I tend to be the super-excited founder who will talk and suggest doing things that would likely be years ahead of the current circumstances. My co-founder, and business partner for the last 8+ years, is the one who will help me glide down to earth, all the way to the very first principle.
A few days back, we were discussing the features of our new product for our Startup, Valinor Earth.
I was eager and was planning to demo some of the tools which were not ready. My co-founder insists that we are not prepared and would set off expectations that we may not be able to satisfy for a while. We might end up building a fancy tool without actually solving the customer’s problem.
As a normal human being, our customer will praise the tools and say good things – which, btw, is the least useful data for us to evaluate anything.
If you are going to show a gun, be ready to fire it. If we are showing the tools, then that tool should be made useful soon enough, if not immediately.
Chekhov’s gun is a dramatic principle stating that every element in a story must be necessary, and unnecessary details removed. A feature should not appear to make “false promises” by never coming into play.
If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, it absolutely must go off in the second or third chapter. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.
One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.
If you are going to show a tool or do a demo, be ready to use it and make sure it is relevant to the customer’s needs.
A new school season has started, and schools are moving online for the classes. There are lots of changes, and they are happening real fast, and all-at-once. Not all parents are ready to switch to a new lifestyle so fast, but we have to.
Schooling is going to be an entirely different experience for everyone involved — students, parents, teachers, and schools. It is not just about transitioning everything that happened offline in schools to the online world. It is a totally different approach, new thinking, and the eventual “normal.” Everyone involved will have to treat this in a new way — by the schools, teachers, and parents.
Today, I will try to focus on just a small piece of the more significant change — tools that will help kids be part of the new learning paradigm.
The Room, Space, and Lighting
You should try to have a separate space or a room dedicated to your kid to be part of the classes. The better lit the room is, the better. Try to have the light facing your kid — liting up her face and not from the back. A better option is to have sunlight coming in from an angle that is not too bright to the eye, but enough to light up the face. Try to avoid the sunlight shining directly onto the screen/monitor.
If you need artificial lighting, then a LED light lamp should do just fine.
This depends a lot on the activities your kid will be involved in. Will it be just listening to the teachers, or will she be presenting at times, talking, and discussing with her friends and doing other digital activities during the classes? Let’s assume that the events will be a bit of all and better prepare for them than stand short when needed.
If your kid already has a device, use it and gauge the device’s performance before spending money on upgrades. Look for performance degradation of the quality of audio and/or video. It is always better to have much better quality audio than video.
New Device / Computer
If you have to buy new devices, and unless portability is crucial, invest in a desktop computer instead. Desktop computers allow for easier upgrades, have better performance, and are usually more economical.
I would personally suggest for a 16GB of RAM, and an SSD (Solid State Drive) instead of hard drives that have mechanical spinning parts. Don’t worry too much about the size of the SSD, a minimum of 200GB+ is suggested. You can always have a cheaper external drive for more storage. The other components will be good enough when you try the above particular configuration. If you are already thinking Intel, AMD, etc., then I believe you already know what you need.
If you’re more of a Mac Family and find it more comfortable, the cheapest MacMini would do just fine. If you can get an earlier generation MacMini or a refurbished one, it will still be suitable for a less expensive investment.
My daughter uses a 2012 MacMini with an upgraded RAM and SSD replaced drive. Well, Apple’s 2012 MacMini model is the last easily upgradable model. Please be advised that Apple hardware are tightly coupled and integrated with their software that an 8GB RAM might just work great.
Laptop with 16GB Ram, 256GB SSD
Computer with 16GB Ram, 256GB SSD
Laptop with 16GB RAM
Computer with 16GB RAM
Even if you use a Laptop with a built-in microphone, I can guarantee you that they are not the best. Most software has become really good these days to filter out echo and other noises. However, a decent microphone goes a long way and will really help.
The last option is an audio headset (speaker + microphone). However, they come in the way of your kid studying or listening to the teacher.
Microphone with Stand
If your device or computer comes with a speaker, stick with it. Otherwise, any desktop speaker should do the job. If you have already invested in a Headset, then a separate speaker may not be necessary.
Webcam / Camera
Video is needed but not as crucial as a Microphone. Your kid can get away with a not-so-good video, but her voice/audio should be the best possible. So, depending on your budget get for something you can afford. If your kid has a Laptop, stay with the built-in webcam but invest in the external microphone and audio setup.
Invest in a entry-level UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). A UPS is used to protect hardware such as computers and other electrical devices where an unexpected power disruption could cause data loss, or damage to the devices.
