Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Good Bye 2008

Overall 2008 was a good year for me. Few good moments, bad moments... a blend of all times like all my past years. Let me share some of my memorable times of 2008 with all you guys:

Best of months

January: I got a success to unlock my iPhone fw-1.1.2 after a rigorous effort of 1 month.

February: For the first time in my career, I found myself interested in something called SDLC, which was ever been a boring topic for me when I was studying, doing training projects and even in my jobs. Better late than never, it's a good start too.

March: It happens every year... my birthday on Mar 11 :) unless any thing else can be better?

April: I should definitely write this here, eventhough the incident is not rare but very common in everyone's life. I found a currency note of just Rs. 10 (Indian rupee) from one of my 2+ yrs old unused jeans. It made me reminded my college days when in 10 rupees I was spending 3-4 hours in canteen with my friends (Avtar, Rakesh, Imran and Paramjeet). Definitely that was one of the best times in my life, so this entry is here. Thanks to my friends for being mine.

May-August: I think I should maintain the monthly logs of my life, so I will have data to write everywhere.

September: WOW, I have 2 good things to write for this month:
1) Celebrated my Nishi's (my son) 2nd birthday. Pictures are here: www.nishkaran.com
2) My internet friend 'Steve' from CO/USA visited us with his life mate and we spent almost a full month together, the program of his visit was made 2 yrs back in 2006.

October: I started my own blog, which was definitely one of my very old desires to launch and update it regularly.

November: It happens every year... my wedding anniversary on Nov 27 :) and nothing can be better than this.

December: I received my Google G1 (first android driven phone), and exploring it now to build a test app of RSS feeds reading. I'll keep you updated.

Worst of months

January: My father got suffered with an extreme skin infection over half of the face, and we went thru the tough time for the treatment. He is still recovering since then.

February: I would like to keep it undisclosed coz I have something which I can't share but that's the worst thing happened in the month of February

March: I couldn't celebrate my birthday on Mar 11 coz I got late to reach back home due to some official party, and found my son was sleeping. No problem, there is always a next time, so hopefully next year's this month entry will be saying good time, yeh!

April: I had to stop with a business plan (I was trying to work in my career) due to failure in my timely availability. I regained the confidence in the month of September to proceed.

May: I was going to my home town "Amritsar" by my car and suddenly a dog came on the highway by running fast to cross the road and we got the clash. It happened all of a sudden and my car was so fast I couldn't even look back what had happened with the guy? I was alone and got so confused after the hit, I couldn't even think to stop my car for checking the situation. I don't know what had happened to the dog, I wish he was alive coz there were no serious marks on the car, I checked later.

June-October: It seems I am lucky I don't have anything to write for these months :)

November: Worst news of this month was about terrorists attack in Mumbai, Financial capital of India. It made me really sad to see our insecurity of life.

December: I could not deliver the presentation of an app, I am building using open source technologies to implement Agile practices. I will share it with you shortly, keep an eye open for this... umm!

See you in 2009!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Different people, different notion: It's Agile!

Agile means no documentation - common misconception!

Most commonly heard definition include, "Agile = No Documentation". This is the most commonly misused and mis-communicated definition. I don't blame the newbies however it is the value of working software over comprehensive documentation.

For most of us, as soon as we hear the word "documentation", the first thing that comes to our mind is the "Microsoft Word" document, and the ISO-CMM level prescribed requirement/design documents that we might have written previously. So, when a newbie reads the documentation related value from Agile, they generally assume that one needs to dump documents, and rely purely on running code(working software). However, Agile manifesto is trying to say that "prefer" working software over (not abandon) comprehensive documentation. What it means is, try to create working software, because this is the only thing that adds value to the customer's business and not the extensive documentation.

Next question I generally get is, "if we don't do extensive documentation, then how do we retain the knowledge?", "what is the contingency plan for attrition as this would result in loss of precious knowledge?". My take on this is, "do document" in whatever way you can to protect the customer/yourself/project to retain knowledge. Agile value is trying to say that, don't do documentation for the sake of doing it, however document information from the context of adding value to the customer.

In my recent experiences working on an online video-ad media project, we had applied Agile methodology, and found that extensive documentation was indeed a must to conform to various standards. We wrote necessary documents as it added value to the customer's workflow and decision making processes.

Documentation not necessarily mean capturing information on "Microsoft word"! One could write something on the white board or flip chart and take pictures using a digital camera. The images stored could be considered as a project document. Similarly, recorded videos, good coding docs(for example), screen captured images, etc could well be considered as project documents.

Moral of the story: Agile encourages documentation to keep track of project progress and knowledge base rather than making beautiful formal notes or files to make management happy. PROCESSES ARE MADE FOR PEOPLE, NOT PEOPLE MADE FOR PROCESSES!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

First week with Google G1 - Another technical year started.. Lets see!

