The way i see…

Best advice of 2012 and my new year resolution

Some of the best advice I received in 2012 came a couple of days ago. Too late for 2012 but optimistically speaking a bit early for 2013. :).

I was watching this documentary about how to eat better. The doctors in the documentary were talking about how we are eating more and more unhealthy food. One of the doctors had a great tip. He said, do not worry about the bad food in your life, just focus on getting the good, healthy food in to your diet and the bad food will automatically get pushed out. I feel a lot of people, including me, focus on not eating unhealthy, rather than eating something healthy.

I think this is an extremely helpful advice for life in general. Hoping that your kids don’t get involved in bad things. Well, then introduce them to good things, rather than actively keeping them away from bad things. This also creates a positive outlook towards life.

So there you go. That’s my resolution for the new year. Keep doing the good things and not worry about the bad things. Keep exercising, keep eating raw, unprocessed food items, keep reading good books and all the good stuff.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Design Thinking

I just finished reading Donald Norman’s ‘The Design Of Everyday Things’ and here are my thoughts on it. The author talks about a lot of enlightening concepts and I will summarize them as I understand them. There is plenty of other interesting stuff in the book that I have not covered here, including great pictures, and I would strongly urge you to read the book.

Natural mapping: The author says that when designing systems, you should make use of natural mapping. What does it mean? For example, lets say you were designing the switch board for electrical appliances in a room. One way and the common way to do it would be, to place all switches in one straight line. Now, this means, that the user has to remember, which switch does what. If you use natural mapping, you would design the switch board in such a way that the switch position on the board mirrors or maps the physical location of the appliance it operates in the room. This way it is very intuitive, which switch goes to which appliance in the room. Another great example is the gas burner switches, that I struggle with almost every day. I can never remember, which switch is for which burner. The author suggests some beautiful designs to map the actual burner position to its switch. Doors are a source of constant pain when operating. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a flat plate on the side of the door that needs to be pushed to be opened and a vertical bar for ones that need to be pulled. Why is it so hard? Any way, another nice example of natural mapping, that I have encountered on a Mac is, you see the Caps lock light located on the button itself. Sweet, no more searching!

Knowledge in the head versus knowledge in the world: This concept is complementary to the natural mapping one. If you make use of natural mapping, like having a switch board that mirrors the physical layout of the room, it reduces the burden on the person to hold the knowledge in the head of what switch does what. On the contrary, you are putting that information out in the world! A great benefit of this is reduced learning curve for everybody, when dealing with new switches.

Visibility: When designing systems, sometimes people get too caught with aesthetics and don’t care much about usability. You might have come across numerous faucets or doors that look awesome but are not very friendly to operate. Every time I see one of these new faucets, I spend at least a minute or two trying to figure out how to make it work. I once rented a car for which I could not figure out for a long time how to lower the windows. I approached a toll booth and I actually had to get off of the car to pay the toll. Funny! Later I figured out there was a small knob above the radio to lower the windows. Who thought it would be a good idea to put the window opener on the dashboard. Another funny incident that happened to me on the British Rail train, which I think the author mentions too in the book. The train stopped at my destination station and I was waiting patiently for the doors to open automatically, as there was no handle on the door to open it. Somebody walked from behind me, lowered the window on the door, put his hand out and turned the handle on the outside to open the door. Holy cow! Had I not known about that, I would have easily missed my stop. Coming to the point of visibility, the author argues it is extremely important to provide visual clues, to help the user, to operate the system. A long hanging chain with a handle at the bottom provides a visual clue that the device can be operated by pulling it. Sure aesthetics are important, but usability comes foremost. And by the way, I don’t think the British Rail train door was designed that way for aesthetic purpose. 😉

While I was reading this book, I had my own moment of slight ingenuity. I was thinking about how I have had a hard time opening cabinet doors that have a flat plate on the corner that needs to be pushed and then some spring is released and the door pops out. I always try to put my finger in the small gap between the door and the cabinet and pull it out. I thought it might be nice if you could make a small depression on the plate, big enough the size of a finger, to indicate that the plate needs to be pushed to open the door. 🙂

