Tag Archives: technology

It is four asterisks

This article was published in +977 (a Nepalese Lifestyle Magazine in Australia) in August-September 2013 issue.

977 magI am an IT graduate and I have been working in the IT industry for a while but if a decade ago someone saw how I was with computer, then they would have advised me to never go near computers.

While growing up, I didn’t have the luxury of playing with and learning computers like kids todays do. I don’t know how these kids’ tiny brain are wired that they know what to do with the iPhones and iPads but back when I was young, my brain was seemed to work in a straight line. I used to go out to play with my neighbours’ kids and we had dolls, play hide and seek or just run. Some days we came home with dirt all over our clothes and face but it used to be a fun filled childhood. The closest I came to technology was owning an LCD brick game. I am not sure if any of you remember those but they were Tetris type old game with awesome sounds and I have to admit it used to be so much fun. We owned only one so sometimes I had to fight with my brother to play it.

Anyway, when we were in school, computers were just coming slowly to Nepal. I was in year 5 when I saw a computer for the first time at school but not until I was in year 6 that my uncle bought a computer at home and I was able to use it. He was teaching computers at one of the schools so it was essential for him to own one. But those days not many people would buy a computer as it was super expensive, I think prices started from over RS 50,000. And those computers were not  as fast as the ones we have today being an Intel 80486 with black/ blue screen. I still remember learning MS Dos on it. And who can forget the floppy disks and the trouble we all had with them.

The new computer at home was the new toy for everyone and especially to my uncle. He used to work hours in front of the computer and used to program and do other stuff I didn’t understand. After a while, I got to know that there were a few very interesting games installed on the computer. My uncle taught us how to play some of them and they were so addictive. Not only was it fun but as a kid it was a different world. The bad part about this all was that we were only allowed to play on the computer supervised. Rest of the time the computer was out of our reach as it was password protected.

So, one day when my uncle was starting the computer, I watched what he did and saw that he hit four stroke on the keyboard where it said password. It came as asterisks on the screen.  I wanted to learn all about this new device so I tried to remember the password.

Next time when I was talking with my uncle, I told him that now I knew how to start the computer and play the games on my own. He said that I couldn’t as it was password protected to which I replied “I know your password, it is four asterisks.”

 I know everyone must be thinking what an ignorant kid I was but in my mind, that is exactly what I saw. And I had no way of knowing anything more about computers until I took computer classes in school few years later.

Today when I look back and remember that incident, it makes me laugh thinking that the girl who didn’t know anything about computers is working in an IT industry now. The girl who couldn’t differentiate between asterisk and a real password is earning her living working with computers.

Now from a super-slow computer I have moved to super-fast computers and my mobile phone alone is more powerful than my first computer.  I can’t imagine my life without computers and internet and these days any year 6 student will be a lot smarter than I was back then.

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Slave of Smartphone and Instant messaging

This article was published in +977 (a Nepalese Lifestyle Magazine in Australia) in Nov 2012 issue. 

“Tring!!!” mobile phone rings. Within a second, everyone in the restaurant takes their phone out and checks for call/sms/mms/Facebook alert or Tweets.

That is a common scenario I see everywhere. Today, when you walk into a restaurant, you will notice that almost everyone has his or her phone out, and they’re texting, emailing, tweeting, or updating a Facebook status. Even though we are socialising and having a great time, a ring from our mobile phone will stop what we are doing and we start checking our phones.

There was a time when visiting a restaurant with a friend/family meant enjoying a tasty meal together, having an engaging conversation and updating each other about one’s life. These days with smartphone in our hands checking Facebook while having a conversation, tweeting a photo of a dish during the meal and taking a call seems to be accepted behaviour.

If you travel using public transport, look around and I am sure you will see almost every single person staring at their phone. The worst and dangerous ones are the ones who drive while talking or texting on a phone.

Also what about those who talk on the phone while someone is trying to serve them, completely ignoring the person.

Don’t get me wrong, I am just as attached to my smartphone as anyone. I love gadgets and technology in general. But lately I have realised that the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is check my phone for emails, messages, Facebook alerts and Tweets. Like many people, I have become so addicted to my smartphone that it is hard for me to go an hour without checking my e-mail, Twitter or Facebook alerts. It is with me, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

I am sure I have been doing it for a while but I only realised what I was doing when I saw my husband reading his eBook on his smartphone all the time.  After a long day work when we come back home, we were sitting in the same room but often, he is reading his book while I am watching TV or using my phone to Facebook, Tweet or just surf internet. We were in the same room but we were not really talking. That moment, I realized that I wanted to get out of the slavery of phone.

