A new outlook for 2022

A drive along the Chennai Bangalore highway

As 2021 came to a close, I realised that it was a full year from my last blog post on the bangalore blog. This meant a lot of things in between that took away my time. I got into two hobbies – biking and singing.

New hobbies

Since that last post, I have now managed to put up 10000km on my BMW which is the single best thing I have done in my life.

The other aspect of course is singing – I got into Smule App being a shy guy. I wanted to learn the nuances of singing correctly without the stage fear. A somewhat botched attempt to sing at my cousin’s wedding wanted me to aspire for much better stuff. With about 500 contributions so far on Smule, I now have come to a much better understanding of how to sing well and am much more confident to go on stage again. And it is pretty much time for another cousin to get married.

I have so many in my own generation who are not married yet so that would mean good food and great times for these weddings yet to come.

Covid attack

As I navigated the entire 2021 first trying to get vaccinated, then trying to be as safe as I could be with my family, we managed not to get into this Virus effect until now. Just when I thought I would start blogging again, Omicron hit us and the entire family is now recovering. Whether to feel bad that the virus hit us, or to feel good Delta did not hit us last year when we were not vaccinated, your guess is as good as mine on what I must be thinking.

Good things and bad

I spend the entire covid reign time in finalizing a house for myself which I am happy about so as to look out for a change in the near future. It is not going to be easy to handle this, but what is life without excitement!

I sold my SUV/MUV since I rationalized with myself that I am biking more than driving and I least bit have any regrets on what I did. It is liberating without a car occupying a driveway and not being driven anywhere versus to find a BMW bike which I can actually ride always and loads of space in the same driveway at home.

I still have a small car which too I do not drive much. So I think it is the end of cars for us as such.

I changed my job too into something much more involving, but the timings and the load worked on my mental health a bit and biking and singing balanced it out when it got a bit too much. I have now learnt what I need on a job that I take up and one of the options is to also retire if there is an opportunity.

Dawn of 2022 somewhere near Kolar

I also did not renew my blog on time and since the domain expired, I did it a bit late but also thought this is a good opportunity to move back to wordpress, a platform that I loved a lot for its ease of writing blog posts. And here I am doing precisely that with my new version of the bangalore blog.

As usual I will continue to bring you interesting info surrounding my life and my favourite city Bengaluru as time goes by, and wish you visit my blog often to share my happiness.

So here is to the new version of the wordpress hosted Bangalore Blog.

My horrible BMW registration experience

As you would all know I booked a BMW 310GS bike the experience of which I had detailed here.

At the time of writing that article, way back in mid November, I did not have the bike registered to my name. From there on a series of wrong steps happened and screwed my happiness for nearly four months, leaving me running from pillar to post. I am detailing a few of the things I would want every buyer to understand while buying the bike.

Understanding how things are done helps you in going about logically and completing an incomplete and frustration-raising job.

Temporary registration for one week

Usually the dealer has the authority to grant under “his” showroom quota, a temporary registration with a leeway of 1 or 2 days usage of the bike while in the meanwhile he will put the case forward for the permanent registration number to be allotted. And that step was done for me.

I was told I could take the bike home since I had paid for it. So I got it home. This is mistake #1

Never take the bike out of the showroom even if you have paid for it and it is not registered fully yet.

Temporary registration for one month

Since the registration for the bike did not happen even after a week, dealer decided to issue me a separate temporary registration number against just my name after paying a fee and a fine that I noticed (perhaps for not having registered the bike) which I could use for a month from that date.

This was mistake #2, which was a consequence of mistake #1. I started using the temporary registration number.

Must visit clause for actual registration

Since now the bike was with me but was not registered and it was beyond couple of weeks, the RTO had a condition that I had to personally take the bike there to prove that I was indeed the owner. So I went to Jayanagar RTO and waited half a day for just the inspector to come over and see my bike. This whole thing was done because the online registration of the new vehicle did not go through properly.

The reason was that the dealer got a payment error on the gateway while paying my tax amount. This further introduced a delay of one week while the dealer waited for the money to come back into the account from which he paid failing which he would not pay again. To avoid this occurrence again I was told to do this manually and hence had to visit the RTO.

Post the visit, I was told the registration was done. But I never got my registration number even after a week. This was unfortunate part #3

Allotment of registration number

After putting much pressure my number was allotted and I asked the dealer for the number plate since the number was allotted. Here is where things went terribly wrong. The online data fed into the system by the dealer ended up with the chassis number reflecting properly but engine number showed “0”.

Since the HSRP number plate procedure involves having both engine number and chassis number to be entered properly for the request to go through – now the dealer was stuck with this procedure. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months. Dealer initiated a correction request for my record online along with 8-10 other owners who had other errors with the RTO software. This was screw up #4

Running around to the RTO

After much hassle and seeing nothing happening even after three months, I spoke with the dealer and with BMW and also visited the RTO to ascertain what was the issue. Dealer said RTO goofed up the engine number entry, RTO said they can never do any editing and its entered wrongly by the dealer. So I had to go back to the dealer and challenge them that they had entered something wrong and faulted my record. They denied it.

The reason for me to believe they could have gone wrong is due to the fact that my insurance for my bike was goofed up with the wrong bike model number leading to a cancellation and reissuance of insurance on day of delivery which itself was an unpleasant experience.

Screwed up RTO software

In the meanwhile I applied for DL renewal for a relative of mine and when sourcing the records from the system it showed him as a female – which was a basic mistake. It is only then I understood from the agents and friends that the RTO software is all botched up and was taken to production because of time pressures from the higher ups without validating it properly. It makes me think even the vendor is questionable in the quality aspects.