Feedback: The author talks about how important it is for the system to give the user feedback, for the action they have performed, to assure that they have completed the task successfully. You do not want people sitting there thinking the machine is doing something when it is doing nothing or even vice versa. Feedback can be provided by sound (buzz when the microwave door opens), lights (caps lock is on), tactile (pressing a button on a telephone), et al. These are examples of feedback provided after an action has been performed. One of the examples that the author gives, is for providing feedback, even before an action is performed. This is about designing aircraft switches for landing gear and wing control, which I thought was ingenious given the risk involved in flying an airplane. He suggests that we create the landing gear switch shaped like a tire, whereas the switch that operates the wings shaped like a flat plate. When the pilot is working with these switches, the tactile feedback of touching a flat plate versus a round knob would have a much bigger chance of reducing error as opposed to having both the switches feel the same, especially in pressure situations.

Constraints and forcing functions: Constraints can be used very effectively to better design products. For example, keys for locks are designed in such a way that it goes in only one way, which is a constraint that is built into the system to avoid making errors. Computer programs do this well these days with disabling certain options on the screen when they are not applicable to the user. Washing machines do not let you open the door when the system is running to avoid possible mishap. The author talks about other types of constraints like cultural constraints. An example of this would be when creating a LEGO model of motorcycle driver, the user knows to build the model with the motorcycle driver facing forward because it is the only possible way the driver can drive safely. The author issues a word of caution in using constraints because sometimes they can be a source of annoyance. You would know what I am talking about, if you have been in a situation where you are carrying stuff in your car and you place a heavy bag on the passengers seat and the seat belt buzzer goes off when you start driving the car. It would be dangerous if the driver permanently disabled the passenger seat belt warning. What I have seen happen is that the seat belt warning beeps for a while and then displays a warning on the dashboard to indicate the non-compliance, which is not so annoying.

So what do I think of the book? I think it is great. It is very insightful. I got a little lost in the middle where it starts to talk a lot about psychology but there was always something that piqued my interest. The other thing I liked about the book is the book itself. Its nice and concise with 200 odd pages. I think books with about that size are perfect. They are easy to carry around, not too long yet enough to give a good understanding of about anything in the universe.

When I first started reading the book, I thought all these issues were minor, trivial or first-world problems1. Then as I started thinking more about it, I realized how important the problem is of fixing the usability of everyday things like train doors, aircraft switches, car windows, gas burner switches, et al. The problem only gets worse when you think of operating these devices in a panic situation. We have been producing fantastic devices until now but not paying a lot of attention to usability and I think that should be one of our top priorities going forward.

[1] First-world problem

Buffett & Berkshire philosophy

Every year Warren Buffett writes a letter to Berkshire Hathway shareholders where in, he tries to explain in simple language how the business is doing. I recently finished reading “The Essays of Warren Buffett” by Buffett & Cunningham which is a collection of these letters. I remember reading a couple of the shareholder letters in the past, but this collation was a lot helpful to understand the Berkshire philosophy. I will try and give you a gist of it here but I would urge you to read the book, which surprisingly is not such an arduous read. He writes to his shareholders describing things as they happened and with the same honesty, he would expect if the roles of shareholders and owners were reversed. This book is an incredible easy read given I have no business background whatsoever. Surely, the last section of accounting was a bit too much to take, but Buffett manages to keep it interesting with his usual funny quotes and anecdotes.

Buffett learned his philosophy from his friend and mentor Benjamin Graham. Buffett feels Berkshire is a real-world validation of Graham’s ideas. Couple of guidelines are the central theme of this “intelligent” investing philosophy. Intelligent investing feels redundant to him because investing should always be intelligent. First and foremost comes, circle of competence. What he means by this is you should invest in industries/domains that you think you “understand” well. I will come to in a minute what he means by understanding a business. Frankly, this was such a relief to know. Think about it, this dude who happens to be the most successful investor in the world thinks that he does not understand certain businesses well enough. One would think he would have figured it all out, but apparently no. He simply stays away from investing in technology intensive (like IT) companies. What keeps him away? This brings us to the question of what he means by understanding a business. He feels he does not understand the economic characteristics of such businesses (put simply, how the business makes its money) and the durability of such a business over the next 20 to 30 years. And that brings us to the next investing guideline. Long term investment. He is never in a hurry to trade stocks. He despises the selling and buying frenzy that is so prevalent on Wall Street. Here is how it goes in Buffett world: find a durable business that is well understood and has good management. Buy it and hold it for ever. Selling should be necessitated to buy something of higher value (which happens rarely) or in the case of an eventuality. Goddam its an “investment”, treat it like one! 🙂 This is in contrast to the frenzied stock activity, when the market moves up and down by a dozen points. You would say whats wrong with that? I thought the same. Here is what he had to say. Lets say you are managing the Chicago Bulls and you have Michael Jordan on your team. Given that he is performing really well of lately, would you think of selling him because he can fetch an awesome price on the market. No! You would be foolish to do that.