Another habit that I realised I had was that I tend to look for my phone every time a pop alert for email, Facebook, Twitter rings so my smartphone was constantly demanding a significant part of my attention taking away my attention from just about anything instantly and consistently.

I realised that rather than me using a phone, I was the slave of it and its instant messaging. The ability to instantly connect with anyone has its advantages but it comes with a price. We pay the price in terms of the time which we feel we have so less of in this busy world.

I have also read about a research which proved the following.

Those who are constantly breaking away from tasks to react to email or text messages suffer similar effects on the mind equivalent to losing a night’s sleep.”

So lately I have changed the way I use my smart phone. In other words I have stopped being used by my smartphone but start using it again.

  • I know all the emails and messages I check in my phone can wait and people can always call if things are important, so I check them a couple of times in a day rather than as soon as a message lands in my inbox.
  • I turned off all the alert sound from Facebook and Twitter so it doesn’t pop on while I am in the middle of something urging me to check it instantly.
  • I make sure I put my phone inside my bag or pocket when I am meeting people.
  • At home, phones stay in the table so no need to check every 5 minutes.
  • I turn the internet off on the mobile before going to bed.

I am sure lots of you might have similar habit like mine so go ahead and try not to use for phone for an hour. See if you get more things done without getting distracted. Turn off all the alerts and have a quiet and piece time for a change.

Smartphone killed the camera star

This article was published in +977 (a Nepalese Lifestyle Magazine in Australia) in July-Aug 2012 issue.

I own a smartphone, it is a Samsung Galaxy S2 and I have used its camera occasionally when I didn’t have my camera with me but I was so surprised to see many people use just their smartphones to take photos during my Europe tour. Most of the people on the tour had a Samsung, iPhone or HTC smartphone and they were using it to take the photos on entire trip. And don’t get me wrong, they were not young teenagers showing off their new toy but they all were 50+ mature people and they were making the best use of the phone. Most of them didn’t have any other camera with them.

I guess iPhone and Android phones have changed the electronics landscape and the point and shoot digital cameras are being replaced by smartphones. And it is easy to see why. For me the first and foremost reason would be the convenience of carrying only one device followed by an ever evolving technology market which is now able to provide higher resolution and quality photos using smartphones. Also, most people feel that they won’t need a separate camera if they have one already on the phone.

And to add the icing on the cake, there are thousands of apps available for both iPhones and Android phones which allowed photos to be manipulated and uploaded on social media websites and no one wants to be bothered with transferring images to a PC from a point-and-shoot and uploading them later.

I remember those days when there was a limitation on photos because buying films and developing them was so expensive. And the disappointment I used to feel when I realised that the expensive prints had half of my head chopped or were just blurry. Then the revolution came and digital cameras took over from the film cameras.

Digital cameras had a very interesting life cycle. Even though the first digital cameras was made in 1975 by Steven Sasson, it wasn’t widely used until the end of the twentieth century. First digital cameras used to be big but slowly with time, they became small and compact. I got my first digital camera only in 2004. It was a Sony slim version and I paid good AU $1200 (I know that sounds so expensive now) for that. Everyone who saw the camera was really impressed and I was so happy to have numerous photos taken without thinking about further cost. I still have that camera with me and it still works. The only fault with it now is, the battery life is too short and I am not very comfortable with its 2cm by 4 cm LCD screen.

Now things have changed so quickly that we can get a camera with a similar specification in less that AU$100. With AU$1200 today, I can buy nice SLR cameras. Just before our holiday, I went and bought another digital point and shoot camera and it was under AU$300. It has really great features and I am very happy with the photos.

Looks like a smartphone will be the only gadget we will need in a few years. It is already a music and video player, a GPS, a hand held computer, a camera, a camcorder and soon it is believed our phone will replace all the cards we carry around like driving licence and credit cards.

Personally, I am not looking forward to pack my point and shoot digital camera away yet. I still love to have a digital camera with me when I go away on a holiday. Smartphones are definitely very handy when you want to click something on the go but being a photo fanatic I definitely need my cameras on my holidays and smartphone cameras can’t replace it yet. I also realised that point and shoot cameras are much better than big SLR cameras when you need to get some random person to click photos of you and your partner but that can be a topic for discussion some other time.

Published: Facebook Generation

Please read the previous post if you haven’t don’t so already.

This article was published in +977 (a Nepalese Lifestyle Magazine in Australia) in May- June 2012 issue.