Navi showing Google G1Finally last Friday, my long waited G1 phone was delivered to my home in India. I have been looking for a Linux driven handheld to own, so now I have it and that too is from global technology leaders; Google, HTC, T-Mobile and first open source mobile platform "Android", collectively called "Google G1".

I am mad on experimenting latest technology matters with a tendency of not believing what people are saying about anything? I can't come to any conclusion until I use my hands on testing anything personally. I owned Apple iPhone for over a year and found too many good things about it during the time. I still love it, may be I still like iPhone the more! Anyway, Google G1 have recovered some of the drawbacks from world's most wanted and first revolutionary device "iPhone" to become an equally good or better option in the cellphones market.

I won't compare it with iPhone coz I love both and I want to use both. (iPhone was forcefully acquired by Aman, my wife... hnfff)


Below are my 10 comments about G1:

1) I use Gmail a lot, and I can enjoy by using one of the key features of it now by adding signature to my mails, "Sent wirelessly from my Google G1" :D
2) Since I bought G1, I moved my contacts list from my MacBook Pro to Google contacts for sync to my phone purpose, and I got another indirect advantage that I am keeping my contacts repository on web hence I can access it from anywhere. Good change for sure.
3) Slider keyboard doesn't give it a very good shape, but still good for many to use full QWERTY keyboard.
4) Flexibility on battery and SD card replacements. I love to keep a lot of songs and movies in the phone to get entertained while on the move.
5) Screen lock pattern is a very pure and unique concept implemented in G1.
6) Though I don't use it very much but SMS forwarding, copy/cut/paste text etc. like features are available.
7) Consolidated status bar on the top of screen is awesome, and keeps rotating info until we touch them. Nice feature so I dont' forget anything.
8) GTalk is happening - Coool.
9) I can use it as a flash drive thru USB, truely a big advantage.
10) There are still plenty of surprises to keep you entertained.

I will keep posting more as I'll be exploring new and new things this cute gadget. Let's keep building good features for this. My next plan to build a test app for android and run it on my device, lets see how it goes?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Bluetooth headset is better to use than phones directly to the ear

The wireless technology known as Bluetooth is popular for connecting cell phones with cordless headsets. Research has proved that holding phones close to your ear (hence head/brain) increases health risks. There is a possibility of developing brain tumors. Electromagnetic radiation emitted from cell phones affect the body's cells, brain and immune system. A wide range of diseases, from cancer to Alzheimer's, may develop due to such harmful exposures.

This is not surprising. While a phone needs to transmit with enough power to reach a base station antenna that may be a couple of miles away, Bluetooth has a nominal range of 30 feet. Radio energy dissipates at a rate proportional to the square of the distance, the transmit power of a Bluetooth radio can be orders of magnitude lower than that of the phone itself. And except when you are actually using the headset for a conversation, the Bluetooth radio is idle nearly all the time.

Bluetooth headset contains radio frequency so its not harmful for your health infact. Somewhere I read over the net that, Davis said. carrying a cell phone in a pocket or clipped to a belt means, you are just roasting your bone marrow by time.

Few tips while on mobile calls:
Use the speakerphone
Use a wired headset with a ferrite bead
Use a Bluetooth earpiece
Use a "hollow tube" earpiece
Get a phone with less radiation

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Should we all upgrade from 'Slow & steady wins the race.' story?

Today in my emails, I found a great corporate/professional lesson which I thought to share with you guys. Everybody must not forget this in your career, that's a great deal. OK here we go...

Once upon a time a tortoise and a hare had an argument about who was faster. They decided to settle the argument with a race.

They agreed on a route and started off the race. The hare shot ahead and ran briskly for some time. Then seeing that he was far ahead of the tortoise, he thought he'd sit under a tree for some time and relax before continuing the race. He sat under the tree and soon fell asleep. The tortoise plodding on overtook him and soon finished the race, emerging as the undisputed champ. The hare woke up and realized that he'd lost the race.

Moral: "Slow and steady wins the race. This is the version of the story that we've all grown up with."

THE STORY DOESN'T END HERE

There are few more interesting things.....it continues as follows......

The hare was disappointed at losing the race and he did some soul-searching. He realized that he'd lost the race only because he had been overconfident, careless and lax. If he had not taken things for granted, there's no way the tortoise could have beaten him. So he challenged the tortoise to another race. The tortoise agreed. This time, the hare went all out and ran without stopping from start to finish. He won by several miles.

Moral: " Fast and consistent will always beat the slow and steady. It's good to be slow and steady; but it's better to be fast and reliable."

THE STORY DOESN'T END HERE

The tortoise did some thinking this time, and realized that there's no way it can beat the hare in a race the way it was currently formatted.

