• Technology

    Uber awesomeness!

    I am using Uber for this whole week and not using my personal car at all. I want to see the benefits of using Uber vs. driving your own car. It has been fairly established that  Uber is more cost effective than  buying a new car. But this blog is intended for those who already own a car and are driving it just because they own the car. I will do a cost comparison for that later. But I wanted to first highlight advantages of using UberX.

    Note: These observations are from India and some of these might not work elsewhere. Also, these views are based on current rates of Uber. Not sure if they will hold true when their rates fluctuate. But again, petrol rates also fluctuate a lot in India hence that can also affect the decision.

    • Lifestyle change – The decision to switch to Uber permanently than driving your own car involves a lifestyle change. Your car is not there with you anymore; not there outside your office waiting for you. You start walking a bit more.  You start depending on public transport more. There is no baggage of ensuring that your car is safe somewhere. 
    • Parking – You don’t  waste time finding parking in mall or office. You don’t worry whether you will get parking space and you can focus on getting the work done. 
    • Time utilization – You don’t drive your car. Hence you utilize the time in the taxi to read a blog you always wanted, connect with your friends, send mails. By the time you reach office, you have already caught up with your day’s work. 
    • Conversations – If you have someone with you in the taxi, you can easily talk or discuss with them. Even if you are alone, you get to make great conversations with drivers. I have found most of the drivers cheerful and happy till now. 
    • I don’t have to worry if I am stuck in traffic now, because even though I am in traffic, I can utilize the time to read up something. It costs me only Re. 1 per minute (based on current wait charges) if I stuck  in traffic. But I utilize my time a lot more for Re. 1. Totally worth it! 
    • More cheerful – Since you are not driving the car in traffic, you are more cheerful when you reach office or when you reach home. Your legs/hands/back don’t pain from driving a car. You are mentally and physically better.
    The way I see it, Uber is not providing you a car, it is providing you a driver. Everyone owns a car but very few people have their own driver. Hence Uber’s tag line in their app ‘Your private driver’. You get to share a driver for a month at 1/4th the salary of driver on your payroll. I think that’s the value addition that Uber gives. It’s not about the car, its about the driver. All the above things are possible because Uber is giving me an on-demand driver.
    Now, coming back to the cost of owning a car vs. taking Uber.  
    Few notes for calculation – I read this blog by Sam Altman and have referred his calculation.  I own Hyundai Santro, 2007 model. It gives me mileage of 11 km per litre of petrol and the current fuel cost is Rs. 68/litre in India. I would value my Santro at Rs. 1,50,000/- running in good condition. And I would apply a depreciation rate of 15% to my car in India. Also, my office is only 5 km away from  my home hence the cost of UberGo per km is Rs. 16.5. For longer trips in Uber, the cost would come down to Rs. 14 or even lower. 
    Based on these facts, here are the figures: 

    km  traveled per year 6000
    insurance per year Rs. 6000
    maintenance cost per year Rs. 6000
    depreciation per year Rs 22500
    parking per year Rs. 9000
    petrol  cost per km Rs. 6 UberGo Rs 16.5
    Total  Rs.79500 Rs 99000
    So based on these figures, I am paying around Rs. 19,500 a year more for using Uber’s on-demand drivers. 
    I changed these numbers above for Honda City, 2005 model, and compared UberX at rate of 18 per km. And the usage cost per year for Honda City is Rs. 112500 and using UberX for a year was Rs. 108000. I think Uber will be more cost effective if the distance traveled is more and it will be cheaper  if you are driving a mid size sedan like Dzire, Amaze etc. 
    You can change the values above according to your vehicle. You could be running diesel, you could have more distance traveled per year, you could catch a different depreciation rate (even 10%). I compared UberGo because I drive a Santro. You could compare UberX. In any case, even if you have a small car like Santro or Alto in India, Uber would make more financial sense. If you want higher end cars, they have UberBlack too. 
    So, you don’t need to own a car, no need to pay any EMI and yet  roam around the whole town. You don’t have to pay monthly salary to the driver and enjoy all the benefits mentioned earlier.  That’s good enough reason to switch to Uber.  
  • Mobile,  Technology

    Connect Mobile Phone headphones to mac mini for using microphone

    Mac mini has only two ports – one for headphones and other for Line In. If we connect the generic headphone to Line In port, Mac does not detect it as a headphone. Hence lot of people have suggested online to use a battery powered headphone or a usb mic or a connection from preamp to use a mic.

