Chennai, Events, Technology

Conference on Recent Trends in Computing

Two weeks back I got an invite from Mrs.J.Vijayalakshmi, Head of Department, MCA of Sri Sairam Engineering College, inviting me to do an Inaugural address in their annual National Conference on “Recent Trends in Computing & Communications“. The event conducted in association with Computer Society of India (Region 7) was to be on April 10th 2015, Friday in their campus in West Tambaram near Kishkinta theme park. Since I have never been to that area and addressing students is something that energizes me I immediately agreed to do the talk. Last Friday (April 10th) when I visited their campus after a hour long ride from my office, I was greeted with a vast campus, hundreds of acres nicely maintained out of nowhere.

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Gadgets, Technology

We won’t be using smartphones by 2025

Favourite this post in your browser, as I am daring to make predictions on the state of smartphones for next 10 years. Before I do that, I have no qualification or experience in designing or manufacturing or marketing Smartphones, and that is what makes me qualified to do the predictions as an user.

1.By 2020 phones will get smaller & smaller – reversing current trend

When mobile phones were invented in 1973 at Motorola they weighed 2 Kilograms and were bulky. They continued to look more or less the same when they got commercially released after ten years in 1983. In the next 25 years when phone subscribers grew from zero to several billions it was all about how to make the “brick” like phones smaller, lighter and easier to carry. An example was Ericsson’s most loved model T39, introduced in 2001 it weighed just 86 grams. Then iPhone happened in 2007, at 135 grams and 4.5 inches it began reversing the trend of previous 25 years of phones becoming smaller. Today in 2015, iPhone in its latest avatar iPhone 6 Plus weighs 172 grams and 6.22 inches, phones are becoming bigger and bigger. They have blurred the line separating a phone and a tablet.

When iPhone came, following which Samsung continued to introduce larger phones it made sense, as a larger surface area made it easier to use the Touch interface. And users were reading more content in the phones, whether it’s Kindle ebooks or long form (TL;DR) articles or see in retina display the photographs of their loved ones, all of which was happening away from their PCs and Tablets to smartphones since you were carrying one always in your pocket. Smartphones have become the one gadget that you carry with you when you are sitting in restroom stall or when even you are in your bed with your lover.mobile-phones-initial-days

Now looking forward to next five years, in 2018 I predict Smartphones (or phones from now on) will become smaller and smaller, reversing the trend and going back to basics. Why?

Number One reason I see for this to happen is not due to wearables (I see them as a by product than a cause) but due to evolution of software and change in our usage pattern. For the first time in Human history we are at an inflection point where machines (computers and software) can understand what they see, what we speak and make choices based on them within the parameters of our individual preferences, think of simplest example of Google Now & Apple Siri to Google Cars & XBOX Kinect. In the next five years the capabilities in Artificial Intelligence are going to grow exponentially and have profound impact in the way computers interface with humans, I am talking here of the reverse of Humans communicating to Computers. As you read the last line, you may already be discounting it, but remember as humans we understand incremental growth easily but our brains can’t visualize exponential growth. That’s what is currently happening in Artificial Intelligence powered by Cloud, Big Data & Sensors.

As a result of this, computers need to offer fewer and fewer options and commands to us, they can predict & decide on what we want even before we want it. This means less or zero real estate is needed in a phone to present to us with menus, buttons, textboxes and other GUI elements. What about TL;DR articles and ebooks you may ask, there is a growing trend here that can answer it. With more millennial born growing up along with their short attention spans, the reading habits are fast changing. Majority of the content they consume will be video & audio, the only reading they do will be of extremely shortened summaries crafted personally for them by ubiquitous software. For viewing pictures you will want to use ever larger screens that are to be found in your work place & homes, in the initial years it will continue to be Tablets (iPads) and cheap laptops. For those bibliophiles like me we will use specialized devices like Amazon Kindle in its tenth iteration.

2.By 2025 phones will cease to exist in its current avatar

This one is easier to extrapolate from my previous prediction, it’s just logical progression of phones becoming smaller and smaller, then suddenly disappearing altogether. I don’t mean to say we will not be making calls, reading messages or viewing videos, it’s just that the devices we use for these activities will not be in the form of a phone as we see it today. These capabilities will be part of our everyday objects, invisible individually but all of them are connected to a cloud based neural network like in Avatar’s Pandoran biosphere.

In the technology landscape of 2025, operating systems like Windows, Android or iOS will matter less, web browsers like IE, Chrome & FireFox will cease to exist in their current form, mobile apps would have all transformed to neural nodes. And when all that has happened, remember you read it here at venkatarangan.com in April 2015.