Besides the usual software that she will need, as suggested by the school, try to get some additional life-skill software-tools that will come handy. Some of the basics include but not limited to;
A calendar. Teach your kid to schedule class video calls, homework submissions, peer-to-peer meetings, etc. You should also have access to it, so you can help when needed. Google Calendar is a pretty good option.
A TODO app. Try to stay with the basic simple listings and not overwhelm them. A lot many people have wasted countless hours trying to hunt for the best TODO app, the best ways of using it. So, just stick to simple listings and checking items off. Better yet, stick to the physical Sticky / Post-it Note.
A Password Manager. It is high time to teach your kid to use a Password Manager. Some of the good ones are 1Password (paid), Keepass (free, open-source), Bitwarden (free, open-source, paid)
The next best upgrade after the basics are taken care off, would be, to separate their activity/study computer from the video device — have a device such as an iPad, a Tablet or a Phone just for the video calls/classes and a desktop or a laptop or a Raspberry Pi as their study computer.
In the year 2019, I re-read over 5+ books and read another 50+ new books in both digital (Kindle) and physical books. I’ve enough books lined up, either purchased or bookmarked on Amazon to last me quite a lot of reading.
I have also made a simple guideline that my daughter can read as many books as she wants. The only caveat being that if she cannot or does not want to finish a book, they have to wait for the week to pass before they can buy another book. She is used to both physical and digital (Kindle) books.
Dan Roam’s Books
I wanted to learn to draw/sketch out my ideas better. The best source for me was the books by Dan Roam. I enjoyed reading Show and Tell, Draw to Win, and Unfolding the Napkin. I’m yet to read Back of the Napkin, and Blah Blah Blah.
I adapted the idea of doing presentations and storytelling to my teams, via sketches and not slides. I have a long way to go to master this beautiful art of storytelling with visuals, sketches, and speeches.
From our history books, Genghis Khan was definitely not a good person. He conquered, murdered, and lay waste to vast lands and inhabitants. However, his advocacy for human rights, freedom of religion, free trade, propagation and preservation of knowledge, turns out to be pretty impressive for that time.
Well, Genghis Khan was a visionary leader whose conquests joined backward Europe with the flourishing cultures of Asia to trigger a global awakening, an unprecedented explosion of technologies, trade, and ideas.
The book will give you enough details to make it applicable to the current world scenarios and events. I’m sure you will like the book.
Plenty of major companies like Subway, AT&T, Expedia, Dish Network, and Microsoft have recently decided to accept cryptocurrency. These are large corporations that have the resources to experiment with relatively new technology.
But should the average business, or small business, accept cryptocurrency?
A high population of the world has heard of or are familiar with Bitcoin. But that doesn’t mean they’re ready to use it. Only a few percentages own it. An even smaller number use cryptocurrency.
There are more than 40 million cryptocurrency wallets out there. Cryptocurrency usage has soared in places such as San Francisco, New York, and Tampa — and in places like Canada (the first country to regulate the digital currency), the Netherlands, Slovenia, Israel, Switzerland, and countries with volatile currencies, like Zimbabwe and Venezuela.
To give you a perspective, there are almost 300 million active users of PayPal worldwide and about 1 billion Visa and 900 million MasterCard credit cards in circulation. Cryptocurrency has to catch up when compared to these other digital ways to pay.
It is widely thought that if small businesses make the necessary investments in cryptocurrency infrastructure, then cryptocurrency usage will rise enormously. But there are plenty of pros and cons for businesses to consider before they take that leap.
Pi-hole is a DNS sinkhole that protects your devices from unwanted content, without installing any client-side software. The best part of Pi-hole is that it can work off cheap hardware such as a Raspberry Pi.
Last month, I bought a Raspberry Pi 3-MODB-1GB and a 16GB MicroSDHC (MicroSD) Memory Card. That was enough to run an Ad Blocker Service for the whole home.
Get a microSD card with a capacity of at least 8 GB. I suggest getting a 16GB one for some extra room, just in case. The price difference isn’t worth saving. Plug the microSD card to a desktop computer and follow the steps to Setup the microSD card (official guide) and thus unzipping the Raspbian operating system content to the drive. Install the Raspbian operating system via NOOBS.
Plug in the microSD Card, monitor, keyboard, and a mouse. That’s it. Power it up.
Follow the on-screen instructions to finish setting up the Raspbian operating system. Restart and the Raspberry Pi is ready to setup Pi-hole.
There are three ways to install Pi-hole. Follow the one that works for you – Install Pi-Hole (official guide).
Follow the on-screen instructions. You’ll just be pressing the RETURN key a lot.
Pick your choices of options along the way. Do not forget to pause at the last screen and record the admin password and other details.
