Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Aaron Swartz

I will be honest. Until the news broke out, I did not even know who he was. But you do not have to know a person to be touched by that person, directly or indirectly. Life is filled with examples like this. In Aaron’s case:

- I’ve been helped by posts on Reddit
- I use and love RSS
- I use and love the Creative Commons concept

What makes me really sad about Aaron is thinking about those few moments that led to the tipping point from which there is no turning back. It could not have been pleasant and that is putting it mildly. And for someone without any real help and going through depression as well... Sad. Very Sad.

Also, it is true that the judicial system lacks a sense of proportionality. For an alleged crime that in which there are no victims, is a 35 year jail term proportional? As with any other life situation, the right thing to do is to make relevant changes by using this as a lesson.

The role of a law is to reform. Not to bully and punish. Systems across the world seem to have forgotten this. I am sorry Aaron. Whatever your alleged crime is, I am sure you did not deserve this. Thank you for everything you have contributed to making the Internet and the world a better place for us.

Note: I am typing everything in retrospect so there is no right or wrong here. I am just sad. Very sad. All I am wondering in the end is, did he deserve this? I know that the answer to that question is “NO”.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I got a new phone...

When I wrote that I wanted a new phone, little did I realize that I would be posting an update within a month.

With this post, I become another of those Blackberry users that has jumped ship. I have a shiny new Galaxy Note II - the same company that made the yucky phone my wife owns - now. Wait - what happened to the “first choice for Blackberry” thought? Man proposes... This phone was a gift so I did not have much choice. But looking at it another way, the timing couldn’t have been better - actually it left me wondering.

Before I talk about the new phone, I want to spare a thought for Blackberry. RIM is facing an uphill task - truly - and their BB10 series better be truly breathtaking to compete with the current crop of phones.

This is my first experience with Android as such. It will be really unfair to compare this phone with the 8520 that I had. For one, this is a product of two or three iterations of evolution which spanned two or three years. And then, the Note 2 is a behemoth! In size (a mini tablet), in price (well, let us just say you could be riding a shiny new two wheeler here in India if you decided to invest the money there!), in performance (quad core, seriously! I remember working on computers that had a single processor running at half this phone’s speed). So the first experience was “Wow!”. And Android itself was a thorough surprise as to how meticulously thought out and crafted it was - in every single way. Actually, I wrote some things I wanted from my new phone in the last post. Let’s see:

1) Good memory. 8520 has 256MB - I have to juggle apps to maintain a healthy free memory
Check! 2GB Ram and 16GB Flash. If you had the dough to spare, you can take a 64GB version. Add a 32GB microSD card and you could be carrying your music collection and a few movies in your pocket.

2) Good camera. The camera on this phone totally sucks. No detail and lots of noise.
Emphatic check! The camera on this phone knocks the socks out of the 8520. With 8MP, the detail is impressive but it is still a phone with a camera. But I love the close up shots. In fact, its already proving quite useful as a note capturing device and even a document scanner.

3) 4G - I want to leapfrog the 3G generation, which is part of the reason I am waiting. 
No check! But 3G is fast. I am not going to be twiddling my thumbs for 4G now.

4) Good processor. A pain point with this phone. Now with quad-cores becoming common, I want to see what becomes available soon.
No, I wasn’t seeing the future when I wrote this.

5) QWERTY - I am still not convinced with the touch screens' ability to do email and messaging. With whatever I've tried, its like switching from a car to a bicycle in terms of speed!      This option pretty much rules out every phone other than the BB isn't it? Lets see!      But I love the facility of large touch screen real estate and possibilities. The only good phone that married the too was the BB torch. But it appears I have to pick one in favor of the other! 
No check! This is one department where I am feeling the pinch and this is one area where the 8520 will still win. That and the AutoText settings.

6) Video watching - preferably without reformatting! I can't even think of something like that on this phone.
Whoa! With the quad core and the ample memory / flash storage, you can really show off!

7) Dual SIM - would be good value, but I am sure there is not going to be one in the BB.

8) Full browsing - both in terms of browsability and speed.
Yep! You can carry Firefox, Chrome and Opera all in the same compartment.

What about things I was already doing?

1) Calling and SMS messaging (duh indeed)!
Copy paste!

2) Almost all bank activities short of depositing cash!
ICICI Bank has an equally good app for the Android as well.

3) Access all my important files and send to others on need basis.
Dropbox has an Android app as well.

4) Access Email, Twitter, Google Talk
Yes! GMail has a dedicated app (and why would Google not provide one?)

5) Borderless messaging, thanks to WhatsApp and BBM
No BBM (not going to be missing that), but WhatsApp - yes!

6) Expensing with Expensify
Expensify has an Android app with a similar look and feel but with the better Camera on the Note2, the results are much better!

7) Browsing
Its a different era on this phone.

8) Facebook - yeah right!

9) Jotting notes with Evernote
Evernote app is notches ahead here because its written to exploit the processing capabilities of this phone. They also have a separate widget to put on the home screen.

10) LinkedIn - I don't really use it
Available, but not installed.

12) It is my alarm clock, stop watch and timer as well!
Available. To use full fledged. I love the fact that you can design multiple alarms and activate and deactivate one or many. I have a Sadhana alarm and a Lazyboy alarm setup. Don’t ask what they are!

13) It has fallen atleast 5-6 times and has survived
Dear God! I hope not...

Another wonderful app I discovered is Pocket! Nice name - nicer function! What it helps you do is to mark off all interesting looking articles you scan on the web. It removes all the fluff (read: Sucks the content out of the presentation and reformats it into just text and pictures) and pushes it to your phone in a neat readable format. It is like if they printed a newspaper with just the things you want to read. And you can carry it in your pocket. One of those apps which makes you think “How did I do without it?”

And there’s talking Tom! He doesn’t like his tail being pulled, but that’s what I do!

I am yet to explore this phone in its full depth - and given its capabilities, it will take some exploring to do. Good luck Blackberry - I enjoyed being with you while it lasted.

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