Just to give you a feel for Berkshire’s portfolio, about two-thirds of their revenue comes from insurance business and the rest from companies like Coca-Cola, Gillette, Amex that are partially owned and others that are fully owned like Borsheims (jewelry), BNSF (railway carrier), and many more.

Buffett challenges the traditional wisdom of diversifying your investment portfolio. You talk to any money manager and this will be the numero uno suggestion, spread your risk by diversifying. Buffett says invest in two to three businesses that you understand and watch them closely, thus giving you “focus” which is very critical in intelligent investing. He thinks it is better to be approximately right than being precisely wrong. With diversification you invest in companies that you have no idea about and hand over your fate to the market which is known to be highly unpredictable.

He talks about “Efficient Market Theory” which basically means market knows best. It says the stock price of a company on the market is the most accurate representation of the state of its business, because the market is “efficient”. Buffett strongly disagrees with this theory. He introduces the concept of Mr. Market which was taught to him by Ben Graham. He says Mr. Market has a manic-depressive disorder. Sometimes it is very happy, sometimes very sad, sometimes it might even be honest. You have to trade with the Mr. Market when you feel the intrinsic value of a business matches the market value. Sadly the way to calculate the intrinsic value is no science and this is where the genius of Mr. Buffett lies, in accurately (mostly) understanding the intrinsic value of a business. He admits to making some huge mistakes, but I guess it comes out as a wash in the larger context.

Buffett thinks it is very important to invest in businesses that have a good management, more specifically the CEO. He finds companies that have CEO’s who are culturally aligned with those of Berkshire’s. The CEO’s of companies that Berkshire holds have to live by 3 rules: a) they have to run it like they are its sole owner b) the company is their only investment and c) they cannot sell it for the next 100 years. This accentuates the same Berkshire philosophies of thinking long term, focus, and owner-centric attitude. He claims that most of the businesses under the Berkshire umbrella do not have to obsess about things that would normally bother other companies like quarterly results and stock price.

I have stayed away from a lot of key concepts due to my inability to understand or express the subject matter. If you are serious about investing, I would strongly encourage you to read the book. Comments welcome.

Update[13 Feb 2012]:  Warren Buffett: Why stocks beat gold and bonds

Insanely great

I just finished reading Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Issacson. Here are some of the take-aways for me, not in any particular order:

  1. Belief in intuition: There was something in Steve that made him a genius and I think it is his conviction in intuition. He clearly understood the strength of rational thought, having lived in a Western civilization, but began to appreciate the power of intuition after he lived in India for a while, when he was young. He was able to produce wonderful products by merging the two in a very symbiotic way.
  2. Belief in ‘insanely great’: Steve believed in building ‘insanely great’ products. His drive is evident in his products and helped others to unleash their creative energies. Jonathan Ive, chief designer at Apple, admits that Steve got his ideas instantly. What would take years to be approved in other companies would be approved in a matter of minutes.
  3. Open systems vs Integrated systems: Some people may refer to integrated systems as ‘closed’ systems. 😉 This has been the biggest sticking point for me being a software engineer. It is a very hard question to answer, which one is better. Steve wanted to control every aspect of the product user experience. He thought of it as a package, and hence software and hardware had to be integrated. Going a step forward, he even built retail stores for his products, and in doing so, showed how to doing them really really well. He mastered his product launches. Going back to the software and the hardware integration part, Bill Gates mastered the world of open systems with Windows. I must admit that I would not have been a software engineer if it hadn’t been the affordability of Windows. But, to put things in perspective, it did lead to crappy user experience. I guess it is always good to have choices and leave it to the user which one to pick.
  4. Focus on focus: Steve had laser sharp focus. First thing he did when he came back to Apple, was get rid of a bunch of ‘useless’ products. Now the genius lies in knowing what is useless. I guess, as he explains is, the key is in knowing what your company is all about. He very very clearly understood what Apple was about and used that knowledge to guide his decisions.
  5. Focus on collaboration: Steve was big on collaboration. He did not just pay lip service to collaboration. He encouraged collaboration across departments, he wanted the software guys to talk to hardware guys, the hardware guys to sales guys. He always thought of Apple as one company. There was just one P&L(profit & loss) sheet for Apple, as opposed to traditional approach of having one for each department.
  6. Feeling things: He believed in feeling things. He loved models. I really liked the fact that Apple had a lab where they had all their products being developed at the same time, new and old. I guess it gives you a wonderful sense of perspective across your entire product range. It is great to imagine what a real person would feel about owning different Apple products at the same time or even identifying new needs.
  7. Do not be shy of cannibalizing yourself: He introduced the iPhone with the iPod in it, which meant iPod sales would be automatically compromised. But he thought that if you don’t cannibalize yourself, somebody else will.
  8. Knowing what the customer needs: He thought the onus is on the product developer to know what the user wants. To support his point, he gives an example of Ford saying, “If I asked my customers what they want, they would have said faster horses”. I think this is a very powerful concept. The traditional approach is to throw 30 different models on the market and let the customer pick. Whereas knowing what exactly the customer needs, means you have to do a lot of hard work. As a side point, when I say hard work I don’t mean long hours, but being consumed with the thought of knowing what the user wants, which he did. I can think of a similar example of an obscure restaurant in Italy, which serves just 8 tables, has no menu and still happens to one of the best in the world. You have to put a huge amount of effort into everything you serve your customer. All the customer can decide at the end of the it, whether you like it or not. Binary choices are very hard for the user and very dangerous for the business. You have to do an extraordinary job to have the customer coming back for more.
  9. A players: He talks about building a team of A players and the fact that A players like to work with other A players. I am more liberal on this one. I personally would take a lot of satisfaction from converting B players into A players. He talks about resisting the urge to bloat the company with C players. I think the only people who fall under the C category are the ones who lack interest in what they do.
  10. Big picture, small details: Steve had an unusual ability to understand the big picture very clearly and yet focus on the small details. He knew what he wanted to build from the get-go and yet looked at the extremely fine details of the product. He holds a patent for the iPhone cardboard packaging, along with numerous other significant ones.
  11. Passion & perseverance: These are clearly evident from the points above, but I would like to give another example. Steve wanted to build the iTunes store. It was extremely tough to negotiate against the traditional music industries, which he ended up doing successfully. Now there was another wrinkle. Most of the artists had individual sales contracts with the music companies. He took it upon himself to convince the artists that iTunes store was a good idea. He wanted to convince Eminem, hence he met with Dr. Dre, his mentor, and effusively talked about iTunes store. Dr. Dre walked away feeling the guy had it all figured out, end-to-end.
  12. Intersection of technology and human creativity: He thought he stood at the intersection of technology and human creativity. When he was fired from Apple, he took over Pixar, the computer animation company. The company made some of the best animation movies under his leadership. Steve was very respectful of creative people like John Lasseter who made Toy Story. They would get his unconditional attention. To put this in perspective, he was very very harsh with people who he thought did not do a good job.
  13. Leave behind a legacy: Steve deeply cared about leaving behind a legacy. He was indebted to Hewlett and Packard for creating a lasting company, that the valley could remember years later, and wanted to do the same. In his words, he wanted to add something immortal to the flow of life.

So what do I think of Steve Jobs? Some of the things, I havent talked about here are, what an asshole Steve could be. Notable amongst them being, denying Daniel Kottke, one of the first Apple employees, founders bonus because he was out on vacation when the bonus was announced. Daniel was his college friend, who helped him through many of his personal struggles too. Other is the fact that he dumped his girlfriend when she became pregnant and completing abandoning the child. He did later try to mend things but it was never perfect. So in light of these facts, I like to think of Steve as a ‘complete package’. Nobody is without faults, and he did some really horrible things. But I think I really like him for the fact that he really cared about building ‘insanely great’ products, without giving a rats ass about making money.