The final step is to point your Internet Router’s DNS (just one, delete the others) to the Pi-hole IP (remember the screen from the earlier step).
Pi-hole works pretty well without much fanfare that you might be left with a feeling that you’re missing something. I’ve been running Pi-hole as the Ad-Blocker for my home and seems to be working good so far.
Libra is a cryptocurrency designed using blockchain technology. It is built by the most popular social media giant Facebook. The main motive behind developing Libra is to emancipate millions of underbanked and unbanked people by offering them similar financial opportunities.
Libra will give their users the best transaction experience with unimaginable speed on minimal or no charges. Users can transfer money from their home to any part of the world. Libra is compatible with mobile and all you need is a basic data connection.
Blockchain technology is a decentralized programmable database that helps in backing the more constant currency and has the capability to act as a medium for transacting money to millions of people all over the world.
Libra is a self-reliant association formed to control and regulate the flow of Libra, it is an organization aiming to offer basic financial infrastructure and to introduce a universal currency to empower millions of people. Libra Association is a compilation of validator nodes, such as academic entities, international corporations, and social impact partners.
An allocated system of the Libra blockchain looks after the transactions and ownership of Libra. While transacting Libra, there is a slight chance of attacks on the system and here Blockchain helps in defending this kind of attack using LibraBFT.
A secured and well-written software will help you in protecting the Libra Blockchain. Move a new programming language that is used in developing Libra. It is a safe and responsive programming language for Libra Blockchain. It is an applied bytecode language used to implement smart transactions and contracts.
People have different views on cryptocurrencies, but Libra can be trusted easily as it is backed by a reserve that includes stable liquid assets, which helps in keeping the value of Libra stable.
Eleven Startups pitched at the BITS Conquest 2019 Finale.
Unfortunately, a jarring meme that I saw was that the Slides were very similar and have very similar presentation style. They even had the dreaded “competitor slides” where everything right was ticked for the Startups while the competitors were not.
Here are a few details about the Startups without any of my biased opinions.
Scout my Trip
ScoutMyTrip is a technology-led platform that helps its users plan their trips better. It uses techniques such as predictive analysis, and through its trained network of “scouts”, helps you enjoy your journey.
InvestoAsia is a system that enables investment into emerging markets by digitizing their securities using blockchain technology into tokenized assets and further trade them on a private platform.
FarmSurge is a digital platform addressing the last mile connectivity issues of small farmers by providing on-demand booking solutions for farm inputs, farm services, and farm produce market linking.
HRBot is an AI-based full stack recruitment marketplace for mid and entry level hiring capable of screening candidates at large scale remotely, with 10x faster TAT irrespective to the geography.
Xplorazzi is an Automated CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) merchandising execution and Audit tool using AI and computer vision to analyze in-store product display from shelf images for faster sales-related decision-making with a smartphone application.
4MirrorTech is an IoT clean-tech Startup focused on facility monitoring services, building solutions such as washroom, trashcan, seat occupancy, and employee monitoring.
SecondHandKart delivers quality checked premium used products such as iPhones, Macs, Xbox, etc with after-sales-service and warranty. They additionally provide up to 12 months repair warranty, 12 months buyback guarantee, check on delivery on every product they sell.
VenueMonk is a booking platform which helps people book venues quickly, effortlessly and at the lowest possible price.
LetsEndorse is a marketplace for matching proven social innovations with nuanced local challenges and development capital, to eradicate social issues at scale. Supported by the Tata Trusts, it comprises of 500 social innovations from 40 countries globally. 1,500+ grass-roots implementations partners/NGOs, responsible corporations, Government and individual contributors.
An innovative, cost-effective ingestible battery-less electronic Health Pill using a unique micro-sensor technology aided by AI and Cloud computing, for analyzing, identifying and predicting Heart Attacks and SCA 9-11 minutes before they strike a person, by sending emergency alerts.
Nimble Vision provides an IoT solution for water level controller and meter. This solution brings massive data analytics on water availability, consumption, leakage and quality, helping people to conserve water up to 50%.
The word “crypto” in the cryptocurrency is referred to as complicated cryptography which allows for a particular digital token to be generated or stored, and to transact securely, also typically and anonymously. Other than this important “crypto” feature of the currencies, it is a common commitment to the decentralization. The cryptocurrencies are typically developed as a code by teams, which has built-in mechanisms for its issuance which is often, maybe not always through a process called “mining” and few other controls.