This is what made me strongly believe that the software and its mapping for entered fields to actual tables in the database was going wrong for many people and I was not the only one. This I realised is the next major shit #5

Dealer application to RTO for correction and procedure

So the dealer started seriously following up on the letter issued to RTO for correction in their software after four months – yes four frickinn months – of me waiting. They probably had the company talk to the RTO, and dealer spoke to RTO agents mutliple times and after some strong escalation the RTO finally fixed the issue of the proper engine number being entered.

In this time, I had gone to nearly eight different rides, and covered 4000 kilometers on the bike, the bike underwent first service for 1000km without even having proper registration or RC card. . As though to add insult to injury my bike battery died within 1500km and from what I understand they have replaced it with an exide battery as it works equivalent to the BMW battery. I had to tow the bike to the showroom at my own cost since it would not start no matter what paying towing charges from my own pocket since I had no RSA which would otherwise cost me 10000 bucks as high costs – the perks of owning a BMW I assume.

Finally after hundreds of phone calls, tens of visits to the RTO, hundreds of whatsapp messages and even the cops catching me for fining me for various reasons post COVID – this whole purchase has left a bitter taste in my mouth.

The moment of truth

After four months of buying the bike – one fine day I got a call that the corrections have been done and number plate has been requested and after a couple of days I finally got them installed on the bike. At the time of writing my digital RC still shows engine number as zero and I do not have my physical RC card. I am not even sure of how long that is going to take now and what all errors it would have.

I am now skeptical of anything to do with RTO itself. I had to tag BMW and the RTO multiple times on twitter for help to even get this far. In all of this the dealer did not even bother to refund me the “handling charges” – the scam going on everywhere in the city these days. If I had to take the bike for inspection myself, what handling did the dealer do? At best they have manhandled my case for four months. So what happens to the money I have paid the dealer for this? – Simple, no refunds.

Lessons I learnt from this whole episode

  1. Don’t take the bike home until its registered properly
  2. Check the application posted online – dealer has full control over what he is entering – take a printout of what he submitted
  3. Check insurance details before submissions
  4. Pray to god that there is no error on RTO software for your case
  5. Escalate on twitter – its a powerful platform for brands to notice
  6. High end bike buyers will get customer service only until bike is out of showroom, beyond that even a TVS scooty owner will get better respect.
  7. Go to the RTO – spend few days talking to officials there to understand what is going on with your case, if you don’t go no one is going to do anything.
  8. Consider the option of going to joint commissioner as a customer and logging your case
  9. If you are caught for such issues on the road, explain politely to the police about your situation and they will understand it as they know the fate of their own software
  10. Be happy this software is not Income Tax software.
  11. Keep your calm and go about logically even though you may be utterly frustrated
  12. Every bike brand will have issues with their new bikes – some or the other parts will screw up – this is because of diminishing quality checks due to urgency of bike launches. No one has control over this. Just pray that nothing is wrong with your bike.
  13. You can register the bike yourself – it is absolutely a choice you can take with an agent of your choice.
  14. You can insure a bike with an insurer of your choice – no one can dictate or mandate who you need to go with
  15. Everything is now online – so internet first, physical visit next

Conclusion

In all of this mess, the bike has stood up to its quality and has performed well so long. If this means some consolation I will go with it.

It is not in my intention to throw my anger at anyone. But dealers need to treat customers better with respect to the communication of being honest about what they are trying to do. If situation goes out of hand they need to talk daily to assure customer that issues will be solved. Empty promises of “Sir this will get sorted in one week” when in reality it took four months is absolutely unnecessary and shows the maturity of dealers and their communication aspects. Brands need to reach out directly to customers if they have to sell more models next.

The brand connect with customers is a powerful aspect and people won’t take all this lying down if brands decide to ignore customers. Finally the government needs to take these shoddy software vendors to task for bringing them a bad name all over the place.

As for now, my amazing rides shall continue with a bit more peace of mind, that this issue is hopefully sorted and assuming my RC card shall arrive soon.

Written with StackEdit.

BMW GS 310 purchase and initial ownership experience

  




After 20 years of driving a car, I decided to get back to biking again. My criteria was clear, easy to sit, easy to use, good height for seating to reduce back pain and reasonable power and torque. I really wanted it to be as lightweight as possible. I am a bit leaner than most heavy weight people so wanted a bike I could push and shove if it came to that on the road.

 

 

 

 

Shortlist & showroom visit

 

A few bikes impressed me. Friend got a Harley and from a long time I was eyeing a Ninja as well. Couple of friends had RE Himalayan and Yamaha FZ so those were under purview as well. In addition BMW caught my fancy for its brand name, looks etc and also the fact it ticked few of the boxes that I had for myself. KTM was a contender too though I felt it was too sporty and too dangerous as it picks up speed way too fast.

 

I preferred the pedals being right below my leg rather than the fact I have to angle forward and keep my legs a bit backward (sporty seating stance). So bikes such as Avenger, or bikes such as Honda CBRs were out of scope because of their extreme cruising or extreme sporty stance. I wanted a relaxed seating and relaxed driving posture. KTM was out because of it being too aggressive for a started like me (although I may have wanted to consider the duke).. That left the RE, Yamaha, and BMW though for some reason I never decided to check out Honda.

 

At the time of making a decision, the Meteor was not out, so wasn’t the Highness. So it was probably an opportunity lost to test out both. When I visited the showroom in early October, there was no test ride as bike was not launched. So tentatively booked it with 20k bucks. Meanwhile a friend had a BS4 GS 310 and I managed to take a test ride and get convinced. The BS6 version then would be only better if not worse. 

 

Booking experience and test ride at showroom

 

Towards the latter half of October, I got to test ride the motorbike and I felt it was a bit top heavy and bottom light. But all ergonomics were spot on and there was no issue anywhere as such. Post the already done booking I worked out some loan formalities for the bike and that process was rather smooth talking to the bankers and coordination with the showroom.

