November 25, 2013

Office humor

Back in 2000 or so, office email was "normal". People just asked their colleagues their questions and gave technical feedback etc with an occasional thanks if the other person did something really helpful. Around 2003 or so, i started noticing a strange trend. Few people started adding Thanks at the end of many emails. This trend got picked up and soon, everyone started adding Thanks to their emails. I started doing that too because I didn't want anyone to think that I am disrespectful. But some folks started taking this too far. They added a permanent "Thanks" to their signature. Even if THEY were helping ME out, they would end up thanking me because of this. It was like, "hey thanks for giving me a chance to help you, you are so good". Some emails would be like:

Subject: Thank you!
Thank you for sending me the document.
Thanks again!


At some point, I got fed up thanking profusely for every silly thing. Now I only thank people who are really doing a favor to me. I just use one of the variety of Regards like Warm Regards, Best Regards or Kind Regards (whatever that means).

We all know that some people are really good technically but they can't use correct grammer in emails. one such incident. One of my previous managers sent an email to all the team members with subject "Take leave today". I seriously thought "wow such a good manager, he is asking all of us to take leave. maybe we worked so hard, wow great man!". So, I immediately took off. Only on the way home, I saw the full content of the email. It seems HE was taking the day off because he was sick. His email subject should have been "Taking leave today". many times, i had to read the email twice to even understand the english part.

Another mishap that usually happens is forgetting to attach documents. People send really long description of their document like, "this document covers this aspect, that aspect" etc and forget to send the document itself.

Even with all these, I prefer emails more than meetings because of the comedy that happens in the so-called brainstorming meetings. They would call for a meeting with numerous folks from multiple teams who have no idea what each other are doing. Just setting up this meeting with a time when everyone's calendar is free itself would be a nightmare. After struggling hard, they would book a conf room for some half hour as if the hardest problems in the world were solved in half an hour!

There will be 10 people in the attendees list and 5 of them will come late (standard 15 mins). Somebody would start drawing something on the board slowly and by the time he finishes drawing using his less-than-stellar drawing skills, there will be only 5 mins left. Nothing will be decided in that 5 mins and they will resort to emails later. This is the peaceful version. There is another World War III version where everyone will fight tooth-and-nails to get their point of view across which no-one will accept anyway. Instead of all this drama, a simple email thread is far better, right?

November 22, 2013

Facebooker Taxonomy

I joined Facebook much earlier than many others I know. Initially I allowed some random people in my friends list who I had never even met (some random gmail contacts). The moment I decided to use Facebook regularly, I removed all those folks. Also, I don't accept any work colleagues as my friends (they belong to another place - LinkedIn). I have a short and sweet list with only close relatives and friends who I can trust. In case you are wondering why I am saying all this, you will find out towards the end of this post.

In my observation, I have seen four types of Facebook users.

Silent Monks: This category belongs to those who decided to join Facebook at some point as a favor to someone who pestered them to check out Facebook. They are still cursing themselves why they did it. They only post mugshots of themselves at random times with no explanation and they never comment on or like anybody else's updates. They post cryptic one line messages mostly during travel to inform the arrival/departure to the wife and never bother to answer the comments from other friends driving them crazy. Somebody should tell them that Facebook is not supposed to be used like that and you can use simpler things like SMS or voicemail to leave messages to your wife!

Family Fanatics: This category of folks will leave Facebook if it stops supporting photos. Because all they do is posting family pictures and checking which of their friends liked the album. If you like each individual picture in the album, you can become their close friend. If you forget to register any like, they will take revenge on you by not liking your next batch of photos. How dare you? hah...

Cautious Conversers: These folks have to check the political correctness of their status updates before they can post it. What if it offends the "Onnu Vitta Maama" (distant relative) who recently joined Facebook and demanded to become his friend over phone (which he accepted with a lot of hesitation). This syndrome arises because they would have allowed anyone to become Facebook friend. When you have 500 "friends" as audience, who knows what will be offensive to whom. They will mostly post articles from the web because you know, if somebody finds fault with it, they can put the blame on the original author and escape. Off late, they are worried about NSA reading their posts and stopped posting anything related to politics.

Facebloggers: These are ex-bloggers who got bored with blogging and decided to use Facebook as a blog. They will post re-eeally long text or use Facebook like a loudspeaker to announce their opinions about various topics which they can't resist anyway. Sometimes they will comment on their own posts before others comment on it! (I belong to this category)

So, choose your friends wisely and it's not all that wrong to remove random folks from your friends list for the sake of freedom. Happy facebooking!

October 19, 2013

iOS 7 AirDrop – Is it really Wi-Fi Direct?

After iOS 7 was released, I got excited about the AirDrop feature. Most of the media folks wrote that it is based on Wi-Fi Direct and I thought, wow that would be cool. Android has been supporting Wi-Fi Direct for an year now and our initial reaction was how cool would it be to develop a nice app using Wi-Fi Direct for both iOS and Android devices. We also came up with a nice idea and starting working on it. The rest of the post is about how things didn't work out exactly like we expected.

Wi-Fi Direct is a P2P standard for devices to transfer data without being connected to the same Wi-Fi network. So, you can share pictures and videos with your friends wherever you are without any Wi-Fi or 3G connection. The main advantage is that it works at full Wi-Fi speed (upto 250 Mbps). So, you can send a large video in few seconds ideally. But in reality, the transfer speed is not that high. Android has an app called SuperBeam whose users are claiming speeds like 35 Mbps, 50 Mbps etc. Now that's what I expected to get with AirDrop.

While developing the app, we first found that iOS and Android devices are not compatible with their P2P implementation. This is because Apple uses "Bonjour over Bluetooth" to advertise its Multipeer services and Android doesn't support Bonjour over Bluetooth. Then I came across some complaints in forums that Multipeer connectivity is not as fast as one would expect. I also felt that AirDrop was not transferring fast enough. So, I decided to test the performance of AirDrop. I created a 3 minute video (size 231 MB) and did two tests.

Test 1: Transferring while connected to the same wifi network

This took about 1.5 minutes. A simple calculation of data rate: 231 MB * 8 bits / 90 seconds = ~ 20 Mbps. 

Test 2: Transferring while not connected to any network

This took over 3 minutes! Data rate works out to be only about 10 Mbps.

I tested again with another large video and similar results. If this was really Wi-Fi Direct, then the availability of a network shouldn't make such a big difference. So, now I have doubts if AirDrop is Wi-Fi Direct or not? To be fair to Apple, they did not mention Wi-Fi Direct in any of the description/videos about AirDrop. My gut feel is that it is just Adhoc Wi-Fi that Apple has been using Macs for years. With a little research, I also found that Adhoc Wi-Fi is mandated not to exceed 11 Mbps by Wi-Fi standard so that even devices with old 11 Mbps Wi-Fi chips can join the Adhoc network (Reference)

If anybody has any proof that AirDrop is actually Wi-Fi Direct, please share it.