Working from home and the tech I use

My messy desk

The lock-down has forced us to work from home and while some of us have been used to it (I used to work from home from 2015 to 2018 and still I find working from home more productive!) but a number of my friends have been finding it quite challenging. While there is a mental-shift required to be productive from a place that is typically considered to be a space for you and your family’s private time, there is also a lack of support/infrastructure that poses a challenge to be productive while working from home.

Since I have been experimenting with technology and gadgets to find the best productivity system, I always find that my home setup has been far more productive than my work setup. A lot of people have asked me about my home setup (Warning: I love tinkering with my systems and even an incremental value-add often matters to me. Result — I have many redundancies and multiple devices!) so here is a snapshot of what my work from home setup consists of.

The Hardware

I juggle between multiple machines. But the main workhorse is a desktop Chakra (Yes, my machines have got their own names, ) that I assembled myself; and this is quite a powerful machine for my use (Nova Benchmark Score of 2797). This is connected to a 27inch 4k display. It has 9th Gen Intel i7, 32 GB of RAM and Nvidia GTX 1660 Graphics card. The processor and RAM are primarily needed for my occasional Photoshop and Lightroom (I have a massive library of more than 15k photos) work. I have a iMac 27” 5k as backup (I love the Retina display of that machine for colour accuracy) but the fusion drive in that machine sucks. My custom-built desktop has Samsung NVME 770 pro ssd harddrive that makes this whole setup a very zippy. 

I have a couple of (in fact three if I include my office allocated machine) laptops that I use when I am on move. A 13” MacBook Pro Retina (Nandaka, this one quite old but still a great machine and I am waiting for Apple to fix the keyboard on MacBook Pro so that I can upgrade) and MacBook Air 2017 model. Apart from this tow Mac laptops, I have a Dell XPS 13 (Asi) with i7 and QHD touch screen display. While I have multiple machines but I have almost established use (apart from being a backup when one fails) for them.

At home and photo-editing: I need fast processing and a big screen, so it is primarily done on the Desktop.

Professional Travel for a day or two: MacBook Air. There is no better machine than this if you are in Apple ecosystem and crave for a good keyboard.

Personal travel for longer duration or vacations: MacBook Pro as I need a bit more firepower for photo editing needs.

The Dell XPS 13 is a backup in most cases or when I need to extract more juice from Excel, which is always better on a Windows machine.

I have a couple of mobile devices that I use along with these machines. I have the latest iPhone 11 Pro Max and iPad Pro (11 inch, 256Gbs) with Apple Pencil 2 and Keyboard. iPad is very handy for all the meetings and note taking. I am considering using this for my work travels for a day or so but did not find it that conducive when I need to work on reports or word docs. But with the mouse support just launched I am going to try this. These days of lockdown and work from home, I often use iPad for my video calls as it is much easier to carry and I use my laptops and desktops to quickly search information or files if needed for these calls. iPad also is my go to device for media consumption and for reading magazines and PDFs.

Apart from these machines, I use Logitech K850 keyboard and mouse combo. The keyboard allows me to wireless connect to 3 machine and I can use this as input to any of my laptops or desktop with just press of one button. I crave for a mechanical keyboard (I have a TVS Gold somewhere in my storage) but there are not many that can give me the ease that Logitech K850 gives. But, this is going to change. I am waiting for Das Keyboard 5Q. Nobody makes keyboards better than Das guys and this one is just drool-worthy.

For all the video calls, I use my Airpods 2 which have far better range and clarity than any other small wireless earphones. Also they seamlessly integrate in Macbook, Ipad, Iphone without any hassle. But these do not have great battery life; they don’t last more than 3 hours. I also have a couple of headphones (Sony WH1000XM3 and V-moda Crossfade Wireless 2) that I use as backup and for listening music. I have been using V-moda for quite sometime for its sound quality and multi-point Bluetooth connectivity. But Sony is the one I use on flights for its noise cancellation. It would replace my V-moda Crossfade the day it gets multipoint Bluetooth connection so that I can pair with a number of devices simultaneously. Sound quality is now almost at par.