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Developer, Microsoft

Visual Studio 2015 installs Google Chrome

As a Microsoft technology enthusiasts for over two decades, I thought I had seen them all. But with the “new” Microsoft under the stewardship of Satya Nadella, they seem to be defying tradition. From Microsoft’s former CEO Steve Ballmer calling “Linux is a cancer” to today Satya’s Microsoft open sourcing .NET Framework and making it available for Linux, it has been a remarkable ride.

Recently when I was installed Visual Studio 2015 CTP 6 from Windows Insider Program, this change hit me in the face, what blew me away was, wait for it, seeing the option in Visual Studio 2015 to install Google Chrome!

Visual Studio 2015 CTP 6 installs Google Chrome

Visual Studio 2015 CTP 6 installs Google Chrome

To be technically correct, Visual Studio installs Google Chrome for supporting Apache Cordova and Node.js. And Visual Studio 2013 was presenting the same option from August 2014.

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Developer, Microsoft

Microsoft Project Spartan Browser

It was in August 1995, that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser got released along with Windows 95 Plus pack, nearly two decades ago. Last time a popular browser brand got introduced was with Google Chrome 6 years ago, even the humble Mozilla Firefox is 12 years old. If you add Apple Safari to the mix, there are good number of choices in the marketplace.

With the upcoming launch of Apple Watch lacking a web browser and popular E-Commerce brands & Facebook focusing their development efforts on Mobile Apps (iOS, Android), Web Development looks relegated.

In this context, does the world need one more web browser?. Microsoft thinks so.

One reason for Microsoft’s decision might be aimed at shedding the negative (false) image of Internet Explorer not being modern and standards compliant, a perception that Google and Apple managed to paint successfully with their WebKit browser rendering engine.

Microsoft has released a new browser codenamed Project Spartan with the latest build of Windows 10 Technical Preview build 10049. I am playing around with the browser today and it appears to be an interesting rethink. On the basics, Project Spartan scores well – it renders the pages I visited correctly and fast, the UI looks clean and minimal. In the current build there are no bookmarks (favourites) and other features. For me the most interesting feature is  “Web Note”, which allows you to circle a portion in the webpage, type comments and send it to OneNote or you can take a screenshot like the one below and share it to others.

Microsoft Project Spartan in Windows 10 Build 10049

Microsoft Project Spartan in Windows 10 Build 10049

Currently Microsoft has announced Project Spartan will be made available in Windows Phone as well, I wish they will extend that and make it available for Non-Microsoft platforms including iOS & Android.

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Gadgets, Technology

SSD upgrade for iMac mid 2011

It was exactly three years back I purchased an Apple iMac 21.5″ Mid 2011 computer for my home usage.  I have grown comfortable with Mac OS X over the years, enjoy the media management & sync capabilities with iTunes, the ease of backup/restore with Time Machine with the accompanying Time Capsule device. I consider Windows PC is powerful and productive for work, that’s why I got recently a HP Envy Windows workstation for my office, but iMac is the best PC for home if you can afford it.

In iMac, I use Parallels virtualisation software to use Windows 7 and Ubuntu for testing purposes and when I plugin USB drives from outside. While I am satisfied with performance of my iMac, over last few months it was becoming slower and slower. Apps took long time to launch and switch. I tried moving my data (iTunes media, iPhotos, Documents) from my user folder to a new folder “data” in root, then deleting my user profile, recreating a new user profile. While this gave temporary relief, it was few days before the sluggishness came back.

Discussing with my vendor, he suggested I get the 7200 RPM, 1 TB Hard disk replaced with a Solid State Drive (SSD). Unfortunately SSD are commonly available in India  for a maximum capacity of 256GB only. To manage the storage needs, he suggested to connect the Apple 1TB Hard disk as an external drive using an external USB hard disk enclosure. After much thought I went with the option.

The 256GB SSD costed Rs.10,500 (USD 170). Apple authorised service centre charged a replacement fee of Rs.1500 (USD 25), they were nice to do a fresh clean install of OS X Yosemite in the “new” SSD. With the SSD, the machine feels better than it was when new, Mac boots within seconds (still slower than my Windows 8.1 Surface Pro) and app launches and performance are great. I highly recommend SSD for anyone with ageing iMacs.

iMac-mid-2011 iMac-SSD

One issue was the old 1TB hard disk connected through USB (USB 2.0 port as the Apple 1TB hard disk was a 3.5″ drive and there were no USB 3.0 enclosures for that) was slow. Accessing iTunes media from the external hard disk was slow (better than before, but still slow). After some experimentation, I connected a WD My Passport Studio 1TB drive through Firewire800 interface, copied the data from Apple 1TB, disconnected and stored away the Apple drive. WD drive through Firewire was fast, iTunes media were now available instantly.

WD-My-Passport-Firewire800-iMac

I recommend this combination for anyone with an old iMac with sufficient RAM – replace the iMac internal Hard drive with a 256GB or more SSD, connect an external drive for 1TB or more storage through Firewire 800 or Thunderbolt interface.

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