WordCamp Kochi – My first experience as a WordCamp Speaker

I am out of words to express the joy of my first experience as an approved WordCamp speaker. The talk itself, the hospitality and camaraderie within the community, all of it and more was truly heart warming!

My first WordCamp as an attendee was WordCamp Pune 2017 which was incidentally in the same month when i joined Automattic full time as a Happiness Engineer – January 2017.  Friendly organizers of the event and colleagues alike, encouraged me to give a quick talk at an open conference slot. Though i had an audience of just 5, I received some generous appreciation that pushed me to apply for the subsequent WordCamp Kochi and WordCamp Mumbai.

I found through my friends that speaking about our own experience in the WordPress circuits is a great idea. With that hook I thought about RadioIdli.net – my community “radio” (multimedia magazine site / blog) as a good reference point. It was this project that gave me everything in WordPress as well as my career in digital marketing.

Kochi and Kerala, are heart-beds of literacy and literature in our country. It’s citizens are very vocal and expressive in written communication as well as media. Hence i thought of using my learnings to present a talk on

How to create your own medium using WordPress.com

Slides of the talk are right below:

Some Awesome Moments of the event i have pinned on twitter:

I hope to share the video here pretty soon, as much as i am curious to see what i actually spoke 😀

My next talk scheduled in WordCamp Mumbai – “How I built my community ‘radio’ using WordPress… and my career in Digital Media” is going to be inspired by RadioIdli.net too. However the talk will be more about how the project transformed my career for good. The story is also about how an ordinary user with no programming knowledge and zero investment can go about learning by oneself and making an awesome career. I hope the talk will help aspirants with their journey, developers to onboard and encourage users to turn power users, and the community to have more vibrant users too!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my update.

Stay tuned… stay beautiful 🙂

Micromax Ignite LPQ61408W – First hand review of slim and light laptop

I have been an ardent ‘collector’ of laptops. If you dont know what i mean, my friends and kin will tell you more about it.

I was looking for a light and slim laptop, since the older ones were taking toll on my back while travelling. While i was waiting for a good second hand deal on Macbook Air, or perhaps the much touted Xiaomi laptop, i found another great alternative at much lesser price too.

I found a very interesting model by Micromax (not the first name you would think for laptops). Have been very happy with their Television for about 2 years, thought it was worth taking a risk with a good configuration and inexpensive laptop. My decision was further reinforced by my Gadget expert students on facebook where i posted my query.

The basic configuration of Intel Quad core processor (N3700), 4GB RAM and a whopping 1TB hard disk was a great bundle. Add to it a HD screen of 14 inches, makes it adequate for my main purpose of a bit of coding, browsing and Office Suite applications.

Strange that the weight and dimensions of the laptop are not mentioned on flipkart as well as the company website. However a tweet to the company revealed that the weight is 1.4kg (half of my earlier laptop) and thickness at its widest is about 2.1 cms.

For a budget price of RS. 18990, the laptop includes pre-installed Windows 10 Home edition. Makes for a great bargain

Initial Performance
The Micromax Ignite gave impressive performance with its quick boot-up and setup. The fully charged battery indeed worked for about 6 hours on about 30% screen brightness which is visibly bright enough.

The reviews mention about heating issues. Though i encountered the device heating up particularly on the left side, it was within expected limits of any laptop.  Another negative point was slow charging, with the laptop taking upto 2 hours for a full charge. In my opinion, slow charging is not all that bad since that would help prolong battery life.

On its day 1, where i showed it to my colleagues at a College where i teach, i have had many of them wowed and wanting to purchase.

At Rs. 18990, its quite a deal and steal.

If you would like to buy it here’s the link”
Micromax Ignite Pentium Quad Core – (4 GB/1 TB HDD/Windows 10) LPQ61408W LPQ61 Notebook


Camcorder to high res webcam in simple steps – using TV Tuner

A couple of years back i bought a Sony HandyCam and was hoping to use it as a webcam for an annual webcast of  Ganesh festival celebrated at my home. The usual webcams designed for desktop use, are sloppy when it comes to webcasting a larger space. The handycam as a webcam, not only gives us sharper images, but also facility to zoom in and out much better.