The Software

Windows and MacOS: I am love to work on cross platform so I look for those solutions which integrate with multiple mobile and computing platform. Way back in early 2000, I experimented with Linux (Red Hat was the first distro I used) and Windows and got introduced to MacOS in 2007. Since then I have been a multiOS person. But now, it is mainly MacOS and Windows. Linux apart from being open-source does not add much value to my workflow.

Evernote: I have been a power user of Evernote since 2008. It has more than 4000 notes and I use it for file archiving and storing anything that I might need in future. The OCR feature and multi-platform availability makes it almost the best solutions for personal knowledge management. The one feature which is quite handy is that I can directly scan a business card and it stores the information in text format and sends a linked connection request to the person.

Microsoft 365 — While there are multiple word processing software I used in past but this is the gold standard. I have subscription that gives me 1TB of storage space on OneDrive and all the office suite applications. But I use word processing software ‘as word processing software’ for editing my professional documents and not to write things.

I write in Ulysses or Scrivener for long text.

OmniFocus: This is my preferred ToDo list app. But it might get redundant as I am trying to consolidate my workflow and Notion does allow me to manage my ToDo. The only problem with Notion is its mobile app.

Notion: I use Notion for my personal knowledge wiki and management. While earlier I was primarily dependent on Evernote for all the knowledge management needs but gradually I am using Evernote for note taking (with Penultimate it works great) and a lot of my knowledge management is happening on Notion.

Roam Research: This the note taking and personal knowledge management app of the future. But it is still in very early stage of its development. It has immense potential because of its contextual linking of text and bi-directional relationship of notes.

Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom: I use Lightroom to process my raw files and organize the photos that I have. I have quite a large library of photos and Lightroom’s catalog organizing capabilities are unparalleled. Adobe Photoshop is very rarely used. In fact, for photo retouching especially the portraits I use Luminar 4, and it is quite amazing for basic retouching.

Affinity Publisher: This is my preferred software (since InDesign is subscription based and I am not keen to pay for a subscription that I barely use) for designing anything. Quite cheap and very capable.

CalibreThe opensource and free software to manage the large library of pdfs and ebooks that I have. It also can run in server mode to help one access these files from anywhere.

Woven: This is in beta Calendar application that has some great features. I use this is to sync my Google Calendar.

The Enablers

Two internet connections (one with static IP address): I had learnt my lessons early when I started working from home. You cannot trust on one Internet connection. Airtel, one of the main service providers in my area has good reliability but it speed is yet not there. They are upgrading but not yet fully functional. So I have an Airtel which is only used for video calling and backup when my other connection does not work. The other connection has 300mbps speed. I also got a dedicated IP address which allows me to access my home cam and document library from anywhere. The high speed connection is hooked into Netgear Orbi ( a mesh router with one satellite) that has a lot of capabilities and provides very reliable connectivity in multiple rooms without any dead zones.

Private Internet AccessI have a subscription for a VPN service that allows me to use public wifi (hotels) cafe etc. without any security concerns. Not many people know but you are at great risk of losing your privacy and key data when you access any public wifi.

Apple Time Machine and One Drive: I have Apple Time Machine (Airport Extreme 2TB) and OneDrive configured to sync and backup all my key folders. This also allows me to seamlessly work from any device and not worry about duplication and data loss.

Apart from these online backups I do a regular offline backup almost every month on physical hard drive to ensure that I have a copy of my key files.

