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A Song of Ice and Fire – Book 1 – Game of Thrones

[This blog post is rated A for Adult. If you are less than 18, don’t read] 

[Spoiler Alert if you havent watched Game of Thrones or read Game of Thrones] 

I like reading. I really do. I have previously written about books I have read recently. After having read The Stand ( a door stopper if I have ever read one, even more of a stopper than Order of the Phoenix) I wanted to read something epic. Something that will be as epic as Lord of the Rings (which I am yet to read) but even longer than that. Something I can read for a long time.  

That is when I decided to pick up the 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series. Of course, when you read on Amazon Kindle, you don’t pick up anything. Rather, you simply download and read :P Still, I prefer the word pick up. Game of Thrones is an odd book series (I realized after a while) to pick up. It has to do with the fact that Game of Thrones is such a big series on HBO. It's almost impossible to avoid game of thrones spoilers.  

Perhaps the most important spoiler was the fact that main character from the first book was portrayed by Sean Bean. I don’t know about you but Sean Bean almost always dies in almost all of his roles. If it is a series, he dies in the first movie or the first season itself. Seriously, his casting was perhaps the biggest spoiler ever. Normally I should not be complaining about it. A lot of spoilers get spoiled because of internet. Then, there are movie trailers that spoil key plot points. 

Here, I am particularly incensed because, the author of this series, Mr. Martin, is 'the most famous fictional serial killer' of our times. That means, he has a penchant of killing of key characters to 'throw off a savvy reader'. You see, a lot of authors like to give what is called 'plot armor'. For instance, we all know that harry potter can never die. Of course he cannot because his name is on the book for heaven's sake. Yet, what if Rowling killed off Harry Potter in the first book? That would take balls. No correction. That would take some steel balls. 

Mr. Martin, well, he does have steel balls.  

So, coming back to the whole spoiler thing, I already knew that Daenerys Targaryen will have dragon babies. I already know that Joffrey will die at some point and same goes to Jon Snow. I also know that Cersei will be paraded naked at some point in the series. Let me see, what else do I know. I also know that Daenerys will take a second husband. The weird part is, I don’t even watch the Game of Thrones TV show. I just happen to know these facts because I read a lot on the internet. The worst part is YouTube. Now that Google somehow knows that I have been reading Game of Thrones (although I use Bing) and now YouTube shows key scenes from the Game of Thrones TV series.  

Come on Google/YouTube, stop spoiling the series for me. Not only this, the TV series has already overtaken the books. That means, the TV shows is now spoiling all the faithful readers of upcoming books. It's like, spoilers are now a part of life and there is no mystery left. Phew! 

Anyway, all said and done, I just finished the first book, A Game Of Thrones. 

For me, the book was a quick read. It did not really take as long as I thought it would take to finish. It reminds me of Ramayana and Mahabharata a lot. In fact, it’s the exact same thing. At its core, like the book's title suggests, the entire narrative is about different families who are fighting for the so called 'iron throne'. A king is dead and then people are conniving to figure out who will get that throne. There are tons of families in the book. There are like hundreds of named characters and like actual history, many of them have similar names. The point of view keeps changing, so we are always getting different viewpoints from different characters. There is also a lot of death (like I mentioned earlier, anybody can die unlike other books. Mr. Martin, the guy with steel balls) and lots of sex. Although, the book does not seem to have as much nudity as the TV show. It's understandable of course. Boobs means TV viewers. 

What I liked about the book were its setting. A world where seasons last for years. That’s pretty cool. Then, the characters. A lot of characters are so morally uptight, they border on stupidity. Then there are characters who are clearly evil, they keep crossing that line multiple times. For instance, there is this one occasion where a guy casually pushes a young boy casually off a building to a certain death. Young girls ( and boys) are casually raped, mutilated and killed. Whores are everywhere and men simply have as many children as they want. Women are no less lustful either.  

Some characters are truly badasses, although, in a world where contests almost always involve dead bodies and a setting that encourages war at the drop of a hat, badasses are a given. What is impressive is that the bad guys are just as badass as the good guys. Then, there are no clear morality lines. The good guys aren't always good (like this good guy who happily lops off another guys head) and then bad guys who have their own reasons for doing something bad (like this woman who does incest because of tradition and also because her husband told someone else's name when they mated for the first time. Some of this stuff is just batshit insane!). 