Sony had a feature called USB Streaming in its older camcorders (Tape based) that turned it into a high quality webcam in a matter of minutes. Strangely though, Sony has discontinued in all its later releases of Handycams. Much to my disgust, the one i bought fell in that category as well. Even after rigorous search on google there seemed to be no solution.

However the solution came to me in a rather add on feature of a uncommon product. – USB TV Tuner.  Most of us would think that TV Tuner is just for watching TV broadcast on your computer. However, these devices, most of them using the same Connexant driver, also accept composite inputs from DVD players, and hey… Handycams too which give similar output!! Further, the device also shows up as a “webcam” in any of your favorite chat software – Skype, Google Hangout… you name it.

The steps are really very simple:

1. Buy a good USB TV Tuner. I got a Iball ClaroTV from a friend who has some good connections in iBall. Flipkart offers a good price on it.. Here is a link for the same:

Also available on Amazon: http://bit.ly/1dSg4ec

2. Install the drivers as per the manual and the CD provided.
3. Plug in your camcorder (works with any handycam that has an AV output) and connect its AV cable. (the one with red, white and yellow connector)
4. Open your favorite chat program
5. Switch on the camera and put it in recording mode – standby
6. Using the bundled software with the TV Tuner, set the source to “Composite” to ensure that the camcorder input, and not the Antenna is chosen to beam.
6. In the chat program (skype / Google hangout) you will see the default laptop webcam on, if you have it in your machine.
7. Look witihin the programme settings for a dropdown that allows you to change the webcam settings.. you will find a “Connexant ” option or something similar to that indicating your TV tuner card… Select it.
8. You should now be able to see yourself.

The handycam as a webcam will certainly help you with your own Broadcast channel 🙂

Google’s bite of an Apple – Is Eden getting closer?

I am a voracious user of Google services and a big fan of most of them. One of my early online hobby used to be discover all that’s listed under the “more” option of the Google header, one service at a time.

In the recent span of time, Google+ has been creating waves (sorry not google wave :-P) after two unsucessful attempts at getting a grip on the online social media sphere. A lot has been written, and many are still writing their early reviews of the service and what would be its potential course and its effect over the other social media hotspots.

To be honest, i logged in to blogger today to write about my first hand experience with Google plus. But what met my eye post login changed the course of my topic towards a change happening across Google. — The new look of Blogger after ages of seeing the same boring dashboard was here staring at my eyes wide open.

Winds of change

Google Adsense was among the first service to undergo a change in look. But apart from aesthetics there were some added features too such as better reporting. Most of the changes then were Googlish – read, mostly white and thin arial fonts all over the place.

Adsense – Old Look
Adsense – New Look

Google is known for doing rigorous multivariate testing before even moving a pixel, and thats where certain sea-changes made me wonder!

Among the first revolutionary design to hit me was… naah not G+, it was the new look of Google Analytics. The fonts got a tad larger with the screen stretching out and demanding more scroll than the older site. The scroll is a compromise for a cleaner look with elements being spread out a bit. The new design though would perform very well with better screen resolutions.

Google Analytics – Old Interface
Google Analytics – New Interface

Just when i was grappling and toying with the sneak peak of Google analytics, the top bar of google turned Black all of a sudden when i was logged in to GDocs. I first thought it was an graphic error due to low memory. Just when i saw BBC news release about the new arrival – G+

More press releases and blogs revealed that Google had bitten an Apple (hopefully not the one left behind by lady Eve!)… The fundamental changes in G+ and the cleaner look was courtesy an ex-Apple employee who brought in the new design elements.

And .. the changes rolled on

Two days since i started using G+ there was a link atop my Gmail prompting me to try the new Gmail look through the theme settings. I could now see an overall pattern which Google as a whole was moving towards. Slim gray bordered buttons and boundaries, Generous usage of white space, fading of the characteristic blue and inclusion of a palette of Grey and an unusual reddish brown were some of the obvious changes.