What I read in 2019

This was a post I used to write typically in the first or second week of January. But recently things have not been going in the usual way. I also used to provide a couple of line summaries and my take on the books that I read but that too seemed too much of effort. But I want to make sure that the list is here for archives and I get on with the things. This post was holding back a number of things that I wanted to write about.
While I am not going to write about each book that I read, however, there are somethings that can be generalized about my last year’s reading.
  • I did not get much time to read non-fiction. For me, non-fiction is serious reading and I do dedicate some time in my day for that but last year was a test for my time-management skills. While I completed only three books in the non-fiction category, I have a number of them unfinished. Last year, we had gone to Ramana Maharishi’s ashram and picked up a bagful of books. Ramana Maharishi is probably the only modern time sage who attracts me and evokes respect. So I spent good amount of time reading his books and his life story. The other theme that I read a lot (does not indicate in the list of books here as many of those books did not get completed) was climate change and air-pollution: these are not only my personal interest areas but also professional needs. But again, out of 10-15 books that I had planned to read last year on this topic, I could finish only three.
  • In the fiction category, there has been a conscious effort to read more Hindi books. And, I managed to read four books, including the epic-length Mujhe Chand Chahiye. I also risked picking up a book by young Hindi writers or Nayi Hindi authors and was quite surprised by Aughad.
  • Majority of fiction that I read this year were my flight reads or bedtime reading and I tried to finish some of the series that I was following, including a great series that turned into a disappointment by Dean Koontz. I also attempted an Indian crime fiction/whodunit by Bhaskar Chattopadhyay and it was good. Nine Perfect Strangers was a big disappointment and so was Blue Moon and The Silent Patient.
  • The two standout books of this year for me were Laburnum for My Head,  a collection of short stories by Temsula Ao and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Eleanor Oliphant has been a rage last year so it got on my reading list but Temsula Ao was a finding from some random search and glad that I got this.
Fiction
  • The Silent Patient By Alex Michaelides
  • Blue Moon By Lee Child
  • Laburnum for My Head By Temsula Ao
  • Mujhe Chand Chahiye (Hindi) By Surendra Varma
  • Tell No One By Harlan Coben
  • Rehan Par Raghu(Hindi) By Kashinath Singh
  • The Arsonist By Kiran Nagarkar
  • The Girl Who Lived Twice By David Lagercrantz
  • Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine By Gail Honeyman
  • Penumbra By Bhaskar Chattopadhyay
  • Aughad (Hindi) By Nilotpal Mrinal
  • The Night Window By Dean Koontz
  • Mayapuri (Hindi)By Shivani
  • The Lost Man By Jane Harper
  • Debris Line By Matthew Fitzsimmons
  • Nine Perfect Strangers By Liane Moriarty
  • Newcomer By Keigo Higashino
  • Out of Dark By Gregg Hurwitz
Non-fiction
  • The Great Derangement By Amitav Ghosh
  • The Collected Works of Ramana Mahirishi
  • Looking Within Life Lessons From Lal Ded

Tapri, Jaipur – The cool ‘hangout’

Finding a place that gives you a space to think, great ‘chai’ and good inspiration is an indescribable pleasure. Tapri in Jaipur (www.tapri.net) is one such place.

When we walked into this place, it was just starting its morning hours and it has an ethereal charm of unoccupied, beautifully decorated space.  The seats next to the big-windows overlooking a large open greanspace amidst of which Indian flag was swaying..  this was quite a site.

But what impressed me most is the dash of humour and a lot of thinking that Tapri has put into making their operation more environment friendly. We had paper straw, lampshades made of earthenware, chairs from locally available materials…  Great work Tapri team.

The interior..

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The green tea that came with timer..20190904-Jaipur Tapri-6

The earthen lampshades..

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Be couregeous!20190904-Jaipur Tapri-10

Kanwar Yatra

Captured this from my car window while traveling from Rishikesh to Delhi. Right from Rishikesh to Delhi, the road was full of colorful Kanwars and Kanwariys. Dancing, chanting, running.. this was a sight to behold.

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The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh

As a bibliophile who has been working on climate change for more than a decade, I found it surprising that there are very few books, especially mainstream books that talks about climate change. Well, this question bothered Amitav Ghosh as well and the result is a very erudite and immensely readable book: The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. He asks one overarching question: Why our mainstream authors are writing on climate change?

“Let us make no mistake: the climate crisis is also a crisis fo culture and thus of the imagination.” – Amitav Ghosh

It is not that there are no books on climate change but they are far and few and often in science fiction category. Ghosh wants climate change, one of the biggest phenomenon affecting humanity, to find more prominence in mainstream literature.