Then, there is this truly awesome dwarf character. He is just...well awesome. He's like Batman, but he does not wear a mask. Nor does he have an impressive physical strength. He does not even have normal height and weight.I am really looking forward to see how far it gets to in the next books. I am also waiting to see how the wronged characters will fight back. Who will die and who will live. There are so many questions and that means, I will read the next book and see what happens next.  

Oh yes, I also want to read more about those fire breathing dragons and their relationship with their mothers. Then, those odd dead zombies and these creatures of the ice. The narrative is also like a huge web of threads. At any point of time, there are simply too many things happening. Now, I don’t know if we will have a LOST situation here. Many threads are simply left hanging (although I thought that the LOST series did give a satisfactory conclusion to most things) or they will actually be resolved. Given the infamous Mr. Martin book publishing delays, I should be pragmatic and understand that some threads may never be resolved.  

Overall, I have decided to buy the next book on Kindle. Get some answers. I also am hoping to avoid watching the TV series. At least until I read all the books. 

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We are giving up on Microsoft Mobile, UWP and Xamarin

For a long time study nildana has been a Microsoft Mobile house. Both from a consumer perspective and from a developer perspective. At one point our club had more than windowsphone users. We even had a Lumia 510!  

Of course, the windows phone story is well known. However, I always held hope for it. However, a point comes when you have got to give up the thing you want the most. Looks like we at study nildana have reached that.  

The reasons are several.  

  • The lack of new mobile (phones and tablets) hardware.  

  • The low market share of windows 10 on mobile hardware.  

  • Lack of clear upgrade path to existing Windows 8 hardware to Windows 10. 

From a developer perspective, all these is going to have an impact, and it already has.  

I had some hope when Microsoft bought Nokia but then Microsoft wrote it off. That was a bummer. 

Then, or rather now, Microsoft is talking about the UWP. I thought it would be cool too but I simply don’t see why folks and every day users (including me) would use an app on the desktop or the xbox one. While Windows 10 market share is decent, I don’t see it (and UWP) taking the world by storm. Perhaps five years from we  all machines are running Windows 10 (by then all windows 7 machines would have died), UWP will be important.  

So yeah, at this juncture, study nildana does not have the luxury of investing in UWP.  

Then, there is the promise of XamarinIt was pretty much a given that Microsoft would purchase it (and make it free). However, there are some minor niggles (like how you still need an apple computer to build apps through Xamarin. If I need an apple computer anyway, why build on Xamarin / Visual Studio at all?) that prevent me from being sold on Xamarin. I also am wary Microsoft’s strategy when it comes to mobile. They wrote of a 7 billion dollar purchase (Nokia) and what is to say that they won’t write off Xamarin (which is small change at 400 million)?  

So yeah, as a small club with no external funding, study nildana cannot afford to place it bets on Xamarin either.  

Essentially, as the guy who runs the show at study nildana, I must make some tough decisions. My decisions impact not only my life but also of the dozen or more interns I am guiding at any point of time.  

Perhaps, some day Microsoft Mobile strategy will pay off. For us at study nildana though it’s time to say good bye to it for now.  

Where do we go from here. Well, where do highly skilled divers go when deep water diving is banned? Sky diving of course ;) 

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Thank you to my mentor - Mika

I would like to think of myself as a generally smart guy. Yeah, self appreciation is frowned upon but I can be objective (I think) about myself and yes, I think I am smart (but I do dumb stuff. My students can tell a dozen stories about how I have done the silliest of mistakes over the years since they work so closely with me) and that has helped me a lot.

To be more specific, I am the kind of guy who, if shown the direction (or even a tiny hint of direction), I can find the rest of my way through the worst possible and dangerous and ludicrous jungle (as in problems). It is this ability of mine that has helped me become a good (if not the greatest) developer and also helped me a lot whenever I face challenges when working as a trainer.

Okay, is this post about praising my mentor or myself?

The thing is, although I am smart, I still need to find that direction (or that hint of direction). It's always like that with solving problems. The starting point, the 'right' starting point is all it takes to find a solution. Sometimes, all available starting points lead to a solution. The distinction between them is that some starting points are better than others.

And that is where my mentor comes into the picture. His name is Mika Varjonen. He is awesome. He is patient. He is an incredible human being. More importantly, he is patient (I already said that didn’t I but he is worth second mentions) and if an apocalypse were to strike earth, I know that there is one other human being (other than my elite study nildana students) on whom I can count on to take on the zombies and restore balance to earth!

