A thought provoking question

Today I came across a question that forced me to think about it long and hard and I still have not found an answer to it. The topic of conversation with some colleagues was how children are so upbeat about the day when they wake up in the morning fresh and ready to live it as they desire.

During the conversation my friend suddenly asked the question, when does the change happen when you stop jumping out of bed in the morning with enthusiasm and optimism, genuinely looking forward to the day. That question for some reason stuck in my head. My mind took it even further by asking me WHY does it happen; because personally in this case why is more important than the when.

The challenge to finding an answer to this is that that ‘when’ happened such a long time ago that I will struggle to remember the ‘why’. Is the reason for this change a chemical change in your body or is it a state of mind that one enters which causes him to loose this happiness.

I think it is the state of mind that causes this change. When we are very young time is immaterial. A child will get up in the morning with all the time in the day to do all things his mind comes up with during that day. As you get a little older this luxury is taken away because of the child having to devote more time to certain obligations, for instance, starting nursery school. When the child commits some of his time everyday to obligatory duties I think that is the time waking up stops being so optimistic and energetic. The question here is, again, why. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the child is doing something it doesn’t want to do but I think its more of the element of being controlled by a timeline that comes with the territory.

So do you think that the mere realisation that there will be some parts of the day which we will have to spend doing something pre-prescribed (generally by someone else)? I have not found the answer within me, for this question. Can you?

Obsession with interface

Today I downloaded the twitter app off the mac app store and that is where the inspiration to write this post came from. If you have not already used it, try the app (it’s free). The interface for this app is something which I would like the apps for Mac OSX lion to follow as a default.

In the last few years, I have grown more and more obsessed with functional interfaces for all the programs I use. May it be for mac, iPhone, iPad or any other device, the way I interact with the device has become of the utmost importance. I have realised that how a good interface can significantly enhance the task efficiency. It is odd because the interface was not something I used to ever think twice about not too long ago. I personally think that this marks the beginning of a new era.

In the beginning, when I got into tech, there was the computer, the machine that did some word processing work really well and played some great games. This was the era when computers made your life easier but in no way essential.

Then came the time of the Internet. By this time computers had become relatively commonplace. The beginning of the Internet era was one marked with fascination. Websites took a lifetime to load but you eventually got to read yesterday’s news on some website. This was a time that the Internet was merely for fun. No one took it that seriously.

Then came the era of the information superhighway. The Internet went through a massive boom. It had started to feel like the future I used to think about as a kid. Free flow of information of any desired subject. The depth of this available information was such that it can be researched to a pervasive degree of detail.

And now, the Internet has literally exploded in both size and importance. It has become so essential that some countries have accepted access to the Internet as a basic human right along with food, water free speech and shelter. The wealth of information has overwhelmed the human race. It has become so vast that it is impossible to consume it all, like an ocean. Water water everywhere but little water to drink. I think this line can read as information information everywhere but only little is of relevance. There is a need to be able to filter this vast ocean of information to get the information that is desired.

This is where the interface comes in. An interface designed to filter out the required information while needing little to no effort to filter the information is required. This information filter needs to be intuitive and non obstructive to be able to provide this information in manageable chunks for the, rather limited, human brain. The aesthetics of this interface are important as well because a visually pleasing interface combined with intuitive functionality makes for an efficient workflow.

We all try to achieve more in less time i.e. there is an inherent need for an efficient workflow. I believe this is only achievable by having an interface which enables us to work with it rather than work on it. This way one can concentrate on the “what content to create and consume” instead of “how”.

True test of the iPad

After having the iPad for almost 7 months now today I will be giving it the torture test. Can it replace a full blown laptop for short trips.

All these months although iPad has almost completely replaced the mac for surfing and emails, reading and light entertainment perposes, I always had the convenience of having a laptop just in case I needed it for those obscure tasks that require a computer. However, I personally feel that the Internet and technology has evolved enough that a small terminal to the Internet will be able to serve as a viable and hopefully preferred version of the travel laptop.

Update: after about a day and a bit I can confirm something I had suspected. It is actually the mythical desktop replacement for short trips, however with one exception. Custom software like VPN programs. Basically the deal is that it will not run any of those custom authentication software that companies use to log on to their VPNs; because, well the app for them don’t exist…yet. But I now firmly believe this is where the future is heading. The laptop has intact become the desktop and now there is a new kid on the block for your portable needs, the iPad.

I have used it in the hotel and used it on the train and a number of a various other places and the iPad has held up it’s own in every respect. I think this proves the concept that this tablet as long as it has the required essential, I.e. Connection to the Internet, may it be wifi or may it be 3G, it will serve your every need, almost.

To wrap it all up I would just want to say, if you travel a lot or have need for an ultraportable to take care of your general computing needs, get an iPad. If not, then get an iPad anyway cause you don’t know how much you needed it even though you didn’t realise it.