“When we see a green lawn that has been watered with desalinated water, in Abu Dhabi or Southern California or some other environment where people had once been content to spend their water thrifty in nurturing a single vine or shrub, we are looking at an expression of a yearning that may have been midwifed in the novels of Jane Austen” – Amitav Ghosh

But this books is not all about the above-mentioned question. Ghosh explores climate change and its portrayal in history and culture. And, his exploration is a brilliant read. His first hand experience of storm in his student life in Delhi in 1978, to his rumination over Mumbai and its vulnerability showcase what an accomplished author can do when they decide to write about a topic that is often confined to technical reports and scientific journals.

His take on role of liberal individualism, colonisations, imperialism and the greed for “Power” and their impact on climate change spans an entire section of the book. This is very educative for those who have not been immersed in the climate change and politics of climate change.

There is also a very interesting comparison of IPCC and Laudata Si– Pope Francis’s letter to all churches. Ghosh analyses these two documents, both published in 2015. The result is very interesting read!

Bottomline, if you are afraid of reading the boring, jargon-strewn drab narration on climate change, this is the book that you must read.

Dell XPS 13 – Display driver issues and blank screen fix

Dell XPS 13 is the best windows laptop that you can buy, this is what every review said when it was launched. Still, you google the best laptop and you are bound to see this laptop in almost every list on the net. But the reality is different. Reviews don’t give you the real picture. In fact, most of the reviewers, claiming to be tech guru, just read out the spec sheet and do the comparison.

Dell XPS 13 range is marred with numerous problems right from the first edition to the latest model. I have written about the keyboard problem, the wifi problem, the sound card problem and what not. The sad part is that the solution provided by Dell is to replace the keyboard, or the motherboard if your device is in the warranty. But the warranty is only for a year. Recently, I struggled with my laptop when it display just went blank. The external monitor worked very well but not the inbuilt monitor. The online forums suggested many fixes: update the graphics driver, fresh installation, removing the battery, motherboard replacement.. .

Well, nothing worked perfectly other than the motherboard replacement, and that costs 200-400 USD. Forget about the solution, Dell guys are not able to figure out the problem. I found out a very low cost and effective solution if you are out of warranty and do not want to invest in a new motherboard. Get your motherboard completely cleaned, in fact, washed. You should not try to do it yourself but get a laptop technicians to do that. This solves the problem perfectly.


Rural kids need a better education

We have made some good progress in improving our literacy levels, sending more children to schools and reducing the percentage of dropouts. However, the quality of rural education remains a cause of concern (ASER 2017).

The quality of primary education is one of the most critical factors in shaping one’s life. Unfortunately, the quality of primary education in rural India is abysmal. Right from poor infrastructure to poor quality of teaching to indifferent attitude of teachers towards young students all are contributing to this horrible scenario.

Governments, corporates CSR wings, civil society institutions all have been doing their bits for improving quality of education but it is too little and mostly ineffective. These things achieve the marginal improvement but by no stretch of imagination you can see quality of primary schooling in rural India matching that of the urban counterparts. I am not talking about the big fancy, air-conditioned corporate backed up schools where kids go in chauffeur driven cars and their monthly fees is as high as salaries of general teachers. I am talking about just average urban schools.

Only 45 percent schools have more than two teachers. Only 55.8 percent schools in rural areas have functional electricity and merely 11 percent schools have functional computers (the numbers are for 2016-17, but situation has not improved much).

If you are a student studying in these government run primary schools in villages, you need to fight against all odds to get ahead in life. By sheer determination and hard-work many negate these obstacles and move ahead in life but a large majority of these student succumb to these systemic problems. It would not be an exaggeration to say that your primary education can define your future career and life.

It is not that the things cannot be changed, it is just that it has never been a high priority for policymakers. The attempts are half-hearted and ad-hoc.

The rural students, who need best of the teachers and the best teaching methodology to negate factors such as poor infrastructure, apathy of parents and poor affordability for any other remedial measures (such as tuitions, technology access etc) are taught by the poorest quality of teachers. One just needs to look at the quality of para-teachers and performance of full-time teachers in internal assessments. These kids don’t require temporary and inadequately trained para-teachers (Shiksamitras) but teachers who specially trained and qualified for improving learning outcomes.

The rural students hardly get any exposure to extra-curricular activities, labs or reading content to develop their personality. We surely can manage budget for ensuring the basic infrastructure such as a library, a basic science education kit.