I met Mika back in 2013. When I say met, its not a face to face meeting or a social gathering interaction. There was this game. It was called 'Galactic Reign'. The game was an online turn based game, not so different than Civilization or to some extent chess. I met mika on a random online match, and we ended up using Xbox Live chat system to interact. I would constantly beat him (sorry mika. I had to mention this) but he would not react angrily or even get upset. He would immediately come back for a rematch with no hard feelings of any kind. Like I have said before, he is a super cool guy.

Eventually, the game itself died but our friendship continued. I found he was a Microsoft developer and my livelihood was .NET, and I asked him if he could help. This was how we really hit it on. He was a super awesome developer and I was but a (hopefully humble) learner. I knew some stuff but in front of him, I literally knew nothing.

From then, since now, I must have been stuck constantly while working as a developer and a trainer. Yes, I am smart (again, with the self appreciation. Come on Jay, what's wrong with you!) but I still find that 'starting point' I have talked about. Like most developers I use a combination of memory, experience, online sources (stackoverflow, msdn, msdn social, blogs) to find that 'starting point'.

That is where mika comes in. You see, if I were to weigh mika on one side (not literally of course :P) and all the other resources on the other side, mika still outweighs them 100 to 1. He is like this incredible library of knowledge and experience. Whenever I get stuck (and I will admit I get stuck) I consult with him and he immediately shows me that starting point. Of course, there are times when he actually comes along with me through the jungle on some really tricky and rare scenarios.

That means, if today I am doing well as a professional, I would like to chalk that to his help. It won’t be wrong to say that he has played a major role in shaping my thought process. That's not it. The technology world is constantly changing (if I had a rupee every time someone wrote that!) and I like and I do keep up. However, mika has a foresight that I am still developing. He can tell me where I should be next career wise, and most of the time, he ends up being right.

Further, the knowledge he passes on to me, I pass on to my study nildana students. While he is my mentor, he is a surrogate mentor to each and every member at study nildana. In addition to this, he has a full time job, a family and lots of other responsibilities. Not to forget the time difference between India and Finland. Despite all this, he somehow finds the time to help me.

Lastly, I like to talk about technology. I like to discuss technology because it is fascinating. There is a certain joy that comes by talking about, discussing company strategies, breakthroughs and extinction of tech that is past its prime. As a developer from India, I have no access to such individuals. My work colleagues and friends (many are software developers) are pretty cool folks but they simply don’t discuss and disperse technology. This is not a complaint but rather an observation. However, I am convinced that the world gets better when people talk to each other, meet and discuss. Worlds aren't built by being quiet. They are built by people who get together, meet, greet and discuss positively.

So, Mika. I take this opportunity to thank you. I hope, that I am good mentee and I hope, someday I will be able to repay what you have done for me. Of course, that is impossible as I am already, eternally in debt for your mentorship.

Thanks again man.

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Why we are going with bitbucket and not github

Think code repositories, immediately you will think of github. In fact, until very recently I simply assumed version control equals github (although I have been familiar with visual studio online services for years) and ended my understanding at the point.  

Then, I looked at my own students at study nildana. Many of them gearing up to starting committing their own code as they are now about to start working as developers. I feared that, since github does not allow private repositories, I will have to end up shelling out money for that as well. That is when I ran into bitbucket and its free offering.  

Bitbucket allows unlimited private and public repositories for up to 5 users. I think that is a reasonable provision. As a developer, I know that there is no such thing as a free lunch but then again, a lot of work in the world of software gets done at a low cost (Linux, for example). So, as much as I am a big fan of github (I get a lot of stuff from their repositories) I am afraid, I will have to use bitbucket's offerings for now.  

I don’t envision my team to grow beyond 5 members, at least till the end of this year. So, I can start off by using the free service. In addition to this, I noticed that the paid service is a reasonable offer as well. 10 dollars (approximately 700 rupees) per month is reasonable for 25 users. Another thing which impressed me was the ability to ge the bitbucket server itself (so I can host it on my own) for a cool 10 dollars (approximately 700 rupees)  for 10 users.  

Overall, for current and future requirements, bitbucket simply seems to have an incredible offering and I am going to have to say goodbye to github for now.