3 Idiots + 1 :)

I watched 3 Idiots today. Its a very nice watch and I would rate it 8 out of 10. If you haven’t watched it yet, stop reading and go watch it now :). If you are a young Indian adult like me, then its something you could relate to very easily and walk out of the theater feeling “Give me another chance, I wanna grow up once again”.

I will talk about the movie first and then make some personal comments. To provide a context, the movie deals with a socially relevant issue typically found in the Indian society. The Indian education system gives paramount importance to marks and grades of the students with no consideration for practical applicability of the knowledge. To add to the misery, the options for a “respectable” career are very limited. The student could either become a doctor or an engineer and hence denied a chance to do what she/he wants to do for a living. The parents wish that their child gets good grades, get a good job and be “successful” in life.

The protagonist of the film, Aamir Khan, urges his two friends, Madhavan and Sharman Joshi to follow their passion while choosing a career and choose excellence over success. If they follow their hearts they have a much better chance of being happy in life. I think the movie delivers this social message exceptionally well. Aamir Khan and director Rajkumar Hirani have already proved that they can handle socially relevant issues very well with Taare Zameen Par and Munnabhai respectively.

The movie gets a good grip over the viewers with a very familiar college life. It shows how the system is throttling student creativity and the parents disapproval in letting their kids choose a career of their choice. It points out the dangers of mugging up information just for the sake of getting marks instead of actually understanding it. I think the whole delivery of a baby using a vacuum pump was over the top but it delivers a crucial point that if you can’t put your knowledge to any practical use, it is a waste. The movie lost me a little bit around the rain song of Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor but then I should be able to put up with some Bollywood masala.
I like the way they handled Raju’s poverty. I think its made a way too sensitive issue in almost every movie I have seen. Here they have dealt with it in a lighter vein and I think the point is “So what if you are poor? Deal with it and move on. Do not make it such a big issue”. I think the same applies to the whole Raju suicide incident. It gives it the importance it deserves but in the end tries to generate some laughter out of it. Yes, shit happens and you have to learn from it.

I think all the actors are brilliant. Aamir Khan and Boman Irani are at their best. Madhavan and Sharman have done a great job too. I think the director should be applauded for presenting a socially relevant issue very effectively. But I am not sure how much of the second half melodrama was justified. Overall I think the movie had a huge impact since it touched me deeply.

At the back of my mind, I was comparing this movie with Taare Zameen Par. This is a very similar movie. Socially relevant issue that deas with bringing up kids and Aamir being the agent of change. But I think TZP was a much succinct presentation of the social message, hard-hitting without all the Bollywood masala. But I think I would like to watch 3 Idiots again, mainly because of the humor and I cannot say the same about TZP.

Mrutunjay – Story of Karna

I just finished reading Mrutunjay by Shivaji Sawant which is Mahabharat through the eyes of Karna. According to popular conception, Karna’s character has not got the glory and recognition that it truly deserves. The author appeals to Karna to tell his story and tell the world that he is a ‘Rajvastra'(royal robe) and not a ‘latkar'(piece of rag).

Karna was the greatest warrior of his generation, who conquered entire ‘Aryavrath’ (almost entire India) single-handedly. He was extremely principled and stood by them even in the face of death. He was also known as ‘Danveer’ (extremely generous). Indra, the king of Gods, comes to his door asking for his Kavach-Kundal. (Kavach is an unpenetrable shield that is attached to his skin. Kundal are radiating earlobes which he gets at the time of his birth from his father Sun God.) Karna rips his Kavach from his body and chops off his Kundal within a split second. There is a very interesting story, the night before Indra comes to ask for his Kavach Kundal.

Karna wakes up in the morning and calls upon his brother Shon to discuss about the dream he had last night. Karna says that Sun god appeared in his dream and told him that if Indra comes asking for your Kavach-Kundal, do not give it to him. Shon sees that Karna is extremely tensed and requests him not to part with his Kavach Kundal. Karna replies that he is not tensed because he has to part with my Kavach-Kundal, but because he is not able to think of a way to remove the Kavach that is attached to his skin.