It thought for a while, and then challenged the hare to another race, but on a slightly different route. The hare agreed. They started off. In keeping with his self-made commitment to be consistently fast, the hare took off and ran at top speed until he came to a broad river. The finishing line was a couple of kilometers on the other side of the river. The hare sat there wondering what to do. In the meantime the tortoise trundled along, got into the river, swam to the opposite bank, continued walking and finished the race.

Moral: "First identify your core competency and then change the playing field to suit your core competency."

THE STORY STILL HASN'T ENDED

The hare and the tortoise, by this time, had become pretty good friends and they did some thinking together. Both realized that the last race could have been run much better So they decided to do the last race again, but to run as a team this time. They started off, and this time the hare carried the tortoise till the riverbank. There, the tortoise took over and swam across with the hare on his back. On the opposite bank, the hare again carried the tortoise and they reached the finishing line together. They both felt a greater sense of satisfaction than they'd felt earlier.

Moral: "It's good to be individually brilliant and to have strong core competencies; but unless you're able to work in a team and harness each other's core competencies, you'll always perform below par because there will always be situations at which you'll do poorly and someone else does well. Teamwork is mainly about situational leadership, letting the person with the relevant core competency for a situation take leadership. Note that neither the hare nor the tortoise gave up after failures. The hare decided to work harder and put in more effort after his failure. The tortoise changed his strategy because he was already working as hard as he could."

In life, when faced with tough situations,
Sometimes it is appropriate to work harder and put in more effort.
Sometimes it is appropriate to change strategy and try something different.
And sometimes it is appropriate to do both.

The hare and the tortoise also learns another vital lesson, "When we stop competing against a rival and instead start competing against the situation, we perform far better."

Moral: "Effort is important, but knowing where to put an effort in our life makes all the difference"

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Managing relationships at work!

I am not very good at starting line of any article, but just wanted to share something very useful with you guys. I am talking about office environment, where people spend major part of their lives to feed their families and for career growth. People come & join the company, spend a couple of years and start looking for next opportunity in search of next level, switch over and same cycle continuous again and again in search of stability.

I read somewhere, "Persons never leave the company, but the manager". Well, I think I agree with this.

Maintaining the good relationship with co-workers is very important. This way you can achieve a very high level trust with them. Once the level of trust will be achieved, believe me you will never be convinced to leave them and vice verse. Companies grow with the senior people and with the long term workers. This is possible only by having perfect relationship and synchronization between co-workers.

Relationship is significant in various factors:

How people see you?
Negotiate and set clear goals. Everyone should be aware of the parameters of relationship and you remain clear and direct.

Seeing others point of view
This is a key communication skill, you should be open to think about other parties' perspective also.

Ganging others' expectations
It's easy to assume what other people want without checking it. But later when things are communicated and delivered, not always gone well. Don't make assumptions, its dangerous most of times. Be straight in asking, make transparent relationship.

Initiate solutions as soon as problems come
Don't wait after you come across with any problem, they will never get disappeared until you work on it. Make a note so you won't repeat it again.

Give more than expectations
Even by a single penny but always try to deliver more than you are asked for. It will help you make a perfect goodwill in your organization.

Keep developing communication skills
Be a good listener. Be a good speaker. Develop negotiation skills during conflicts. Be a better judge, when to say 'yes' or 'no'?

Relationships matter everywhere in your personal or professional life. I believe that good relationships at work is important to stay happy. This can get you they key to success!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wife of a software professional

Life of a software professional is extremely busy throughout the career. Guys work full day and overnight for better future. I used to say a line whenever some technology discussion happens, "To retain the same position, you need to run extremely fast."

An yearly routine of working hard becomes a habit of people like us, and it becomes punishment for the wife. Since when I married (November 27th, 2008), I hardly sit with my wife any evening after my work until I sleep. She never complains me about the same. Even when I don't work, I sit on computer for browsing new technology innovations, reading news on Apple, Google, Linux etc... definitely no sick Microsoft. I do PHP and Cocoa programming even if I don't have to read anything.

My wife, Aman, is very sweet, caring and understanding with me on my routine, I always realize that I should give her time, but I am unable to help myself because of my this (bad?) habit. I and Aman, now are blessed with a lovely son, named Nishkaran, so she have a reason for keeping her busy when I am not with her.

Dr. Stephen Reiss, one of my friends and a world traveler, given me a suggestion that taking one year leave after 10 years of hard work is a lot better than 1 day off every week.

I figured the same story plays at each software person's home. For better income than other industries, software people become more money oriented and raised their dreams to buy the world one day, so they have to leave the good times with family.

I am definitely trying to become a better husband day after day until I can take her to the year long holiday tour.

First experience with wine

I don't drink too much and never experiment new liqueurs to check new tastes etc. I love Teachers, Jack Daniel's, Johnnie Walker, VAT 69 and one of the most favorite Indian brand Malt Whisky Blender's Pride. I hardly drink any other than these.

