Top 3 reasons for buying an iPhone X — “One more thing” at Apple’s September 2017 event

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It’s around 4 AM in Shanghai and I have been up watching Apple’s September event which took place at Steve Jobs Theater, and was streamed live. Though I did enjoy the announcements and demos related to other products like Apple Watch as well, I am writing this post to share with you, my top 3 reasons for buying an iPhone X; despite of it’s high price.

iPhone X

Reason 1: Face ID

I have been reading the rumors and watching Youtube videos that rediculed this feature of the new iPhone X, but I was right to wait for the actual announcement where it got explained in more detail. If there is one thing that Apple has been able to convince the masses about; it’s security. So all those videos of people wearing a mask and making fun of this feature can literally be laughed at, once we read about the underlying technology and the kind of testing that has been performed by the engineers at Apple. Simply put in numbers, it is 20 times more secure than touch ID.

Just last week, one of my acquaintances asked me, “What if I pass out at a bar, and someone uses my thumb to unlock the phone and transfer all my money while I lay unconscious?”. Well, I bet opening the eyes of such a victim would be far more difficult than forcing his or her thumb.

In terms of accessibility, I think Face ID is going to open a whole new avenue for people with disabilities.

Reason 2: Wireless Charging

From removal of the headphone jack, to removal of the home button, Apple has been making things cleaner and getting rid of all the moving parts. From my perspective, a machine with more movable parts is subject to more wear and tear. I like the haptic feedback based home button in iPhone 7, which feels far better than the traditional home button. Now with an all new glass design (the most durable glass ever in a smartphone, front and back. Surgical‑grade stainless steel), iPhone X allows wireless charging which is a game changer for many Apple fans.

After visiting manufacturing hubs like Huaqiangbei in Shenzhen, I am pretty sure that other companies would soon be manufacturing products like AirPower Mats to help Apple users charge their devices wirelessly (probably before the actual 2018 launch of mats by Apple).

Reason 3: A11 Bionic Chip

To put it in simple terms, other than being faster and smarter while still providing slightly better battery life, this new chip would allow you to make use of features like machine learning (Face ID is one of it’s implementation), augmented reality (enjoy many AR games like Pokemon Go), animoji and real depth selfies (the new true depth camera along with A11 Bionic chip can analyze more than 50 of your muscle movements and create impressive photo effects)

These are my top 3 reasons, what are yours? Please do share them via comments.

P.S.- Say hello to the future 🙂

You can also checkout the Hands-on video by engadget:

Why freelancing is lucrative for developers?

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If you are an experienced developer or any individual who have access to Youtube / MOOCs and strong willpower to learn, this post is for you.

I have been working as a software developer since I graduated from college and it has been 5 years now. I did some freelancing during college days but it did not involve any serious engagements like signing the NDA or any other contract. Now that I have worked at one of the largest IT companies in India, I am looking at freelancing with quite a different perspective. It is no longer considered a hobby which helps me earn some pocket money. If done right, I can earn much more than my salary as a full-time employee. (no kidding)

I am writing this post to help us understand why freelancing is lucrative for developers and I would like to start with some simple figures. At most of the software companies, when you join as a full-time employee you agree to get paid a fixed amount every month, irrespective of the number of projects you complete. Now every resource / developer is having a billing rate that is sometimes shared with the client while estimating. If you can learn your billing rate and multiply it by the number of hours you have put in, you will realise that you have been swindled. But that is not entirely true since your employer is taking a risk for you and providing you security. Even if the project fails due to some reason, you still get your monthly salary.

Now that we have a fair idea in terms of numbers, lets dive in. If you can manage the projects on your own and have enough skills to develop a product based on client requirements, freelancing would indeed by quite lucrative. Following are a few pros and cons.

Pros:

  1. Get paid for your work genuinely as per the market standard and your skillset.
  2. Have complete right over your work.
  3. No time to be spent on transport. (Some of us get hustled in the subway)
  4. Can spend more time with family and plan trips on any day of the week.
  5. Have liberty to make important decisions and learn from your mistakes.
  6. Your advice and expertise is valued.
  7. Your income is not dependent on your appraisal but only on your work.
  8. You still get to improve interpersonal skills by communicating directly with your clients.
  9. You earn a reputation in the market and you are an asset to your clients.
  10. You can work on the technologies that you like.