Steve Jobs and iTunesU

Over the last few days I have been indulging myself into a number of lectures on a variety of subjects downloaded from iTunesU. I had always known about iTunesU however I had dreamed that the quality of lectures and information presented in them will be so high. I believe iTunesU is sort of an unsung hero in this world of “cloud” consumer content.
There are a million online music and movie stores out there by a number different companies trying to sell you that latest movie off their data servers whilst trying to undercut their competitor. However, none and I mean none (nil, nada, zero, zilch I cannot stress this enough) has anything that vaguely resembles iTunesU. Perhaps because in this modern society where learning is synonymous with being “uncool” or “geeky” there isn’t much of a market for such a service. Keeping it short, I just want to tell you all to try out this iTunesU. I am sure you will also find on it a wealth of information on the subject of your choice and also perhaps will spark your interest in a number of new ones as you explore your way around the thousands of lectures on there.
With this I now want to come on to Steve Jobs himself. Today he announced another leave of absence from the company due to his health issues and without trying to speculate or interfering the man’s privacy I just want to give him my best wishes and hope to see him back at the helm of Apple soon.
Steve Jobs is source of great inspiration for me. His contributions to tech and the world as a whole are unequalled. Most people are lucky if they make a notable contribution to their field of study or work. People whose contribution to their field changes the world are even rarer. But for the vision of one person to change the world not once not twice but a number of times over the course of his career is unheard of.
It all started with the first Apple personal computer. People never dreamed of having a personal computer before Apple. Then came the GUI. Then came the magic of Pixar and Toy Story and then came the modern mac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone and now the iPad. One man was behind each of these tech history turning points and that man is Steve Jobs. I am not saying that he invented all this or that it was his efforts alone that achieved all these modern miracles but it was his vision and his strive for perfection that achieved something that others could not before him.
People have said that he comes across as a bit arrogant. But to be honest if you have literally changed the path of the tech world so many times in a career spanning 4 decades, I think some arrogance is both forgivable and even warranted.
But what really makes me admire the guy is what lies beneath the surface. Below is the link from his Stanford university speech in which he talks about the facts of life and how the various turning points in his life changed him into the individual he is today. In a very honest and thoughtful account you get a peek at the person who is as venerable and fragile as any one of us. The Steve Jobs, who is not less than a superhero for a number of admirers comes across as being just as much of a puppet in the hands of fate, as any of us. But his vision and his courage to realise his vision no matter what is what distinguishes him for the rest.

In the end all I want to say is : Get well soon Steve. You still have to change the world a few more times.

The following is the YouTube link to Steve’s Stanford university speech for those who have not seen it.

Steve Jobs Stanford University Speech

Getting things done

A new year, a new set of tasks. One of the things I want to really try out properly this year is an organised workflow method. In the past I have tried and had sow success with following the getting things done methodology. I have tried using a number of apps with various types of sync options across all my gadgets with varying degree of success. In the end, I settled with a program called Things which provided enough functionality as I required coupled with a very nice user interface across all my gadgets.

However, after a while, my use of this rather efficient workflow became less and less and I could not quite understand why. After having a proper think on the matter over the holidays I think the reason for this was my implementation of the workflow. Instead of using task management to achieve goals, I used task management much like a shopping checklist. Everyday I would put all the tasks that I have to get done and just list them one after the other in my apps without any type of organisation.

While this did the job of reminding me of what needs to be done very well; it took away the holistic view of how that task fit into the big picture. As I lost sight of how completing these tasks was making a difference (or not) I also lost the motivation of using such a task management system.

I want to change this. I think what needs to be done is to divide all the things I want/need to do in a series of small projects and have these tasks attached to a particular project with an end date attached to them. This solves both the issues of giving me the big picture of how completing tasks is helping my ‘projects’ and also how I prioritise these plethora of tasks. I think the best way of doing this is to first have a mind map to identify chunks of mini projects under which the related tasks can be bundled. And this map is then reviewed periodically to take out completed projects and add new ones. This, I am hoping, should give me an efficient workflow which is also sustainable as it keeps things organised and also keeps me aware of the big picture.

So now the thing to do is to design this concept workflow to suit me. Maybe in a couple of posts I can post how the new workflow is holding up. In the meantime, please leave a comment on what you think of my workflow idea and your thoughts on how you would improve it.

Happy new year to you all again.


My teacher recommended watching these violin videos by Joshua Bell on youtube. I seem to have issues with my violin playing in the sense that it seem to put too much effort in my fingering of notes. He asked me to look at the ease with which Joshua Bell plays his notes. Because I will be limited in my study of violin if I don’t cultivate that ease of playing which will in turn affect my development of intonation and speed.

Looking at these videos, I can see what he means. The ease of playing by Joshua Bell is a pleasure to watch. The only way I can develop this, ironically, is to consciously practice it in. The problem is coming from playing guitar, it is typical for the player to apply a lot more force than on the fretboard to get a clean note. However, it is not so with violin, with the slightest of effort the note can be played on the fretless fingerboard, but it is hard to let go of the muscle memory developed while learning guitar.

Nevertheless, this is a new instrument, a new frontier and ideally I should not let habits that I have acquired playing other instrument negatively effect the study of another instrument. But I think it is quite natural of this happening in the real world. The only thing I can do to mitigate this is practice and more practice. Hopefully, soon I will be able to play the notes with a greater ease and better intonation as I progress on my journey in the study of this fantastic musical instrument.