Last month my friend, Steve from America, was here in India for a trip. He is a wine educator for over 30 yrs and have tasted 10000+ wines till now. I had my first wine tasted on 9/21/2008 when he and Jan (her life-mate) visited us for a dinner get together. It was a white wine by Grover's (one of premium Indian wine brands) and a very nice experience tasting and learning how to drink wine, and that too from a genius of industry.

Since then its been 5 chances so far I drunk wine at various places of different brands, and started encouraging friends to leave high alcoholic drink and replace your likings with wine. I feel I am now become a better liker of wine over beer, whisky or scotch. On the other hand, I am also convinced with the benefits of wine over any other liqueur type.

Check out some of the most recent studies that boast the health benefits of wine:

Overall Health Benefits:
  • Anti-aging effects in red grape skins
Lung Health Benefits:
  • Improved lung function from antioxidants in white wine
Heart Health Benefits:
  • Coronary heart disease reduced
  • Healthier blood vessels in elderly
Ulcer Prevention:
  • Ulcer-causing bacteria reduced
Cancer Prevention:
  • Cancer cells killed by protein in red grape skins
Stroke Prevention:
  • Arteries kept clean by polyphenols in red grape skins
Women’s Health Benefits:
  • Decreased ovarian cancer risk
  • Stronger bones
  • Lower risk of stroke
Men’s Health Benefits:
  • Lower risk of heart attack for men with high blood pressure
Making wine is a huge chemistry (painful subject?) of Acid, Sulphite and Grapes, and there are 1000s of methods to make it by different people at different locations worldwide. I hope if I could do it anytime, but I'll be thrown behind bars if I do it, so I wish there should be no dry day.

I just can't tell the reason, but I like red wine a bit more now. ;-)

That's another session of red wine, a day before they were leaving us.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Social Networking - A death of Privacy

We can very easily find a person on the internet now. Every single person who knows to operate computers, is a member of any one of popular social networking websites; such as facebook.com, orkut.com, myspace.com, linkedin.com, myheritage.com and hundreds of more.

I lost my some of friends over a decade back after my college, and recently I caught them on one of social network platform and it took me to the alert mode that I am traceable by the persons even whom I don't know. I can easily see who is talking to whom? doing what? his whereabouts etc. In last 10 years, society phenomena is entirely changed. Everything is 'e' now; e-commerce, e-mail, e-banking, e-talk, e-dating, e-work etc. I am worried technology is growing every hour (day-by-day phrase is outdated now), where it will be after 10 years?

Well, this is an endless debate, we just can't stop major players fighting technology battle, and launching such platforms to capture majority of users. We have no other option than to register with their system to find out best-to-use platform and upload our information for others to view and capture.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Products v/s Projects v/s Services - Truth behind the wall

The most common discussions in service based industries that working for product based companies are always better, people used to learn a lot from the repetition of processes, and career is consistent too. Products people say, life is a lemon lets try projects based company to face new and new challenges every day. Another available vertical is service-based industry, people are willing to sell themselves and get paid for any work done for clients. There is a lot of opportunity to on-site at USA, Canada, Australia and Europe locations.

Is that true? "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence."

Of course working on products definitely give exposure to domain and with time person becomes expert in the technology and industry of his/her area. It gives focus on single industry, chance to work with end users, and a lot of uniform practices which helps in personal development also. The same product when outsourced for development to other company, becomes project. What makes the difference? My work/Your work!!!

Google G1 - A success of open source!

Apple iPhone changed the way mobile was being used until last year. Of course leaders always play a great role to keep people busy thinking about them, according to them. Steve Jobs' strategy always work to make people act on his terms. This is the way Apple works and expand.

Another hit to industry by Google this year - Google G1, in collaboration with HTC. Thumbs-up to Android team and open source community, who collectively made it possible to give second revolutionary mobile phone to world and first ever open source mobile platform. Google's approach is entirely opposite from Apple, they always let people use their products the way they want to use, and same for G1 also. The platform is open source, hence you don't need to bother about AppStore like dependency for development. High-end touch responsiveness of G1 makes it pleasure to use handheld, and full size keyboard is an example of perfect typing practices than a virtual reality. G1 is a multitasking environment, and leads iPhone by giving ability to run multiple apps at the same time.

In 1991, Linus Torvalds gave the world's best operating system "Linux" with open source model, and today G1 is a second milestone in the history of open source success.

I have been a Linux user for over 5 years and always fond of experimenting new things in the platform until I bought my first Mac in August 2006 and then iPhone in December 2007. Now with the unsure news of Google G1 availability in India from December 2008, I am again curious to go back into Linux world by replacing my mobile gadget first. I hope to look forward using it soon, and post more about the first revolutionary phone on Linux OS.