Karna lived all his life being a ‘Suthputra’ (belonging to a lower strata of the society). Extreme humiliation was inflicted upon him at various stages of his life. His only supporter was Duryodhan who happens to the main villian of Mahabharat. Hence Karna ends up being on the wrong side in the final war of Mahabharat and gets killed.

The story of his slaying is of monumental importance in Mahabharat. Karna was under a ‘shap’ (curse) that his chariot wheel would get stuck in the mud during war. When Karna is removing his wheel from the mud, he keeps down his bow and arrow. Krushna, who is Arjun’s charioteer, realizes that this is the only moment Karna can be silenced, when he is ‘Nishatra'(without any weapon). He asks Arjun to shoot at Karna. He refuses since it is against the ‘Kshatriya-dharma'(code of conduct for a warrior) to shoot at a ‘Nishastra’.

What happens next is the most beautiful part of the novel. Krushna thinks to himself that he will have to instigate Arjun to kill Karna. He knows that ‘Adharma’ (the evil) must end. Since Karna is on the evil side, he must die. Krushna explains how hard it is for him to make this decision and the mental trauma that he has to go through. One might think that Krushna was not very fond of Karna. But the reality is Krushna thought that there are only 4 people in the world that can love selflessly and with extreme devotion. One is his mother Yashoda, Kunti (the mother of Pandavs), Karna and his childhood lover in Gokul Radha. It is only Krushna who knows what Karna actually stands for. But then he has to choose the side of ‘Dharma'(righteousness) over ‘Adharma’.

Krushna asks Karna “You Suthputra, wasnt all the injustice done to Pandavs and Draupadi(their wife) ‘Adharma'”. This is the first time that Krushna actually refers to him as ‘Suthputra’. He does not mean it but the idea is to incite Arjun. Krushna comes across a manipulative character but always stood for ‘Dharma’.

Thus Karna gets killed by Arjun.

The basic idea of Mahabharat is triumph of good over evil which is simple yet eternal. But the story of Karna says that no matter how great you are, you will be defeated if you are on the wrong side.

Jaytu Karna! (Long live Karna)

I understand its been a long blog post but hope you have enjoyed it. Comments welcome.

Experience with learning a language

I learnt German for 5 years in school about 10 years ago and I absolutely loved it. In my opinion it was easy to learn and hence lot of fun. There were primarily two reasons:

  1. The German grammar is very similar to Sanskrut which is the base for most Indian languages. My teacher actually gave us examples of how we would say it in Indian language and exactly the same grammar rule would apply in German. For example in Hindi we would say “Mujhe aam achcha lagta hai” which translates into English as “I like mango.”. Now here in this case, in Hindi, the verb “achcha lagna” which means to “like” changes the case of the person who is doing the action to Dative. It is not “Main aam achcha lagta hun”. Similarly in German it would be “Mang gefallt mir”. The similarity attracted me to the language.
  2. The other reason being, German is pronounced the way you write it(which a lot of folks find boring or unromantic) but it made my life a hell lot easier. In fact, thats how most of the Indian languages are. You say what you write.

I was talking to a friend about different approaches of learning a language and there are two that stand out.

  1. The first one is learning the grammar of the language and then building sentences around it. You would start off with a verb as simple as “to be”. Then you would learn the conjugation of the verb and then build sentences around it like “I am a boy”, “You are beautiful”, “How are you both?”, etc. This approach appeals to people who like to learn the intricacies of a language and who are keen language learners. I call this approach the “pedantic” way of learning a language. Some people argue that it can be quite boring to people who do not have a keen interest in learning a new language and want to learn it for fun, maybe just to flaunt.
  2. The other approach is starting off with sentences that you would use in your daily life like “How are you”, “I am good, how are you”, “What is the time”, etc. You do not try to dissect the sentence day one to learn the grammar elements, not until you have learnt fair amount of sentences. Once you are comfortable speaking, you try to learn the grammar involved in those sentences. The main advantage of this approach is you start speaking the language from day one. Coming from an Agile[1] world, I would say you start deriving business value from day one. I call this approach “Agile way” of learning a language. One of the downfalls in my mind of this approach could be little emphasis on construction of the sentences using language elements. As long as you are in touch with the language, you will speak fluently but as your memory fades you might start losing the knowledge.