We are the Facebook generation. If you are like me and millions of others then you have Facebook, Twitter, Skype and even a Blog. You can’t pass a single day without surfing the internet and LOL,XOXOand BRB are the most used words, if I may call them so, in your conversation. And you can’t imagine your life without your smart phone and definitely not without internet.

Facebook has changed the way we communicate with our friends and family. It has allowed us to be in touch with our friends and look at their lives in pictures or even videos. In my case, it has reunited me with my friends from my Kindergarten / preschool after 20 years and Facebook has helped me keep in touch with my cousins and relatives who live in different countries. I even became friends with my husband’s relatives in Facebook long before meeting then physically.

With its “What’s on your mind?” question (status update), it has allowed me to know how my friends were feeling and made it easy to wish someone a “Happy Birthday” which I would have never done otherwise and same goes with sharing photos. I used to email photos to multiple people before but now all I have to do is upload them in Facebook and tag the people I want to share the photos with. You know your friends have viewed the photos when you get likes and comments on them.

I have received the news that someone got engaged, married, had a baby, went on a holiday or even died (I am serious) via Facebook. These news would have never made it to my ears (or eyes in this case) if it was not for Facebook so I have to thank Facebook for all that. Also, I have used Facebook’s events function to invite people for birthdays. As everyone I needed to invite to the event was already in Facebook, it just made my planning a lot easier. It has an RSPV option which allowed me to keep track of the guests easily.

Twittering, Blogging and Skyping are a few other things apart from Facebooking that we think are an essential part of our life like the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. We feel we cannot live without them.

Twittering and following the tweets of celebrities and unknown people, writing a blog to an unknown audience and Skyping instead of talking on the phone has made our life super busy these days as it takes time to manage all our social networks.

So in this busy virtual life have you ever paused for a second and thought about the people in your life, the REAL people, yes I am not talking about your Facebook friends but the real flesh and blood people, friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, people you see every day, people you used to know and who had been an important part of your life. 

Do you have anyone in your life with whom you used to pick up a phone and talk that you stopped because you are so busy with your virtual life now? 

Do you have friends who live overseas and you used to write an email frequently but now stopped writing your emails since they are in your Facebook? 

Do you feel better when someone calls to ask you about your holiday or do you feel better if they comment on your photos on Facebook?

I am asking these questions because I used to be very active on Facebook. I went through a phase (which many of you may identify with) when I felt like I was judged on the number of friends I had in Facebook. It put a lot of pressure on me to accept requests from anyone just so that I could push the number of “friends” ever higher. I have never accepted a request from a total stranger but I have from people who I had just met once and may never meet again in my life. I felt good and popular to have so many “friends”.

I wanted comments and posts on my wall and thought I definitely needed to maintain my Facebook page to keep in touch with former classmates, and relatives who live far away from me. I tried to chat whenever I was online and post regular updates to let them know how my life was rolling. I used to like and comment on other’s posts and photos regularly. I spent lots of time doing this.

Then there was a game called Farmville I played on Facebook. There were many games and still are but this was the one I got hooked on. It was simply too addictive. I actually used to time my life around it and even put alarms to remind me that I have to login and play the game. I spent a lot of time ploughing, harvesting this virtual Farm for points and rewards.

The game started on the lowest level so you wanted to complete it to get to the next one and then the next after that and so on. The game showered you with all these virtual animals and gifts so you can keep going. You even got ribbons that made you feel special. I swear, one time, I spent 3 hours moving my animals and trees to make the farm bigger so I could have extra plots to plant more virtual crops. I was literally becoming a farmer spending so much time on the game. If I had a real farm I’m sure I would have made a lot of money from those produce I grew at the farm.

When I talked to people around me, it was not only me who had that craze. Many of my friends were guilty of this and I saw lots of Status on Facebook saying “Can someone please gift me a horse”, “Why is no one sending me any pigs?” Pigs and Horses were all you thought of all day long. And they weren’t even real! 

Can you believe there were people in this world even crazier than me about the game? They were making cheat sheets for the game and forums were flooded with the questions on how to make points easily so that you could climb up the levels and beat your friends. Also people were spending real money to buy virtual stables or pagodas. God, could we be any more unreal?

That’s the day when lightning struck me (metaphorically of course or I wouldn’t be writing this would I?) I asked myself – “What was I doing with my time on Facebook? Why did I have to be number one among my friends in this stupid game?” I also had no real desire for all of my Facebook friends to know that I went on a holiday or what I liked or who I was with. That day I went and cleaned up my Facebook. I organised my Facebook friends into groups according to their importance in my life. I made sure only a few people who really mattered to me could really see what I did.