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mobile operators in India and the 3G and 4G irony

I have previously written about my hatred and love for mobile operators in India. Overall, there are some things that are pretty good about mobile operators (for instance, our call rates are definitely lower than most countries) but there are some bad things too. Call drops are one obvious candidate (it's clear that the Indian mobile scene is almost like a cartel now, what with identical call, SMS and data prices across, well, everybody) and of course, most of them have stopped bothering with investing in new infrastructure. In fact, not one day goes without me hearing complaints from other side (when I call people) that they can either not hear or the call just outright disconnects. 

Anyway, the whole call drop thing is a story for another day. Today's story is how ironical the data plans that are offered by mobile operators are. Especially there odd data caps and the prices they charge for it.  

As part of my job and hobby, I get to meet a lot of students. I also get to meet a lot of people as well. Many of these folks have the most minimalistic mobile data plans. Most of them either use a 50 MB per week packs, or just stick with a 500 MB plan with 2G speeds. Some have decided to not have a data at all as they can get WiFi at home as well as office. Every time I ask them, why won't they just upgrade themselves to 4G/3G and a higher data pack, they say 'what's the point. We cannot use it anyway!'. In fact, if someone were to ask that question to me, I would be giving an identical response.  

The reason is, well, the insane prices and the data caps that operators charge here in India. For instance, on my phone I have a 8 G 'unlimited' plan with 3G. I will come to the 'unlimited' part in a while. For the 8 GB of data I am paying 1250 rupees plus service tax and clean tax and education cess and so many other stuff. Overall, I am paying roughly 1400 rupees (give or take a few rupees) for access to 3G 8 GB data. Thankfully, I am on Vodafone which has fantastic speeds where I live and travel (and I travel a lot!) and that means, I can easily get 10 MBPS no matter where I am.  

Now, I also have an Apple Music subscription as well as Netflix subscription. Further, I use YouTube of course. A typical album (with 10 songs) on Apple Music will run me about 150 MB. A single 2 hour movie on Netflix will cost me 700 to 900 MB. Half an hour of YouTube will cost me almost 300 MB. That means, a day of regular consumption will easily eat up 1.5 GB on my phone. That means, my 8 GB quota will be over in less than a week. Of course, this does not include other data consumption stuff like emails, whatsapp, photo sharing on Facebook and Instagram.  

Now, coming to the 'unlimited' part of my data plan. You see, once I consume my 8 GB, I still have net connectivity at a super awesome blazing speed of 64 kbps. Yep! For some reason, Vodafone (my favorite mobile operator about whom I have heaped praises like crazy) assumes that a speed of 64 kbps is useful for me. Well, it does not. In fact, even email won't sync at that speed. If it does, it usually takes about a minute or two. Browsing is impossible because neither Bing.com and Google.com can respond at 

that speed and of course, we can say goodbye to using messengers or streaming video.  

So, what exactly are mobile operators playing at? Does it really make sense for me to continue paying 1400 rupees for 8 GB of data every month? With such high prices, how exactly will an everyday individual, students, professionals or anybody for that matter, afford such data? 

Now, the entire country and all its mobile operators are going gaga over how fast their 4G is. Seriously though, they are still keeping the same data caps as they did with 3G. That means, with 3G I can finish my data cap in 7 days and with 4G (at least twice as fast) I can finish the same data cap in 3 days.  

Awful is the only way this situation can be described. However, I am fingers crossed for Reliance Jio. Apparently, they are going to shake things up and I hope they do.

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Netflix needs to enable offline mode

A few months ago, Netflix made a bold move and rolled out its services to India (and pretty much the rest of the world). That's fantastic news because Netflix knows how to do streaming right. They have a nice catalog and they also have some very cool originals. The app interface is simple and useful and subtitles make it possible to enjoy the media even without headphone in crowded places. 

The problem is, Netflix is sticking to its 'no offline' guns.  

This may not be a problem in developed countries like the US and Europe. Folks who live there are probably used to getting decent net connectivity no matter where they go. When I say decent, I am looking at a speed of 1 to 2 MBPS which is sufficient to stream video at lower quality (although Netflix does not let you choose the video quality the way YouTube does) and enjoy entertainment wherever you are. That's pretty much the point of a streaming service.  