The other major problem is the evaluation system in these schools. Students get to know where they stand only in matriculation examination. Before that, the assessments are just an eyewash. We need a third party assessment periodically at least once a year to understand their progress and take remedial measures.

What I read in 2017 – Part 2 (Fiction)

I read a lot of fiction. Mostly crime-fiction, it is my guilty pleasure and companion on all my flights. Choosing what to read has been a very random decision. Sometimes I pick a book because I wanted to explore a new author or explore crime-fiction from a different country, language or theme.. And sometimes just because I synced my kindle with random books in my collection. Amidst all the crime-fiction I did read a couple of literary fiction, although I must confess that I had planned to read a lot more of literary fiction last year. If I look back at the books that I read last year, I explored several new authors and new series (from new or established authors) . So here goes the list of fiction that I read in 2017.

  • Poisonfeather by Matthew FitzSimmons– The second book in the Gibson Vaughn series. Gibson Vaughn is turning out to be an interesting new character. After reading The Short Drop, which got some good reviews on Amazon last year, I somewhat liked this character. Humane, emotional, troubled and super-hacker.
  • Cold Harbor by Matthew FitzSimmons – As mentioned above, I went ahead with the 3rd installment of the Vaughn series. A bit disappointed by the plot and the treatment but Vaughn did not let me drop this book unfinished.
  • Iron House by John Hart – There are very few popular crime-fiction writers who can write well. John Hart can blur the line between crime-fiction and literary fiction. If you have not read John Hart, you must explore his work. He is also the only author to have won two Edger Awards for his consecutive books.
  • Redemption Road by John Hart– The latest from John Hart and again he did not disappoint.
  • The Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurwitz– I discovered Gregg Hurwitz last year with Orphan X. Orphan X, the title character is a likable amalgamation of Jason Bourne, Mich Rapp, Will Robbie. Gregg Hurwitz surprised me with Orphan X (in fact impressed quite a few including Warner Brother who bought the rights for a movie series) and made me look forward to the new installment of this series. Fast paced, suspenseful and high-octane thrill ride.
  • IQ by Joe IDE-Isaiah Quintabe (IQ) is another character inspired by Sherlock Holmes, but in a very different setting and with a very different treatment. IQ, an orphan, exploring the accident that killed his brother, is lovable, street-smart and super-intelligent. The plot set in LA is quite engaging and realistic.
  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty– This satire by Paul Beatty, is one of the most talked about books of 2016 and winner of Man Booker Prize 2016. Highly enjoyable, unlike some of the other award winning books who disappoint on this front.
  • Chitralekha by Bhagvaticharan Varma– This philosophical novel deals with sin, virtue, desire and passion and how circumstances enslave people. Recommended for anyone interested in reading good Hindi literature.
  • Disgrace by J M Coetzee– Nothing much to add about this book. Masterpiece. One of the best books of last 50 years.
  • The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz– Last year I read Dean Koontz for the first time and immediately I knew why he is rated as one of the best authors of suspense thriller genre. When I read the blurb of this book, it was an automatic choice: a new character (Jane Hawk), elements of sci-fi, and the usual Dean Koontz style of storytelling.
  • Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz -A very intelligent whodunit that reminds us of Agatha Christie. A book within a book, a murder mystery within a murder mystery.. And a clever twist in the end.
  • The Trespasser by Tana French– Did not find anything great to talk about. Mediocre police procedural.
  • The Dry by Jane Harper– One of the better crime novels to hit the stand last year. It deservingly received rave reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.
  • Natchez Burning by Greg Iles: The first in the Natchez Burning trilogy. The expansive story that goes beyond the crime fiction genre to portray the racial hatred in this atmospheric thriller.
  • The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne -Another random pick based, which turned out to be a good read. A computational biologist turns investigators to prove his innocence in a murder case. Apart from him, the only other suspect is a wild bear; and our biologist discovers that the wild bear is innocent/being framed.
  • The Fix by David Baldacci – Another installment of Amos Decker.
  • Night School by Lee Child – Passable.
  • The Guilty by David Baldacci – Will Robbie series. Engaging.
  • 1st To Die by James Patterson – One of the earlier books of James Patterson. And it tells you why he became so successful.
  • The Girl Who Takes An Eye for An Eye by David Lagercrantz – Lisbeth Salander compelled me to read this as soon as it was out.
  • House of Spies by Daniel Silva – Daniel Silva gives a glimpse of international terror network in the latest book of Gabriel Allon series. Typical Daniel Silva stuff but nothing great.
  • Origin by Dan Brown– The latest from Dan Brown and it was a bit disappointing.

