jay's old blog

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Revisiting windows phone - Windows Mobile 10

A few months ago, I blogged about how I am giving up on windows mobile or windows phone or whatever Microsoft decides to call its next mobile OS. Then, I decided to buy a pretty expensive keyboard and mouse, and that changed things. I wanted to check the extent to which the wedge keyboard has been programmed to work with its parent mobile operating system.

In all the following scenarios, the wedge has been paired with the device under question. For example, on a laptop (running windows 10), I could press the 'windows start' key and the menu pops up. If i press the same key with the android phone, nothing happens and same applies to the iphone. Now, when I paired with the 640 XL running windows 10 mobile, the home screen appeared. Then, it went further. I could call cortana, and voice the commands. I was also able to use the Tab key, the short cuts in edge, and of course bring up the menu in Word. What I see that, the wedge, being a Microsoft keyboard is wonderfully integrated into the mobile OS of Windows 10. It is truly a universal OS, this windows 10.

Suddenly, I realized something. The potential of the mobile OS of Windows. Of course, the app gap is still there, but if I am willing to get things done via web apps and Microsoft apps, I can get almost everything done on my windows phone. Add in the continuum effect available in current generation windows mobile OS phones, there is a good chance that I can get everything done with just a windows phone and nothing else.

Last night, I was able to write several emails, write an entire chapter of my upcoming novel, browse the internet and of course, chat, all on the windows device, just like I would on a PC. So, perhaps, I was premature in calling windows mobile dead. I cannot imagine the regular folks ditching their smartphone for windows mobile. I myself wont do that. However, I can see that the windows could be a light weight productivity machine, especially for those who are already armed with wireless keyboard and mouse, and dont wish to pull out their laptop for some quick work stuff, and are tired of getting work done on the tiny mobile screen via touch.

I don't know what the future holds for windows mobile. Heck, I am sure, even the big bosses at Microsoft are not sure what to do with it. What I do know is, I am not completely averse to buying a windows phone device. I think, it can complement existing devices that a individual carries. I have half a mind to pull out my 1520 out of the shadows, get it repaired and use it again.

Gender based differential pricing - Why I do it? - Feminism or Women Empowerment or plain old pervesion?

If someone is reading my blog regularly, they know that I work as a developer, trainer and a consultant. As with a lot of folks who do what I do, I have a simple business model. I charge hourly, and I accept payment in advance. Like Deadshot says in Suicide Squad movie, "No money. No Honey".

On a related note, for many years now, I have been learning - by accident and by design - that the world is not split into black and white. It's not just two colors. It's an entire spectrum of light, which starts at complete black, and then going up to complete black. Which means, except for the the very first and the very last digit of the color spectrum, life is simply some variation of grey.

One of those grey areas of life has to do with roughly 50 % of the world population, which is the female gender. This video by onion, summarizes a lot of things about women in a very short duration. In fact, the onion taught me more about running a business than my 18 months at business school. Of course, that is not a knock against my b-school (which is totally awesome by the way) but simply how good the writers at the onion are.

Anyway, coming back to the topic of women, yeah. It all started when I graduated from Primary School. Here is what what happened to the gender ratio.

  • Primary School ( 35 girls - 29 boys)
  • High School ( 16 girls - 50 boys)
  • PU College ( 5 girls - 30 boys)
  • Engineering ( 30 girls - 90 boys)
  • MBA ( 15 girls - 105 boys)
  • Office ( 10 girls - 120 boys)

Even when I was a kid, I realized that the women simply seemed to drop out of the map. In fact, the transition from primary school to high school was shocking to me. Not to brag or anything, During my studying days and onward to my work days, I almost always ended up finding myself in some of the best school, collleges, MBA school and workplaces in the country. Which means, I found myself in good, solid environments where things were pretty liberal and perhaps, a very open environment.

So yeah, what happened to all the women? Of course, as a trainer for the last four years, I have an insight and perhaps a portion of the answer to this question. This blog is not the place to get into what I have discovered in terms of an answer.

However, what I did was, I decided to do what a lot of people are already doing. For instance, I get into a bus, I see that a lot of seats are reserved for women. I think this is a good thing because, for a variety of reasons, men are simply faster! If, due to some reservation, if more women can enjoy a comfortable journey, then it is perhaps a good thing. If it is a bad thing, then I am going to turn a blind side to it because I am personally appalled about the missing women at high school, engineering college, b-school and work place.

So, I decided to implement differential pricing in my own developer, trainer and consultation activities. When a client approaches me, I offer them my rates. Then, If they are female, I offer them a 40 % discount. Again, the key word here is 'offer', which means its a choice. If the female client wishes to take the offer, then she can take it. However, if she feels insulted or perhaps feels bad, then she can pay what her male peers are paying. No female client has said no to the offer. They all take the 40 % discount, and they all seem to be very pleased with it.

