Tag: links


Give me liberty or give me death? In response, the Pandemic leans forward with a big grin full of rotting teeth. Why not both? Go out! Have some fun. You’ve been cooped up too long. You deserve this.

To all who hear me, you deserve something far better than a fun holiday weekend. You deserve a long and happy life. Tell the Pandemic to get bent. Stay close to home, and cheer our nation’s beginning from your backyard or living room.

I wish more people world around listened to Cheri Baker. I do not stay in the USA. But even when peeking from outside, the attitude of “I live my life on my terms, the world be damn” is pretty clearly evident among Americans.

“I just can’t do this.” Harried parents forgo home school

I received a call from my daughter’s school today, enquiring if all was well with her online schooling. I was left completely clueless on how to respond to that.

My daughter’s school has enabled schooling of 5 subjects via an app. Each week, the app presents a new set of chapters, worksheets, quizzes across all 5 subjects. Besides, each week there are video conference sessions with teachers to recap what was learned in the last week.

Sorry to report, but just two weeks in, this process already seems overwhelming. It is especially so given both me and my wife are working from home.

I knew we weren’t alone. AP published a brilliant article on how parents in the US are already getting burned through this distance learning — something that is especially tricky with young kids. And they are forced to make a very difficult choice.

Amid the barrage of learning apps, video meet-ups and e-mailed assignments that pass as pandemic home school, some frustrated and exhausted parents are choosing to disconnect entirely for the rest of the academic year. Others are cramming all their children’s school work into the weekend or taking days off work to help their kids with a week’s worth of assignments in one day.

It is just not easy. Parents aren’t trained to be good teachers. The technology was never given a chance to prove it can work independently for teaching. It was always an additive. Plus nothing, nothing can replace the in-person learning from the people who are trained throughout their lives to do that. The comment below from one of the parents is very, very apt.

This is a very crude bandage we’re putting on a very big wound. We’re just doing the best we can. A video can’t look at your child’s face and see the confusion. A teacher can do that.

Some day, the world will be free of the effects of the current pandemic we are living. All would then switch to live a normal life again. But, most experts agree that this switch is not going to be easy. A vaccine, when it is found, is expected to take at least 12 to 18 months to bring to market”. It is not that our brilliant scientist may not bring the treatment early. The challenge is to make it reach the millions of people affected by the virus. What that means, according to this brilliant essay in MIT Technology Review, we have to prepare for a world in which there is no cure and no vaccine for a long time”.

There is a way to live in this world without staying permanently shut indoors. But it won’t be a return to normal; this will be, for Westerners at any rate, a new normal, with new rules of behavior and social organization, some of which will probably persist long after the crisis has ended.

In recent weeks a consensus has started to build among various groups of experts on what this new normal might look like.

Food Safety and Coronavirus: A Comprehensive Guide

In today’s time of confusion and uncertainty, safety of the food, our essential need, is equally important. Serious eats has a brilliant essay on just this topic. I think the writer or me are not alone who are troubled with all these concerns, and the essay is must read in that regard.

Even so, plenty of folks—myself included—have been confused or curious about the safety of allowing restaurants to continue preparing and serving food. Is it actually safe? Should I reheat the food when I get it home? Is it better to support local businesses by ordering food, or am I only putting workers and delivery people at risk? And if I’m cooking my own food, what guidelines should I follow?

7.5-inch e-ink display is powered completely by NFC

E-paper (or e-ink) displays have the unique property of not needing power to maintain an image. Once a charge blasts across the display and correctly aligns pixels full of black and white balls, everything will stay where it is when the power turns off, so the image will stick around. You might not have thought about it before, but in addition to data, NFC comes with a tiny wireless power transfer. This display is designed so that NFC provides just enough power to refresh the display during a data transfer, and the e-ink display will hold onto the image afterward.

Fascinating use of available technology. This would be brilliant for passive viewing – for dashboards or billboards or all sorts of boards that do not need regular change of content.

I Switched From Apple Music to Spotify

Spotify has one job: make a great music player. They execute. Their app has none of these problems. It’s fast and bug-free. Spotify delights.

