your boss from seeing all your feeds, he probably won’t ask you why. But parents ask you why they can’t see anything about you when you spend hours in front of that site. Which means, now every single photo, status message and link needs to be vetted, along with the comments.

Of course, it is a little worse with Indian parents. Even though many of them would rarely use their accounts, they hound their adult children to add them. And then they say “it is okay if you have girls/guys as friends and their photos. We are very open-minded” and the bizarreness of this statement never even occurs to them. They do not even realize that it isn’t ‘open-minded’ but is quite normal to have such friends.

Indian parents like to keep tabs on their kids long after they have stepped into adulthood. And with sites like Facebook, they sometimes get more than what they can chew.

And I definitely wouldn’t want any family member snooping around my account… even if it is as banal as I’m at some club. Of course, the chances are that I would’ve ditched some family thing and was at the club.

But how exactly does one react to these friend requests?

Social Networking Killed The Mystery

Remember those times when you met someone at a party, got only their first name and maybe where they worked and then you went around asking all you friends at the party about who that person was and slowly trying to find out more about them, their phone numbers and then try to stage a meet somewhere, if you realllllly liked the person?

Do you miss it?

I do.

Why?

The mystery, man, the mystery. Curiosity is what really drives man… we like to take things apart, poke at things and really ‘find’ out about things. So the process of actually finding out something about someone would make them more enchanting. Or a little ‘non’. Depending on the information and all that. And every time you found a piece of information about the person, it was like a ‘eureka’ moment.

So when you finally got to meet the person, it would be nice. Like you’d really worked for it and this was a reward.

And then came Zuckerberg and Facebook. He got the idea right – everyone wants to know if you are single or not and they all want to find out more about you.

So now you meet someone at a party, come home, log on to Facebook, key in the name and the workplace and boom! you’ve access to the person. If the person is extremely privacy conscious, then you might have to do a google search. If you’ve had more than a minute’s conversation at the party, you send them a friend request and they actually let you into their lives!!!!

And in less than a day, you know where they work, what music they like, what movies they like, their hobbies, common friends, workplaces and maybe even their party crowd or set or whatever. You decide in a matter of a few minutes if you really want to pursue this further or not.

No mystery. It is like… choosing fast food at KFC instead of a beautifully cooked meal in a nice restaurant.

I do like the convenience of Facebook, particularly for business networking. It is easy to keep track of people and keep them updated. But every now and then, I get a message from someone who I barely met at a party. I wouldn’t know their name or anything else and they find me on Facebook and go “hey remember me? let’s be friends and totally open our lives up to random strangers.”

And here I am thinking if I should really do that. It takes months and years for us to get close to people in real life and yet here is someone sharing a slice of my life on an everyday basis just through a network. I’m not going to be pricey but I think you do need to work to know me, oui? That is the fun part… Maybe because of all the time shortages, we do need a quick entry… but the romance… the mystery… the drama… the sense of accomplishment *sigh*

Here’s the other bad part – your personality becomes restricted to just what is online. There is so much more to a person but we begin interacting on those lines, and sooner or later, begin to believe just that?

Social networks – murderer. Of mystery, of romance.

(Face it… getting a ‘cute’ online heart aint the same as a bunch of flowers waiting on your doorstep)

Piracy

You know those ‘FBI warnings’ that appear before a movie starts on a DVD stating that ‘piracy is bad’. I did like the concept… the way it goes ‘would you steal a purse, a car’ and stuff. But the overall warning – I found it a little funny, particularly when it would be running on a pirated DVD in the first place. Whoever rips those, ripped the entire movie onto the CD.

Piracy exists. And a lot of us even are a part of that. True story.

In the world of online property, there is a constant fight between those who produce the stuff and those who just want to own it. Nothing is sacred – movies, music, art, photos and now even books.

The thing is – how many of us really think of the fact that we are doing something wrong, much less breaking a law, when we download something? There are plenty of torrent sites… if one shuts down, the other is born almost instantly. There are always ways of going around the walls… and there are people who sit and devise these ways constantly.

The question is – where do you draw the line? A friend of mine who recently moved to the US was completely put off downloading when his roommate received a notice from Netflix stating he had illegally downloaded something. In the US,where such things are monitored, it is easier to track piracy. But in places like China, Russia and even India that have a complete lack of enforcement (if not the laws) of such things – what does one do?

People don’t draw the lines themselves. Everyone loves free stuff… so people would download free music, even if it isn’t to their taste sometimes.

DVDs in India continue to be above the reach of most people, even with the rise in earnings. Movies and music are mostly ‘luxuries’ and for those who really intend to delve deep into these worlds, they need to go hunting and pay more for such commodities. iTunes, which is perhaps the best way of accessing music, has locked down much of its contents, not to mention the last time I checked (which was a while ago) they said I couldn’t download music in India, even if I did pay for it.

I was annoyed. Here I am, willing to pay for the content and they tell me I’m not allowed simply because I live in India, even if I have a proper means of paying for it?

There are other factors that filter in… delays in movies releasing here, the outrageous prices of tickets (300 bucks or more for ONE movie per head? Seriously?)

These aren’t excuses for piracy… but they do make it easier to go the other way. But most people do not think twice about shelling out 50 or 100 bucks for a DVD, which has the same quality of one in the local store, that costs nearly thrice the amount. International movies cost more. Music CDs are almost a thing of the past… I love music but the only device that even plays these things is my computer.

But looking at piracy from an artist’s perspective –

I’ve had one artist friend tell me that he doesn’t care who downloads his music as long as people listen and appreciate. He puts up a lot of his music for free anyway. “Art isn’t mine once it leaves me,” he said.

I’ve another friend who hates the thought of someone ‘stealing’ his hard work.

I agree with both… I enjoy the process of creation and if someone really liked something I did and asked me, I would probably just give it to them. But sometimes, when a lot of money has gone into it and you don’t really have much left in your pocket to buy a cup of tea, you wish someone would pay for whatever you have done too. And that comes with the additional ego boost that someone loved it enough to really ‘own’ it.

JunkYard Groove posted this note on Facebook, talking about piracy that suddenly made me remember how much money goes into making an album. Particularly in the starting stages.

But since the beginning of Napster, a revolution has begun. The music world will never be the same again and the industry needs to find another way to make people pay for the music. Movies – yes, people would perhaps shell out for the DVDs. But music – that is an art which most enjoy and can be easily downloaded and shared. Even after one downloads the music, it is shared with others, sync’d and listened to on various devices. Considering the number of gadgets we carry with us, it is really annoying not to be able to transfer it on my own devices. One of the joys of music is, after all, in listening to it with others.

The same problem applies to online books. One of the joys of reading is sharing it with others. But here I am, paying almost $10 for a book (why the high costs when it doesn’t involve printing or storage or transportation) and I love/hate it but I cannot share it with a friend unless I lend my entire ‘library’. Of course, there is an easier way for this… tag the file such that only one copy of it exists. So if you email it, your copy is gone till that person returns it to you.

But that goes against the online concept where everything is always accessible.

The solution?

I really cannot think of one. I enjoy listening to music and there will always be pirated music floating around. When I buy music and share it with friends, I do not think of it as piracy. It is more of spreading the love. Do we stop people from sharing? Or do we just celebrate the greater cause of art?

(Edit: There was a huge controversy recently about a copyright on a photograph. Digital photos have flimsier protection than music. And now, to add to the mix, someone states that famous paintings and monuments should also have copyrights to the extent even photographing them and sharing it would be a violation. Where do you draw the line?!)