Blogger Today!

The latest Google baby to crawl out of the changing room is blogger. The new and improved post editor resembling a Wysiwig Gdocs editor is a welcome change. The new lean mean look is refreshing and as you can already see, has spruced up my blogging appetite.

Eagerly awaiting to see the effect of these changes on usage of G-services. Unlike Lady Eve, i hope, Google will open up the garden of Eden for online users, rather than the other way around!

UIDo or UIDont – Concerns on Aadhar

Yet another Card – a wildcard or a joker?

Government after government, citizens have been bombarded with a new series of cards. All these cards in the past had a similar proposition – being able to serve as a one point identity. We had ration cards, voters cards (where we looked like goons, to match the faces of the people we elect, beyond our own recognition), PAN card (a single identity for financial transactions).

And now a new baby – UID. What’s different though is that this time around the government has a celebrity endorsement for it.. Mr. Nilekani.

Benefit state – whats the benefit for the working middle class?
The UID promises jobs, health insurance and freebies for the poorest of the poor.. nice.. perhaps it would help the government implement archaic steps like caste based resevations too!

But what’s in it for the people who pay for all these free candies through their nose?  And with most of the time benefits flowing out like a fish served daily, rather than teaching the person to fish.

If you were to closely analyze, there is hardly anything for those of us who form the “source of income” for the government. It may infact help the govt to exploit us further by levying as many types of taxes as possible and targeting it to the exact demographic.

A govt. that has a reputation of so many scams can not be trusted to be noble enough to handle our data quite well, even with a pin-up poster-boy Nilekani.

 How serious is the government on this project?

Article link: UID project faces big cut this budget – The Times of India – Feb 2011

The article explains it all that the UPA has done a budget cut of over 50% to fund ministries held by its coalition partners… Ahemm.

A do-it-yourself reality check.. Visit the UID website – http://www.uidai.gov.in

With the project gone live, any citizen being able to find his nearest registration centre deserves a government reward. To cut the riddle short, you will find an ambitious link out there saying “How to get an Aadhar?” and here is what it reads as on 21 May 2011

How to get an Aadhaar?

The process to get an Aadhaar will be circulated by the local media upon which residents need to go to the nearest Enrolment Camp to register for an Aadhaar. The resident primarily needs to carry certain documents which will be specified in the media advertisement.
Upon registering for Aadhaar, residents will go through a biometric scanning of ten fingerprints and iris. They will then be photographed and given an enrolment number upon completion. Depending on the enrolment agency, residents will be issued an Aadhaar number within 20 to 30 days.

 Can you really trust a department that cannot manage a database of its registration centers on their own website to really manage a mammoth database of its citizens?

That brings us to the main concern—-

How safe is my identity with the Bharat Sarkar?

Nandan Nilekani may have been handpicked to form the face of the project, bypassing the usual IAS babudom factory. However vendors and partners are still chosen by the tendering process, where vendors that find favors in the government stand a good chance to grab the project rather than a competent company. Even with stretched pricing, which is a prerequisite of the tendering process (add to that the goodies that need to go back in cash) – the best of the companies would be forced to cut corners.

There have been headlines earlier of certain government websites, where registered user details including user names and passwords were available through a public URL.. (sigh! even hackers would feel frustrated since they need not hack)

With our friendly neighborhood countries wanting to use Cyber attacks (read China’s new art of war) to destabilize the country, there is a lot at stake. It would take just one unscrupulous govt employee to even sell the data to telemarketers and spamsters.

There is hope still .. since thankfully the government has kept registration as a purely voluntary process… UIDo or UIDont is purely your choice. 🙂

Google Chrome Full page ad – Browser Wars – Now at a desktop near you

Everybody loves watching Google and her moves, with the curiosity of watching Magician Pasha with his hand in the top hat. Presto! and we have here today — Google Chrome Full Page color ads in leading Indian Dailies…

Blogs, Tweet-o-sphere, and all modes of communication is abuzz with the question… What made Google, the largest medium by itself on the planet, resort to newspapers in India? and that to for promoting not its cash register – Adwords, not its milking cow – The Google search engine… But… its browser Google Chrome..