 

Delivery and first ride home

 

Day of delivery was just one month after prebooking but still one of the earliest bikes delivered in Rallye Kayene blue colour. It was a smooth take over of the bike with pending payments done and bank loans disbursed and there was not much fuss around the delivery itself. 

 

However the staff did make some errors with insurance papers (wrong model specified) which led to cancellation of insurance and need to reinsure the vehicle. One another major issue was the registration not done due to RTO gateway payment error. I had to literally take home the bike on a temporary registration (belonging to showroom).

 

 

 

The ride itself was smooth though the bike is revving a bit at idle more than usual. The design caught a lot of eyeballs on the road, with people asking me how much it costed and what was the engine displacement, complimenting the colour, etc. I was pleasantly surprised at the build quality of this bike. I would have preferred a much better engine grunt, but this sounds a bit lame to my liking. Basically there is no announcement or arrival at signals or places where you get the vehicle to stop. So no notice until the big huge frame gives it away.

 

This bike sits tall. I mean really tall. Among a row of bikes, this bike is like easily visible no matter where this is. Filled some fuel on the way and managed to get it home. I literally had to renovate my gates to fit the bike in. This bike weighs close to 170+ kg and needs 3 feet of clear space to enter a ramp and exit. 

 

 

 

Post sales headaches

 

Post sales support has been a bit on the downside with the showroom. As of writing the article my bike is still not registered. It is 15 days now after taking delivery. Other than being apologetic nothing is being done to logically close the case. I am feeling that I will already reach the first service date of November end and still the vehicle won’t be registered. 

 

Showroom argument is “we have created temp regn for you sir, so what is the issue”, my argument is “bike has been delivered, logically close the case”. I think they need some lessons on managing customer expectations, specially when someone is paying so much for a bike.

 

I will write about the driving experience in further threads, but for now I will leave you with one heck of a looker bike!

 

 

 

Short review of the Lenovo Smart clock

Introduction

I was not looking what I was doing and plugged in my Alexa power supply into my wooden LED digital clock that I purchased from Singapore for above 50 SGD and the next thing I know is the clock was beeping with screwed up display.

I knew that was the end of it. So there began my search to replace that clock. I checked out many websites in India and came across that the same LED clock including shipping would cost me much more than 50SGD. It was not worth it and I was wondering what to do when I came across the Croma web site which was selling the Lenovo Smart clock at a deep discount of 3999/- down sharply from the MRP of 9999/-

At the time it was launched the thought of someone having to pay 10k for that clock astounded me. So I did not for it at that time. However at 3999/- it was a compelling buy.

Unboxing

I made a short video on unboxing this clock. It was a fairly simple unboxing and took very minimal time and less fussy as well. Take a look for yourself.

Salient points about the gadget

The following are worth mentioning about the gadget

  • Quite some decent amounts of clock faces
  • pretty amazing brightness levels almost doubling up the clock as a night lamp for your room
  • Good readable main clock face font
  • Amazing loudness of volume for announcements and google replies
  • Main controls such as brightness, volume etc are neatly placed on the slide up menu on the clock
  • Other widgets such as alarms, weather etc are accessible by swiping left or right
  • Textured cloth finish with volume buttons on top of the clock
  • Triangular shape makes it sit on the desk without an issue
  • Other buttons such as mute, power cable input etc are neatly placed at the rear and are accessible without even seeing them, mute button being a slider is easy to operate
  • Hardware seems rock solid in the hand as well as throughout the operation
  • Since it connects to WiFi, even after a power cycle, it picks up the current time from the network without a fuss unlike other digital LED clocks
  • Integration with devices to cast to, is commendable
  • USB connectivity at the rear

CONS: There are really no points I can take to nitpick on this product. I really do not have much to say on the negatives of the product. In fact in my opinion there are really no negatives. Had it been sold for the original price of 10000 it would have been a huge negative, but that is also not the case now.

Conclusion

The Lenovo Smart Clock is a great buy at 3999/-, the hardware is slick and fuss free, the display is amazing and so is the sound. It does sound a bit tinny since it is not a bass machine like say the HomePod and rightly so. This is not a device built for music but still gives you listening pleasure if you wish to play music.

For what it has to offer, it is pretty accurate and integrates google tech very well inside what is a right dimension of hardware. The Lenovo Clock is a hardware that would get you to actually use it more than say a Google Home Device. Its understanding of Indian English accent is commendable as well considering how far Google has come with this.

So what are you waiting for, let me know in the comments below if you liked the review and if you are going to get yourself one of these.

Until my next post, Stay safe!

WAHL wired hair clipper – is it a good buy?

So finally I did it. The opportunity came across. COVID. I could not and did not want to go for a haircut to a salon outside due the risks. The only other option was me to have a haircut at home itself. And for my kids as well.

I had a Philips beard trimmer which was unsuitable to cut hair on the head. In fact it is even a wrong tool to use to do that. I had seen a lot of these hair trimmers in the salons that I was interested to see what they were using. And then it came through. I made an Amazon purchase for the WAHL corded clipper.

So was it a good purchase? Read on to find out as I will share interesting snippets about this product.

Features of the product

In short its a corded hair clipper. Period. But with a difference.

  • Very powerful and consistent motor
  • Adjustable blade with a mechanical handle
  • Chrome plated rust proof blades
  • Comes with four attachments for different hair lengths

Talking points

The clipper is heavy. If you do not hold it properly it can give you wrist pain. It is seriously heavy in a good way. It feels solid in the hand. The motor is powerful. Really powerful. You can feel it when you switch it on. Perfect build for the price.

The hair lengths attachments help you adjust how much of hair length you want to clip. It take a bit of getting used to.

Here is a video review of the product unboxing

Utilitarian aspect

This is the real thing about this product. Can you actually use it at home. I used it at home and this is what I found out, read on.