Even I had recently switched to Spotify. I believed Apple always nails an experience – so they would even for music listening. At least, they would do a better job than other players. But I was wrong. Spotify is far ahead, especially with playlists and recommendations. They rarely get it wrong.

As a side note, I always wonder why companies struggle while designing good music apps. It is such a simple use case, however most fail to get it right.

Alexa and Google Home abused to eavesdrop and phish passwords

By now, the privacy threats posed by Amazon Alexa and Google Home are common knowledge. Workers for both companies routinely listen to audio of users—recordings of which can be kept forever—and the sounds the devices capture can be used in criminal trials.

Now, there’s a new concern: malicious apps developed by third parties and hosted by Amazon or Google. The threat isn’t just theoretical. Whitehat hackers at Germany’s Security Research Labs developed eight apps—four Alexa skills” and four Google Home actions”—that all passed Amazon or Google security-vetting processes. The skills or actions posed as simple apps for checking horoscopes, with the exception of one, which masqueraded as a random-number generator. Behind the scenes, these smart spies,” as the researchers call them, surreptitiously eavesdropped on users and phished for their passwords.

These horror stories of privacy violations on smart speakers are unending. There are just a few options here.

  1. Don’t have anything, that has a mic or camera and is connected to the internet, around you.
  2. If that’s too much for you, don’t have any smart speakers in your home. Use your smartphone to connect to a good old Bluetooth speaker.
  3. If you do want a smart speaker around, learn you to use it cautiously. Switch it off when not needed. Use the mute option. Do not, do not install any third-party skill on the device. Let only Google and Amazon track you. At the very least, they can be held accountable.

Why there’s no Instagram on iPad?

John Gruber wonders what’s holding Instagram back from launching a Instagram for iPad. Especially when they adjusted their app for Galaxy Fold.

Instagram is willing to update their Android app to adjust to the extraordinarily niche Galaxy Fold, but still hasn’t updated their iOS app to adjust to the extraordinarily popular and much-used iPad?

I feel there are a couple points here that might help understand this.

  1. Instagram still believes it is a creative photo sharing application first. This is what the first line on their homepage reads – a simple, fun & creative way to capture, edit & share photos, videos & messages”. They possibly want more creators on their platforms than passive consumers of the stream of photos. For them then, iPad is not a good device for taking pictures.
  2. According to them, Galaxy Fold is still a smartphone first with a first rate camera system. So, it deserves providing the first rate experience of using Instagram.

Of course, how true this assumption is, is debatable.

Tik Tok, Tick Tock…Boom.

Tik Tok is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on US social networks convincing US consumers, in particular kids, to download and use the app. This is fucking brilliant, by the way.

I have managed to stay away from this social phenomenon” – but am always impressed with the creativity on display in the app. Everytime that happens, I cautiously move away – I do not want another mindless entertainment fighting for my attention.

And am not even thinking about the political backdrop and its effects – which this essay from John Battelle nicely summaries.

Face recognition, bad people and bad data

We worry about face recognition just as we worried about databases – we worry what happens if they contain bad data and we worry what bad people might do with them.

A great post by Benedict Evans where he compares our fears around usage of facial recognition technology, and in extension the AI and data hoarding, to the fears we had when data gathering and analysis capabilities of databases was being introduced. Some comparisons are indeed apt. And some fears, of course misguided and misplaced.

Gathering data inherently isn’t bad — it is the fact that it enables bad people to use it in bad manner that everyone knowledgeable worries about. So, the call for regulating the usage of the data isn’t unjustified. However, the exaggerated and far-fetched fall-outs of data misuses, and the recent own goals by the big corps, like Facebook, Google and others, are just making regulators around the world shoot for the easiest target out there — their ability to collect data.

The challenge here, I think, is to work out the right level of abstraction. When Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme imploded, we didn’t say that Excel needed tighter regulation or that his landlord should have spotted what he was doing – the right layer to intervene was within financial services. Equally, we regulate financial services, but mortgages, credit cards, the stock market and retail banks’ capital requirements are all handled very separately. A law that tries to regulate using your face to unlock your phone, or turn yourself into a kitten, and also a system for spotting loyalty-card holders in a supermarket, and to determine where the police can use cameras and how they can store data, is unlikely to be very effective.