    Another alternative is to use the headphones that come with your mobile phone handset. You use these headphones to listen songs and also to answer voice calls. Connect this headphone to the headphone port of Mac mini and your headphone and microphone, both will work on mac.

  • Technology

    Predictions for hardware devices for 2016-2017

    When I wanted to buy my first laptop in 2010, two screen sizes were popular during that time – 11″ and 14″. I really wanted to buy a Dell 13″ Vostro laptop as it was the perfect size for portability and office use though I felt it was bit small for software development. But 13″ laptops were very very expensive in 2010 and I bought  a 15.6″ for more screen space than 14″. But today, 13.3″ laptops have become mainstream, thanks to Apple Macbook Air, and lot of companies are launching laptops with 13.3″ size.

    When I bought my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 in December 2012, almost everyone went aghast at the 5.5″ screen size of the Android phone. iPhone fans obviously revolted at the phone and many thought it was insensible to walk with such a huge phone in your pocket. Before Note 2 I had Sony Xperia X10 Mini Pro – a 2.5″ phone. I was convinced that we could do a lot with Android or iOS Having used Sony for 2 years  and hence more screen space was required to get basic tasks done like typing, viewing videos and use the phone throughout the day (good battery life). Plus I didn’t want to carry a phone and tablet everywhere so I bought a phablet. After 2014, almost every phone is more than 4.8″. Even Apple launched iPhone 6 and 6 plus. Currently phablet has become a phone now.

    Having been successful twice in the past in selecting devices, I write this blog to make my current selection and the prediction for next two years. I might be wrong, but I sincerely feel that these are the devices I would like to own for the next two years:

    1. Laptop – I would definitely buy  a 13.3″ laptop now. 11″ Macbook is still very small and 15.6″ are too heavy. We are now used to getting lot of stuff done in tablets and phones and we need a laptop which can start quickly and get the job done. In past 5 years, there was lot of innovation happening in tablets and mobiles but now laptops are fast catching up. Intel has launched 5th Generation Core-i processors and also Core M processors for Chromebooks. Companies have figured out to reduce the weight of the laptop by using good alloys for the body. Lenovo is launching a laptop in May which will weigh only 800 gms! You don’t really need 500 GB space as most of the stuff today can be put on Google drive, Dropbox, S3 etc. Hence a  laptop that is 13.3″ screen, 128 GB SSD, 4-8 GB RAM, weight of less than 4 pounds is perfect to buy at a price of around USD 800 to 1000. I don’t care if its touch screen or the 2-in-1 types (laptop + tablet).

    2. Mobile –  I would use a 4″ to 5″ mobile phone now instead of my current 5.5″ phone. I would only use it for calling, whatsapp and doing a quick search on Google. I don’t really play many games and I am not very active on social media now. Hence I think that 5 to 6″ phones are good for daily use and many companies are pushing boundaries to make it thinner and more usable in your hands. A phone with less than USD 500 (unlocked) will be good enough. I would also consider  Firefox OS or Blackberry, apart from Android/iOS/Windows.

    3. Tablet – I don’t own a tablet yet and would not buy one. I think tablets are of little use today unless you are a kid under 10 or senior citizen above 60. Other age groups can use a good ultraportable laptop for reasons mentioned above. No one wants to carry a laptop, tablet and mobile with them everywhere. Lets face it, you can’t really type documents or make presentations or do programming on a tablet.  If you only want to access content – watch videos, read news, check mails, play games, learn something – tablet is perfect for you. But creating content isn’t easy on tablets. The hardware for tablet is ready but the software still isn’t. Hence the need for laptops. And since laptops are becoming fast and ultra portable, then you can access and create content on laptop  better than you would do on tablet. Plus most of the content can be accessed on a good 5″ mobile phone too – play games, watch videos, check mails, be connected etc.