The problem is, here in India, we don’t have the 1 to 2 MBPS wherever we go. Free wifi at malls and pizza places are fast enough to use whatsapp (and not much else really). The only place where we can get reliable speeds are at our homes and most of the time, the home is not where I really want to watch Netflix. I want to kill the commute time, or waiting in the queue time or at the bank or at the restaurant or at the mall and so on and so forth.  

Now, there is one place where speeds are not a issue and that's our mobile carriers. I use Vodafone, and my goodness, do they provide good speeds. That is just on 3G. I have used their 4G as well, and the speeds are incredible and the coverage is excellent. In fact, I am overjoyed that such great speeds are available in our country. The issue here are the data caps. For instance, at the time of this writing, I am paying through the roof (2500 rupees – roughly 38 dollars – for a measly 16 GB data) every month. At most, I could watch 20 movies before Vodafone downgrades me to an 'unlimited' speed of an incredible 64 kbps (which is just good enough to use whatsapp at a sending rate of one word per minute).  

I thought that perhaps, when the 4G rollout happens, the data caps would be eased. Nope! To think of an example, using 3G/4G in India is kind of like owning a Ferrari. It is so awesome because it is so fast and incredible but I can only drive it for a 100 kms and then do nothing else with it. I understand that data caps are inevitable but I only pray that someday, the cost will come down. I am holding out hope for Reliance Jio to shake things but I have been misled before. 

So yes, Netflix, please enable offline mode. YouTube and Hooq are doing it already and so can you.

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Happy With Vodafone

Recently, I wrote my disastrous experience with Airtel Mobile. Thanks to the magic of number porting, I have now officially left my previous mobile partner Airtel, and joined hands with my old friend, Vodafone. Obviously I am pleased that I no longer have to carry two phones everytime I go for a cup of chai (check the airtel post for more details), and I thought I will take this occasion highlight two instances when prompt service from Vodafone made me a happy customer.  

Instance 1 

Way back, there was a time when I had a third number (dedicated to my technology club study nildana). I realized eventually that the investment in the third number was useless and decided to let it go. Unfortunately, times were bad and the bill crept up on that third number and eventually, Vodafone asked their collection agency to look into collecting the dues I owe them.  

The collection agencies are sort of like the folks who stand guarding the doorways at clubs. They aren't exactly polite and will get abusive if the occasion calls for it. Of course, things did not get to the abusive part for I promptly paid up the amount and assumed the issue closed.  

Things got ugly though.  

Three months later, I receive a email from the legal team that I have not cleared my dues. Obviously, this was a shock to me. I was being called from at least 3 different folks (each of them refusing to give me their office address) and each of them claiming that I haven't paid my dues. Eventually, I found out that, the collection agency that collected my money never made the payment. They decided to keep my money and as far as Vodafone was concerned, I was an absconding customer or a 'wilful defaulter'.  

Fortunately, the cash payment was actually an online NEFT transfer. I had solid proof that money was paid to that collection guy from me. I communicated all this to the collection agency and they said they have found that individual who ran away with my money. They said the issue has been sorted.  

Then, things got even more ugly a week later.  

Apparently the issue was not sorted, and now the collection agency has stopped answering my calls, and I was being called again my multiple individuals asking me to pay up!  

Then, as a last resort, I decided to go online and hit up Vodafone on their twitter channel. In less than 24 hours, the issue was resolved! Someone from Vodafone called me up, spoke with the legal team and with the collection agency and I was updated at each step. Awesome! 

Instance 2 

After the Airtel Moble disaster, I waited like a hungry hawk during the apocalypse for the 90 day porting limit to run out. Once that happened, I called up Vodafone and expressed my intention to port over.  

Here are the sequence of events. 

  • Called up Vodafone customer care. 

  • Requested for a documents guy to collect my documents. 

  • Documents guy comes and collects the documents. 

  • A sales manager keeps me updated about the port via watsapp, anytime I ask for a update. 

  • Number gets ported and the sales manager actually manages to activate the specific data pack I asked for. 

Back when I ported over to Airtel, not only did Airtel Mobile not bother to send anybody, they insisted that I walk to the nearest airtel store or forget about ever coming to Airtel Mobile network.  

So, what I see here two large companies. One of them (Airtel Mobile) has become so big that it does not care to take care of its customers. The other (Vodafone) despite its size, going out of its way and actually try and help the customer. 