Cons:

  1. You have to have enough work in pipeline to earn minimum wages.
  2. You can not afford to make too many mistakes.
  3. You need to plan everything in advance and be ready for worst case scenarios.

Recently I found a perfect solution to having enough work in pipeline. Even though there are many freelancing portals online, they do not have the required screening system in place to make it authentic. I strongly suggest Toptal to all the potential freelancers reading this post. It has a well defined interview process which helps in ensuring that your expertise level is as per your claims. This not only helps the clients but also the freelancers, since they can now focus on the right set of clients while getting rid of the noise.

I am sure you have come across those ads which claim that you can become a billionaire while working from home using internet, well you can make it possible on your own. I hope this post has answered the question fairly.

If you are interested in mobile application development, keep reading:

I have developed enough mobile applications from scratch to have the required confidence when someone asks me if his/her new app idea can actually be developed as a product. Well there are thousands of apps in the market and mobile apps have become more important in our lives than brushing our teeth daily. If you perform a quick search online, or even attend a meet-up or social gathering, you will learn that almost everyone has got multiple ideas for developing an app. Now some of these ideas might be good while some could be trivial, but if you have the right skills to create an app, any of these apps could become successful.

I have keen interest in iOS applications and I like to follow WWDC as well as popular blogs like raywenderlich. Even the app with simplest solution can gain a lot of customers if it is intuitive and bug free. In David Murphy’s words, the future of mobile is the future of online. That is why, I have specific interest in joining the Mobile App Programmers Network.

How to get PAN card and Aadhar card for a Bhutanese Foreigner in India?

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As an Indian citizen, getting a PAN card can be the most hassle free process you would ever encounter with Indian Government. But this post has been written to help foreigners.

At the time of writing, the UTI website provides a separate option for applying PAN card for foreigners. You can check the list of documents required as well as the guidelines for application. In most cases, foreigners would like to use their Passport as their proof of identity and there are different options mentioned for providing proof of residence in India. Since Bhutanese citizens do not require a residence permit or a VISA to enter India, the most efficient way of getting a reliable address proof is opening a bank account, preferably with a government owned (State bank of India) or state-owned bank (Punjab National Bank).

Following are the things you need for generating your proof of residence via bank:

  1. A friend or relative who already has an account in the bank and is ready to be your reference.
  2. A rent agreement made between you and your landlord or any other document accepted by the bank as proof of address.
  3. You may also need to affix your photograph on the passbook and get it stamped by the bank.

Once you have your bank account functional, make sure you keep it active by making some transactions and then use the copy of your passbook as proof of residence.

Now that you have your proof of residence and identity, there should be no problem in getting yourself a PAN card or Aadhar card. You can check the UIDAI website for getting more details about Aadhar enrolment. Also, note that some of the enrollment centers may not be listed online and it is better to ask around in your locality if there are any centers nearby.

I understand that writing a post after simply going through the rule book does not work as a great advice most of the times. But this post has been written after personally following the whole process and getting the desired results. If you find that some of these steps could be skipped or there is a better way of getting the PAN and Aadhar card in India as a foreigner, please do share your findings via comments.

P.S.: You don’t need to open a bank account for getting Aadhar card since rent agreement is accepted as proof of address, but it is always better to have an account handy for future purposes.

Disclaimer: This post has been written based on personal experience and beliefs and may not be treated as a solution or proven theory. Please do your own research before taking any action that invites doubt.

The way forward for technology: Drones and Automation

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Automation has been a field of interest since many years now. From automated emails to cars, we as humans have achieved a lot and have been using these technologies for getting things done faster and more accurately. But what else are we looking at? How are we going to move forward? In this article I will be mentioning the missing links by taking an example of Drones.
Drones are available online for as low as 4000 INR and many individuals have started showing interest in them. But is it legal to fly a drone anywhere you like? Can we feel safe while these machines are hovering above our head? Let’s answer these questions one by one.
With the advent of technology, we can now control drones with our iPhones or iPods and it does not require a lot of practice and patience to get the flying skills. But many people don’t realize that they can face serious legal charges if they end up flying in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even if we are ok with the fines, we have to understand that machines are not perfect and things can go wrong with them. So the answer to the first question is no, it is not legal to fly drones anywhere you like.
In terms of hurting people, drones can be considered as flying lawn mowers. Also, since they allow us to record and stream videos they can be a serious threat to privacy. Thus, as of today it is difficult for us to feel safe with drones.
So how are we going to move forward? Every new technology has got its drawbacks and can always be exploited in a negative way. But this does not mean that we should stop inventing. Companies like Google and Amazon have already started exploring the options for using drones to deliver mails and packages. I am sure you must have heard about the 30 minutes Pizza delivery service. The future services might get anything within a certain weight limit, delivered to your door stop within 30 minutes. This has already been tested by Amazon and they are excited to launch Amazon Prime Air which may look like science fiction, but it’s real. These drones will be flying under 400 feet and will make use of sense and avoid technology which comes with intense automation to ensure safety.