    I see less innovation happening in tablets in next two years. Apple launched iPad mini 3 with only one small feature upgrade. Or probably companies could come up with a new OS for tablets and not keep the same OS for mobiles and tablets.

    Buy a 11-13.3″ laptop and a 5″ phone. Tablet if you have kids or elder people at home. I would also buy a Kindle e-reader to read books if you love reading.

    So, in short – these are my predictions for next two years – return of the laptop, mobile phones getting thinner and better, and tablets being just tablets!

  • Technology

    How Internet teaches us to be more responsible

     Man has always wanted to be part of group since the beginning of time. That is how civilizations grew. But to be part of a group you have to adhere to some rules and regulations. Only then you could be admitted in the group. The group could be a society, town, village, city or country. But if you had to be part of the group you need to adhere to the rules, whether you like it or not.

    Man also has responsibility not to do wrong actions towards others. There are different type of people in the world and some people want to help others and some people want to hurt others. That is where religions came in. They provided a context so that each man tries his best to be good to others and to himself in the benefit of the group (described above). Every religion professes to do good towards others (humanity) so that You  (the individual) would also benefit with it.

    But with the internet, the boundaries that define a group are fading away. Man is no longer grouped on the basis of his location, age, gender, race etc. For once he feels he has complete freedom to commit actions that he likes. The society or groups are not well prepared to enforce the rules. In this situation, what should the Man do? Should he indulge in activities which he likes but which he knows that are not according to the rules laid down? Shall he commit actions which are legal but which he knows goes against the context of humanity? Do you always need to be governed by the rules and laws or can you think for yourself whether your actions are right or wrong?   Internet teaches us to be more responsible about what we write, say, show to others till these groups don’t figure out a way to govern.

  • Technology

    Why did I stick to blogger

    I mentioned in my previous post that I am using the same blog even though I am blogging after a long time. I meant that I chose Blogger over Tumblr, Facebook, WordPress to blog. Or I daresay microblog.

    My first blog (this one) has been on Blogger since August 2004 (wow, thats old!). After that I have had many blogs on WordPress devoted to one topic each like Entrepreneurship, Databases etc. Then I also use WordPress extensively to build my websites. Apart from this, I have played around with Facebook Notes, Posterous and more recently Tumblr too.

    So, when I thought of restarting blogging, my first impression was not to use Blogger at all. I was googling on how to migrate my Blogger posts to Tumblr. But I still chose Blogger because:

    1. It is still not easy to import your posts into Tumblr. There are some scripts available online but I didn’t wan to use those.
    2. I tried Facebook Notes, but Notes are available only to Facebook users. Surprisingly, photos are available to everyone, but notes aren’t.
    3. I believe I still have some loyal readers for my existing blog who have subscribed this blog in their reader.
    4. Blogger is the good old blogging platform. I can blog on blogger and import my feeds on facebook which solves my purpose.
    5. Blogger is part of Google. I love Google. I love Android till now. Then we have Picasa albums integrated into Blogger. I just want to see how all of these fit together to give an easy blogging/micro-blogging experience.

  • Technology

    Open Office makes me think and Office 2007 doesn’t

    In my office, I have all Open Source Software on my machine (Thunderbird, Open Office), except the Operating System which is Windows XP Professional. But I guess in time even that will change, thanks to user-friendly Ubuntu. Till now, no problem with these OSS, until I used Open Office Impress to make a presentation.

    Even with the “Wizard” interface of Open Office Impress, it took me literally 2 minutes to figure out where to start. I didn’t get the toolbars and buttons on the screen I wanted to start off my presentation. I went to the ToolBar menu to customize it, but that again took 2 minutes to figure out what is happening. Then I selected one template and inserted some bullet-points in the first slide. Now I wanted to change the colour and transition effects of the text, and again I had to search through the screen to find how to do the same.