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Place Holder files and OneDrive and DropBox

Today (and for a few years now) we keep a lot of our stuff online. Making the assumption that you have access to excellent broadband with decent caps, it is possible to upload the stuff that matters to most of us – documents of work and personal, photos and even videos –to a cloud solution. The players that immediately come to my mind are OneDrive (well, because its Microsoft) and DropBox. There are other cloud solutions providers such as Google and Apple and what not. However, I like what OneDrive and Dropbox has to offer.  

There was a time when I loved OneDrive, simply because it was awesome and way ahead of its competitors in every possible way. One of the cool features I enjoyed the most was the 'placeholder' concept they had on their desktop operating system (specifically Windows 8). 

This is how it worked. 

  • Link the desktop OneDrive app (previously called as SkyDrive...and why Microsoft, why cannot you stick with a single name. Just look at the emails you offer. There is live.com, msn.com, outlook.com, hotmail.co and others that I don’t even remember. No other company changes its product brand names like you do) to your Microsoft email account.  

  • Choose which folders you would like to be made available offline.  

  • Let the desktop do its thing.  

I personally loved this because I used to have a Windows 8 tablet which came with a measly 32 GB drive (and out of which only 28 GB was usable and after windows installation, I was left with only 7 GB to use). Since I would log in with my Microsoft Account, the OneDrive would be automatically linked. To note, I have over 30 GB of files on OneDrive.  

Thanks to the magic of placeholders, when I open the desktop OneDrive app (which is integrated to the explorer) I could 'see' all my files. I know which folder contains what and it's convenient. Then, when I wanted to see a particular folder, I could make it 'offline' and then use it. Then, I could turn off offline and the files would be automatically deleted (only the local copy). This is cloud done right.  

Then, Microsoft introduced Windows 10 and just killed it!  

As if this was not enough, Microsoft reduced the free storage from 15 GB to 5 GB. Talk about back to back mistakes. There was a huge hoopla and Microsoft finally relented and allowed those who complained the most (including yours truly) to keep their extra space.  

Initially, I thought this was some poor decision making. Then, I started looking at other factors.  

  • The real drive for a cloud solution is for tablets and mobile devices. Microsoft is not minting any money in either of these categories. Microsoft offers paid for storage solutions and it probably hoped that if more folks used their tablet and mobile products, they will pay for it. That did not happen, and probably won't for the near future.  

  • It's obvious that Microsoft no longer wants to be in the consumer devices business. Look at the Nokia purchase and its sequel events.     

  • Those who do want more storage (like enterprise customers) are already getting a lot of storage when they the Office subscription plans anyway.  

  • Then, there is the recent trend is Microsoft is doing some serious relationship building with (well everybody as evidence here (Google), here (Open Source) and many other stories like that) Dropbox. How would it look to Dropbox if Microsoft is shaking one hand with it, and with other hand making its own cloud service better and better, handing out free storage and what not.  

Overall, it looks like a plan that is a long way in making, and simply shifting gears to respond to market changes.  

And to bring things to full circle, Dropbox just announced placeholders with their desktop app. I would complain but it kind of just makes sense.

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Thoughts on Visual Studio Code

Microsoft is going all in with embracing multiple platforms. The drive for this could be many. The (acknowledged) loss of focus on mobile, the shift to cloud (all platforms need a back end, right) where Azure rules (okay, right behind Amazon Web Services) and signs that point to a future where people will continue to use mobile operating systems for everything.  

One of these gestures of embrace is the Visual Studio Code. Now, all of us already know about Visual Studio which is just awesome. That includes the community edition which can go toe to toe with the professional and enterprise editions. However, the thing is, Visual Studio is a full fledged IDE. That means, it contains everything (probably the kitchen sink too) you and I (developers) need to build apps. As Visual Studio expands its horizon (now it's possible to built native android and iOS apps), it keeps getting bigger and bigger. If you were to run a VS setup now, and select all options, the total size occupied may go well above 35 GB. Perhaps even more, when you start downloading even more emulators.  

I have used many IDE's and by far, Visual Studio is the best. It looks pleasant, does not crash, does not hog the memory (cough cough Android Studio cough cough), easy to update and maintain and overall, it tries to make my life simpler. However, Microsoft is looking at future where it is no longer the guy (or girl) whom's platform (Windows) that people are dancing on. When you don’t control the platform, you don’t control their actions and that means, there is no money to make.  