Ideally, I should have deleted anyone who was not a part of my life anymore and kept only a few as my friends but I admit I was too chicken to delete them. I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. I was quite sure they wouldn’t notice but I kept thinking about the small percentage who would.

I realised that in real life I have only a handful of friends that I can count on, which means all 300+ friends that I had in my Facebook were not real friends, just people I know. They won’t be there when I need help or advice. They don’t feel sorry when I am down and won’t support me when I need a hand, so should I share my personal thoughts, feelings and my life with these strangers? My answer was definitely a big fat NO.

I had the most wonderful meal today. :)”, “I went to a spa today.” and so on are just some examples of the Status updates that you can read every day on Facebook. Do you think anyone out there is really interested in that kind of information about your life? Do you care what time your friends wake up, where they go to, what they eat for breakfast, who they are hanging out with? If you don’t really care, do you think anyone else cares about your Status updates?

When I was doing a First Aid Training the other day, the trainer pointed out to us that in case of an emergency (touch wood it never happens) if you need to comfort anyone who is in distress, just go and hug them, as a hug works to calm a person. Real human touch always has magic that no words you type or any comments on Facebook can even compare to. I realised then that we are losing touch with real human bonding due to this virtual social networking.

Another thing that bothers me is the privacy on these social networking sites. I am an IT professional, so I use all my skills to take major precautions to avoid the privacy pitfalls that are ever present on the internet.  I feel sorry for people out there who post all their details on social networking sites without knowing the risks that they face. Putting personal information on Facebook or online in general is not safe and can make you a victim of identity theft and cyber crimes.

Many people will like to have strict control over their personal information which is difficult if you are on Facebook, unless you are very careful not to divulge them. We all like to make sure our personal information is only visible to our trusted friends, not the whole world but the constant updates and frequent changes made by Facebook has made it difficult to keep control of the privacy of our information on Facebook.

First and foremost always be aware of what you are sharing online and with whom. You can edit the privacy option in Facebook so if you have not done so already please go and edit it to make your personal information secure. Make sure your contact information is private and control who can access your information like photos, wall information and status updates. It is easy to stop sharing information with total strangers. If you don’t know how, just Google it and you should find tutorials on how to do it. Be aware and alert every moment.

Someone wise once said, “We realise the value of time only once we are old” so let’s balance our life and utilise our time from now so we don’t regret it in the future. There is no harm in being on Facebook but also make sure you have friends you can connect to outside of it. Call a friend instead of leaving a comment on their post, try to hug a friend instead of “poking” them on Facebook and definitely have a few real friends than just the hundreds of virtual friends online. We should always admire and appreciate what is innovative so there is nothing wrong in building your social networks on Facebook but don’t forget the real world while you are chasing the virtual one.

Waiting for the perfect phone…

 Looks like I have been waiting for the perfect phone forever. I was a happy customer of O2 XDA Nova a while back. I liked the fact that it was a touch screen (not many phones were touch screens then) and I could forward my email to my phone. Then its OS started to crash so often that I had to change to a different phone. 

As I had to get something quickly, I went for Samsung f480 just because it was a touch screen and I liked the compact sized. But I didn’t like it after a few days as it has phone keypads rather than computer-like Qwerty keyboard. Which meant that I had to touch the screen 3 times just to write a “C”. But as I had already spent my money on it, I was stuck with it. 

Luckily or unluckily, I lost that phone in six months and I needed new phone again. This time I wanted the iphone 3G but while I was doing my research I found out that it had lots of problems. I talked to a few people who had iphones of their own and they were not very happy with its battery life. So I decided to go for a Blackberry Curve. 

In few months after I got my phone, they launched iphone 4. I was very pissed as I wanted that now but I was not prepared to buy another phone so soon. 

Now my blackberry is dying slowly. It throws error messages from time to time and so I need a new phone again soon. So I was very happy when I found out that Apple was going to launch a new iphone and I hoped it was the much talked  about iphone 5 but I was disappointed again when they launch the iphone 4S. 

Now I am in a big dilemma, should I go for new phone now or wait for a while. I don’t want to miss out on the iphone 5 if it comes in the next few months. 

My husband has Samsung Galaxy S2 and he seems to be very happy with that. 

I am soooooooooooooo confused. Looks like I always end up buying a new phone at the wrong time .