    This is the place where MS Office Powerpoint 2007 excels. I have tried it earlier for my college presentation. Their patented Ribbon-style interface just helps you do what is there in your mind. It never obstructs the flow of your thought. Be it changing the colour to inserting an audio file and animating the slide, it just works seamlessly. And you feel that its all there in front of you, ready to be used at your command.

    That is how User Interface should be for your software product. You should know how your user is going to interact with the product. You should know the types of users and how they work, how they think, what they need first when an app starts. Don’t make the user think. Don’t let him pause for a moment and stare at the screen. Moreover, the User Interface should help the user use functionality of the product which he didn’t even intend to use in the first place, and which will enhance his work even more.

    I know that the User Interface of Open Office Impress is very similar to MS Office 2003 version and I have used MS Office 2003 for lot of presentations. But now I am used to the look and feel of Office 2007.  I think only about ‘what’ to do, not ‘how’ to do, while using it.

    That is the reason I love MS Office 2007 and wish to buy the same.  Lets see what can be done with my presentation. Will give it to someone who is still very familiar with Open Office or do it on a machine that has Office 2007.

  • Technology,  Web

    Don’t Be Evil ??

    Try Orkut in Google Chrome

    Just noticed this message while logged into my Orkut account using Firefox Browser. I knew this will happen sometime, when Google will try to push Chrome through its Web Products and Services. In due time, I might see this message on my Google Reader, then Blogger (and all blogspot.com), and finally on Google Search Page itself.

    Anyways, I am not judging. They are a Company and what they are doing might not be wrong. Even I might do this with my range of products. But since Google believes in Don’t Be Evil, I thought otherwise….

    Btw, I did try Orkut on Chrome then. And then got this message…

    Awesome, you're using Google Chrome!
  • Mobile,  Observations

    Mobile Phone Etiquettes

    Mobile phones have become an integral part of our lives. I am sure everyone who is reading my blog has a cell phone with him. Following are some rules/commandments of using a cell phone :

    1) Every call on your cell is important. Be it from your wife,children,parents, colleague, boss, shop-keeper, gym instructor, driver, plumber, pimp, pet, etc. This is the primary rule based on which other rules are formed.
    2) You should never put your cell phone on silent mode, specially when you are requested at places like meetings, cinemas, temples, mosques, churches, etc.
    3) Always, and always, pick up a call when you are driving. It should not matter that you are hurtling down the road at 100 miles per hour or driving down a busy street with vehicles behind you. Your sudden lapse in concentration and erratic driving does not matter to vehicles around you ( even though they give you a disgusting look ) .
    4) Wear a blue tooth headset 24/7. This way its easier to pick up the phone while in the toilet.
    5) Shout on the receiver – its good for your health. It compensates for all the harmful effects on your body of using a cell phone.
    5) You should always use your cell phone to click photos at public places, even though the photos mean nothing to you. You may never know when that 1000 * 800 pixel photo might get picked as stock photography earning you big bucks.

    Grrrrrrrr…….

  • Technology

    Activeciti Beta Released

    After 4 months of hard work, I am happy to announce that Activeciti Beta version has been released.

    For those of you who don’t know, ActiveCiti is a web application specializing in planning and organising of events.
    It simplifies the life of people by taking care of their mundane and laborious tasks, which are mandatory to successfully organizing the event. So, you can use Activeciti to plan a get-together at a coffee shop / movie, or you can use it to arrange a party at your place. It also allows people to create public events that are happening around the world. It also sports very easy-to-use RSVP. There are tonnes of features to assist you, like Polls – to take suggestions from your invitees, discussion forums etc.

    This is my first product from my first start-up ThinkingSpace Technologies . Hence, you can imagine the thrill and excitement as well as the satisfaction of launching a product which in due course will be used by people worldwide. Now the next step is to increase the user base of the site and hope that Activeciti solves the purpose what it was built for.

    Well, I hope you sign -up and like the site. Till then, this is me signing off, to relax on a Sunday afternoon 🙂