  • You need the person to sit on a bar stool preferably for you to stand upright while trimming hair. If you are bending forward and downward to where the subject is, its not a great position
  • There are tactical ways of running the trimmer on the hair, if you don’t keep the angle right, you are going to snip right upto the scalp. It takes a lot of getting used to get this right
  • You take the longest measurable attachment, move from bottom to top, then the next one move from bottom upto 3/4th of the top, then the next one from bottom upto 1/2 the top and the last one bottom upto 1/4 the top. This is the pattern to leave longer hair at top while having the shortest hair at bottom
  • For the top of the head its best to use comb, your hand and scissors. Weave your hand along the top hair, raise it up and snip a quantum that pops way out of your fingers, keep repeating this until there is no more hair that pops up beyond your hand depth when placed on the top of the head. This is by far the easiest thing to do as its a natural step
  • For all the attachments provided you still need the comb and scissors method too, and its not totally avoidable.
  • There is no magic formula to use this machine. Everything comes by experience. We need to use different mechanisms to get the haircut done.
  • There are other aspects such as lots of hair sticking onto body or falling on the floor at home which needs to be taken care of. We need a good apron preferably satin onto which hair does not stick. Again experience plays the part to find out what suits best
  • For the hair that needs to be completely removed such as edges, we can use beard trimmer without any attachments, but carefully
  • If you are using any of this on children, utmost care is to be taken to accommodate the fact children however old they are will move their head beyond a point as they begin to get frustrated. For an inexperienced user who gives the haircut this process can go on until 45 minutes to an hour and still result in imperfection.
  • There is no way to learn this without humans as that method is expensive requires dealing with wigs to practice, etc

Conclusion

The product is solid for its price. It has none of the efficiency issues that we may have with cordless trimmers. It’s a simple product with not much tech complications, but still can get difficult to use as the process is more about skill than anything about the product usage itself.

The other things it will teach you are patience, care, being slow, and getting to know how difficult a barber’s job really is. This is why everyone cannot be a barber. This is not a lawnmower job, it is a hair trimming job. And if the end result is a disaster you not only lose that customer, you will lose other customers also by word of mouth.

With every lost customer, the skill is hard to master. If you liked this review, leave me your comments below!

WWDC – Improvements to OS releases – part 3, Mac OS Big Sur & ARM

In the second of this three part series, I outlined the improvements to WatchOS, Privacy, Smart Home, and Apple TV coming up in iOS14. To conclude in this article we discuss the big daddy of all OSes, Mac OS.

Mac OS Improvements

This time the new operating system is going to be called Big Sur. The focus is on design and power of the OS. Some of the important introductions are as below

User Experience (UX)

  • There is a complete redesign of the user interface and experience meant for rich look and feel, maintaining simplicity and ensuring easy usage and great UX
  • Sidebars and Toolbars are added for most apps
  • Transparent Menu bar which merges with background
  • Soft sliders for controls like volume
  • Control center is now integrated into Big Sur, just like iPhone and its customisable to what you wish to have

Widgets, Messages, Maps & Catalyst

  • Widgets are now available to Big Sur
  • Messages on mac now carries over iPad based updates to memojis and powerful integrations of things like photos, icons, etc directly into messages.
  • MacOS supports all map features discussed previously for iOS 14. On the move though these may not be so useful but just before you leave you can setup a lot of data on your desk and it will all hopefully be there on your phone as well
  • Street level views and look around, points of interest, important locations known to you can now be pinned
  • Catalyst app now available and will support adapting iPhone apps to mac with enabling all the good features of Mac OS with respect to screen size, and lots of other things

Safari browser speed improvements

Big Sur claims that the Safari browser is now 50% faster than Chrome. And we all know that Chrome is going down the drain with its memory hogging functionality. This comes at a time when Microsoft Edge is blazing fast on all platforms. The real competition is now really between Safari and Edge rather than Safari and Chrome

Safari also has improvements to privacy and now will allow users to see how websites are tracking them, using privacy report button. Website passwords have stronger level of encryption within Safari in case of a data breach and Safari is now also allowing developers to port extensions to Safari easily.

The Mac app store will also feature a list of these extensions to find them easily. Being able to give extensions permissions just by the hour or day and giving them specific permissions for specific websites makes Safari very powerful. Safari also has a new look with custom backgrounds, and specific themes.

One of the issues we people have always had is to have multiple tabs open to the point that each tab shows only the icon. It would by then become hard to read and we would not understand which page is on which tab. For this the new browser comes with page preview just by pointing the button at that tab which in my opinion is a great move.

Another feature introduced by Safari also includes the fact that we can now close only tabs to the right or only taps to the left. Safari also comes now with built-in translation where we can translate an entire webpage in real-time contextually while being on the same page. This is especially great if you want to read content written in other languages, but shown in let’s say English.

Move to ARM

Perhaps the biggest update in WWDC but still nothing visual is the decision from Apple to move from Intel to ARM. This is by far the most important decision that will let Apple bring about newer tech in near future of at least five years. Every new hardware released hereon will be having ARM chips and it is an exciting time for both Apple and ARM knowing the sophistication of ARMs IPs in terms of performance and the likes.