As the rhetoric exclamation of these questions spread like wildfire i am sure ol shrewd pals – Larry and Sergei are laughing all the way to the bank, since one half of the objective for the campaign was done successfully… Which was… the huge buzz factor.. News of the day across multiple media by just few ad inserts in a daily.

Now what could be the other half of the objective? Let me add my two cents to the buzz, and to the grins of Larry and Sergei.

1.First thing in the morning :
Why did Google choose English newspapers as a medium, that has almost the same reach as its search engine? The size of the ad, of course was for the reasons of getting impact and showing dominance. Dominance in the wake of newer versions of Internet Explorer, and rising popularity of Firefox and other browsers.

Size aside, the ad was not seen on television or on hoarding (may follow later). Newspaper was the unsuspecting first choice..

Pondering over the reason for this choice took me to a conversation i had with a former senior colleague of mine.. who told me about a pitch he did to a prestigious client for organizing a large corporate event. His competitor was the number one business TV channel known for doing custom events.

When his turn came, which was after the TV channel’s, he was asked- ” My dear Sir, you just now saw the largest business channel walk out of the room. What is it that you can give us that they can’t?”

To which my friend replied -” We reach your audience, much before any other medium does in the morning….. Not everyone has a television in the Washroom.. and busy people usually read a newspaper in their most intimate morning moments :-)”. ….. The pitch was won..

Bottom-line… Newspaper gets there First thing in the Morning.. however this may change for different audience.

2. Why Google Chrome? Why not other products?

Before Google, it was Yahoo and Rediff that did a multi-crore blitzkrieg to promote relaunch of the complete portal.. However, Google here chose to do it only for its browser, not for any of their other cash cow products.

There could be two reasons for this.

a. The browser, which began long back as a modest, good-to-have, add on tool to browse the Internet, is poised to become the most important and core application on your machine.

Cloud computing and Software as a Service, are becoming jargons of the day, which primarily use the browser at its core. Very soon, all the applications that you would ever need would run from a remote server, which can be accessed through….. the good old browser.

Hence to gain a good share of the browser user base is very important for any online brand, to gain a ready platform to offer overall computing service in the future. It is not a matter of surprise, that the Google Chrome Desktop operating system is touted to run on online application.

Having said this, for India, we are still away from the day when we can have reliable connectivity. However, the day is getting closer.

3. Dominance during a competition launch – “Who is the boss?”:

With over 2 million downloads reported for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer ver.9, six days ago, the battle lines had to be drawn between the Redmond Giant and Mountain View Monarch.

The stakes are too high for this one, and hence Google Chrome perhaps wanted to show its dominance – First Thing in the Morning.

Newspaper was its best bet..

PS: Imagine the sight of Google Chrome and MS IE bidding on each others keyword on Adwords as well as bing!! Keep watching!

I got Mac

No. I am not talking about McDonald Burger and Fries.
And I ain’t talking about a rubber raincoat invented by Charles Mackintosh.

My wildest dream finally came true with the arrival of a MacBook. It was a dream indeed since i couldn’t afford the price of it and would simply stare and fantasize at the ads of Apple Macs.

I managed to snatch it out of dreamland, thanks to my brother-in-law. Two years back based on my recommendation he purchased the machine powered with Core2 duo 2+ gigs with 2GB RAM from Russia, where he was posted. A month ago he procured the latest version of the mean machine, cast in a single block of aluminium, and decided to hand the older one to me for a steal.

And here i am now enjoying the best ever experience of human interface in computing. I have now with me 4 operating systems at home – Ubuntu, WinXP, Windows Vista, and the Mac OX leopard.

Let me romance with the new machine and OS, and await my review on the same.