Amazon prime air drone picture
When cars were first invented, people had so many objections. The suggestions which were made were mostly bizarre, like every car should have a man walking in front with a red flag. And these debates did not stop until the government decided that cars are good for the society and we should have more of them. That is when roads were constructed and traffic rules got defined. Same should be the case with drones or any other invention that is useful for the mankind. So, let’s collaborate and find the right balance for future.

How to book an Uber cab from your browser?

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I was trying to book a cab from my mobile app while using Vodafone 2G and realized that things were going very slow, that is when I realized that I should try it from my computer which was connected to a LAN.

Following are the steps with screenshots which will help you book an UBER cab quickly:

STEP 1: Go to https://m.uber.com/

Login page uber mobile

 

STEP 2: Enter your Uber credentials and tap on Done button (top right corner; refer previous screenshot)

NEW USERS: Make sure you claim your free ride by signing up through this link and using the promo code: “UBERKUSHALASHOK“.

Quick Tip: If you sign up from Uber mobile app, you can use your PAYTM wallet for authentication instead of providing any credit card details.

App Available at: Google Play StoreApple App Store and Windows App Store.

Download app

STEP 3: Click on the the PICKUP LOCATION text circled in the screenshot below to be able to search your pick up location.

How to pick up a location

 

STEP 4: Type in the location details in the search box and choose the desired option from the dropdown.

Choose location

STEP 5: Use the slider available at the bottom to choose the kind of cab you need and then click on “Set Pickup Location”

Set pickup location

 

STEP 6: Make sure that the pick up location is correct and the use credits option is checked or un-checked as per your requirement and then click on “Request pickup here XXXX” button.

NOTE: Make sure that you do this only when you are ready for the cab. If you try to cancel your request after 5 mins, you will have to pay some amount. Also, if you keep the driver waiting you will be charged accordingly.

Request an uber

STEP 7: (OPTIONAL) In case you need to cancel a request, this screenshot will help you find the option quickly. The option is available at the bottom right corner on clicking which you will get a menu. Select “Cancel Trip” to cancel your request.

cancel uber request

 

 

Did you know that you have hosts in 190 countries?

Where are you going?
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This time the happy hours at Indiblogger introduced me to airbnb. This website is going to help you if you have plans to travel or host. The concept of renting your place on a daily basis might have been there since long, but the way airbnb has created an attractive and easy to use platform for both the hosts and travelers, is commendable. Other than the interface and beautiful images that made me think about my next trip, the website follows a process that is very secure and makes you feel safe while you are looking for a place to stay.

One can feel the seriousness with which things are being verified while completing his profile. And the best part is, you will enjoy doing so because you are given an opportunity to add more details about you from different platforms, ranging from your name to a 30 seconds video. All this information will later help you get legitimate deals both as a traveler and a host.

While browsing the website, I noticed a search box with the caption “Where are you going?”. I started off by typing in New York because it is one of the places that I would like to visit in the coming years. To my surprise, I found hundreds of listings which were within my budget and offered me a private room. And this was not just true for my first search; I started searching for other places like London, Bangkok, Seoul and Paris. For all these places there were listings below Rs. 2500. Ranging from Rs. 989 per night in Bangkok to Rs. 2410 in London, I was happy to learn that if I arrange my flight tickets, I can book my accommodation in any of these places right now; without killing my savings. Thus, I added these listings to my wish list along with some notes which I could use later.