I have been fortunate enough to learn it both the ways. My school teacher taught me the Agile way which was fun and sexy while my special class teacher taught it the Pedantic way which makes me quite comfortable even today(after almost 10 years) constructing a sentence in German.

Thoughts welcome.

[1] – Agile is a software delivery approach that focuses on delivering business value in iterative cycles.

Mac – Pros and Cons

This is based on my experience with the Mac since I bought it a few months ago. My configuration looks like 2.4 GHz processor, 15” display, 2GB RAM, etc. I have Leopard – the latest Mac OS X operating system.

Pros:

User Interface:
– Magnificent user experience. This is not something that can be completely captured in words. I like the dock(for PC users dock is shortcuts to your programs) thats sits at the bottom of your desktop and auto hides itself which gives you an uncluttered desktop. (I love the dock item bouncing.)

UNIX interface:
– Powerful Unix interface – this is the part that the developer in me just loves. Imagine having a fully POSIX compliant interface at your disposal. Raw power!

System Preferences:
– System controls(Display, Audio, Printers, Keyboard, Mice, Internet, User Accounts, etc) seem to be organized nicely. For example, you have an option of internet sharing where you could share your ethernet connection over wireless for neighboring computers. I remember doing this with a PC by setting up an ad-hoc network but it definitely wasn’t as smooth as the Mac.

Networking:
– Mac automatically finds computers connected to the same network, be it Windows or Mac. Thanks to Bonjour technology!

Keyboard:
– Backlit keyboard. This is a nice feature. There are ambient light sensors that automatically illuminate your keyboard when light is low. Someone cares for me!
– Buttons are soft to press.

Display:
– I love the HD screen.
– Display also has an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the screen brightness depending on the ambient light.

Camera:
– iSight (in-built webcam) works nicely, sits nicely on top of the screen.

Physical Layout:
– All the devices/cable connections are to your left or right. I don’t have to stretch myself to the back.
– There is small light indicator on the bottom of the laptop to check the remaining battery life.
– Caps lock light indicator is right on the button.

Keypad:
– Multi-touch keypad lets you scroll your pages horizontally(not just vertically), turn them around, make the font bigger/smaller, etc.

Software:
– I have heard people complain that software not being available for the Mac platform. I don’t think it is true anymore. Everything that matters has a Mac version.
– Mac has some cool tools built-in for all your basic needs like iPhoto(edit and view photos), iMovie(making movies), GarageBand(music composition), Grab(taking screenshots), TextEdit(it can also read your documents.), etc.
– Dashboard – it gives me all the frequently needed information – calendar, time in different time zones, weather, dictionary, latest stock information, stickies and much more – all in just one button click.
– Watching photos in iPhoto is a wonderful feeling especially in the slideshow mode(they call it FrontRow) which displays them in full screen on the HD screen with music playing in the background.
– Finder(which is like Windows Explorer in Windows) lets you color you folders – simple visual clues. I like the column view of Finder.
– I love the Quicklook view in Leopard. It opens docs(all the popular formats – docx, xlsx, pdf, even ppt’s) for a quick preview almost instantaneously. I remember spending so much time opening my Word documents just to see one small little thing. Sweet!
– Its the iPhone development platform!
– The longest my Mac has been running is for 24 days, non-stop, without any issues. I had to restart it for a software update.

Cons:

Software:
– No way to delete a single item from Trash directory via GUI. The workaround for this is accessing the folder contents via Terminal(unix terminal utility in Mac OS X).
– No way to locate your photos on the disk stored in iPhoto so that they can be attached to emails. A possible workaround is dragging the photo in Finder window and attaching it from that location. Thanks Navin!
– Sometimes after I wake up my laptop from sleep I have to login twice. The issue has been reported to Apple. (http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=1249756&tstart=178).

Overall extremely beautiful user experience coupled with great computing power. I was bothered by the thought of moving to a new operating system. But then there is very little learning curve involved and trust me its really worth it. Once I had Microsoft Office on my Mac I never really missed Windows. 🙂

The price was a bit of a deterrent but then all these goodies don’t come cheap. I sincerely feel that everyone should buy a Mac once in her/his life just to experience how good software is made and runs (most important!). Long live the spirit of Apple!

PS: Waiting for my iPhone v2.0!!!