Some of the key points about the hardware evolution are as below

  • 100x improvement in CPU performance
  • Larger GPU and wider memory subsystem for much better graphics performance over the years
  • 1000x faster performance in graphics in ten years
  • 2 billion devices shipped since ten years is a whopping achievement
  • Focus on devices giving highest performance with lowest power consumption
  • Big Sur is be default having native apps built for the new silicon
  • Universal 2 for converting apps to support native silicon or Intel
  • The real deal would be when users use complex apps like photoshop, final cut pro which would seamlessly provide performance most likely at less power consumption, like for example applying filters on 4k preview videos while editing on a project.
  • Rosetta 2 would help in automatically help translate intel based apps to work on new silicon even though the app is not completely refined
  • Gaming is expected to be super smooth for rendering frames
  • Support for virtualisation and support for iPhone and iPad apps to run seamlessly on Mac’s new chips
  • The SoC kit is available as a mac mini for using Big Sur and Xcode so developers can work with to perfect their apps

Conclusion

The developer betas are already available and the iOS 14 release would be officially available by Fall time (September in India). These OS updates are substantial in their own right and have finally caught up with what Android was offering all the while. But in a more sure footed manner.

It is an exciting time for buying Apple products especially with the very performant and less power hungry ARM cores and it is only anyones imagination how many avenues this will open for Apple in future. The only thing left to do is to wait to savour the new iOS14 for now and some great ARM based hardware in the years to come!

WWDC – Improvements to the iOS 14 release – part 2


In my last post we discussed the impact of the new features being launched as part of iOS 14 release which is upcoming. Simultaneous improvements to WatchOS, iPAD OS, MacOS, and TVOS also mean all things get incrementally better than before.

In this second post, let us discuss the remaining things that made up the WWDC announcements.

Watch OS 7

So the Watch Os is undergoing some transformation as well. The things they have introduced are

  • additional complications that developers can provide in their apps
  • Much more detailed level of customisations to watch faces to include specific information
  • Sharing of watch faces – now you can simply share your watch face or add a watch face you see on the net, or even share on social media
  • The map enhancements are now added to watch OS, specifically focussing on cyclists.
  • The watch OS also adds an app called Fitness which now has recording of dance moves very accurately for different variety of dances, which measures accurate calorie burn rate
  • Watch OS also now focusses on tracking sleep better and more importantly preparing for you to go to sleep by dimming screens, showing relevant messages, playing calm music, etc. It also measure sleep activity to monitor what is happening when you sleep.

Note: For India however the cycling data on watch is not going to be so very useful yet. The sleep monitoring assumes you have the watch on, and the phone near you which we Indians are not accustomed to.

Special feature – helping you with your hand washing during COVID times. Apple thought they could use their existing sensors to include this feature where the watch knows the time when you are washing your hand apparently and runs a 20 second timer to ensure you wash enough. During pandemic times such small but important features add to customer delight if not anything else. Again for India, one cannot be really sure how many of us will even be using these watches or wearing them all the time.

Privacy

Apple is making many improvements to privacy of customer data. Customers can now choose what kind of data they want to send back to the servers. Some of the salient points on privacy are as below

  • Most of the data is processed in the phone, with minimal queries to servers, or storage on servers
  • Customer get to decide what data to share with Apple
  • Signing in with Apple Pay is going to get wider reach and going to be provided to older operating system users as an upgrade
  • Location sharing can now be approximate
  • Users will need to give permission to apps when they use mic or camera
  • Safari will now show you what data is being tracked by websites
  • Users will be able to see the information the App will track before they download that app

For us Indians, this is a welcome move to protect privacy of phone users.

Smart Home

The home app is now going to have a uniform standard of being able to identify appliances within home since Apple is now collaborating with many companies to integrate their products into the OS.

Smart notifications like the one that comes up when AirPods are nearby and ready to pair for example will now be shown on iPhone with automatic intelligent automations being suggested by the phone for each device.

Special focus is on some things like

  • lighting systems – adaptive lighting to adjust colour temperature throughout the day
  • Cameras – will now integrate with Apple TV, and users would be able to decide and designate the exact area they want to monitor for movements with ability to use Siri to help you show cameras that you want to see right on your TV

Apple TV

Apple TV gets slightly better with PIP support for handling workout activities while watching your favourite shows, multi user profiles with pausing games where the user left off the previous times, etc.

Apple TV+ also includes Foundation, a visualisation of Issac Asimov’s novels.

In the last part of this article series, let us see what is coming up as part of Mac OS Big Sur.

Apple WWDC 2020 – understanding the upcoming improvements to the latest OS – Part 1

Introduction

At the WWDC Apple launched many improvements to many of their operating system versions and many new features as well which makes Apples operating system exciting to use. This article aims to dig deeper into how these features translate into productivity or usefulness for the Indians at large.

We will understand how these features are going to be to use in daily life for many people in the Indian subcontinent. So what are we waiting for? let’s just dig right in.

iOS 14 updates

App Library

The app library is a welcome addition to what we already thought as a cumbersome operation of having to arrange apps the way we want. However I have a grouse about this, there are automatically arranged categories and sometimes that may not be what the user really expects.

My opinion is that the app library may probably have few useful blocks, but there could also be blocks that are not exactly those choices the user wanted.

In India we have different ways of organising apps. While some people have too many apps, and they have so many categories which themselves go into pages and pages, others just have hundreds of apps lying on different screens. All said and done no one goes beyond page 1 of the screens.

Widgets

This was never properly implemented in iOS since a long time due to which Apple may have lost business by users on Android buying many phones which offered these since a long time. However that is about to change now with apple offering widgets on the latest iOS. These widgets are beautiful and knowing apple they come in different shapes and sizes with different amounts of info with the unique feature that upon moving the widgets around app icons, the icons arrange themselves without asking you to show how the widget fits on the screen. This is a welcome move and now iPhone users will finally feel on par and in some cases even better than android users.

Smart widget stacks automatically move depending on time of the day to show you what you want and you can see all different types of the same widgets even before placing them on the screen. This clearly shows that Apple has understood the pain points about these widgets on Android before launching them here and has fixed all those potential problems.

Picture in Picture

The picture in picture is another Android feature that was available on Samsung and other phones since a long while. So its the same thing here the only quirk being that if you minimize the video, audio still keeps playing. Other than that its pretty much normal fare and is coming to iPhone a few years late.