And the best part was that there were enough images uploaded by the hosts to make me comfortable already. And images were not the only things that I found credible, the reviews posted by guests sealed the deal for me. And the reason that I could trust these reviews was that they were connected to real people having profiles at various platforms including facebook, linkedin and more importantly a verified ID (e.g. Driving License). If you consider the amount of details that are being added and verified at each step, spamming and faking any of this information seems very difficult to me. And this is the reason, that I would suggest my friends and acquaintances to try Airbnb while planning their next trip.

And for those who are willing to host and make some friends, make sure you add enough details to your listings while being as descriptive as possible. Once again, the Airbnb tips and tutorials will help you complete the submission process.

P.S.: After you sign up, don’t forget to download the mobile app.

Why do you need a website?

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This is the question that many of us have asked ourselves several times, “Why do I need a website?”; and the answer becomes quite obvious after reading this post.

Individual

If you think that you don’t need a website because you are just another employee, you are wrong! You are special, and you need a special website that reflects your profession and personality. It is obvious that you are going to change your job sooner or later and thus having your portfolio on your website is going to help you during those phases. But this does not mean that you should have a website only when you are looking for a new job. A website takes time and efforts to make it credible and if you want it to be counted as one of your achievements, you definitely need to work on it in advance.

You need a website, irrespective of your profession. But some of the professions have more use of a website than the others. For example, a web developer who doesn’t have his own website is simply wasting his chance to showcase his skills. Same is true for web designers and other related professions. On the other hand, if you are in any profession that deals with anything that can be put on a screen, you need to have a website.

As for prerequisites, I would suggest that every graduate should have a personal website. A good place to start would be about.me. Consolidating all your public profiles on a single page will allow your visitors to learn more about you via different platforms. Following are a few examples:

myWebsite

Software Engineer

Author of 3 books

Author of 3 books

Business

If you are a businessmen, having a website is even more important for you and your business. There can be two kinds of businesses. Ones that can sell their services or products online and ones that can not. With the advent of technology, the percentage of businesses lying in the second category has become very less. Today, you can buy anything online; from a safety pin to a private jet.

Even if your business provides services or goods that can not be sold online, you still need to have a website to create your brand’s identity, to provide a platform where your customers can reach you, to impress them enough so they can visit your store or office; with confidence. Most importantly, having a website will make sure that you have a credible online presence. For example, there are millions of businesses listed on websites like justdial.com. From a customer’s point of view, your business is just another listing until it is connected with a website. This website in turn will showcase your work and let your customers determine, how good you are.

Now let’s talk about businesses that manufacture or market products. With the increasing popularity of e-commerce, it is very likely that you will be selling your products on websites like flipkart and snapdeal. Let us spend us time on understanding why you will be doing so.
No matter how much money you put into the marketing your products, you can not compete with the prices offered on these websites. This is because they are being funded by Wall street. Big investors like DST global and Soft Bank Corp. have been funneling billions of dollars into India’s consumer internet story. In 2014, Indian e-commerce websites raised around 3 billion dollars. These online players are likely to spend around 6000 crore rupees on discounting and  marketing in 2015.

Case-study: During Diwali promotions in 2014, Flipkart, Snapdeal and Seattle based giant Amazon had consumed around half a billion dollars for giving discounts, cash back and flat out sales. Also, they have spent around 1200 crore rupees on advertising via different means including social media, television and newspapers.

By now you must have understood, why it is important for businesses to list their products on these websites. Again, the consumers will have a lot of options while making a purchase and the only way you can make a difference is by having your own presentable website. Have a look at this website created for Ashuraj Plastic Industries:

Ashuraj Plastic Industries Website

Government and non-profit

This is not just true for private businesses, even government has started moving in this direction. One recent example I can quote, is that of Himachal Pradesh State Agricultural Marketing Board. They have now created a website for marketers and farmers dealing with apples and other produces of Himachal Pradesh. This has brought them one step forward as they can now easily brand their produces in national as well as international markets.
The state has been known for it’s production of apples which are being exported to various countries. Apples in fact play a very important role in Himachal’s economy. 9 out of 12 districts produce apple and apple economy is pegged around rupees 2500 crore. The area under apple cultivation has increased from 400 hectares in 1950 to more than 1 lakh hectares today.

The goal of this website is not just branding, but also to make sure that farmers can get rid of the middlemen system. They would not be required to travel outside to sell their produce anymore. Everything can be done online as CCTV cameras are being installed to provide live streaming on the website.

