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.

 

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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?