On the other side of the gender tennis court, the male clients don't actually complain that I am giving their female counterparts a huge discount. In fact, they say that I am doing a cool thing, and congratulate me for giving the discount.

Another interesting thing is that, some male clients think that I am doing this for perverted reasons. As a logical man (well, most of the time), I can see why they think that. However, the female clients, the ones who are happy and pleased that I am giving them a generous discount, never say that I am doing it for perverted reasons. On the contrary, they think I am doing a cool thing, my bit to help women in general and in the world of technology in particular, and it is evident from the many glowing reviews they leave me on my professional profile.

Welcome new Friend - Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard

It is fairly obvious that I consider wireless keyboards an essential tool in the arsenal of developers. Further, I recently lost my previous keyboard due to said device reaching the end of its life. I wanted to replace the previous one with something better, and lo behold, the replacement, and my new best friend - Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard - just arrived.

One thing I would like to get out of the way. I had to import - purchase this thing. That is just sad because, Microsoft should really look into this. If Apple can sell overpriced smartphones in India, I dont see why Microsoft cannot sell overpriced (but totally worth it) keyboards.

Right then, the keyboard is tiny. Yet, I had no difficulty in achieving a speed of 69 wpm. My regular everyday wpm is somewhere between 70 to 80 wpm. That means, although the keyboard is tiny, I dont foresee any loss in terms of typing efficiency. Over time, once my fingers get used to the spacing and the size, I should reach 75 wpm, if not greater. Setting up the keyboard was pretty straightforward. the package included batteries, which is great. Once the device was powered on, I simply had to turn on the bluetooth button, and a useful light started blinking. On the PC, I simply had to turn on bluetooth which immediately recognized the keyboard.

After that, I simply had to choose to pair, enter the password and that's it! This is a wonderful improvement for me because my previous keyboard interfaced via a bluetooth dongle. I will admit that the dongle, was perhaps the only complaint I had about it. In fact, the reason why I had to say goodbye to the Microsoft Wireless 2000 was because the dongle developed a hardware fault. Anyway, it cost less, of course. So, I got what I paid for. Coming back, yes, no more of that dongle business which is just cool.

Another thing for which I was really excited is the keyboard cover, which also doubles up as a stand. I tested it out right away. It looks soiid. Based on my history with Microsoft hardware, I know it will continue to be solid. And, the stand fit snugly against my smartphone. So, yeah, I got a solid stand for my smart phone and other mobile devices I might purchase. The stand is but a small bonus. The real bonus is that the keyboard works with android as well. So, I fired up my android device, and turned on bluetooth. Just like that, the keyboard showed up and I was connected. I also had this checked with a friend of mine who has an iPhone. It worked equally well, with the same fluidity of connecting and typing.

I wrote a long email to a friend, just for the heck of it, and it is so amazing. There are so many times, where I have written long letters and documents on my smartphone. Of course, Microsoft Word on the android is a joy to work with. Now, combined with this Microsoft Wedge Keyboard, looks like my productivity numbers will increase significantly with the smartphone as well, just as it does with my PC.

If there are folks out there who are thinking of buying this keyboard, then, I would (based on the impressions from the last one hour) totally recommend it.

Novel update - the connundrum and complexity of naming characters

The more I dig deeper into my second novel, the more I realize that the narrative has expanded to span across cities, planets and even sun systems. Although I have only written seven chapters, the narrative is already spread across two different sun systems, and has more than 25 named characters. By my estimate, these seven chapters comprise no more than 15 % of the novel. Although math does not apply linearly to stuff like novels, I fully anticipate the narrative to criss cross through even more planets and cities. That means, the number of named of characters may reach 50, 75 or even a 100.

The problem is, coming up names for them. I dont know why or how but so far, I have had no difficulties in coming up with unique background (as part of character development) to even tiny roles which last no more than a page. However, when it comes to naming them, I run into blank walls. No matter how much I try, I end up with the same names and it kind of bums me out. That is when I realized that, if I am going to finish this narrative, I must come up with some kind of a algorithmic name generating system (you know, me being a developer, I inevitably gravitating to come up with software solutions such as algorithms to solve literary problems) or else, I could be wasting a whole lot of time, simply coming up with acceptable names.

That is when, I ran into this trope called as 'Line of Sight Name'. The trope is mostly used for comedic effect wherein a character (who is unprepared or taken by surprise while being competent in other ways) has to quickly come up with a fake name. Then, the character will simply figure out a name based on what he is currently seeing. This is most accurately demonstrated in the old classic movie, Mrs Doubtfire. In this movie, the lead character (who ends up cross dressing as a old woman so that he can spend more time with his kids) names his alternate identity after looking at some stuff. Just like that!