Siri

Siri has been redesigned in iOS 14 to be more smarter and answer more complex questions. Other than that the results of questions you pose Siri are shown as notifications overlaid on the current app you are using if the information suits such a panel (like for eg., weather) which means you are less likely to be visually disturbed.

Other than that Siri button is now much more minimal and shows up in a really small area of the screen unlike the wavy UI we have known Siri for.

Audio messages and dictation are more integrated with Siri now. Nothing that was not there before, but hopefully more accurate.

Translate app

Siri would have been able to translate few sentences here and there anyways in due course, but what fun is it to just use it for that. What we would like to have is two panes with one showing the language I know, and the other showing the language I want to know, and both using audio inputs to help translate from one language to another side by side. So this is a good move to make it a separate app called Translate which would be very useful in due course.

Just that be aware for Indian languages the updates may take a year or year and half to be rolled out with mostly basic support for Hindi, and a few other languages. This is not easy so that is how it is going to be. There will be delays in rolling this out fully in all countries. With India the challenge is 26+ different languages and hence its also an opportunity for people to contribute to this app if need be. The specifics are yet to be rolled out in due course.

Only 11 languages are now supported and more are yet to come. This app works completely offline as well and securely so that your data is with you.

Landscape conversation mode is wow as usual !

Messages

In short, conversations are going to be supported now under messages. Also many more memojis as this seems to be gaining popularity. In line replies to messages were much needed and going by the demo it seems well implemented. The only thing you could do earlier was to show icons, but now real actual messages can be collapsed and expanded as replies to a message in the conversation.

Pinning conversations above, messages showing up on avatars and @ addressing someone so that you can subscribe to only those messages sent to you as notifications are some improvements to this feature. However this is where I have the biggest grouse with Apple yet in 2020. In India we know that 7/10 messages we get are spam. Mobile numbers are sold and within no time of acquiring a number you are beginning to get spammed already.

The junk section of the SMS messages was not implemented properly and it remains so in iOS 14. This is a big disappointment. With apps like true caller or advanced algorithmsappstools that could have helped to kill these promo messages by filtering has been given a miss (whether or not it is country specific). This could have been difficult to implement or too country specific – not sure – but its a disappointing miss nonetheless.

So dear fellow Indians, let us continue to not use SMS app on iOS. Bad. Or you can still look at that important salary credit information along with that SMS which provides you confidential massage or friendship services in utmost fairness in an area nearby where you live.

Apple maps

Every WWDC there will always be a talk about maps being redesigned ground up. I am not sure why maps has to be redesigned ground up. For me ground up means throwing out the old code and restarting from scratch, so unless you are doing that Apple I think usage of word ground up is not so correct in my opinion.

That said, Google maps now shows you which lane you are on when you are going by a flyover, whether under or over it. A guy from fast company shares an opinion that apple maps is way better than rival google. Well please come to India and start using Apple maps and I will bet you that if you do not ditch apple maps in half an hour, I will be surprised.

Let me be a blunt here, finding great places is not what we do on everyday basis with maps. We use maps to get from point A to point B in India, in the least amount of time. All we want to know in Bangalore is whether we will spend 3 days at silk board, or 1 week before we get a move on. Having said this, all we wish to know is how long it will take to get from A to B. 70% of Indians dont use maps or have smartphones. 90% of the remaining 30% use maps for the reasons I stated and the remaining 10% of the 30% maybe using it to find “great places” using guides.

Now coming to some good things about maps, there are cycling routes introduced. But in India you cycle over the same flyover someone drives through. So big deal again! For us we have only one set of clogged roads whether you are on cycle or bus, or auto, or car, or a bullock cart. And for us if a cycle can go somewhere so can an auto or a two wheeler, we will somehow squeeze through. And we only lift our cycles while crossing the road or giving it to service.

As for EV routing, hopefully we would need that feature in 2030. As for notifying which areas are congestion zones don’t bother. Just show a huge big circle around Bangalore. That is all. The whole city is a congestion zone for us anyways.

Car Play

Ok so you have great improvements on Car Play which includes – wait a minute – new wallpaper options? Really? Wow!

And you want to digitally open the car. That is great. So how do I use it? Wait what? I need to purchase the next year’s BMW for that feature? Hmmm …..

When launching features like this how about using SMS, bluetooth and some existing tech to make every car digitally lockable and unlockable? That would have been real innovation. Well I am hoping some accessory guy will come up with that shortly.

And sure yes you are making this tech available with iPhones and new cars only, but why not old cars? With a mod maybe?

App Store

App clips are small part of apps, and launches to just let you pay or do some important things only instead of needing full apps. That now is a good move apple.

iPAD OS

So basically Apple have launched something called sidebar which in effect is windows explorer’s clone on ipad. Calls on iPAD now have compact notifications instead of full screen one, again something Android has finished eating for breakfast lunch and dinner long long back. What took you so long? And on top of that you say customers will love it? No doubt, they were already getting frustrated and were about to switch to Android for something as basic as this. Good for you, you held them back.

The universal search is a good addition and was always there on other devices such as TV from sometime. I am not sure such a thing is there for Android yet and so deeply integrated, so correct me if I am wrong there. Good for Apple with this feature.

Apple Pencil

Here is where Apple has innovated this year and it shows. Using Scribble feature you can directly enter a URL into a browser address bar for example. But for longer URLs that is going to be a pain. I do not see many people using pencil to do that. However it is about continuity where a person doing free form writing actually also can input text without putting the pencil down.

It is the intent Apple had that has to be lauded. Of course a larger scale reading written text and able to paste that as analysed text into some other context is where Apple seems to have beaten Samsung at least with this release of the operating system.