Poverty and its brutal consequences

Street Arabs in Sleeping Quarters (Church Corner). New York, NY, USA, c.1889.

Poverty invokes different kinds of reactions and responses from different people and it has many dimensions. That makes it a very fascinating topic for researchers, philosophers, religious teachers, philanthropists, writers… It can incite brilliant intellectual expositions, economic, karmic or systematic explanations, petty rhetoric or emotional outbursts. But from those who are victim of it, a mention of word poverty, often incites visceral responses which are triggered by the memories of going to bed hungry, backbreaking inhuman labour to earn their living, helplessness of seeing infants struggle to get the basic care. A large number of books have been written about the impact of poverty and what it does to its victims.

However, study and researches keep on throwing surprises. This article, a brilliant narrative by CHRISTIAN H. COOPER someone who experienced poverty and overcame it, provides the biological dimensions of poverty. It aptly describes poverty as a disease.

I am summarizing some of the key points of the article but entire article is a great read.

1. Poverty has  biological effects and these effects can last for more than one generation.

“First, that the stresses of being poor have a biological effect that can last a lifetime. Second, that there is evidence suggesting that these effects may be inheritable, whether it is through impact on the fetus, epigenetic effects, cell subtype effects, or something else.” from Why Poverty is Like a Disease

2.  Poor people are from the outset at disadvantage in most of the merit-based systems and yes, poor people are not poor because they deserved to be poor.

“What kind of a bootstrap or merit-based game can we be left with if poverty cripples the contestants? Especially if it has intergenerational effects? The uglier converse of the bootstrap hypothesis—that those who fail to transcend their circumstances deserve them—makes even less sense in the face of the grim biology of poverty. When the firing gun goes off, the poor are well behind the start line.” from Why Poverty is Like a Disease

3. Those who overcome poverty are exception. And, escaping poverty is a matter of chance, and not a matter of merit.

”Did I show initiative? Sure. And there have been many people who have interpreted my escape from poverty as a confirmation of some foundational meritocracy that justifies the whole system. But the fact is hillbilly country is full of people just as desperate to get out as me, and taking just as inventive a set of measures. Yes, I am the exception that proves the rule—but that rule is that escape from poverty is a matter of chance, and not a matter of merit.” from Why Poverty is Like a Disease

Kindle Unlimited in India – Value for Money if you love Indian authors.

I subscribed to Kindle Unlimited when it was launched in India. It was a very attractive offer. You pay less than INR 2k for unlimited book reading. Pure joy for any bibliophile with a Kindle. In next 2-3 days, I realized that the books available under Kindle Unlimited are very limited and even those who were available were not worth my time. I did continue my subscription due to my sheer laziness and some bit of hope that I might find a couple of books that were worth trying. I was disappointed in the end.

After that I did not renew my Kindle Unlimited subscription. But in last 2-3 months, Kindle store started stocking a large number of titles in Hindi. The collection is impressive. Amazon India store has really added a great amount of vernacular content. I have always felt that since Kindle became my primary mode of reading, I started reading fewer books in Hindi. Now, I have picked quite some books in Hindi on my Kindle. It seems that Kindle Unlimited is slowing offering better value to its Indian subscribers but it is still nowhere close to what is available to US subscribers. Also, one key feature that Amazon India store does not let us lend/share Kindle books that we have bought to other family members or friend. You can do that by setting a family library if you are buying books from Amazon US store.

For the time being I am sticking to Kindle Unlimited but I expect it to evolve and respect India customers.

The Amazon India bookstore itself needs to pay some attention to its design and features. If I am looking to pick a New York Times bestseller, there is no way to readily explore the titles. Usually, I explore the titles on Amazon US store and then buy them in India store. The bestsellers listed in Amazon India stores.. well do not reflect my taste (see the picture above) and I believe that of a majority bibliophiles.