I just realized, I could do that constantly. When I am writing or thinking, I find myself in all sorts of places. I travel a lot! Like, so much and that means, I find myself constantly in different environments. When I have a few characters to be named, I simply look around, club them together and make up some name. Of course, I quickly jot it down in my writing diary. The randomness of this technique also means that if I do not jot it down, that name will be lost forever. Such is the concept of randomness. It has its good and bad sides to it.

So, I am blogging this right now. I need a name. Surrounding me is a green work cubicle, a black chair, coffee cups, grey wallet and so many other items. Picking up elements from these items, I can come up with names such as 'Cupgrey' (Coffee and Grey Wallet), 'Borderdot' (The white cup has a border on which I see some coffee spilled), 'Lydev' (there is a device lying on my table)...and I can just keep going on like this.

Fortunately, the world in which my narratives are set, are all futuristic space colonies in some distant future. That means, just as with technology, people are also very different. That gives me the option to name my characters as weird as I want. I am convinced that when there is a situation where an individual is sitting in a spaceship that is getting ready to land on an orbiting asteroid to refuel, nobody is going to worry too much that his name is 'Lydev Borderdot'.

Novel update - Trying to pass the bechdel test

I continue to work on my second novel (at present time, I have completed 7 chapters and the full story has already been narrated in my notes), I keep trying to incorporate some ideas that appeal to me.

One of those things that caught my fancy is the Bechdel test. It is defined as follows - "The Bechdel test asks if a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. The requirement that the two women must be named is sometimes added." and is credited to Alison Bechdel.

tests such as the above are not like Newton laws. They cannot be proved universally. For instance, two women could be talking about another man (who also happens to be the main villain, who they are trying to take down). In this context, these two women (who are actually strong, well developed confident warrior characters who happen to be female), will fail the test because they are constantly talking about a man. There is that.

Yet, when I think about it, and use this test judiciously, I find that, the test kind of make sense. In my novels, I have tried to include more female chracters (although, I am naturally inclined to include more male characters, but then, I realize my mistake and go back and change the gender and rewrite their characterization). However, I find that, without even becoming aware, these female characters are inevitably talking the men in their life and nothing else. In some way, this is wrong because, if two male characters are talking, they are not almost always talking about women. They are talking about all sorts of other stuff.

So yes, the bechdel test is not perfect. However, by being smart about its usage, I think I can make my novels better. Make them more appealing to whomsoever ends up suffering through my written words.

When Microsoft is more cool than Apple

It is not just regular folks who can get petty. Large corporations can also get extremely petty. For instance, both Microsoft and Apple had their tech events, pretty much on the same day, or at least within the same 24 hours. For extremely obvious reasons (time zone) , I was unable to watch the events live. That leaves me to follow on my favorite tech sites, which provided me with the summary for both Apple and Microsoft events.

Over the last few months, I have learned that rooting for a single party is no longer option. There was a time I was a strong one technology partner guy. Windows PC. Windows Phone. Windows Tablet. Server means Azure. Browser means Internet Explorer... You know, like that. Of course, the way I see it now, such things do not work anymore. Microsoft makes the best Keyboard and Mice, but Apple makes the best tablets. Azure has the best cloud services but Amazon is cheaper. Microsoft has the best development tools but perhaps, not the best customer mobile platform. That vote goes to either Apple or Android.

So, I now follow multiple tech companies, and am open to using their services if they are indeed the best in their category. That brings to the above two videos. I have got to say, Apple presentation was simply the opposite of 'wow'. It was perhaps as boring as the many (I mean 100s) presentations by my class mates in my b-school education days. Perhaps, the most bumming part is the lack of Macbook Air. Before this presentation happened, if someone were to recommend a portable, I would have told them to go for a Macbook Air. Now though, I would rather they bought a Surface Pro. Then, I would also tell them not to get the insanely overpriced Touch Cover Keyboards. Instead, simply buy a wedge keyboard and a sculpt mouse.

The Microsoft presentation though, it was simply more diverse. The dial (which looks useful), the huge display PC, the VR stuff, the hologram and the 3D things. Of course, all of them support direct, keyboard less interaction. Overall, it is simply so cool, and for once I can look at an Apple fan and say, 'Dude, MS has the goods now'.

Does that mean, I am happy that Apple is not doing cool stuff? On the contrary, it makes me sad. The way our world works, or rather how it should work, is that all involved parties should be trying to outdo each other. If not, innovation stops. If Xbox One wont innovate, than the Playstation 4 has less of an incentive to innovate. If Samsung does not keep pushing edge of the thing stuff, then Apple will lose its motivation to do cool stuff. Windows Phone might be dead, but that does not stop Microsoft from keep pushing at least some stuff to its down and out mobile operating.

So, rather than allow a smug look on my face (yes, I am now more open to other company stuff but I still lean heavily towards Microsoft) I will hope that this was simply an aberration in the scheme of things. Next year, perhaps we can have a win-win. Apple shows off cool stuff, Microsoft shows off cool stuff. That would be the most amazing thing that could happen.