Using scribble on any text field is a welcome move. Pretty cool ! Allowing me to draw figures and making them accurate, interpreting phone numbers and directions from what I write are just the most natural way of seamlessly adding richness to content. I hope you have patented that Apple!

Airpods

Airpods now switch to the nearest device you are using. Without asking you. That is pretty seamless and a much wanted feature. And this time around Apple has worked on the spatial audio algorithms to give you the best sound experience with Air Pods. Tracking your head as your head moves to alter the sound distribution is way too tech savvy for sure.

The only thing left for apple is to read your brain waves and interpret what you are thinking about that secret date you are planning for and sending reminders about it which others in your family can see 🙂

Read about the rest of the WWDC updates in the Part-2 of this article.

Redmi K20 Pro review

Introduction

The Redmi K20 pro is a medium priced phone that was launched in India in mid May of last year (2019). The actual availability was somewhere after that towards late 2019. This blog post attempts to provide some details regarding the phone and also contains a link to the detailed video review of the phone.

Specifications

The phone comes with the following features
  • Snapdragon 855 chip
  • 6.4″ AMOLED display
  • 6GB / 8GB RAM
  • 128GB / 256GB ROM
  • 48MP + 13MP + 8MP triple rear camera
  • 20MP popup selfie front camera
  • 27W charger
  • In display fingerprint charger
  • 4000 MaH battery
  • 3.5mm headphone jack

Initial and usage impressions

Video Review

The video review of this phone is available here for your viewing

Chipset and performance

After a long time the Snapdragon chips have come of age and 855 is no slouch either. Although SD has moved onto 865 chipsets already, the 855 is still a fast processor and Android blazes through with apps loading super fast on this phone. I tried having different apps load and in the background and multiple pages on browsers, everything loaded just fine. In fact I will go one step more to say if you use this phone you will be hooked onto these fast processors and will not look back to the sub 15000 rupee phones anymore. At least I will not anymore!
The Snapdragon or any fast processor for that matter, really makes a difference and I could not imagine apps load so fast on a Mi phone. 

Display

Finally seeing an AMOLED display on a Redmi is refreshing. I cannot rave more about the display as much as I have in the video review, but all I wish to say is that the display is crisp and clear and it is really good to watch videos or photos on. The brightness is sufficient and more than enough for games, videos and photos even in a dimly lit room. And this is a big plus for this phone.

Storage and RAM

6GB RAM is pretty standard for android phones these days and so is 128GB storage. RAM and ROM getting cheaper by the day means for the same money you get more bang. The storage is more than enough for keeping those large photos for days on end, and for your browser or mail attachment downloads. And in the case you need more you have support for micro SD card although I dont see myself using it much. 128GB is more than enough for a start and if you have the 256GB nothing to beat it.

Cameras

Everyone is jumping onto the camera bandwagon these days and Xiaomi is no different. When the whole world is converging onto the phone so also will the memories in terms of videos and photos. With large storage and good cameras this means you can now enjoy photography more than ever on the phone itself. Of course people do still use DSLRs and the likes, but there is a lot more the phones can do nowadays compared to yesteryears. 
The triple camera of this phone helps produce some great shots. Night photography is not excellent but sufficient enough for a phone this expensive and there is nothing much to complain about.  The popup camera in the front for selfies at 20MP is really good beating most of the average selfie phones. But I kind of felt the image was a bit too softened with noise removal and it did not look very crisp.
I will post images taken from this camera in a short while more. This phone also supports 960fps HD slow motion video too. Other than there is a wide angle mode, a telephoto mode to complement your photography skills.
In summary the cameras on this phone are very good and though not in the league of the Samsung phones, they come a pretty decent second in the race. There is still some way to go for Redmi phones to sport awesome cameras but this also means the cost goes up if they do it. So either for the tech or for the cost we have what we have on this phone and it is seriously not so much a bad deal.

Other features

There are some features unique to this phone
  • The pop up camera is one such feature. It is surely more gimmick than substance, but it feels premium and works well, its definitely eye catching.
  • Form factor is very good even though display is 6.4 inches, since width is a bit narrower it feels premium to hold in the hand
  • There is an in display finger print sensor which is again a bit gimmicky but still a cool feature and feels pretty modern compared to some older phones. It does not work all the time like I said in the video, but it still is an interesting addition.
  • The 4000 MaH battery is a standard on all Xiaomi phones and this one also sports the same prowess. This is really good as I never have to charge the phone for 2 full days for my kind of limited usage. If you are worried about whether the battery will last at least the whole day, you need to stop worrying on that count. If this phone cannot do that no other phone will.
  • Although understated the 3.5mm headset jack being there means all your old headphones, earphones will still work on this phone! Yaay!

Conclusion

You can buy this phone on Amazon for a good discounted price in 2020. For a price point of 27000 (after 2000 off on MRP) on Amazon, its a very good buy. There are further discounts on credit cards upto 3000 rupees more and also exchange offers on your older phone. With a no cost EMI also on offer this phone comes at a juicy not to be missed price and deals.
Do you own this phone? If so let me know in the comments what you feel about it. Until the next review, take care and stay safe.

A month on

One month of topsy turvy life


 
It has been about one month since my previous post. Where my world had turned topsy turvy. Literally. And in this one month, there are more changes. I am not sure whether for the good or bad. But change is the only constant. We have been working from home all this month. Staying in touch with our colleagues over meetings. Still getting office work done. But it has not been that easy.
 

Keto-diet

Around the same time as the lockdown, a week earlier when things were normal I had gotten into a keto-diet regime to bring down my weight. My sugar levels were also high, so I had to do something about that as well to avoid it getting into a diabetic state. It is around this time that a consultant from a company called ReShape Fitness added me on linkedIn, and instead of the usual question of “how can I help you”, I asked him “how can you help me?”. Since there was a need for me. Thus began the diet session for nearly four weeks. My weight was 81.5, not bad for a height of 5’11” but still bordering towards high side.
 