Litecoin is based on the open source global payment network which is not controlled by any of the central authority and it uses “scrypt” as the proof of work, which can be decoded with the help of the CPUs of the consumer grade. Although Litecoin is similar to Bitcoin in many ways, it has faster block generation rate and therefore offers a faster transaction confirmation. Other than the developers, there are many growing numbers of merchants who accept the Litecoin. As of today, Litecoin had a market cap of around $2.63 billion and per token value of about $43.
The applications of the Ethereum run on its own platform-specific cryptographic token called Ether. Ether acts as a vehicle for moving around the Ethereum platform, and it is sought by the mostly developers who are looking to develop and run the applications inside Ethereum, or now by the investors who are looking to make purchases of other digital currencies using the ether.
I’m one of the mentors at the Conquest, 2019. I met up with some of the Startups.
Aayush built a cost-effective ingestible battery-less electronic Health Pill that transmits data via a patch that can be easily applied on the body. That patch communicates with a Smartphone App and helps in the prediction and prevention of Heart attacks and Sudden Cardiac Arrests.
The Health Pill uses MicroSensor Technology that can be swallowed by a person. The pill enters the Gastro-Intestinal Tract in the stomach and becomes electrically activated when it reacts with the digestive acids present in the stomach, thus generating a natural electric current. The embedded Bio-Medical sensors once activated, record specific physiological Health metrics from the body. These health data are transmitted to an app via a Wearable Transmission Patch that can easily stick to the body.
These data are stored in the cloud which is can be accessed by family members, friends, caretakers, and doctors who have access to the data. The app monitors health data round the clock and simultaneously identifies, analyzes, and can warn about 9-11 minutes prior to a Heart Attack or Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Emergency Alerts are sent to the victim, predefined members, and to the nearest Hospital along with the current GPS location of the victim.
Aayush built a unique microsensor technology, which is cost-effective, smart private healthcare technology that can be used without the need of doctor’s assistance. Aayush plans to license their product and technology to various hospitals, once their patent is granted.
Xplorazzi is building an automated tool which will take retail shop shelf images and CCTV video feed to create Planograms.
Planograms are a crucial part of today’s retail stores. It can be done manually to comply with audit requirements or use software that is an additional cost to the retailers.
Xplorazzi uses imaging technology, deep learning, and sales data to build a smartphone app that will aid retail stores to do items assessment. This will create a consistent visual record to automate the process and use the details for Audit, Assortment Analysis, Stock Management, Shelf-Space availability, and Dynamic Analysis Reports.
Untangled Cloud makes it easy to work across multiple Cloud providers such as Amazon’s AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft’s Azure.
Untangled Cloud provides analytics and tools to help Startups and SMEs make better decisions while choosing the right cloud service providers. They help in upskilling teams to learn more about the services of various cloud providers. They also plan to build tools to help migrate from one cloud provider to the other easily and seamlessly.
Pigeon has built an easy to use system that helps businesses manage user notifications & preferences across multiple channels — emails, apps, instant messaging apps, and text messages in one place.
Pigeon targets 3 distinct areas;
Content Management System (CMS) for Notifications: Normally, notification messages are coded in by the developers. With Pigeon’s online Email, Push & SMS editors, marketing & sales teams are empowered to make changes themselves, resulting in faster iterations and can avoid wasted dev cycles.
User Preferences Manager: Users are used to applications like Facebook that provide a high degree of control over notifications. With Pigeon, your users can choose which devices they would like to receive notifications, the time and even control the types of notifications. Pigeon handles all the processing for you. Developers don’t need to re-create this and can focus on their core business logic.
Event-Driven Notification System: With our unique event-based model, Pigeon empowers marketing & sales teams to control the logic of the notifications online. Developers simply hook various events through the app.
Loka is a hyper-local vernacular QnA app for consumers & local businesses.
Loka’s hypothesis is that about 90% of Indians do not speak English and would rather use a vernacular language that they are comfortable in. They want to bank on that fact and build a community of local businesses and consumers that communicate in vernacular Indian languages.
Loka wants to be the growth-hack platform for local businesses and consumers to ask questions and get answers from their neighborhoods in their local languages.
PROI is developing a hardware-based POS system for retailers that aims to build a data-driven analytics solution.
There are 10-15 million retail stores in India. But the retail sector is very traditional and unorganized. There is no Inventory and Supply Chain Management system, no data-driven In-Store Management and Forecasting and no large scale retail data provision for the hyperlocal market. In order to organize this industry, PROI will be collecting the data and setting the path for future collaborators. They plan to connect the entire Supply Chain – Retailers, Manufacturers, and Hyper-Local Markets.
PROI aims to help SMEs to compete at the same level as the big players in the industry by providing them the capability to make data-driven decisions and optimize their supply chain. They follow a bottom-up approach while approaching the Hyperlocal market environment.