The biggest Productivity bottleneck for gadget/tech-lovers, and how to overcome it.

We love our gadgets and tinkering with them. We like to use the best of the best and cannot wait to get our hands on the next ‘beta’ or ‘developer version’. We experiments with all the shortcuts, mail-management systems, inbox zero, GTD… But if you are like me, we always feel that our systems are not perfect and spend significant time on improving them. Ironically, the time spent on improving the systems makes our systems inefficient.

I spent a lot of time perfecting my system and religiously improving my system to achieve the next level of productivity. And, I realized that the biggest bottleneck in achieving the next level of efficiency and productivity is ‘my in-flux productivity setup’. I was not letting my ‘system’ to mature.

I decided to correct the system and here are some learnings from that.

  1. Knowing the limitations of your ‘system’ is key to achieving stress-free productivity. It is more important than knowing several fancy features in detail. We need to know the limitations. I messed my backup once as I was not aware of Apple Time-machine’s backup limitations. (Apple Time-machine is not for archiving or long duration backup.)
  2. Stick to one Operating System. I have worked extensively on all the major operating systems and have multiple machines configured with different operating systems. I tried my best to achieve a seamless syncing and uniform work-flow that can work on my MacOS, Windows, Linux, iOS and Android setup. But, it is impossible. Better, stick to one operating system, and a compatible mobile operating system and life becomes blissful. My vote goes for MacOS and iOS setup till google comes up with a better OS for laptops or Microsoft comes up with better mobile OS.
  3. Remove as many decision points as you can. My machines had 3–4 word processing applications, 4 note-taking application and subscription to 4 cloud storage/photo storage services. I was in love with Ulysses interface, Scrivener’s extensive feature list and forced to have Microsoft Word because of professional compulsions. I was using multiple mail clients (Airmail, Outlook, Mailbird, Thunderbird etc.) on my multiple machines. I realized that for every routine work I needed to make a choice which machine and which application to use. I made my life much easier by removing all the decisions and making my next steps automatic.

I am now working on perfecting my system and I am quite excited by the outcomes.

Social media is not the barometer of nation’s mood.

Social media is increasingly influencing policy makers, politicians and bureaucrats in visualizing and shaping some of the key decisions that have a very comprehensive impact on all citizens. Mass media too these days is factoring social media reactions heavily in their analysis and in building their viewpoint on many issues. If we go by social media indicators, Trump was losing heavily, BJP was going to win a majority in Bihar and Delhi elections, and demonetization was to have some minor inconveniences to most of the people.

Social media has limited capacity to assess the impact or reaction of mass when you consider that it only represents a fraction of overall population. Only 36.5% people in India have access to internet (just to keep in mind that in majority of internet access surveys define internet users as those who have accessed Internet once, the percentage of regular users is very small). And, 71% of the internet users are male, and majority resides in urban and peri-urban areas.

Furthermore, the distinctly urban, male-dominated, educated and privileged profile of social media does not only result in opinions and views that only reflect beliefs and interests of dominant segments but also discourages others who do not have similar opinions from sharing their opinions, a phenomenon known as spiral of silence.

Another very interesting aspect of social media platform is how an idea or opinion is judged. It is all about likes, retweet and shares. And, everyone’s likes, retweets and shares carry the same weight; approval or disapproval is just a mouse click away. This is relevant and logical when we are talking about topics such as who is more popular Shahrukh Khan or Akshay Kumar, or whether you like a Mac or PC.But it takes a very interesting turn when we are assessing evaluating technical topics based on social media reaction.

Some topics, such as whether we should be going for genetically modified crops, we should set up nuclear power-plants, or what should be our approach to managing environment and forest, require far more technical understanding and expertise for discussion and cannot be judged on the basis of likes, dislikes or retweets. But on social media opinion (read approval/disapproval in form of a click) of an environmental expert is same as that of any other person. 1000 retweets and shares of a viewpoint/opinion do not make that valid if the opinion/viewpoint is technically flawed or invalid.