I had to eat mostly proteins like Panner, and veggies (peppers, cauliflower, cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbages) and himalayan pink salt, keya pepper for taste. I was allowed to eat fats such as almonds, pistachios, but not carbs (such as carrots, even onions so to say). I was put on supplements (from Amway – the nutrilite variety) and protein drinks along with dietary fibre. So it was protein in the morning, veggies for the other two meals with nuts to supplement the hunger. Four weeks of this. The body started revolting on day 3. I spoke to the consultant and wanted to come back to normal food. But he convinced me to stay put. After about 8-10 days the fat burn started. All the way from 81.5 kilos to 72.5 kilos. A good 9kgs down. Irritable bowel syndrome fixed, low back ache fixed and the body was shown its place on what it should tolerate as the new normal.
 
It was around this time, I also started facing challenges in getting grocery delivered due to nationwide lockdown. And a severe bronchitis attack I had to sustain and get cured of. So I had to quit this program by 4th week to get back to carbs. But I learnt what I had to and would gladly continue it going forward.
 

Mental health & work

 
See there is nothing serious that can go wrong if you are at home for a month or so. But that depends on context. For me my wife and kids were with me, so also parents so it turned out positive. However I would say office productivity increased being at home due to more efficient targets and meetings. Work started by 9am as opposed to the daily 1.5h grind of commute. Every day was quite productive, but also made me tired. Due to the summers, I slept only by midnight and started getting up a bit late than normal warranting the need to hurry to get into the meetings scheduled. 
 
Lack of proper sleep, issues with diet and health are enough to make you moody and go berserk at home. And if the health issue persists like weeks like mine did, you really begin to feel low.
 
We keep joking around that we want to retire soon. But this is more like the same case but a trial version of how you would feel if you did retire. And if you never had to go out anywhere or meet anyone. This is when you truly realise the value of society, friendships, relationships, being together, checking on each other often, and everything else in between. There were instances where I did feel frustrated just staying put at home. Without socialising, or shopping, or even driving my car. This is when I understood that driving in the traffic was actually ok for me, it was an activity that kept me busy. Unlike sitting on a couch all the time.
 
I know some other people known to me were going through serious trouble at home with having too much to do and no me time for themselves. 
 

Real vs Unreal needs

This pandemic has surely brought about the ability for all of us to think and separate our needs into real vs unreal ones. What we need is food, family time, a feeling of being in good health, sufficient work and good rest. Nothing is gonna happen to us if we don’t socialise, or go out very often. Nothing is going to happen if we don’t keep binge ordering stuff from e-commerce websites to our whims and fancies.
 
We are now able to cook more at home, enjoy safe food with family. There are so many of us that took to cooking literally. Heck I am even starting a recipe blog for you all shortly. Binge spending stopped for good. With the stock market crash and the uncertain outlook on the economy we now understand why it is important to save money. We now realise the value of our current jobs after the job market froze literally. We are able to separate the wheat from the chaff.
 

The future

At least for the short term, the pandemic is not going to go away anywhere. A lot of what we do and how we do it will change. I was reading an article where TCS is going to make 75% of their workforce work from home. Things are changing slowly. Many companies would not mind providing more work from home options to balance out for their employees with respect to pandemic type situations. There would be more take away options at restaurants making them move to the model for good as compared to in house dining which will get more expensive. In fact the social distancing need is significantly going to increase everything – airfares, train fares, bus fares, hotel fares and what not.
 
Many people will likely stop ordering food from outside due to the risk of catching Covid. All payments would become contactless without cash exchanges anywhere. Shops like hair salons will see increased rates due to decreased footfall. People would be skeptic to go to clothing stores or such shops in the malls due to multiple people touching the clothes. Movie halls will see increased rates and lower footfall. 
 
Blueprints for the vaccine will get generated, and there would be a genuine investment into healthcare facilities for the future. Gyms will see lesser footfall and likely get out of business or have to move to online coaching mode with at home equipment for patrons. This also means more investment for us. All public gatherings would be scrutinised and sanitised or even avoided. Marriages would likely see lesser people attend. Food would be circumspect. Cleanliness would be questionable going forward. 
 
Schools & colleges would turn to electronic mode of working for at least one year – at least most schools. In fact they actually must if they have not yet done so. Public transport would be messy and lesser preferred. There is news that the used and new car market will actually pick up very well soon because people would prefer buying and driving their own vehicles to avoid risk of infection. This automatically defeats purpose of public transportation and would lead to heavy traffic jams and increase commute time in the city.
 
Industries will begin to function but will not have a concrete executable plan in place to handle infection risk. Their plans would make sense on paper but in reality will take long time to be actually giving results. Tourism industry will take a huge hit with airlines hiking their fares and not many people wanting to go to resorts for avoiding risk of infection. In fact this industry may not see heydays for another 1-2 years as they cannot change their business model like other industries.
 
Salary cuts or job losses means Loan defaults and not many people will go for newer loans for the whole of 2020 for the short term which means spending will reduce. This will affect all industries such as real estate. Many migrant workers will likely be out of jobs for an extended period not so much because people cannot pay them (like maids, cooks, etc) – but more due to the perceived infection risk. The country needs lots of impetus to reboot the economy. Without that, things will take a long while to come back to shape. What we also need is a plan that will actually work without causing much hardship to people going about their duties. Unfortunately there is no such silver bullet to every need. At best we will end up with few things that works best in this situation and other things that just dont and infact may be complicating the situation more. It will be a mix of stuff which we will have to deal with.
 
But this too shall pass. Except this time it would be a long reset. Wear your seat belts and sit tight. The road ahead is rough.