Do you remember that old quote, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you?” It seems like it is becoming more and more relevant every day. Almost weekly, a new scandal emerges from Big Tech, detailing the wholesale trading and theft of our personal information. But aside from all the headline-grabbing, one-off incidents, the much bigger concern is the day to day invasions of our privacy that are just standard policy for many of these companies.
In fact, it’s how they make most of their money.
Add to this the ever increasing and complex systems of government surveillance and tracking (most of which we’ll probably never really learn about), and you can be forgiven for feeling like you’re being watched every second you’re online.
Fortunately, there are plenty of people who feel the same. Many are finding ways and creating tools to help all of us stay safe and maintain our privacy while using the internet. The quick, simple steps that follow will block you from the most invasive spying and tracking on the internet, boost your privacy, and keep you safe.
1. Purge your Facebook
There may be no other organization that has become more notorious with invasions of privacy as quickly as Facebook. In just a couple of years, Mark Zuckerberg and his company seem to have completely fallen from grace in the eyes of many politicians, security experts and, indeed, users. They have been (justifiably?) blamed for stoking genocide in Myanmar, Brexit, numerous mental health crises, and even destroying the foundations of human society.
These examples may seem extreme, but there is no denying that Facebook has capitalized on the monetization and manipulation of their customers’ personal data like no other company operating today. The most simple step you can take to avoid Facebook’s reach is to delete your account (Instagram too, which Facebook own). If this isn’t possible, there are few ways to reduce its impact on your internet browsing. Here are a few browser extensions that will quickly limit many of the platform’s tools for tracking your activity and boost your privacy.
While Google claims that incognito mode will keep your browsing activity and identity private, it is still part of the Google ecosystem – so you can never be completely sure. You might want to try alternatives to Google Chrome, Safari, and their competitors by using the Tor Browser. Tor is a web browser dedicated to maximum online privacy. Using 3 layers of encryption, Tor completely masks your identity by anonymizing your location, browser, and activity and batching it all together with every other Tor user. So essentially, you become lost in the virtual crowd. This also means that the more popular Tor grows, the more effective it is at hiding you.
Tor is one of the most popular tools amongst online activists, journalists, political dissidents in repressive governments, and security experts. Follow their lead and start using it today.
For ultimate online privacy, combine Tor with a VPN.
3. Use a VPN based outside of the 14 eyes
Installing a VPN (Virtual Private Network) on your devices is by far the easiest and most effective step to take if you want to increase your online privacy. You can’t be spied on if they can’t find you – and that’s where a VPN comes in handy. A VPN uses military grade encryption, IP masking and other tools to hide your online activity while on both private and public networks. This helps keep your location hidden, your data safe from leaking or theft, and your browsing activity secret from corporate and governmental tracking.
It’s actually quite surprising that the recent story about 1,000s of Amazon employees listening to customers through their Alexa devices didn’t receive greater news coverage. Maybe it just shows how desensitized we’ve all become to such stories. It also shouldn’t be too surprising to anybody concerned with online privacy. Since the earliest days of smart home devices, security experts have been warning us about the ease with which they can be hacked and used to spy on households. Companies like Amazon may only be listening in for marketing purposes, but plenty of criminals are using them to track your routines and steal your identity.
The most effective way to be sure nobody is spying on you in your own home, through your smart devices, is to avoid using them altogether.
5. Start using Cryptocurrency for Payments
If you can ignore all the hype and noise around Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies’ rollercoaster prices, and focus instead on its core principles and uses, you’ll understand how it is a great tool for online financial privacy. Aside from companies tracking your online purchases and using this to manipulate you into buying more stuff, online financial fraud is one of the biggest, ever-present aspects of using the internet. From the very first online transactions, conmen, fraudsters, and thieves have been finding ways to extract money from your bank accounts and credit cards.
One way to shield yourself from this happening is to separate your online transactions from your bank accounts. This is one of the many uses of Cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. Despite what many people will tell you, Bitcoin is not 100% anonymous. However, by using a Bitcoin address to pay for online goods and services, and taking extra measures like shuffling your purchases amongst multiple bitcoin addresses, you can add a layer of privacy to your online transactions not possible with traditional banks and credit cards.
It can sometimes feel like maintaining privacy while using the internet is a crazy, unrealistic dream. This doesn’t have to be the case, however. By taking the simple, quick steps outlined here, you can easily boost not just your online privacy, but also safety from hacks, data leaks, and other forms of cybercrime. Using the internet will feel a lot less like you’re under siege from advertisers, governments and other shady figures, and free to browse in complete anonymity.