Other than the government, non-profit organizations have also utilized internet in various ways. Collecting funds is very important for any such organization which is only possible by having an effective online presence. Other than social media which allows any one to create a profile and page, having a website makes these organizations more reliable. Mostly, a simple 5 page website is enough to create an impression:

Chandigarh based NGO

Chandigarh based NGO

There is always a scope of improvement when you move your business online. Around 3,027,217,800 people were online when I was writing this post. As for India, around 243,198,922 people have access to internet which are increasing by 14 percent each year. And with this, I rest my case.

 

My Beautiful FIFA Food

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I was following a strict diet last month and had to stop myself from eating candies or drinking popular beverages. But I got off my running schedule this month and as a result I have discarded my diet plans too.

Gone are the days of resistance and it is time to let my taste buds go wild. This sunday, I decided to eat some beautiful FIFA food which will not only kill my hunger but will also make me excited like a forest fire. Thus I looked up the recipe for a mouth watering dish.

Guess what I started with? Greasing a square pan while the oven got pre-heated to 350F. Then I opened my newly bought butter case and melted 1/2 a cup of it into a bowl. After adding 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa, I kept stirring while I enjoyed seeing it dissolve into the butter. Next in line was 1 cup sugar, which I was devoid of since a long time. Mixing this was literally adding water to my mouth.

Now to make sure that I still get some proteins, I used the last 2 eggs I had, by adding them to this mixture and stirring till they were combined well.

Then I opened the cupboard and took out some vanilla and added 2 teaspoons of it. This was followed by addition of 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

It was now time to fold it with chopped nuts, raisins and chocolate chips before spreading it in the greased pan which was then put inside the oven for 25 minutes.  In the meanwhile, I watched the FIFA world cup which made the time fly away.

When I executed the knife test, it came out with moist crumbs and told me that I have nailed it. I let it cool for a while and then cut it into squares for serving these brownies in a designer borosil plate.

BrownieThe rest of the football match was accompanied with such a delicious serve, that even if my team was loosing, I was not getting disappointed.

P.S.: This post was written as a part of indiblogger contest for http://www.myborosil.com

IGNOU science practical lessons on doordarshan

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The spinning top

The spinning top

I was going through different infotainment channels and came across some interesting practical science lessons that were demonstrated by a professor at IGNOU on Doordarshan. Impressed by the simplicity and academic importance of these lessons I decided to create a blog post dedicated to them. This can help teachers in making their students learn some scientific facts in a quick and easy manner.

Methyl alcohol canon
Attach two bottles to make a canon. Make a hole in the lower one. Fill Methyl alcohol in the top bottle and push a rubber ball into it. Now use a lighter to warm up through the hole in lower bottle. The rubber ball will be cannoned out.
This happens because methyl alcohol when reacts with air, makes water which turns into vapors and pushes the ball out with force.

Cellophane butterfly
Cut a piece of cellophane paper in the shape of a butterfly. Put this piece on your hand and you will see the butterfly raising her wings. Same will happen if you turn it upside down.
This happens because the paper absorbs moisture from your hand in its lower surface which expands and makes it look like the butterfly is raising her wings.

Audio graph
Tie a rubber balloon on top of an empty can and paste a small mirror on it. Now speak from the other end of the can while you point a laser on the mirror which is to be reflected on a wall. You will get a graph of your voice’s turbulence displayed on the wall as the length of reflected laser light varies accordingly.

The singing bowl
Take a brass bowl and hit it in center with a rod. Now use the same rod to circle the bowl along its circumference and it will slowly start create a singing sound. This happens because of the Mechanical energy that gets produced in the bowl.

The spinning top
“Lattu” as we call it in India is a good example of teaching gravitational force to students.

I hope this helps 🙂

Personalised Infographic – Kushal Ashok

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This is what I ended up creating after going through the youtube bootcamp and pondering over the brand identity I would like to create for myself.  Though it is totally unrelated to the learnings I got from the camp, it somehow landed on me that one of the best visual experiences that I have showcased are info graphics. And though I started by looking for a template that could help me with the creation of my youtube channel art / banner; I eventually created this infographic that depicts some facts about me. This includes my introduction as a mobile application developer, my college CGPA, a breakdown of my activities and work.
I have even included my current typing speed which helps me create content while living up to my alias name @speedoholic.

Infographic Kushal Ashok

Created at easel.ly