Facebook is busy turning conversations into a platform (clubbed with whatsapp, roughly 2 billion people are connected to FB) and now has introduced bots (which are frankly much better than Microsoft's own bots). Operating systems? Apple and Google have got that cornered. Search engine? Google has cornered that and Bing (which I love! - no sarcasm) is still working hard not to feature in college humor videos where it is a footnote joke. Xbone? Microsoft is lagging behind after making some serious mistakes on launch day.  

Microsoft has got to do some cool stuff now and I think, that is one of the reasons Visual Studio Code is a reality. The description of Visual Studio Code reads - 'Visual Studio Code is a code editor redefined and optimized for building and debugging modern web and cloud applications'. It cannot get any more simple than that. The VS Code is open source (which is awesome), and supports all three platforms – Windows, Linux and Mac. Normally, I would be surprised at that Mac support but I look around my own office and I see almost all developers working on Macs. Yep!  

Now, I am fully invested in Microsoft Technologies and that means, I am yet to enter the 'modern web and cloud applications' arena fully. I have dipped my taste finger in them, but the time to jump in is not yet there. So, how would I use Visual Studio Code? Right now, I am thinking of using it for quick code checking. I moonlight as a trainer and occasionally students send me codes for me to evaluate. VS Code loads in seconds and it is wonderful for casually flicking through code files. Another use I have found is when I am building simple bootstrap based sites or teaching simple HTML, CSS, Javascript and jQuery concepts.  

These two scenarios – casual code flicking through and web based coding – make the perfect case for Visual Studio Code usage and I already love it. Now, I need to see how Microsoft improves this code editor and when I become a 'modern web and cloud application' developer, check for myself if VS Code delivers on all of its promises.  

Fingers crossed.

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Cashbacks hilarity!

About a year ago (or maybe more) mobile wallets starting making their way into our lives, and by extension my life. I don’t quite understand what their business model is but I can venture a guess. 

In order to use the mobile wallet, I have to deposit money into my mobile wallet account. Then, when I am shopping online with a merchant that supports these mobile wallets, I will be able to pay with my mobile wallet instead of the rigmarole attached to making the payment through a card (which will involve typing the credit or debit card number and all the other stuff) or the netbanking security stuff in case of a direct bank payment. 

I think, how mobile wallets make money is that they lend the money that I deposit and earn revenue through interest. This is pretty much what banks do as well. They take our savings deposits, invest them and make their profits that way.  

In case of mobile wallets, the interesting thing was their customer acquisition plans. You see, when they started their services, there were offers galore. 25 % cashback! Instant cashback! Top Up cashback! 50 % cashback on weekdays! Discounts on this and discounts on that! Stuff like this. It is all grand and what not. But then, reality finally crept in (perhaps their investors started making phone calls) and now here is a typical text that you will find with a standard cashback offer.  

(Note : This excerpt is from a paytm cashback offer) 

Offer - Get 50% Cashback when you pay via paytm wallet@ Dominos                  

Terms and Conditions (this is where the hilarity starts) 

Cashback will be credited with 3 working days – previously, it used to be an instant cashback. But now, it's 3 working days. That means, suppose I make a purchase on a Friday (assuming they are operating on a five day week) I should not expect the cash back to happen till at least Wednesday or Thursday. 

Valid for every 10th user – This is what cracks me up everytime! Now, how the hell am I supposed to know if I am the 10th user?  When the payment is processing, they never tell I am going to get the cashback. The payment window simply says that my 'coupon' was accepted. However, this does not mean that I actually won the cashback. It simply means that I typed the coupon letters properly (my MBA degree has finally paid off! I can type letters into a box! How about that? My parents are finally proud of me because of my ability to type a coupon code properly and all it took was a mobile payment app usage to prove it ).  

In addition to that, there is no scoreboard of some type to indicate that yes, I am the 10th user. So, who decides that I am indeed the 10th user? When does the counter start for the 10th user? Does it reset every 12 hours or 24 hours? Or, does the counter keep running? 

At the outset, what I see is a marketing department that has run out of ideas. It's a pity because the mobile wallet idea is a good one but they are ruining it by making 'cashback' as the only incentive to use them. On a personal level, I use mobile wallets simply because of the added convenience and safety. I wish these mobile wallets re-positioned themselves on those lines.

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